papercuts*

The cheapest of the six life-transforming, dewkissed, light enhancing with added SP120 suggestions on the beauty page (no of course packaging isn’t mentioned, that’s under “e” for environment not “b” for beauty) blahblahblah US menu style prose is £30. And while selling you the SP, nobody bothers to point out that if you block the sun, you don’t get the valuable Vitamin D. But God forbid you should be more measured in your exposure to the sun and wear a cheaper cream.

At the other end from the face, are the feet. If you have goodlooking feet (a deliberate choice of non binary term) you do, and all the gussying up in the world can only improve them. Along with a lot of other feet on display, mine are not pretty. They are serviceable, I am grateful for them, I keep them clean and tidy

“tea tree in bloom”

and minister to them with tea tree oil (monkeyglands for the unmoneyed mature) but then I cover them up and that’s it. I had my toenails painted twice in my life, once to see and once to be sure: no dice. I looked like a pig in a tutu. I like pigs. And tutus. But beyond animation, not together.

The perceived and transformative magic is that, as you spent money on the pedicure, so your feet become beautiful.   I wish. The same applies to the manicure which too often becomes like any other form of labour, endlessly and soul destroyingly repetitive, so that the operative forgets that (a) there is a human attached to the hand and (b) that not all nails are the same. One day I may develop the confidence to ask for what I want – cuticles pushed back, hand massage and buffed nails. In the meantime, I do it myself.

Three friends have plantar fasciitis. The GP says “Oh dear !” and refers you to hospital. The first casualty of pain in the feet is to stop walking. On-line there are exercises but in a recent article on getting yourself beach ready – you know, like painting the kitchen but bodily – there was treasure trove: two outlets offering some level of skill with the feet, advising sensibly that nothing was done without thought (we used to call this a consultation), bearable fees and the offer that laser could (please note the conditional) be very helpful in dealing with plantar fasciitis. Exercises and two laser treatments put paid to mine. In a time and motion study, this has to be more cost effective than frequent unsatisfactory visits to an overworked doctor or a busy hospital department.

The crossover between the beauty business (rightly named – worth millions in whatever currency) and health is considerable. Perhaps, as fast as we demotivate the family doctor, we remotivate other kinds of health practitioner, the problem being the benchmark of how they are vetted. In the hands of somebody reliable, your problem may get better. In the hands of somebody unreliable, you may be harmed badly enough to feature in a horrordoc or die.

Years ago (they were disbanded in the 1980s and have never been replaced by anything as useful since) my imagination was caught by the idea of the barefoot doctors, often farmers, who had up to a year’s training, utilised all sorts of old skills, complementary disciplines and veterinary knowledge and were then dispatched to travel among the rural poor over great distances in China. Little from the Land of the Dragon, including silk and paper, ever meant as much to me. I don’t like knowledge wasted and there has never been any other comparable pragmatic provision for people’s health. As the NHS begins to stagger under the weight of demand and debt, perhaps we need to consider something in the middle, something that helps us to see past looking good to being well.   The problem is that it might be open to abuse – threats, violence, drug theft – just like the existing system – but it would pull under the umbrella of care all sorts of disciplines which would run better alongside.   Care and cash – it’s those four letter words again.

*papercuts are small but they hurt …

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