Saturday 17 January 2004, by
Today she’s a qualified practitioner, but Ursula Mendelssohn began her career as a therapeutic masseuse with a small white lie and a large dose of cheek...
"I had done a week-end course in reflexology. I was looking for work, and a girl friend told me they were looking for body shampooists at the local Turkish baths. So I went along there and told them I had qualified as a masseuse in Montpellier and my certificates were in France!
"I think I got the job because nobody actually knew what body shampooists did. Up till then the scrubs had been done rather perfunctorily by one of the women who worked for the council, and she just fitted them in between her main job of handing out towels to the clients and showing them to the cubicles.
"I heard about the shampooing from a girl friend who had had it done to her. They scrub you down with a special kind of crepe to slough off the dead skin and dirt, then massage you with soap. I knew I could do it myself - and sure enough, I got the job. Later on I got hold of some of the crepe and made gloves out of it, which I sold to clients so they could scrub themselves at home.
" The Turkish bath, or Hammam, is a Moslem institution, and as a result many of my clients came from this background and often spoke Moroccan French. .As I spoke French I got on easily with them and became greatly in demand. The result of this was that in the next seven years of hard work I made enough in fees and generous tips to finance the rebuilding of the old house I had bought in the south of France.
Ursula’s background is nothing if not colourful, ranging from running a stall in Camden Lock market - where she sold clothes she made from old chenille bedspreads - to managing a hotel on the hippie trail in India.
"The hotel was in Udaipur. It was called the Pratap Country Inn, and it was originally a hunting lodge which belonged to the Maharajahs. It was terribly run down and seedy when I was there but later on they must have done it up because I read that some of the cast of the television series The Jewel in the Crown stayed there in the mid-1980s."
Back in the UK she studied with Clare Maxwell-Hudson, the leading massage practitioner, teacher and writer. She gained ITEC (International Therapy Examination Council) qualifications in anatomy, physiology and therapeutic massage and has recently extended her studies into acupressure (also known as shiatsu).
"Acupressure is a kind of treatment which relieves pain and disorders by pressing on precisely-located points in the body," Ursula explains. "It works on the same principle as acupuncture, but you use your fingers instead of needles."
Ursula’s one-hour full-body therapeutic massage combines acupressure and reflexology techniques, and she can also offer a neck and shoulder massage, or a foot massage.
Ursula Mendelssohn offers a therapeutic massage combining acupressure and reflexology techniques. Full-body, neck and shoulders, facial and foot massages available. Sessions take place in your own home or in her studio at Aspiran. The cost is from 35€ for a one-hour session. Tel. 04 67 96 50 21 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org