Belfast Telegraph

I have a friend who's got the magic touch

By Frances Burscough

I first met Claire in the creche at church, of all places. I had one baby at the time, who had started to cry, so I’d escaped from the main congregation and brought him there to restore the peace. She was there for the same reason; her child was acting up, too. So we both sat there breastfeeding our babies while Mass continued through a window.

Fortunately, the room was soundproofed (the priest couldn’t hear us, but we could hear him through loudspeakers), which is just as well, because Claire and I hit it off immediately.

Both of us were “blow-ins” from England, recently married and starting a family while trying to adjust to life in Northern Ireland. Before long, we were chattering away and laughing our heads off like old friends, bare breasts akimbo, completely oblivious to the solemn sacrament going on just a few feet away.

Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for the congregation who sat and stared in disbelief. They really had no choice: the creche window was directly behind the altar.

Let’s just say that we didn’t exactly ingratiate ourselves with the other church-goers, nor probably the priest, or even God for that matter, but we didn’t care.

It was the first time I’d ever actually enjoyed Sunday Mass and the first real friend I made in Northern Ireland. You could say it was best buddies at first sight.

She lived just a stone’s throw away and before long we were inseparable. We both had sons, Luke and Ruairi, exactly the same age and so they naturally became friends, too. Luke was three when her daughter Naomi was born. When Claire said, “Would you like to hold my new baby, Luke?” he replied “No! Take it away, it’s hobbable!” We still laugh now, whenever we think of it.

That was 21 years ago and, of course, a lot has happened since then. When I’d had a miscarriage, I cried in her arms; when her dad died she cried in mine. When she was pregnant again I gave her all my maternity clothes. When I got pregnant again, she gave me them back.

We’ve been through so many makeovers and transformations, both together and apart. She moved away, designed her own dream home in the country, changed careers, got promoted, travelled the world, got a PhD; I got a divorce and became a struggling single mum, dated and dumped a few losers, began writing for a living, but through every failure and celebration, injury and illness, we always knew that no matter what, we were there for each other, to advise, counsel, console, gossip, gawp in disbelief, gasp in horror and cheer in support.

So, of course, I was the first person to know when Claire was making another life-changing decision. And, goodness me, it was a big one.

After years of working in education, from teaching biology at secondary school to becoming an international expert on integrated education, Claire had decided to change career paths altogether.

She was following her heart into an area that many of her past peers in the world of biochemistry might scoff at, to become an aromatherapist.

Naturally, I was one of the first people she treated when she was qualified and set up her own business, Triple Spiral Therapy. Now I would recommend her to anyone. Not simply because she’s my friend, but because she really does seem to have a magic touch.

Perhaps the fact that she is originally trained in science gives her the knowledge and edge that other massage therapists don’t have. In fact, my nagging chronic backache from bending over a laptop computer was virtually gone after a series of treatments and I came away feeling (and smelling) heavenly.

So, of course, it gives me great pleasure — and a lot of pride — to recommend her to anyone who feels like they need a lift, to relieve some stress, or simply relax and unwind.

Belfast Telegraph

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