The English are known for their prudish nature, and so it’s no surprise that a multitude of names exist for that most intimate of female body parts – the vagina. A word people dare not actually say, for fear of being laughed at, or having to actually look at one, or something else I haven’t quite fathomed.
From ‘front bottoms’ to ‘fannies’ (which always gives us a chance to laugh at the Americans for wearing fanny packs), from ‘twinkles’ to the great divider of opinion, the c word – a myriad of terms have sprung up over the years.
One I hear surprisingly often, despite its somewhat absurd nature, is ‘lala’. As if this particular orifice contained musical properties (maybe I’ve missed out on a piece of common knowledge here? If so please don’t laugh, I don’t watch TV or read the news these days, so I must have missed the broadcast of Jean Michel Jarre’s Symphony in Vagina Minor).
But there’s no sign of inherited shyness in our Antipodean cousins living in the East coast town of Byron Bay. No, in fact, alongside the flyers for tarot readings, reiki and deep tissue massage I found, proudly displayed, a poster offering ‘vaginal healing’.
Now I assume the supplier of said healing is planning on repairing your twinkle, rather than using her own as an instrument of therapy – after all, that could get very wearing by the end of the day.
That one sign pretty much encapsulates Byron for me. A place where esoteric types from across the country, and further afield, congregate to ply their new age trades. Some say people are drawn by the energy, that the area gives off a peculiar healing and feminine vibe, one that leaves visitors refreshed and renewed.
Those more cynical may say it’s simply a matter of economics – that a self-perpetuating stream of tourists looking to shake off some old funk, by throwing their cash at anyone prepared to listen, is easy game.
Given I’m one of the people happily burning through her bank balance, as I splurge on wholefoods, yoga blocks, mats and beads, beautiful new dresses and, of course, the odd bit of healing, you can imagine which view I prefer.
As for that ‘feminine’ energy, I can’t really comment, but friends have affirmed that ‘men don’t do well in Byron’. And whether it’s urban myth or statistical fact, it is claimed that there are seven single women to every single man.
So, all my lovely single chaps, if you feel you are tough enough to have your mojo messed with by yin-emitting ley lines, then high tail it down here, you won’t be disappointed by the yoga-toned, honey-skinned lovelies that parade up and down the high street.
Last time a male masseur asked me to take all my clothes off, I ended up politely turning down his kind offer of a happy ending. This time the charming Gabriel was a paragon of good virtue – well as far as I could tell with my eyes closed – though there was plenty of opportunity to gawp, as he loosened up my hips by spinning them on an enthusiastic 360 degree circle.
It’s a very good job I’m not shy about being naked, as I suspect he could see my kidneys from where he was stood. My wonderful two hour session ended with a gentle kiss on my forehead – which was not remotely as creepy as it now sounds. It was actually quite lovely.
Pushing my boundaries of alternative therapies, it was on to the tarot. Other than messing around with cards myself as a teenager, I’d never had a reading before – so it was a foregone conclusion my ‘try everything in life at least once’ mantra would suck me through the front door.
And, in my entirely subjective opinion, it was 95% bobbins. But then she said something that – even though it was most likely a happy coincidence, as often happens when one talks in nothing but generalisation – has stuck with me. Hocus pocus, lucky guess or otherwise, it showed me that I was unconsciously discounting something from my life I’d like very, very much. Stupid cards.
With only days to go until I start my month long yoga teacher training (which, by the mystical powers of my automated blog post scheduler, will be almost over by the time you actually get to read this missive), I figured a bit of morning yoga wouldn’t go amiss.
So I trooped down for the 7am session this morning and was met by the yummiest of teachers – the lithe, tanned, emerald-eyed Russ – thank you yoga gods for designing moves that make the loveliest of bodies even more scrummy.
Shortly thereafter I learnt not to post about said hotness on Facebook and then accept a friend request from the subject of my yearning mere hours later. It is momentarily embarrassing when they send you a message about what you wrote, but only until you read their sweet reply, and then you walk round town with a little smile on your face.
After previously being thwarted in my plans to fly like a bird, due to California’s stupidly lovely – and windless – summer, I was hoping it was a case of second time lucky, when I booked in for a tandem flight over the beaches of Byron.
Answering my phone at 9am, to be told that the winds weren’t right yet, I started to prepare myself for the idea that someone was trying to tell me I’m not supposed to fly. Particularly after a guy I was talking to the night before said he’d stopped paragliding – because one day he’d fallen out of the sky and spent longer than he cared for in intensive care. But the good news, he assured me, was that hang gliding was a bit less dangerous – a bit.
But it seems my fear chip is temporarily on the blink, as his story didn’t faze me one bit. Furthermore, as I trotted up the hill to the launch point later that morning – ready for my now-back-on inaugural flight – I almost stood on a snake. As I saw it slither away, I thought ‘oh a snake’ and carried on up the hill, without a second glance as to whether it was out for the day with friends.
A guy a couple of feet behind me started excitedly telling his mates about a snake he’d just seen and, being nosey, I joined the conversation. Nodding my agreement, as he stretched his hands apart almost as far as they would go – to demonstrate its length – I mentioned that I’d nearly squished it with my flip-flopped right foot.
Their faces led me to look up the name of the snake on my phone later.
Those sciency people that get to name animals really should give greater thought to the names they choose, as to give some clue to how flipping dangerous they are. Brown snake sounds so pedestrian and restrained – much like a mousey-haired woman. Turns out it’s the second most venomous land snake in the world. I’m thinking they should at least add a word that sounds like a panicked whimper as a prefix.
My tally of ‘bad things I nearly stood on’ is growing at pace in this country. Seriously Australia, were you trying to win a competition for most badass animals on one island? Enough already.
The flight itself passed without incident – well without any I was aware of at the time. The post-flight review, between my sweet pilot Pete and his trusty sidekick, suggested a few niggles I was blissfully oblivious to. But that’s why I’m happy to put my trust in someone who knows exactly what they are doing. And Pete clearly did.
Running off the hillside ramp, my arm around his waist, I had expected a kick of adrenalin when the floor fell away from us. What actually happened was a profound sense of peace and ease – the only explanation is that I must have been a bird in a previous life.
The lucky combination of the right kind of wind and me not being the size of a heifer meant that we could ride over a ridge and on to Byron’s lighthouse – Australia’s most easterly point.
My absolute favourite bit of the whole experience, more even that the spinning around and around in a tight loop until I didn’t know which way was up, was our whippet-fast landing on the beach. Skimming over the heads of unsuspecting sunbathers, like UV-proof extras from The Lost Boys, we stopped with just one step, a metre from the water’s edge.
Dang! This guy knows what he’s doing.
After the emotional high of whipping through the air, as we played with the laws of aerodynamics, the rest of Byron kind of lost its lustre a little. Pre-empting a post-flight comedown I booked myself on the bus to Nimbin.
There’s nothing like a bunch of aging hippies to cheer you up.
And they certainly do love their weed. I had literally been off the bus from Byron for all of ten seconds when I was offered fresh cookies. And I don’t think he meant double chocolate chip.
Settling down for a delicious falafel wrap in the Rainbow café, I watched some long term residents have a go at singing. Armed with guitar and a brain half-adled on who knew what, it was like listening to a musical version of interpretative dance. But their reactions came back quick enough at the sniff of a police patrol and soon several people were shouting ‘Taxi!’ – the cunning code for the police that absolutely everybody round these parts knows.
After a couple of hours in Nimbin – which was home to a Festival of Aquarius the same year I was born, and like me is getting ready for the next big anniversary – I was ready to wave the townsfolk goodbye.
Not that they would have seen me through all the smoke.
p.s. If you are finding yourself inspired to take a look at the curious little place that is Byron Bay for yourself, please listen to just one piece of advice. Don’t visit over the summer holidays (most of December and January) – the town is heaving, accommodation prices have skyrocketed (assuming you can find a room still available) and the locals all look a little bit frazzled by the bumper to bumper traffic. But that’s nothing a motivated and suitably remunerated local witch’s spell couldn’t fix, I imagine.