Manchester

Sometimes you need to relax and EXHALE…

Exhale Therapy is a luxurious spa in Manchester, offering a multitude of treatments from around the world, both holistic and aesthetic. Having heard great reviews, I thought I’d check it out for myself….

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I booked in for a Hammam bath, hot stone massage, rescue facial and Shellac for my nails – after all there is no point in doing things by halves:)

Exhale Therapy is based in Didsbury, not far from the village and just around the corner from East Didsbury Metrolink station.

 Having taken my car, I was delighted to find they also have customer parking right outside which was a great bonus, it only took me about twenty minutes to get there from Sale too.

Reception at Exhale Therapy

Reception at Exhale Therapy

The reception area is just gorgeous and really set the tone for my whole visit. Expanses of marble and eastern artwork along with the relaxing piped music made me instantly forget the hustle n bustle I had just left behind and really did transport me to somewhere calm and tranquil.

 

Greeted by Saira I was shown through to the Hammam area which looked inviting although I was a little nervous as I didn’t know what to expect. She made me feel very comfortable and explained everything to me, I was to change and sit in the steam room until she came to get me in about 10 minutes…

Steam room in the Hammam - Exhale Therapy

Steam room in the Hammam – Exhale Therapy

The changing room is spacious and clean, there are lockers for personal bits and both robe and slippers were provided for me so, after getting into my bikini, I headed to the steam room.

Wow….

The steam room is quite spacious, big enough for four people to share and is just the business. With temperatures reaching 104 degrees in billows of steam I felt like I was in a tropical rainforest and could literally see the toxins breaking free from my neglected skin..It was really relaxing, if a little hot and I enjoyed sitting still for a few minutes (something I don’t do very often, with or without steam). Just as I was beginning to think that I had maybe had enough the door opened and Saira asked me to step out for the next part of the Hammam experience, The scrub.

Hammam at Exhale Therapy

Lying on the marble bed in the middle of the Hammam I felt warm, relaxed and totally chilled out. I was then treated to the whole shebang – my whole body was scrubbed and polished until I felt like I was literally glowing, then rinsed down with warm water, pure decadence:)

When I had composed myself I got dressed and went to have a hot stone massage and facial with Rebecca the beauty therapist.

Hot stone massage - Exhale Therapy

Hot stone massage – Exhale Therapy

Again, I had never had a hot stone massage but was keen to give it a whirl, I struggle with migraines and tension in my shoulders and was hopeful it would help.

Rebecca explained the whole process to me in detail and asked what kind of pressure I preferred etc. She was very thorough and really took on board what I said, quickly zoning in on the knots in my shoulders.

I had expressed a preference for a firm massage and that is exactly what I got. It was excellent. Rebecca is only tiny but boy is she strong. She really cracked my shoulders and the relief was instant – it still feels much better 3 days after my visit – well impressed.

When I had been sufficiently cracked, stretched and rubbed I turned over while Rebecca then did me a rescue facial.

As a smoker that is fast approaching the big 4.0. that likes to stay up late, my skin has been looking a little tired and in need of some serious TLC lately.

Treatment room at Exhale Therapy

Treatment room at Exhale Therapy

The rescue facial consists of various gorgeous smelling products being massaged into your face then removed and somewhere down the line there was also a facial steamer directed at me. It was wonderful and has left me looking all peachy, even diminishing a few fine lines and I will definitely be back for more when they reappear 😉

My spa day experience ended with Hayley the nail technician introducing me to the wonder known as Shellac 🙂

As a life-long nail-biter, one of my greatest achievements is stopping and finally growing decent set of nails. I have only had them for a few months and whilst they are quite long and sting, they are also full of ridges and old war wounds from my days of incessant picking and nibbling.

Hayley explained how Shellac works and how it would protect my nails while they are growing as well as not chipping at all – one of my major nail varnish irritations.

She helped me choose a colour ( I opted for the loud n proud ‘Hollywood Red’ ) and the results are amazing. The ridges are barely visible, it is amazingly neat and it looks sensational, she really is a very talented nail technician.

I left after three and a half hours of pure heaven and can’t wait to get back. My skin feels lovely and smooth, best it has felt in years. My shoulders feel much looser and I haven’t had a headache since Rebecca sorted me out. My face looks brighter and my nails are gorgeous, I can’t stop looking at them.

I can’t recommend Saira, Rebecca and Hayley enough, they are very knowledgable about the treatments they offer and couldn’t have made me feel any more comfortable and relaxed.

Lovely ladies. Sumptuous surroundings. Feeling fantastic 🙂

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Exhale Therapy – Simply Amazing

Please see the Exhale Therapy website for full treatment details and special promotions or you can tweet them @Exhale_Therapy 

All images and the Youtube video used are done so with the kind permission of the one and only Manchester Promotions – find them on Twitter @McrPromotions

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A night with Nikki…

Smart, funny and exceptionally witty, Nikki looks much younger than her 35 years. She dreamt of being a singer and enjoys writing poetry. Born in Brazil, she settled in Manchester as a young girl when her parents came in search of the promised ‘better life’ they had heard so much about.

She is also an escort and spends her evenings having sex with men for cash.

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Far from the preconceived ‘victim’ or ‘down on her luck’ addict that springs to mind, Nikki is the epitome of class and sophistication. Long, lustrous hair swept back off her face and smooth, clear skin, she has a figure that makes women envious while bringing grown men to their knees. It’s hard to ignore the lustful glances she’s attracting as we chat over a glass of wine in a busy Manchester bar.

With so much in the news recently about the rise of girls forced into prostitution, Nikki is eager to lift the lid on the other side of this often-misunderstood profession – where, for some, selling sex is a choice and not a necessity.

“I sell sex because the money is good, the hours are flexible and to be honest, I’m really good at it. I made the choice to become an escort and I’ve never really looked back, finally I can support myself and have a pretty decent standard of living at the same time.”

Married for a number of years, Nikki says she was ‘happy with her lot’ and looking forward to possibly having children one day, until her husband had an affair, eventually leaving her for a much younger woman he had allegedly met at work.

“It knocked my confidence hard when he left because I never saw it coming. He just went to work one day and never came home.”

“I was enrolled on a book keeping course at college and wanted to become an accountant but, after he left, I just couldn’t find work and things began to fall apart. That’s when I made the decision to do what I know best. Sex was never an issue when I was married, in fact the thought of being paid for my time felt rather empowering.”

Nikki says it was incredibly easy to get into escorting, after finding an advert in the local paper; she called an agency, spoke to the madam and was invited to the ‘office’ for an interview the same day. images-4

“I was really nervous and didn’t have a clue what to wear so I went for what was, in my opinion, sexy and appropriate – an incredibly short skirt and staggeringly high heels. Arriving by taxi at the discreet address on a leafy lane in Cheshire, I quickly realised that I had got it very wrong and Pretty Woman was not actually a fair representation of my new chosen career.”

The office turned out to be a smart apartment in Hale, one of many in a private, residential block. Here Nikki met *Sue, the lady in charge and was told the ‘rates and rules’.

“Don’t dress like a hooker, don’t do anything unprotected, do not try and undercut the other girls and never give out your personal phone number.”

Nikki certainly doesn’t fit the stereotypical image you would imagine for a ‘hooker’- dressed in a blouse, fitted jeans and designer jacket she would look more at home in a boardroom than on any street corner. As she says herself,

“Most of the time you would never know I was an escort. Remember I am a normal woman too. I sit next to you on the bus, I work out next to you at the gym and I pay for my milk next to you in the supermarket.”

This raises the issue of what other people think of her career; Nikki admits that she can’t always be honest with those around her.

“I only have a handful of friends that know what I really do, my family and everyone else believes that I am a very successful accountant, they probably wouldn’t believe it anyway.”

“It can get awkward, one time my friend brought her books round to me in floods of tears, asking me to help her make sense of it all. I spent a whole morning ringing accountants, eventually paying £200 to one willing to do the work quickly so I could say I had done it for her.”

Asked if there are any plus points of her job, Nikki’s eyes sparkle as she describes a world far different from any most women could imagine.

“The gifts are brilliant, I have regular clients who spoil me all the time, I’ve had perfume, clothes, jewelry and even a couple of exotic holidays over the years.”

nikki-2“Most men I meet are like puppies, eager to please and looking for some attention – it’s easy to make them feel special and in return they treat me well. One of my favourite clients was an infamous gangster. He is in jail now and the media have portrayed him as this tough thug. This is not the man I knew. He booked me loads of times and was very charming, if a little flashy. One evening he called the agency, booked me for the whole night and we arrived at his farm house in the countryside by private helicopter to enjoy partying into the early hours.”

When I ask about the sex aspect of the deal Nikki shrugs it off as a very small, occasionally enjoyable part of her unusual job.

“Sometimes the man is unattractive or not really my type but I just block it out, concentrate on my shopping list instead. Smelly ones are dealt with by offering to shower with them and to be honest, most of the guys are alright really.”

“It turns me on to know that this man is paying me for my time, for my body – I have a high sex drive so it suits me just fine. Besides, what woman could honestly say that she wouldn’t like to be wined and dined then showered with gifts? I know a few married women who have sex with their husband whenever they want a new dress, carpet or whatever. The only difference with me is that I’m honest from the offset, they get exactly what they pay for and there is no hidden, ulterior motive.”

“I see men from all walks of life, most are married and all have their own reasons for coming to me. If I had a pound for every time I heard that classic ‘my wife doesn’t understand me’ I could retire. It makes me laugh, and a little sad really. I can’t help wonder if it was my husband saying those same pathetic, empty words to another woman all those years ago, it seems that there are far more misunderstood guys out there than happily married ones.”

The cynicism lies heavy in the air and the conversation takes a darker turn as I ask about the other side of the coin, the bad punters, as she refers to them. Looking down towards her hands it feels like Nikki is almost reliving the experience as her voice drops and the light seems to all but disappear from her eyes.

She doesn’t know much about him at all; he didn’t make much conversation. One thing Nikki does know for sure is that she was totally unprepared for what happened that night.

“He lived in a posh apartment in Chester, there was a doorman and I gave him my real name by mistake when I arrived. He was one of my first clients and I wasn’t used to using my fake name yet.”

“The instructions from the agency had made it clear that the door would be unlocked and I was to let myself in, naively I never really thought anything of it. When I arrived there was music playing really loud, the bass thumped through my body as I walked in and closed the door behind me.”

“The bedroom was in front of me and, as I walked in, I could see an envelope next to the bed with my ‘name’ on it.  A small, thin Chinese man appeared behind me wearing a bathrobe. He spoke impeccable English as he told me to turn off the already dimmed lights.”Pillow Light Room Bedroom Night Lamp Sleep

She pauses, seemingly playing the scene over again…

“It all went wrong from there really. He was really rough, pulling my hair, grabbing me and almost folding me in half, with my legs in the air. It hurt my hips so bad I had to stop myself wincing with pain. Then he wanted to change positions but I just couldn’t do it, I was in agony and feeling really scared by then. I told him I had to stop and he went ballistic, it was like he wanted to hurt me deliberately.”

I ask her why she didn’t just leave.

“I don’t know, I didn’t know what to do” she shrugs.

Leaving as soon as she could, Nikki broke down sobbing in the lift and called the agency to say she never wanted to see him again.

Since then he has been blacklisted from other agencies too, turns out she wasn’t the first woman he had done this to.

So, is this Nikki’s dream job?

“No, but I can think of worse ones” she says. “The men I see are generally good guys, it’s only now and then you get a bad one and you just have to deal with it. What other job could pay me so well for so little – I say who, I say when and I say how much, that makes me in control, doesn’t it?”

As Nikki finishes her drink and turns to leave I can’t help wonder if it really is her or actually the next punter who is in control after all.

sexy girl image

Parents fundraise to give baby head start

DEDICATED Manchester parents Rebecca Drane and Anthony Leathley are holding a sponsored walk to raise money for HeadStart4Babies, after their youngest son, Ethan was diagnosed with plagiocephaly at just four months old.

Ethan teacup - use this one

Plagiocephaly, also known as flat head syndrome is a condition characterised by an asymmetrical distortion (flattening of one side) of the skull. The condition will sometimes improve as the baby grows, but in many cases, treatment can significantly improve the shape of the baby’s head.

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Treatment for plagiocephaly is a cranial helmet – not available on the NHS and at a cost of £1,950.

Anthony, 29 said: ” Babies should be a priority in the NHS regardless of what the condition is and how it affects them.

“The NHS class this as a cosmetic issue, but what is having bigger breasts or a straighter nose?”

Worn for 23 hours-per-day, for between three to six months, the helmet is made to measure by a company called Technology in Motion. Lightweight and adjustable, the helmet works by gently reshaping the baby’s head bones as they grow, allowing it to return to a more natural shape.

Rebecca and Anthony are keen to raise the money as soon as possible so that Ethan can begin the treatment they say dramatically helped his brother, Mason who was also diagnosed with plagiocephaly as a baby.

As a baby, Mason’s condition meant that his head was mis-alligned by 18mm, classed as severe in plagiocephaly terms. Fundraising for treatment, Rebecca organised a social night at Sacred Heart Parish Centre and the couple also received a generous donation from HeadStart4Babies.

Mason was fitted for a cranial helmet and, over time, the mis-allignment of his head has been reduced to a barely noticeable 3mm.

flat-helmet

Fundraising for Ethan to be fitted for a helmet is underway and the proud parents have organised a sponsored walk.

On October 19, 2013, they will meet at Wythenshawe Hall at 10.30am and plan to walk to Manchester Airport, raising both much needed funds and awareness. All are welcome and the couple are hoping to reach their target of £1950, the cost of a cranial helmet.

If Ethan doesn’t have the treatment he needs he may develop further disfigurement to his face and this can also lead to learning difficulties later in life.

Rebecca, 24 said: ” It is awful that the NHS don’t help children like Ethan with their treatment as it’s very difficult for families like us to raise this amount of money.

“We are determined that Ethan will get the treatment he needs. I couldn’t live with myself if his condition was left untreated and got worse, and then had to be corrected when he is too old for a helmet. This would mean him having an operation, which if we can avoid, we will no matter what it costs.

“Ethan is such a happy baby and he always has a smile on his face.”

For more information on plagiocephaly and the support offered by HeadStart4Babies visit the website at headstart4babies.org

To help with Ethan’s treatment please go to Rebecca’s JustGiving page, every donation appreciated.

A morning with the police…

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Have you ever wondered what the police do behind the scenes or how they prioritise issues in your area?

Greater Manchester Police recently began a new initiative where members of the public could  go out on the beat and share the experience via social media, as community reporter.

I decided to apply as I was intrigued as to what the role of police officer in my local area (Sale West) would be and how they play their part in keeping our community safe and crime free.

The first community reporter, Harriet Blake, went out with the police in Chorlton and shared her experiences via Youtube and a blog post on Netmums.

As you can see Harriet really got behind the scenes, had a camera crew, attended a team brief and also met with Deputy Chief Constable Ian Hopkins.

I was very excited and a little nervous when I received an email in April telling me I had been successful and a date would be made for me to go out with local police.

After a long wait I finally got an email asking me to be at Altrincham Police Station on Wednesday June 19 at noon and also to sign and return the disclaimer, indemnity and other related documents attached.

It was at this point that I began to realise that my experience was not going to be at all like the one portrayed by Harriet.

No camera crew for me, no team brief and certainly no meeting with the Deputy Chief Constable.

Arriving at Altrincham Police Station around 11.30am, I was greeted by the officer on the desk who then went to find out who was expecting me. Having no name as reference this took a while.Eventually I was informed that someone had forgotten to pass the information on regarding my visit and they couldn’t actually accommodate me that afternoon.

The officers that I spoke to had not heard of the community reporter role and I had to explain why I wanted to go out with them also, why I had specifically asked for Sale West.

I explained that the role of community reporter was something the police had initiated and that I was to share my experience on social media. I clarified the choice of area by pointing out that I am co-founder of SaleWestVoice and, having recently shared my experience of visiting the cctv office covering Sale West it seemed a logical choice.

We rearranged for Friday June 21 at 10am and I was assured that I would accompany an officer in and around Sale West, perhaps focussing on fly tipping and bike crime as they are among the current issues faced.

Friday morning was crisp and bright as I once again set off for the police station, this time I was indeed met by an officer who was to take me out on patrol around Sale West and discuss what the police are doing to keep us safe.

We set off towards Sale and were soon on the estate where we drove around as the officer explained that he was looking for suspicious vehicles or anything else untoward as is part of the daily routine.

I am happy to say that there were no suspicious vehicles and all was peaceful and quiet.

Whilst we were on patrol in the car a motorist flagged us down to say that she had seen a man acting suspiciously nearby. After taking a description of the male and the reason for her concern the officer thanked her and went to look for him.

I asked on what grounds would he stop the man, should we find him and he explained that whilst the police can not stop anyone without a valid reason, the fact that he had been reported as acting suspicious was reason enough and, if found, the man would be stopped and possibly searched.

We did not find the man and nothing else was reported whilst we were out, other than an older resident expressing his concerns about the speed some people drive down Firsway which, I have to agree, is a valid point.

The officer and I discussed the fact that bike theft is a problem and he advised me that anyone who owns a bike can register it online with immobilise.com. If your bike is then stolen you have a much greater chance at getting it back, when it is unregistered it can be harder, sometimes even impossible to match it back with the rightful owner.

Registering only takes a few minutes and could save you a lot of hassle, not to mention cash. You can also register other gadgets on the site, click on the link above for more details.

Addressing fly tipping is an ongoing issue and there are many incidents of it taking place in and around Sale West. Not only is it an eyesore and a blight on the community as a whole, it is also an offence which can lead to a fine or imprisonment.

Fly tipping can be reported via the council website, and they have a rapid response unit available in all areas to deal with rubbish dumped on council land. As much of the rubbish is actually left on Irwell Valley land this can become an issue and should be reported to them directly.

The officer that took me on patrol was very professional and was happy to offer general advice on crime and communities. He pointed out that the key to low crime includes a strong community where everyone pulls together, having respect for each other as well as the immediate environment.

We finished our patrol just after lunch time and returned to Altrincham station, marking the end of my time on the beat….

I wish I could share more about what goes on behind the scenes, or what future plans the police have for Sale West. The fact is I can’t because I just don’t know. Whilst my time out with the police was interesting and totally different to my usual Friday morning, it wasn’t quite what I had imagined.

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On a brighter note there is lots of useful information on display at the station, here are some links that you may find useful:

  • INTERNET FRAUD AND SCAMS…If you have been affected by a fraudster or online scam you can report it to Action Fraud 24 hours a day, seven days a week on action fraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 1232 040. The website also lists a handy A-Z of different fraud types as well as their Top Tips to protect yourself from fraud.
  • DATA PROTECTION ACT 1998…The ACT covers personal information from which an individual may be identified. The information may be held on computers, other applications which process information automatically, paper records and other media, such as video and cctv. The police use personal information for a variety of purposes. In addition to holding personal information for the prevention and detection of crime, apprehending and prosecuting offenders, public safety, maintaining criminal record disposal histories and investigative and intelligence purposes.This information may be shared with other agencies and individuals, under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REQUEST ACCESS TO ANY INFORMATION THAT YOU BELIEVE THE FORCE MAY HOLD ABOUT YOU AND TO BE TOLD WHAT IT IS TO BE USED FOR. To request this information simply visit THIS PAGE and download the application form, returning it to the address shown.
  • VIOLENCE…If you, or someone you know is at risk of violence from a partner YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO ASK about an individual who you think may have a violent past. “Claire’s Law’ can be used by anyone and is a new scheme to protect victims of domestic violence. For more information on requesting a disclosure under this scheme visit gmp.police.uk or endthefear.co.uk.

On a final note, much of the intelligence the police rely on comes via CRIMESTOPPERS. They are also available on 0800 555 111 and any information can be given anonymously…..

Pic of police emblem with thanks to http://www.flickr.com/photos/jza84/ via creative commons.:)

Charity offers lifeline for working girls in Manchester

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Manchester is a great place to live, shop and study with a cosmopolitan social scene and plenty of opportunities to be found. Born and raised in this bustling city I am proud of my Mancunian heritage however there is another, darker side of Manchester that often goes unseen and unreported.

Prostitution continues to be a problem in Manchester, but whilst there is a demand there will always be business, as I discovered when I spoke to both a sex worker and a staff member from MASH earlier this week.

Manchester Action on Street Health, known as MASH was established in 1991 to provide a confidential and specialised service to street and sauna based female sex workers and female drug users in the Greater Manchester area. The service has moved with the times and now also offers the same service to escorts too, as well as producing literature in other languages as there has recently been a notable rise in Eastern European sex workers in Manchester.

Mash building

‘MASH works with female sex workers to promote sexual health, well being and personal safety whilst offering choice, support and empowerment to promote individual positive life changes.’

Initially MASH was a van based project, offering street outreach in key areas of manchester twice a week. Services include distribution of free condoms, sexual health advice, referrals into drug/care planning, a needle exchange and a “dodgy punter reporting service” as well as distributing personal attack alarms and safety advice.

Whilst the van still operates, and is invaluable to the girls that use it, MASH now also has a designated building on Fairfield Street in Manchester, situated on the outskirts of the red light district.

Female sex workers, or working girls can access drop in sessions which are held between 12.30 and 3.30 Monday to Friday and 8.00 until 11.00 Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening. Women can drop in, have a drink and something to eat, use the computers and have a chat. Free condoms and a needle exchange are available. Caseworkers and volunteers  provide advice and support and link women into other services. A range of services and activities are available during the drop in. Workers from other agencies link in to the drop in, including specialist midwifery, GP registration, and a Police Clinic.

There is also a Criminal Justice Worker on hand to support women who are involved with Criminal Justice, whether as perpetrator or victim.They assist with writing reports, liaising with police, probation and the courts, as well as providing much needed emotional support.

Helen, the Criminal Justice Worker also provides a weekly clinic for women in Styal Prison, where she helps women in putting together a resettlement plan and offers ongoing, consistent support through their sentence and when they leave prison.

Counselling, art therapy and drama are just a few of the activities on offer at the centre, all of which have had far reaching affects when coupled with the warm, friendly and accepting welcome found at MASH.

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I met with Cate Allison, chief executive of MASH  earlier this week and was struck by her calm, compassionate manner. She said it was often the girls’ own choice to work the streets, also that, “It is very difficult when they have alcohol, drug and domestic violence problems. Our aim here at MASH is to empower the women to make their own choices in their lives. By offering support for their other problems will hopefully enable them to make the right choice.”

MASH has undoubtedly helped many women that may otherwise have slipped through the net, here are some facts and figures from 2011 to 2012 that speak for themselves….

  • Last Year MASH worked with 502 women and 274 Individual women accessed activities at the MASH Centre.
  • 210 women were supported to healthier lifestyles through the MASH Centre.
  • The MASH Clinic: 120 street workers and 60 indoor workers accessed the clinic at the MASH Centre.
  • Our caseworkers provided intensive support to 90 women.
  • 25 women were supported when they were in Styal prison.
  • 23 women accessed complementary therapies
  • 28 women accessed counselling
  • 27 women attended self-esteem workshops
  • 7 undertook self-defence training
  • 7 did First Aid Training
  • 32 accessed Occupational Therapy, including gym and swimming sessions and cooking and budgeting support.
  • 85 women have had full sexual health screening
  • 111 women have been tested for Hepatitis B
  • 304 women have been tested for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea
  • 63 individual women regularly use our needle exchange
  • 185 women have received support with drug issues
  • 12 of the women we supported chose to exit sex work

As I left the MASH centre after meeting with Cate, I saw a lone working girl on the corner, hoping for business from the passing lunchtime traffic..( it was around 11.30am ).

girl and car

On approaching the lady it became apparent that she was in her late 50s, maybe early 60s, she looked tired and had her shoulders hunched against the wind.

Bundled up in a winter coat with a short skirt and heels, she was shivering and was so quietly spoken it was difficult to hear her as she spoke to me about her experience of working the streets of Manchester.

*Stacey explained she had worked the streets for as long as she could remember, starting to fund her own and her boyfriends heroin addiction. The boyfriend was long gone, but she said the addiction had stayed and forced her out to earn money the only way she knew how.

I asked if she had accessed MASH and she had, saying it was a lifeline and that she often popped in for a hot drink and a listening ear.

Stacey recalled two separate incidents where she was attacked and robbed but still had to go back out and carry on, despite being really scared, and she said she regularly looks at the ugly mug list, as well as speaking to the other girls to share information on dodgy punters.

Seeing Stacey glancing towards passing cars, and sensing her patience drifting, I thanked her for her time and made my way back to my car to head home with a head full of thoughts.

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I decided to write this piece after reading the news on the recent attacks on sex workers in Manchester, and the work of those that were supporting these women through such a difficult time. A man has since been charged five counts of rape, attempted rape, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and other sexual assaults and is due to appear in court at the end of the month. This is obviously good news and hopefully, with time and support, the victims will make a full recovery.

I have discovered that MASH is an amazing service that is an absolute lifeline for some of the most vulnerable women in our society. Non judgemental and welcoming, a big part in the success MASH has achieved in this sensitive area is down to the dedication and skills of the many staff and volunteers that work together so well.

Gaining the trust of the working girls has taken time and commitment, this trust is a major factor in the success of the ugly mug scheme, where information on dodgy punters is shared between the women so that a database can be built and offenders more easily recognised and, in some cases apprehended.

The girls working on the streets of Manchester are often given bad press or deemed a problem for society. They are stigmatised and judged by many around them that feel they are in the position to do so. To those people I would like to say this…

Undoubtedly there are a few women that have made a conscious decision to become a prostitute but these are far out numbered by the rest…..Women that have ended up there through abuse, violence and addiction. Some because they have no other options left and others because it is all they know.

Whatever the story or situation these women are exactly that, Women.

They are mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts, possibly even grandmothers. They do not need people passing judgement or making assumptions, they need understanding and support.They have the same rights as every other woman in our society and it will be a glorious day when all working girls feel able to speak out about their experiences and needs whilst getting support needed, without feeling the sharp edge of societies stigma.

We are fortunate to have such a great service in Manchester, many areas have similar projects but MASH is certainly one to be noted, as many of the women would agree.

* False name to protect identity.

Here are some useful links for issues related to this article…

LIfeline for help and advice on drug use and misuse

Drugscope for all related issues

UK network of sex work projects

MASH name

Photos used with kind permission from MASH…:)

Himalayan Salt Cave Experience

 

It was my birthday recently and my younger sister surprised me with a trip to The Himalayan Salt Cave in Cheadle, including lunch and, to my delight, without the children.

We got our deal on Groupon, a bargain at £20 for two, including 45 minutes in the cave followed by lunch, however the prices are very reaonable without the discount and they also offer a range of discounts for block and advance bookings.

pretty salt

We followed SatNav and reached the cave no problem, in fact we would have had time to spare had we found parking a little easier. There are parking bays outside the parade of shops where the cave is situated, but as these were taken we were forced to park quite a substantial distance away.

When we arrived at the cafe/cave we were greeted by a very friendly young lady and were shown through the cafe and into the cave situated behind an ornate looking door.

 

The cave is actually quite small, cosy and there is comfortable seating for up to six people at a time, although it can be booked for private use too.

cafe saltThe walls and floor are made entirely of pink salt rocks, the ceiling has man made stalactites tipped with fibre optic lights and the overall effect is rather impressive.

Initially as we sat in the cave it was unclear as to what was going to happen, however as the last guests arrived and the door was closed it all came together.

The lighting was dimmed and the ceiling became a sea of colour changing twinkling stars. The sound of a babbling brook filled the air and meditation style music was played through hidden speakers……..Relaxation heaven.

 

The air is also infused with evaporated salt  during this time and left my lips tasting a little salty, almost like a day at the sea side.

Left to our own devices the time quickly passed and we were both left feeling relaxed and ready for an afternoon nap.

We were brought back into reality as the lighting slowly became brighter and the door was opened, by the lady who had welcomed us earlier as she invited us to the cafe area for lunch.door salt

The cafe has a reasonable menu with something for everyone and no restrictions on what we could order. The waitress/hostess was very chirpy and attentive, she really made us feel comfortable and was more than happy to offer recommendations.

We ordered cheese toasties and cookies, as well as a much needed pot of tea. It arrived quickly and was freshly made, very nice indeed after our relaxation experience.

 

 

On the way out there is the opportunity to purchase Himalayan rock salt in different forms, for the home, cooking and even in the bath. My sister chose some large pieces for around her home whilst I picked up a bag of smaller stones for in the bath.

The healing qualities of this salt is well known, and whilst I am lucky enough not to have a skin or chest complaint, I did feel somewhat refreshed and smooth when we left, a little taste of tranquility in an otherwise busy world.

I would highly recommend a visit to The Himalayan Salt Cave and am looking forward to going back soon.

tea at salt

The Himalayan Salt Cave can be found at 8, The Old Rectory Garden, Cheadle.

The website address is http://www.himalayan-saltcave.co.uk  or you can call them on 0161 6375898

It is also worth noting that children are welcome at the Himalayan Salt Cave, they are offered discounted rates and even have their own play area within the cave, perfect.

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