WHEN her then-boyfriend was let with a paralysed arm after a motorcycle accident, little did Carolynn Binnie know it would change the direction of her life. James, now her husband and father of her two children, lost the use of his chest and shoulder muscles as well as his hand and fingers and was left with constant pain. After reading about the benefits of massage Carolynn, of Willow Farm Way, Broomfield, qualified as a massage therapist. Initially James was her only client, but she then expanded to other family and friends and now runs her own business. She told Liz Crudgington why the power of touch means so much, and why she is also known as the crying beach hut lady…
Tell me about James’s accident.
He was on his way to visit me when he had a serious accident and was left with a paralysed left arm known as a brachial plexus injury. A spinal injury of this severity not only leads to total loss of use in both the chest muscles, shoulder muscles and the hand and fingers but also constant pain. Initially we sought every doctor possible and I could write a book on the things we’ve tried for him. As the limb was often freezing cold I discovered that by a good massage we could improve the circulation and, the more I read about massage. I realised that this would be good for life. In 1994, I undertook a formal qualification in massage and set about trying to help him. Although we both knew I would never be able to “fix” him, he did find that his headaches were easier to cope with, his shoulders felt less tense and his arm was warm. He still has regular massage treatments from me especially after his badminton games (he plays for England in the Para-Badminton team).
And now it is your business?
I used to find it relaxing to give a massage after a day at my office job and so began to build up friends and family who were willing to pay for my treatments. My Alexandria Professional Sugaring obsession did not start until 2010 when I wanted to add something else to the massage business. I could have gone along the waxing route but I loved the totally natural aspect of the product and was thrilled with my own skin and hair refinement. It’s the oldest fom’ of hair removal, from the ancient Egyptians. Numerous friends in Herne Bay were my guinea pigs. The training school didn’t offer any refresher training and I kept running out of product so I went to America and trained to become a trainer. I then took over UK distribution with the intention of putting an Alexandria Professional Body Sugaring Practitioner in every high street across the UK. Slowly over the years I built up the business and in 2010 I gave up my office jobs to become a full-time massage therapist working from home.
What do you enjoy about it?
Massage comes naturally to me and over the years I have added hot stone treatments, deep tissue massage and pregnancy massage. I cannot tell you how satisfying and uplifting It can be to give a candlelit hot stone massage to a tired, worn out mum or executive high-flier and see the total transformation in an hour. I think it’s a privilege that people trust me enough to come and lie on the couch and let all their troubles out. Some never stop talking, some never say a word. Each day is different and I hear the highs and lows of people’s life.
What do you find the most challenging about it?
It is quite physically demanding — you are standing up and I put a lot of feeling and energy into my treatments so can be quite drained afterwards. I’m hoping to empower other massage therapists to increase their client base by offering the skincare side so I’m having to learn public speaking and networking.
What else have you done?
I worked as a farm secretary and worked for fruit farms in Canterbury for ten years, until a packhouse fire meant we were all made redundant. I then set up my own business as a mobile farm secretary and offered book-keeping to the local smaller farmers. After the children were born I set up and ran a pilot scheme for the National Childbirth Trust offering antenatal classes across the UK. I’ve also worked in marketing and I’ve done a lot of volunteering, as a governor at Herne infants and junior, and at St John Ambulance in Herne Bay.
Do you get time to treat yourself?
I believe massage is a necessity. I do get the occasional hot stone massage and I have a sports massage every two weeks.
You are involved with autistic children and their families — tell me about that.
It started when I was involved with the NCT and was asked to massage autistic children. For about two years I attended a club in Hythe once a month and massaged the children and their parents. We found that I was able to gain the children’s trust and when they became over stimulated or anxious they could come for a few minutes of quiet. The parents all looked so worn out and tired that when I didn’t have a child I got them to lie down too — it worked so well that I was fortunate enough to be asked to join a group in Herne Bay doing the same thing. We saw some truly amazing transformations. I cannot explain why it worked, but children who hated to be touched, who never sat still, who were unable to speak, all slimbed onto my couch and let me massage their feet, hands, backs and heads.
What are your hobbles and interests?
My hobby is learning — I seem to have spent my life learning new skills and pushing myself out of the comfort zone. I enjoy the Gulbenkian cinema and live music. I love my beach hut at Herne Bay. That’s definitely been a big thing in my life. It has burned down three times, and I always end up on the front page crying.
Tell me about your family.
James and I have been together 30 years this year (we ran away to Gretna Green and got married eventually on April 1, 1998) and have two sons — Andrew, 15 in April, and George, 13 in April. April is expensive in our house. I’m very close to my mum and I have a sister who lives in Istanbul. We keep in touch with Facebook and Skype and she visits once a year. I have been to Istanbul twice and it was fantastic.
What do you like about Herne Bay?
I love the sea I love the fact it changes so much. I have a lot of happy memories as a child at the beach and with my children at the beach hut. I love that Canterbury is nearby but we get all the fresh air.
Anything you’d change?
Most of the shops need an injection of love. My favourite shop is Frangipani and I love all the soap and flowers and bits and bobs in there, but other than that they can be a bit depressing.
A Green Moms Minor called Green Nigel alter the small man in Thank God Its Friday (TGIF). I was the only one at college who could start it on the cranking handle and for my 18th birthday the boys wrapped the whole thing in toilet rolls.
Grease — I saw the film five times in one week.
Ever seen a ghost?
No, but we went to a spiritual doctor in Thanet for healing once and the room chilled down to a really ice cool temperature and then half an hour later heated right back up again — it was weird. James wasn’t healed but our friend’s husband never had a lump on his shoulder again, which was always a mystery.
Dream dinner party guests?
Actor and director Robert Redford, also a businessman, environmentalist, philanthropist, and founder of the Sundance Film Festival. He has used his good looks and money for some really good things. Then Marvin Earl “Monty” Roberts, an American horse trainer who promotes techniques of natural horsemanship. I saw him a couple of times in the UK when I had my own horse and I’ve read a lot about horse training using his methods. I would love to talk to him. Lastly, Christopher Reeve, the Superman actor. I would like to meet him to hear about the Reeves Foundation, dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research.
- For more information, visit hernebaymassage.co.uk or call 07973 518640.
Herne Bay Times, January 23rd 2014