'Hello dear. Over here'.
The voice came from the far side of a dim, cluttered room. At a small table sat a middle-aged woman who, pointing to a chair, murmured "I'm Mrs Potter. Make yourself comfy. What's it to be dear, Crystal or cards?"
I hesitated for a second. "Cards please."
Nodding, she moved the crystal globe to one side and after covering it with a black cloth, picked up a worn pack of playing cards. These were shuffled and then passed across to me.
"Cut please, dear. Three times."
The crystal had sounded quite appealing, but with Mrs P. resembling more the wife of our local greengrocer than the Gypsy Rose Lee I'd anticipated, my faith in the exotic faded.
The cards were laid in five, neat vertical lines, then "Right dear. Ready are we?" We were off And how. So accurately were people, places and events from my past assembled and described that she might have been reading from an information sheet. For a mad moment it crossed my mind that a potted history of my life had been passed on by the friends who not only had talked me into the "consultation" but had also booked it and delivered me here.
"Now" she said, more to herself than to me, "What's this?"Carefully placing the remainder of the pack on the appropriate columns, she began slowly to forecast my future. At the phrase "There's a man in uniform here" the jaw dropped steeply - mine, not hers - and "You want to marry him but..." her lips pursed as she positioned the Queen of Spades. "There's big opposition. Big opposition...From an older woman." Amazed at her succinct summary of my predicament, I began to fiddle with my engagement ring, scarcely two weeks old, secreted deep inside a pocket. The voice continued "But you'll get your way... I see you in an old building, very old... greyish. A sort of castle. There will be lots of travel...In a year or two's time you'll be living in a country where people's skins are darker than your own." Pause. "Three? No... two children. You'll never have great wealth but you'll never be poor. "And you'll always land on your feet...He's a good man...Bit older than you. But that's all right."
For the first time since I'd joined her at the table, she looked up. "Right dear. That's all for now... Come and see me again. Good luck."
Less than an hour after entering the room, I emerged, in today's vernacular, totally gobsmacked: my three and sixpenny future - eighteen whole pence - mapped out before me.
Later, the two friends responsible for my 'reading' and I, sat huddled in a grey shelter on Folkestone seafront, oblivious to the howling gale outside. Well used to what passed for an English summer's afternoon, we puffed away serenely, shrouded in smoke from our Kensitas tipped, analysing every last word and sentence of Mrs Potter's predictions for the future. Having first been through all the "You have to be kiddings" and "How on earth could she possibly know that?" we ended by dredging the final 'What if's' and 'Supposing you - or he...' from the lengthy post-mortem. Two pairs of blue eyes stared glumly back into mine. "So what are you going to do? What about your mother..." Wouldn't want to be in your shoes" said Sally. Mine's difficult... But yours..."
Ah yes. Mother.
from "Singing to the Goldfish" by Bev Pettifar