I have been looking in my cards about England in the World Cup. Of course I have, but everyone has an opinion, and listening to the growling and snarling coming out of the Man den in recent weeks, I sometimes feel it’s more than my life’s worth to share the findings even with my own spouse, Il Matrimonio (who will very likely see this) let alone risk it with a wider readership.
It’s the same with anything political, especially Brexit related. The conversation becomes too toxic, who needs it, but I do look, of course. It’s far too important a matter for me not to, and, it’s yes, it’s still going ahead, so far as I can see, looking at it again this morning.
Whether the reader gets it right or wrong, you might not like the answer. Don’t shoot the messenger. Tiberius used to have them thrown off the cliffs. He threw them off if they got it wrong. Sometimes he threw them off when they got it right but he didn’t like the answer. This soothsaying stuff has always had its perils.
I was watching The Hotel Inspector last night when Il Matrimonio came in, informing me that it was half time, England 1- Colombia 1, and did I have a feeling as to who was going to win?
No I didn’t. I was tired. I wasn’t feeling it. I would have to look.
He disappeared into the kitchen to put the kettle on, and I reached for my nearest cards, a deck of ordinary playing cards.
This was the process. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, while asking aloud, show me England. Will they win this match tonight against Colombia?
Repeat the question aloud x 3 or even x 6.
Pull ONE card. Just one.
Repeat process for Colombia.
Il Matrimonio came through with his mug of whatever.
‘Look here’, I said.
‘Do I have to? Why don’t you just tell me?’
‘I think it’s England. They’re just that bit faster.’
England draws the 7 of Diamonds.
Traditional meanings.Financial achievement, rewards and recognition, earned success, steady improvement, efforts rewarded. Lucky money, wins, pay raise, improved prospects. Nest egg, financial investment, stocks and bonds, e-trading. (Source, Kapherus. If you are a student or practitioner I highly recommend this invaluable cartomancy resource.)
Colombia draws the 5 of Clubs.
Traditionalmeanings. Action and change. Symbolizes the five fingers of the hand. Can represent working with one’s hands, or making something. It can also denote exercise, physical labour, and providing the extra effort needed to get the job done. Action, physical activity, need for physical exercise, competition, sporting event, job interview, good luck
In terms of the traditional interpretations, you can see for yourself both cards are positive. This is a well matched performance but England has drawn the better card.
It is a red suit card, not a black suit card. This alone is not definitive, but also…
Diamonds are swift. So are Clubs but they are the second swiftest suit. Diamonds is the swiftest. England look likely to win on their speed of attack in the end.
England have drawn a number 7 card, Colombia draw a number 5 and 7 is higher so it trumps a 5.
The match, as we now know, went into extra time and penalties, emotionally exhausting even to watch. You gather that I had by now switched over from The Hotel Inspector. Sorry, Alex Pollizi.
England won on penalties, breaking a long running streak of unlucky penalty shoot-outs that had become a chimera of the national psyche, something of a national hex.
Don’t tell me tribal magic is dead in the twenty- first century. Do not. You only have to watch the crowd, faces painted, sporting wigs in their team colours, hurling their wishes and curses and mojo- power at the pitch. This is nothing if not sympathetic magic in action.
Definition of sympathetic magic
: magic based on the assumption that a person or thing can be supernaturally affected through its name or an object representing it. (Merriam-Webster)
Me too. I pointed runes at the screen during the penalty shoot-out. The runes for our lot were TIWAZ (victory won in fair fight) and WUNJO (joy) and the runes for the opposition were…well that would be telling.
Last week Il Matrimonio asked me to look in my playing cards re the Arsenal v Chelsea Cup Final. See my previous post for the story on that.
So later of course, he was curious to know what the cards might say about the European Champions League on Saturday 3 June, Real Madrid v Juventus.
He left it rather late to ask me; The box was blaring, the the Black Eyed Peas performing in the opening ceremony.
Top row = Real Madrid
Bottom row = Juventus
Real Madrid: The overall tone of the top row was positive, kicking off with an astute ‘money’ Ace, the Ace of Diamonds; the speediest, fieriest card in the deck , a happy crowd of supporters (6 Hearts) 4 red suit cards, and a solid young man in the centre facing futurity… a volatile game (5 Diamonds) and a happy ever after card, the Two of Cups. Excitement, talent, good news.
Juventus: the 8 of Clubs showed much to admire: a hard working performance with great early promise of a wish fulfilled (9 Hearts is the ‘wishes come true’ card) The Queen of Diamonds, while female, nonetheless represents a speedy striker, but unluckily for Juventus, he is looking back, not forwards to the outcome, and then we have the infamous Ace of Spades. ‘End game’. Some issue there…a foul? An injury? and the outcome card the 6 Clubs. Not in itself a bad card; actually quite a positive one; problem resolution, favourable publicity…had I not drawn the Ace Spades, I’d have struggled to reach a decision.
I shouted to Il Matrimonio that it looked to me like Real Madrid for the winners, and he said they had won the European Champions League eleventy million times, or words to that effect, but he thought it would be Juventus this time, based on their recent form.
Score Real Madrid 4, Juventus 1.
The first goal was scored by Ronaldo, 20 minutes in (harking back to that speedy money card, the Ace Diamonds.) He got straight ‘on the money.’
Sourced online, this funny pic from The Sun.
Well, I think it’s funny, anyway.
Juventus scored their goal only seven minutes afterwards: Croatian forward Mario Mandzukic, sorry Mario, I don’t know why you showed up as the Queen of Diamonds, but never mind, I am sure this achievement made a fond lady very proud.
‘One of the finest goals seen in a Champions League final,’ The Independent.
But what was that Ace of Spades about for Juventus? Would there be there a ‘black mark’ awarded against Juventus, or might there be an injury or, God Forbid, something far worse?
A reader doesn’t know anything. Not as such. They must wait and see like everyone else. They are functioning rather, as a kind of radar.
‘Juve finished with 10 men after Juan Cuadrado was sent off in the 84th for a second yellow card after pushing Sergio Ramos.’ – The Independent.
I just this minute looked it up. Il Matrimonio lost interest the minute the match was over, but the reader has to do these forensics.
And it struck me that the Ace of Spades was also foreshadowing the attack that took place in London’s Borough Market less than an hour after the match ended.
By the pricking of my thumbs
Something wicked this way comes.
One card will often convey more than one message. Sometimes it is like peeling an onion. And this is how you learn the cards. Shuffle blind, draw and proceed to speak of what you do not know, because you CAN’T ‘know’, right?
How can you know if you cannot account for how you know?
How do migrating birds navigate in fog? How did the elephants know that a tsunami was coming and flee uphill in panic before the people knew? We don’t know the limits of the workings of our five senses to declare with any finality how knowledge is arrived at, or to pronounce there is no sixth sense, when that may actually be an fifth sense operating on a more acute physical basis than we understand, but that produces the all too common phenomenon of ‘the lucky guess.’
Afterwards, you, the reader, need to dissect where you went right and where you went wrong or you missed a clue, adding those findings to your lexicon for a given card and its most specific real life applications.
Cards for the forthcoming General Election:
PLEASE NOTE: these cards were drawn Thursday afternoon 1 June 2017
Question: Who will be PM after 8 June?
Top Row TM
Bottom Row JC
Both rows start by reflecting the tragedy of the recent terrible crimes of Manchester and before that Westminster Bridge. These cards, the Nine and Ten of Spades, reflect significant personal distress as well as stress attached to both TM and JC. And to my dismay I saw the Ace of Spades again, sitting in futurity…not far off.
TM is the shrewd but fiery Queen of Diamonds. Not typical of TM! Usually she appears in my cards as the cool and quiet Queen of Spades or Hearts. She is looking back at the King of Hearts, her gaze resting upon her opponent, JC, but also symbolizing her regard I think, for a supportive male figure, a quiet figure, very likely her husband and/or a trusted political adviser.
What did the next card denote, the Ace Spades? It seemed to be pointing at some near future development, possibly sudden and strongly negative. I thought it may refer to future fall-out in consequence of the televised debate (I found the whole thing nigh on unwatchable, myself) TM was censured for not being there, JC praised for being there (although, since he apparently changed his mind very late in the day, could the absence of TM have been a factor in that decision?)
Horrifically, these cards being drawn with less than 48 hours to go, I now think the Ace of Spades was not talking about that at all, but was foreshadowing the murders in the Borough Market. on Saturday night
There are no words adequate to convey the sorrow, pity, fury and detestation. And disgust.
The Six Hearts, well, I don’t know, but TM has said she must not lose six seats or she loses the majority. Had I drawn the Six Spades, I would take it as a strong possibility that the Cons will lose those seats lost, but the Six Hearts looks (literally) like six ‘bums on seats.’
Does it look like the landslide victory projected at the outset of the election campaign? Mehhhhh.
I don’t know what’s going to happen any better than you do, but for a landslide victory, not saying it couldn’t happen but I’d expect a higher value card or any ace, so long as it is not Spades. The Ace of Spades incidentally, has a fearsome reputation but is not necessarily malign, at least, not in theory. It may denote a clean sweep, a judgement, necessary upheaval as the prelude to a fresh start. It can denote a great victory, but
a) it was not sitting in the final outcome position
b) there is a malign something in the air and has been in my own experience, since late last summer at least. There is always trouble afoot somewhere in the world of course, but there is just this…something; despite the fact I actually feel optimistic about many things, including the future success of the UK over the next nine or ten years.
Turning the focus to JC now, and that Ten of Spades, he looks deeply upset not only by recent events, but a very recent rift in his inner circle? (2 Spades) Could it be something connected with the initials DA? (Did I say that? No. I didn’t say anything.) The central card, the Three of Diamonds is the only red suit card in JC’s row, compared with three red suit cards in the TM row, but this one red suit card is the hinge card, some crucial factor:
The Three of Diamonds: a payment, usually small; a small sum of money, financial growth, partial success, scattered energy and focus, on again off again, perseverance is needed for success.
This is the challenge for JC as presented here, but should these same qualities be demonstrated in the Conservative party they might, by the same token, represent an opportunity for Labour, and this card is followed by two positive cards. The Six of Clubs denotes movement, progress, renewed energy and ideas, and then, in the outcome for JC, we have the Jack of Clubs.
Should Labour be defeated on June 8, which is still presented here as being more likely than not, and if you lay cards, what does it look like to you from where you are sitting? Labour look rather as if they will be down but not out for the count. The Jack of Clubs is a vocal, vigorous card and suggests the emergence of young voters and in the near future of the party, new blood.
Ultimately here, the Queen of Diamonds denotes a responder or pragmatist, and she is sitting in the middle of her own card ‘heap’ and the King of Hearts denotes a visionary or idealist, and why ain’t he sitting in the middle of his own row, on his own card ‘heap.’
People don’t fit into nutshells, and nor does the electorate, cartomancy deals in symbolic representation. Could it be some future coalition?
Queen of Diamonds Intelligent, imaginative, energetic, professional woman who is cultured and financially secure. She might be a business woman, media professional, a bank manager, or a government official (!)
King of Hearts Family man, protective and paternal. Good-natured, affectionate and generous. An adviser, counsellor, artist, teacher, priest or mentor. Male loved one or member of the family. Introspective, contained, systematic, an artistic and/or romantic sensibility.
As I mentioned earlier, I drew these cards last Thursday and have been tempted to draw them again and do this reading starting fresh. But whether I get it right or wrong, I have to learned to stick to the findings of my first draw. Anything else is to confuse the picture. Once more unto the breach, my friends, let it fall as it may and let us all hope, for the best and highest interests of the general national well-being.
Seeing the answer as a 4/10 but that’s not the strongest answer I might have expected, no one might imagine, given the expectations at the outset of the General Election campaign. There’s a surge of emotion afoot, it’s very strong, it may be affecting the reading, and that would be entirely natural, but we have all seen this last year and been reminded…there are always those who simply keep their counsel and it’s between them and the ballot box… the quiet ones who save their breath to cool their porridge.
Carl Jung speculated that the Tarot works according to the principle of ‘synchronicity’- that psychic insights are triggered by apparently random and yet meaningful co-incidence, which he thought might be explained by Quantum Mechanics.
This Tarot king represents a man who is patient, kind, industrious. He is the salt of the earth. I said to the client that I thought he was a manager, and the work was practical in nature but also involved communication. It demanded precision or the ‘thing’ wouldn’t work but I didn’t ‘see’ as yet see what his job might actually be.
‘I might get at it though,’ I said, ‘now that my computer is talking directly to your computer.’
What I meant by that was, I felt we were on the same wavelength.
‘But that IS my job! I work for the government. That’s what I do…I make computers talk to other computers.’
Last time here on True Tarot Tales, the Moon card caused me to enquire about whether there had been a recent instance close by, of an upset tummy, possibly food poisoning, and it turned out, just as the Moon card classically depicts two dogs barking at the moon, two of the client’s dogs had been unwell after retrieving a ball from a dirty ditch.
Infection and disease may be flagged up by an appearance by the Moon card.
And so can flooding. I first saw this manifesting in my own cards during a Skype reading of 2010 for a client whose father lives in Pakistan, and her father had had to move house after flooding.
November 13, reading for someone in respect of a property in Hawick and the prospects for sale, I felt it might sell in August/September 2016, but, having drawn the Moon card, I asked the client, was there a river close to the property, and if there was, did it flood? Because I sensed flooding as a barrier to sale.
I was told the property is a top floor apartment, and is close to The Teviot but it had not flooded during the time the client had lived there (not many years) Nor had the client been aware or deterred by the proximity of the river when buying.
But, and very unfortunately for all affected, and by no means for the first time in its history Hawick flooded badly in early December.
I still sense my client may move home in 2016, I draw the Six of Swords which indicates progress and very often a domestic relocation, and certainly within the next two years, but the pathway may be more complex than anticipated when the property went on the market, and may, suggests the strategic Seven of Swords, involve the unwanted complication of a letting arrangement.
And, let us hope this is unduly doomful, no reader is infallible; I see signs we may well not be done with this Moon business yet. I draw the Moon card again, when asking about UK weather into February. Greater accuracy would demand a regional or even more break down, but there seems to be more ‘warm air’ coming where we don’t want it; the King of Wands Reversed.
A skeptical friend, who lives in Cumbria joked recently, that of all the religions he doesn’t believe in, the one he could perhaps go for is the Norse gods, and he may perhaps, even ask Freyr for help. Maybe it’s not such a crazy idea, and this morning, there is snow lying here on the Lancashire coast. But whatever you do, ask politely.
An outing for the Tarot’s Moon card, with Katie-Ellen, UK Tarot reader, writer and business consultant.
Happy New Year, and the tummy bug in question was nothing to do with me, I am happy to say, or the seasonal festivities. I was doing a Skype reading, investigating questions to do with ongoing and future creative projects- the client is an artist and sculptor, when I drew the Moon card.
The image below is from The Gilded Tarot, by kind permission of Ciro Marchetti. Also available from Amazon but the publisher Llewellynis getting this shout-out.
Classical meanings for this card are; the Moon itself, Fertility, monthly cycles, tides, floods (alas), conception, confusion, deception, secrets, vivid dreams, visions, leaps of imagination, fantasy, art, animals, hunting, secrets, fraud, theft, surveillance, risk, travel with danger attached, disease.
Reversed/Upside down: the meanings take on a different complexion, and may suggest any of these things- but they are fading away and now belong to the recent past.
The key challenge for a reader is to decide which meanings are relevant, and quickly, not to bore witless and alienate the client. One must say the first thing that comes to mind. I call it ‘gob-shiting’and I really shouldn’t; it’s hardly elegant and perhaps this should be a New Year’s resolution. The thing is, the reader needs to just speak.
I said the first thing that popped into my mind and asked whether a loved one had been ill, just recently, and perhaps they had gone down with a tummy bug? Or, could it even have been a bout of food poisoning, but whatever it was, they seemed to be better now?
I held up the card to the camera. ‘Look at this,’ I said, ‘see the two dogs?’
The client has several dogs, and said, ‘I don’t believe this! Two of my dogs have been ill. We went out a walk and they went into a ditch after a ball and they were quite poorly for a few days afterwards, both of them. A filthy ball in a nasty, dirty ditch. But they are over it now.’
The reader of Tarot or any other divination system must learn not to self- censor. If they do, because their first thought seems just too stupid, they will likely get it wrong, and then want to kick themselves. Learning to trust yourself enough to do that is the hardest thing, or at least, I found it so and I still sometimes have to tell that inner critic, aka saboteur of the oracular mind, to shut up.
People may well say, and many do, sod all the soothsayers. Wits or just good old common sense is what is called for, in working out a response to a problem. This is fair enough and often true…at least, it may be from where they are sitting. Nine times out of 10, in making their own predictions, they may prove quite correct. But what the oracular reader sniffs out, like a wild animal, using whatever oracle as a spade for digging in the primal mind, is what is hidden and could not wisely or even reasonably be expected.
The Tarot is nothing but printed card stock, physically. But the imagery and its many and deep rooted associations facilitate telepathy, triggering both receiver and transmitter. The client is equally active in this process, at a level they are not consciously aware of, any more than the reader is consciously aware of why they said A and not B.
For more information about my readings and how to get a reading, visit my website HERE
During a reading the other day, with a delightful client; charming, brave and resourceful, we looked first at a number of questions focussed on her two businesses. Then the conversation moved to children’s activities and prospects, and in respect of her son, 18, I drew the Four of Cups and said, is this how he’s been sometimes, lately? Fed up, irritable and restless, wanting to do something new but not yet able to decide, or make a start?
The card prompting this question was the Four of Cups, a card commonly nicknamed ‘the bored boy,’ and whether you’re a boy or not, it’s an unpleasant state of mind, even while it’s not exactly a problem you can do nothing about.
So, what might be the path ahead for him? I drew The Eight of Pentacles, and as you can see, it shows an apprentice at work, happily engrossed, so much so, he is burning the midnight oil, watched by a mouse who’s probably hoping for a crumb of his supper.
‘I think he will do well in an apprenticeship, head and hand working together in unity, making or crafting something,’ I said.
He was wondering about something like that, the client said, maybe technical drawing.
Yes! Good choice.
‘What about the RAF?’ I said, ‘I feel it might be worth his while to see whether they’re recruiting.’
‘That’s amazing!’ she said. ‘How did you know? He has been talking about a technical apprenticeship in the RAF.’
OK then, his next port of call is sorted, and if he doesn’t end up there exactly, it will be something of that kind.
The 4 of a bored boy becomes the 8 of a busy boy, and to be busy, is very often to be happy.
Is the word or idea of the RAF anywhere written in the cards? No, of course not. This was just another instance of a word springing out, using a card as a diving board. Gob-shiting, I call it. Such are the various ways of reading the Tarot.
When I draw The Fool card in a reading, the Major Arcana card numbered Zero, or in some decks numbered 22, it may classically signify good news; a birth, a welcome opportunity, a fresh start of any significant kind. I drew it this very day, for a client who is not just moving house, but changing a way of life, and it is absolutely the right way to go. It suggests taking a chance, a leap of faith. Reversed, it cautions against hastiness. You need time. You need more information. You need to think, properly think, or you will do summat truly daft.
But the Fool has other, darker associations, as fools and jesters and solitary wanderers always have, in western culture. There are good reasons people are afraid of clowns, the jokers in the pack. The Tarot’s Fool is the Joker in a pack of ordinary playing cards, and means the same things, if you are using playing cards to read with.
The Fool represents that which haunts all margins and borders. The ‘outwalker;’ that being. force or agency, which observes and may, given opportunity and sufficient reason, may find its way in to where you do not want it.
There is another Tarot card, more often cited in association with Odin, or Odin-esque associations. This is The Hanged Man, Major Arcana number 12. Odin hung upside down on the world tree, Yggdrasil, for 9 days for knowledge, and for a world view gained through a changed perspective.
But The Fool card, Trump 0 of the Major Arcana, contains something as frightening as it is innocent, not only birth and opportunity but something not quantifiable, as real as it is unreal, a ‘thusness’ or haacceity more implacable than Death.
that property or quality of a thing by virtue of which it is unique or describable as ‘this (one)’
the property of being a unique and individual thing.
“he has a paramount concern with haecceity, the thisness of things”
Zero is a something as well as a nothing. Even leaving the philosophical questions aside, and they are bogglers, without 0, as without 1, there is no binary, and no digital age.
Zero draws the Number of the Fool
But only fools will fail to fear
The oddly smiling one who walks alone
Magician, outland, dawn and dusk
Fleeting, glimpsed by tree and mere
Where ripples lap without a breeze
Or single casting of a stone
Zero, Odin’s one remaining eye
His other traded for all kenning
Out-with the knowing of the Norns
Nine days he hung considering
On Yggdrasil, the great ash tree
But Life is flux, and, unfulfilled
Does Odin walk abroad with Men
Entranced, he follows their technology
Their blindly restless struggles to get free
Refusing that their final liberty
Is in their choice of sacrifice
Their ultimate expression
In their direst of necessity
Insatiably, dispassionate, he watches, waits
And sometimes smiles, but has no tears
For what might dim or blind his sight
Of conjurings and reckonings with Fate
The new born come, and dead depart
His scouts of Thought and Memory
Twin ravens, Hugin, Munin, fly
Through Odin’s questing, flaming Eye
The singing echo-chamber of The Gate.
The rain beat down on the garage roof, washing August away, just as it had washed July away and most of June before that. The British Isles, like most of northern Europe, was losing its summer. It was coming soon, Joe thought, and fear gripped his belly.
He held Suzette, stroking her to calm himself while he considered the situation. Deciding when to put to sea was tricky. Too late would be…too late, but if he embarked too soon, he’d be eating into provisions unnecessarily. Noah had provisioned for a voyage lasting ten months, but then, he’d had the benefit of inside information.
‘We’ll be all right, Suzy, hinny,’ he told his pet, ‘I’ll make sure of that. But what am I going to do about the wife?’
Suzette cocked her head as if considering, her beady gaze held his, unblinking. Joe had tried to explain to Linda about the bird’s intelligence, but Linda detested Suzette, and said pigeons were thick, and they were vermin, and good for nothing but a pie. Joe knew better, and that that was just Linda’s jealousy talking. Suzette’s plumage was the colour of heather on the moors, or the hills at twilight, and with the little bird’s plump warmth in his hand, he always felt better, somehow.
He tidied away and she followed, pecking at wood shavings, picking them up and dropping them again until he was done and scooped her up, dropping a kiss on the top of the small head, hard as a nut, placing her in the cage he had built for her.
‘Sweet dreams, little hen. See you in the morning.’ The cage had everything he could think of; a nest box, a perch, toys, even a mirror. She had everything but the company of her own kind and the open sky, but Joe didn’t think she minded. He had reared her from a chick, hatching the egg in his beanie; she had never known anything else.
It was after five. Time to get the tea on before Linda came home from work. Joe went through into the house, there was a connecting door – straight into the hallway and no need to get wet.
Joe was an unemployed shipwright, nearly twenty years at Swan Hunter until the day came when they all got the chop and he had come home, stumbling with shock, his leaving cards in his hands, and walked in to find Linda, his wife, on the sofa on top of one of his friends. He’d never forget the look on her face as she ground her hips, looking down avid at the man on the sofa. Then she turned and saw him, and the look changed. Joe’s love for his wife died on the spot, snuffed out by the shock, though later when he calmed down, he understood why she’d done it.
They were childless. Joe was sad about it, but for Linda it was a sporadic madness, a devouring need she could not leave alone. I want more tests, she’d said. I want IVF. But Joe wouldn’t agree, and it wasn’t the money, though they had little enough of that to spare. No, it wasn’t that. But forcing gates just broke things in his experience, starting with the gate itself and now, he decided that Linda’s betrayal was not only a desperate attempt at a solution, but revenge.
Resisting his first terrible, desperate desire to punch her into the middle of next week – though he caught his friend later in an alley and gave him a kicking that left the other man retching on hands and knees, Joe mulled it over and decided he’d accept whatever blameless little cuckoo came as a result of this betrayal. He was even, secretly and not without a sense of shame, a little excited at the prospect and caught himself waiting, counting, watching for signs. But Linda’s plan, if that’s what it had been, came to nothing. Joe realised with the dullness of grief, there was not going to be any nestling. Not even a cuckoo. They talked about divorce but neither made the first move, and so they carried on, together but apart.
It was one night soon after this, that Joe had had The Dream. Had not God told Noah, hadn’t He solemnly promised, he would never do it again? But look what He was up to now! Flooding was never out of the news, rescue boats plying high streets the length and breadth of Britain and the price of everything going up. Lying as if paralysed in his solitary bed, staring sightless at the wall, Joe saw a land drowned by rain and river, sea and sky, and a wave that came as if from nowhere, the water cycle violently seeking new stasis as the ice caps melted.
He watched helpless, as a torrent came down the Tyne, bent bridges like hair grips and shoved them out to sea. People were swept away or crushed as they ran with their screeching children for the high places, and were overtaken. The Angel of the North looked on as buildings, bridges, roads were pulled apart like Lego, chewed and spat out. Afterwards came a hush, and the smell of rot, and the thriving of flies as the terrible silence and the empty days stretched on.
Everyone had nightmares and usually it was little more than a case of cheese at bedtime, Joe understood that perfectly well. But he also knew it could be something altogether different, something so much more. He’d foreseen his mother’s death in a dream and ignored it…it was only a dream, wasn’t it, and then, three days later they’d found her, dead on her bed, arm outstretched for the pills she’d been trying to reach, just as he’d seen in his dream.
There was indigestion, and there was prophecy, it wasn’t easy deciding which was which. Joe hadn’t forgiven himself for not going to his mother, he could not, and now, waking with a headache and needing to be sick, he decided this time, he would not turn away, to betray his vision. He would trust himself and carry out his own shipbuilding project. He did not tell anyone. Who would have believed him, and there was no-one he cared to confide in. But if a shipwright wasn’t up to the challenge, who was?
His decision made, Joe now had a plan, and was in oddly high spirits, negotiating the purchase of a little boat and two dinghies, spending every penny of his redundancy money. Linda spat fury. She even threw things, but Joe did not explain, didn’t make any attempt at trying to enlighten her, just stayed out of her way in the garage, customizing the boat, a seventeen-foot Arran, adding an outboard motor, a petrol tank and an automatic pump. He extended the tiny day cabin, and carpentered drop-down stabilizers, enabling the boat to function as a trimaran.
He applied himself, learning to use a compass and maps, he followed the shipping news. He took to hanging around the trawlers at Tynemouth until a skipper agreed to take him out as an unpaid pair of hands and he threw up all the way out and back again. Meteorology classes came next, and geography field trips with the Workers Education Institute.
Joe became a man of singular education, and though he had few certificates to show for it, he knew he was going to be put to the ultimate test, and he didn’t know when, but it would be soon. Meanwhile, he stopped seeing the few friends he’d kept in touch with after the thing with Linda, and kept his own counsel – the thing was too big, anyway, he wouldn’t have known how to set about telling people. He avoided Linda and he made the evening meal without fail every evening, his tribute for the uneasy peace between them, and was mixing a vinaigrette for a salad when the slam of the front door said Linda was home, and not in a good humour.
Linda Steel had one of those upside-down mouths that said she rarely smiled, and she was almost entirely sure she hated her husband with a passion. She would look at his lean, rangy body, and then his soft eyes, his soft mouth, almost flower-like in its softness, and think how deceptive were appearances. Joe was hard and cold, merciless and unyielding. He’d never touched her since that day. He barely ever even looked at her, never mind talked to her but he’d driven her to it, not listening to her about the baby. They ate in silence, rain oozing down the window panes, thick as dog slobber.
‘You do know it’s the Great Flood again, Linda?’ Joe said suddenly, over a forkful of tomato. She goggled at him, ‘You what?’
‘The Great Flood,’ he said, and took another mouthful. He had debated whether to say anything and had decided not to, but it seemed something within him had a different idea, some vestige of a love long dead, or just pity, ‘coming soon to a town near you. Want to ride it out with me, come with me on the boat? I’ll be taking it down to Tynemouth day after tomorrow.’
Linda spluttered and began to choke. Joe watched impassively. Her eyes were like gooseberries and he didn’t like gooseberries. Why did he used to think she was so pretty? It wasn’t until Linda’s face began to go purple that he scraped back his chair and slapped her back for her. Slap, slap, SLAP.
‘Water,’ she croaked, flapping her hand. He fetched it and sat down again. ‘You know,’ he went on as if nothing had happened, ‘we’ll need to be well out to sea when that wave comes in, not to get caught between it and the river. Then if we make it, if we can get clear, we’ll sail up to Hexham. Or mebbes the Cheviots. Whatever – Noah used the dove, Suzette’ll help us find the best place.’
‘I’d laugh,’ she said, still wheezing, ‘Except I’m not sure you’re joking? What have you been up to, Joe? Been at the wacky baccy, have we, out there in the garage? This isn’t Bangladesh or Japan. We don’t get tsunamis here.’
She drained the tumbler of water. ‘Aye, well,’ he said, clearing the plates. ‘We do actually. Ever heard of the Bristol tsunami, 1607? Ever heard there was a time once, you could walk from here to Denmark, till a tsunami drowned the land bridge? But never mind. Cassandra couldn’t tell them either.”
‘The wooden horse,’ Joe explained. ’She knew it was bad news, but you can’t tell people, can you? But I had to try. You’re still my wife, for what it’s worth.’
‘Oh, I see,’ she said, not seeing at all. ‘Well, thank you, kind sir, you bloody loony. I’m very grateful, I’m sure.’’
The Dream came to Joe again that night. Linda heard his whimpers through the wall, and thought, serves him right, turning over and pulling the duvet past her ears. Many a night she had cried herself to sleep.
Next day the boat was ready. One of the dinghies held provisions, while the other was for Linda, kitted with a week’s iron rations. Suzette perched on the rim preening, while Joe checked the inventories. Next evening he led Linda into the garage for instructions. She listened, arms folded, tapping her foot. ‘And how long may we expect this little jaunt to last?’ she said bitingly, ‘may one venture to ask when your lordship will be coming home?’
He sighed. ‘You don’t get it, do you, Linda?’
It was sausages and mash for tea, and Linda found sausages a lot easier to swallow than Joe’s prophecy, but watching the evening news, she was bound to agree things were getting alarming. ‘But it was as bad as this, almost, last year,’ she fretted, sitting alone with her coffee. ‘Nothing but rain and everyone ranting and raving about global warming. But August wasn’t too bad, and September, well, it was pretty good.’
Next morning they exchanged the barest of farewells. Linda spent the day at work dodging dripping ceilings and strategically positioned buckets, and came home to find he’d gone, the crackpot, just as he’d said, and so had the boat and that bloody useless bird. The silence boomed as she peeled off her sopping tights, and looked in the fridge. She couldn’t be bothered to cook. She made a cup of tea and cheese sandwiches instead, eating on the prowl, uneasy and unexpectedly lonely without her old enemy in range.
‘Well, pardon me for pointing this out’, she said to the empty room and the invisible Joe. ‘I’d hate to contradict you, Joe, but the world still appears to be here.’
But then in the small hours, something woke her. Strange noises in the street. She dashed to the window and looked out but the street was dark, the street lights were all out. A power cut again! She flung up the window and shrieked. Her car – everybody’s car – was heading down the street, borne on a rising tide. Other heads came poking out of windows, voices ascended, shrill with alarm. The street was a river. The river was growing. The rain was stabbing the earth to death.
Linda flew down the stairs and was met by water. She dragged the garage door open; a cold rill flowed round her thighs. Wading to the dinghy, her effort was impeded by the dark, and the ballooning of her pyjama bottoms. Linda sobbed, teeth chattering, as she flopped in bottom first, and fumbled to untie the mooring rope. Thank God she’d left the outer garage doors open as per Joe’s instructions. You’ll be trapped like a rat otherwise, he had warned her, and despite herself, despite everything, she had listened. Thank God.
‘Oh, Joe,’ she whimpered, and remembered all the ways she’d ever loved him, and he had loved her. And Joe had wanted her to make it, he had, sincerely, but she did not, all the same.
His vision was both correct and not. It was a point of technicality. Not the dam. The monstrous wave that came racing across the North Sea from Norway, the fatal collapse of a fjord wall, would have scuppered Linda’s frail chances for sure, but Joe’s pet had already secured the ultimate negative outcome. Rubber might not be tasty, but shredding it was a small amusement for a little bird in a moment of boredom, and now the idle activity of Suzette’s tiny beak slowly but surely laid waste Joe’s careful planning for his wife’s separate survival. Linda’s dead body went spinning down Church Street to St Peters, where her ankle got hooked in railings, and she was trapped there, a dancer graceful in eternal pilgrimage.
Joe came sailing in over her head some days later, coming in from the sea, following Suzette as they headed west under clear and sunny skies. The sea was blue again after the months of grey, and sparkling in the sun, but there were things in the water that did not bear looking at and Joe was careful not to look. What good would it do? The past was dead and gone. His new life started now.
First Published in ‘More Tonto Short Stories,’ by Tonto Press, 2007 . Performed at The Durham Book Fair, 2008 and & later, revised and published on-line with ‘Litro’ Magazine, 2014