Recently I added to my reading mix, a deck of ordinary playing cards. These have been in use for cartomancy; divination and fortune telling, for at least 400 years longer than the Tarot, and neither one of them began as fortune telling tools. They were both invented for gaming purposes. In the case of playing cards, it’s thought they first came to Europe from the Middle East, arriving there in turn from the Far East.
Fully illustrated Tarot cards contain pictorial ingredients offering unlimited possibilities of translation via associative thinking, but playing cards, while less interesting pictorially, and somewhat prosaic, will do the job.
I thought I’d try them out in a recent face to face reading for a new client, reserving them for getting at a few yes or no answers if required.
Asking for the Tarot’s insight into my client’s recent significant past I drew The Fool and The Ace of Pentacles from The Gilded Tarot, images by kind permission of Ciro Marchetti.
The Fool is about opportunity, enthusiasm, a gamble, a birth. The Ace of Pentacles suggests a windfall, a new job or business, a new home, a garden or a new, precious object.
These following The Emperor prompted me to ask the client, had there been a recent major change or opportunity to do with a new job or new kind of work, and also maybe a new home?
And was it possible this new home might be in the countryside or else have a big garden or some land?
He said he had bought a house with land, and was planning to build on that land, and he wanted to know, what were the prospects for successful completion?
Yee-haa! Time to put my ordinary playing cards to the test and I drew these.
My first observation was that I had drawn two red cards and one black. Learning to do psychic readings is all about self-programming, and like learning anything, involves rote and repetition. I’ve decided a red card mean yes, whether it’s a diamond or a heart, and a black card means no, whether it’s a spade or a club card. And then I go for best of three, and the numbers might swing my thinking.
You could decide that a black card means yes, if you wanted, and a red card means no, and it might work splendidly reliably if you are consistent, though it might prove counter-intuitive as the most challenging cards in a playing deck – most, not all, are contained within the suits of spades and clubs.
Once decided on your own system, you need to stick to it. There’s no right or wrong with these things. There’s what works subject to proof. This is where there can arise a problem with going to classes ‘to be taught’ how to read. You are your own best teacher. Learning to ‘see’ in this way is solitary. Even lonely. It is not gregarious at source. Study adds skill and there is a vast library here to study, but in the end, while rendered articulate by skill, the oracular spirit, to be true to itself, remains a cat who walks alone.
The short answer to the client’s question therefore was yes, but I was struck by the appearance of two diamonds cards, equating to the Tarot’s suit of Pentacles; the suit of earth.
I was additionally struck by the fact that the middle card was twice the number value of the first card. a 4 and an 8. It made me think of foundations, and plumb-lines; four walls, and then four walls, doubled.
It didn’t seem random, it felt as if it might be significant and I said to the client, ‘are there going to be TWO buildings, by any chance? And one is twice the size of the other? But this black card, the 3 of Clubs, suggests there’s a bit of stress already?’
Notice, I was asking him. That’s because I did not know if this was correct. I only knew that’s what I was being shown, and wanted to check.
‘There ARE going to be two buildings’ he said, nodding surprised, ‘log cabins and one is going to be exactly twice the size of the other one. And yes, it’s fair to say there’s a fair bit of stress…’
And so the discussion moved forward.
Well done, my little £1.99 fortune-telling friends. Although I don’t tell fortunes, you’ve clearly got my number, and I think you and I need to get better acquainted.
It can be confusing for potential customers to know what a psychic reader actually does. Often a caller has not looked at your website, and I may find myself explaining that I do not work as a medium. No, I tell them. I do not ‘get the other side.’ And I don’t. I really don’t, but I have experienced things, some rather odd, that mean I don’t like to send people away entirely empty-handed either if I can refer them or help in some other way.
One night not long ago I was rung by a lady wanting a medium, ideally to come to her house 20 miles from where I live. I explained that I was not a medium, and she said she needed help desperately, because something was going on in the house, terrifying her, her partner and the children. Someone – a woman- a ghost?- had spoken to one of the children. Now, at 8 in the evening, they were all huddled in the sitting room, scared even to go to the toilet.
This wouldn’t do. And yes, fear is contagious but pooh-poohing would absolutely not do. I said I’d make enquiries but meantime stated emphatically that there was absolutely no danger. The whispering lady may have been a dream, but whatever it was, she meant no harm. She had said only loving things, hadn’t she, to the child? For now, I suggested the lady put a comedy film on the telly, switch all the lights on, make a noise and dominate the house. Assert her claim to the space right now, going straight to the kitchen to make hot drinks for everyone.
A few quick cards did include the Death card reversed, indicating there may indeed have been something ghostly either in the house OR in the memory of someone in the family. But what is a ghost anyway? A sentient being, knowing exactly what it is doing, or the manifestation, seemingly external, of a memory with great power and atmosphere attached?
If the children saw that she wasn’t frightened, perhaps they’d take their cue from her, and then maybe the strange manifestations would also calm down. I felt there was stress in the house and one of the children in particular was highly sensitive to atmosphere, but sensed this was some kind of stress related psychic family event rather than a haunted house situation.
Later I called back with the name of a reputable medium able to make house visits.The medium and I have spoken subsequently and I was glad to connect professionally with such a nice, capable, cheerful sounding sensible person for potential future referral. The medium told me that in her opinion, the house was not of itself haunted, but the lady had worries and had suffered losses I won’t mention here. The whispering ghost was, according to the medium, the children’s grandmother.
However unwelcome this manifestation, her whispered words to the frightened child suggested her care and love live on, at least in the memory of a close by living person not aware of the power of their own mind ….
A Styxian Journey: The Six of swords from The Gilded Tarot by kind permission of Ciro Marchetti
On another long ago occasion someone asked me, ‘has my father gone to heaven yet?’
The funeral had been held the previous day. This was a loaded question, even though I hold no religious belief, nor a brief for or against heaven. What does it mean, ‘heaven’? What does ‘yet’ mean? I could just have said yes, and that would have been the easy thing but contrary to what ‘skeptics’ might expect, a sincere reader will not ‘diss’ his or her oracle by making up answers. People do NOT pay just to hear my personal opinions. Access to oracular Tarot is what they have come for and that is what they get.
Tarot drew the Three of Swords and Queen of Swords Reversed. These indicated that her father had been at loggerheads with his wife for a long time, which the client confirmed. Here then, I concluded, I was reading the dead, not as a medium, but through the telepathy of the living person who had known him. That’s what Tarot does, operates via telepathy – in this case, via my telepathy with the living person sitting with me whereby I intuitively accessed her own understanding of the person who had passed on.
The indications to me were that he had been terribly frightened at the imminence of death but the moment, when it came, was so easy, he hadn’t fully cottoned on yet that it had actually happened. He only knew that he felt better but strange and different. I felt quite sure he was still in the ‘valley’, but he wasn’t frightened and he was doing all right. He was getting there, wherever or however it is we go.
She could talk to him, I suggested. He might still be in hearing range. Tell him out loud what had happened and tell him he was fine, and so was everyone else at home. (His wife too. Loggerheads or not, there was still warmth of feeling there.) This idea did not seem to disturb my visitor. She smiled and said she would probably do that; it seemed quite in character for him to take a while to make up his mind to go.
Death is as individual as it is universal. And while the oracular doesn’t fudge the inescapable, that death may be uncomfortable or even painful; an anxious, confusing or downright frightening experience, there is something beyond or afterwards, there is indeed something outside our ken, more easily experienced than described. Humanity has known this from the beginning, and religion does not come into it, though it rose out of it.
We could have stayed immortal, had we been content to continue as primordial soup reproducing ad infinitum by identikit cell division. But we weren’t. We, the current denizens arisen from that protean soup, got bored and demanded a new deal. The soup began to mutate new programmes and to differentiate and create amazing and interesting plants and animals, but this demanded unimaginable feats of energy, space and organisation. And this in turn demanded boundaries so that Life came up with the solution of Death, and while Death might seem the ultimate antagonist, anathema to us in our highly realised state of individual awareness, we should at least give it credit for letting us out of the soup, and after all, that was always the deal.
So thanks, Death. I am grateful to be me today, not heaving in the soupy-gloop, bored right out of my tiny multitudinous nucleii. And I will try and remember that next time I am fed up, or Il Matrimonio annoys me or I don’t feel like cooking the tea. Today it’s casserole – rather primordial in fact, but I predict it won’t have enough time to get bored and mutate.
The lines on these roads are not where we paint them. There is more map than there are roads on the map, and the map itself is subject to parameters not proven.
Tarot interpretation works on real life synchronicity, but what is synchronicity?
Definition as supplied by Merriem-Webster: the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality —used especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung
Classically this card refers to reaping a reward for hard work or patience and suggests that there will be a good return on a long term investment, but no quick returns. If it comes out reversed I’d be sensing a future poor performance or loss on your current or proposed investment. If you were a buyer, I might be sensing not to buy in this or that product range as not representing a good acquisition. It may either not sell well, or take forever to shift.
The client was asking about the shifting of retail stock, but while money was the presenting issue, and as often happens, a card detail suddenly leaped out at me.
‘Do you have sheep living behind your house?’ I asked.
‘Yes’, he said, ‘a field at the back.’
And this is typical of what Jung meant by synchronicity. Does it mean I enquire about sheep every time this card appears in a reading?
No. It absolutely doesn’t. It just so happened that on this occasion, it did.
Would it appear in a reading done for a sheep farmer?
It ought to.
If I was thinking of buying stocks or shares and this came up, would I go for it? Probably, depending on the surrounding cards.
Tarot loves to start off a reading, playing parrot.
Just as Art imitates or rather, conjures Life, that’s how Tarot works. As within, so without. The first thing I aim to do in a reading, is ask the cards to help me identify my client’s most pressing concern or question. The Tarot tells me by ensuring I draw the card that most accurately mirrors that unspoken concern or question, as closely as can be managed from among the 78 cards in a Tarot deck.
This ‘mirror-card’ tells me and my client that we are on the same wavelength, which provides a reliable baseline for the rest of the reading.
My Tarot did it again today, and deserves one of those little nectar pots adored by larikeets and parrots alike.
I was about to self- inject for the first time, trying out a new med for quite a severe severe rheumatoid-type illness (I have tried MANY approaches in 20 odd years, with too much ground covered to mention, while exercising great care in agreeing which pharma meds to try )
The med is called Orencia or Abatacept. It is a new class of meds known as biologics. Orencia works to inhibit the production of T cells, T1 and T1. These are normal proteins, and are essential for your normal immune response, but if that goes wrong for any reason, they can go into overproduction, causing an inflammatory cytokine cascade resulting in acute pain and long term damage.
These biologics, while for some they offer a last chance of respite, can be dangerous, so I thought I’d pull myself a few cards before injecting.
The first card out was The Tower.
Just look at that pic. How well did the Tarot do, with a deck of 78 cards to work with, shuffled and drawn blind and at random…in guiding me to draw this card, signifying the issue in question.
Look at the card again. Look at the injector pen.
Squawk! Pretty Polly!
This is how readers know their question has been heard and logged by their unconscious mind. The first card out of the deck will mirror the stated question, or even the unstated question.
Next I drew
4 Swords, (illness)
Ace Swords ( a sword, or in this case…spring loaded needle)
and 7 Pentacles. (tend to the crop, patience is required.)
This last card was also a suitable reflection as this med is is a weekly injection.
I therefore concluded, that while I could not expect a miracle, or even a significant observable response, there would be no significant negative response; a finding which I am so far in a position to validate.
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.’
I was cackling peaceably into my cauldron as you do, ie; cooking lunch when Il Matrimonio meandered in, nonchalantly asking; what did it mean if you had lost something, and asked the Tarot where it was, and you drew the Page of Wands?
I paused in my stirring, and asked why. Il Matrimonio does not in general, derive interest from anything Tarot-related, unless he wishes to consult about financial matters, and, might I add, despite this not as yet – touch wood – coming back to bite him. He was not an accountant but would have made an excellently sound one.
His friend Ms X had lost her diary, she had just told him via ‘social meeja’. She is learning Tarot. She had looked in her deck of Tarot cards, asking where the diary was, and had drawn the Page of Wands but wasn’t sure what it might mean.
In general terms it means summer, a young person born under one of the Fire signs. It means a trip or a social gathering, or sudden good news, or a sale, or a bright idea for a new business or creative project. It might literally mean a candle, a torch or a cigarette.
But what did it mean in this particular situation? How could it help to find the missing diary in real, practical, where- the- eff- is- it, terms?
Using Tarot to locate lost objects can be quite a challenge. I once helped a client find a missing diamond ring, and she found it straight after she left me and went hom, after it had been missing for nearly three years.
I swear to God I acquired new grey hairs doing that reading. Not least at how the Tarot told me where it was. The lost ring was in the keeping of the dead, it said. The lady, a widow, swore blind the ring had rolled off her finger and under the bed as she was leaving for the airport, and she had left confidently expecting to retrieve it upon her return home, but it was never to be found again. Except that it was. She went home and found the ring on top of a furniture unit in the sitting room. Right next to her husband’s ashes. She needed a stepladder to climb up and see it prompted by that remark from the Tarot, that it was in the keeping of the dead. It was her wedding ring.
The Tarot’s imagery can prompt ideas or prompt the memory by visual cues and lateral association. Tarot reading very largely works on associative thinking although Logic has its part to play. Readers build their own relationships with the cards, over time and through practice. They embed their own memories and add their own meanings to the cards, so that one reader can never say another reader is wrong, saying that a card means this or that in real terms. Traditional meanings matter. They provide the overarching theme or thesis, but the specifics of interpretation arises from the reader’s own heart and soul.
Back to this missing diary. My response was to say, adding a glug of olive oil to the pan was that the card suggested she took it out with her and left it some local haunt. Why? Because:
Page = small. Wands = travel.
Additionally…or instead; I suggested, it was somewhere warm or loud, such as a radiator next to a TV, or in the kitchen near the oven. Wands is the suit of the south, of warmth and anywhere or anything noisy and quick.
He came back saying, Ms X had been adamant she never took the diary out with her, and I remarked that, well, it was between her and her own Tarot, but that card strongly suggested she would find it, and probably quickly.
Ms X shortly later remembered that she had been to the hairdressers earlier that same day. She returned and found the diary was on the arm of a sofa there, next to the stereo.
Let’s add ‘stereo’ and ‘hairdressers’, then, to the list of associations for the lively Page of Wands.
That’s how we do it. That’s how it’s done, and why Tarot divination is an on-going study, however long you’ve been doing it.
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
Can Tarot cards help with forecasting weather, accurately? The short answer is, experience tells me yes, but, and it’s a big but, the question needs a clearly defined context. As in, for example, what kind of weather can be expected at X location at X time? If I drive from A to B on this date at this sort of time, what kind of weather experience can I expect?
The Tower Card detects coming severe weather. Storms. It featured in this way in quite dramatic fashion in a previous True Tarot Tale, when it saw a storm coming, and we only had a tornado down our street the very next morning at about eight- o- clock. That’s right. A tornado in Lytham St Annes in Lancashire, UK.
You can read that story on an earlier blog post HERE
The Tower card, from the Gilded Tarot by kind permission of Ciro Marchetti.
Other associations: disaster, accident, argument, bankruptcy, shock.
Weather Associations- If learning Tarot, practise drawing a card for the day ahead, where you are:
From the North: Knight of Pentacles (grey, cool,cold, rain and snow)
From the South: Knight of Wands (sunny, heat wave, tropical storm)
From the West: Knight of Cups (sunny, mild, wet, windy)
From the East: Knight of Swords (fresh, cool, ice, hailstorms, biting winds, brrr)
Today, just for a change, the story really is a story, prompted by activities on a writer’s forum called Litopia. Do, please feel welcome to come and join there.
Flash Fiction: Boreas the Blustery
Boreas was bored. The North Wind was fed up of the North. Grizzling and moaning, he stamped about, bending trees, rolling rivers like mattresses and forcing polar bears to roll down snowy slopes, so he could laugh at the way their paws scrabbled as they rolled over and over.
‘Where’s some fun!’ he howled. ‘F*ck off , Captain Bird’s Eye, I want a bit of Southern Comfort!!!’ He ripped off some roofs in Carlisle, straining to go south, but the jet-stream was busy in the higher latitudes, and wouldn’t open the gates.
In the Gulf of Florida, Nota, the South Wind got, er, wind of this, and said to El Nino, ‘ I could fancy a ‘lil trip North to see this Boreas. I hear he’s quite the man.’
‘I can help you there, I think’, said El Nino, ‘I’m heading that way, myself.’
He steered Nota north, skimming seas into mountains and making dolphins sea- sick, isobars winding ever tighter until Boreas saw her, crossing the Atlantic towards him, driving the waves before her. And then they collided, and circled tighter and tighter, high and low . Wires and cables snapped and hummed, and dustbins flew like dust, and wild things cowered in their dens.
‘You couldn’t come to me! screamed Nota, lashing her hair, ‘so, Boreas, I have come to you!’
Shrimp and rice and coconut!
Fish and chips and doughnuts!
The way he loved her was frightening.
Lightening, thunder, until they span asunder
With no air left for more
They parted peaceful on the shore.
‘Great place you’ve got here’, said Nota, sinking weary to the sea. ‘Love it. Really love it. Let’s do this again sometime.’
Boreas puffed out his chest, and gently stroked a trembling tree top, ‘any time, my lovely. Your place or mine. Any time.’
I recommend inquirers to visit my website before booking. This is for their benefit, to make sure I’m the right kind of reader for them. Not every reader offers the same kind of service, and I would far rather lose a booking than disappoint a client’s expectation.
I once took an enquiry over the telephone from an unusually cagey enquirer. He had heard a colleague talking about a recent reading with me, and he wanted a reading, too. I later realized, putting two and two together, this new enquirer had been a police officer. I recommended that he also check out my website, and he did not book at that point, but called again some weeks later, and was startled that I remembered him, greeting him by the first name he had given (which was not, I sensed, his real name)
The client arrived and was polite but continued cagey to the point where it threatened to become counter-productive. I drew The Emperor card confirming what I had already suspected, and asked if he worked for the Government, was he is the civil service, Armed Forces or Police? He replied with some reluctance that he was in the Police, while a further card, the Seven of Swords, elicited that he worked in Fraud investigating.
I’ve read for a few police officers (purely off-duty) and had no problems. This was like pulling teeth, except I’ve never pulled a tooth. It was like pulling up a dandelion, or getting Il Matrimonio to tidy his clothes away.
The Emperor from The Gilded Tarot, by kind permission of Ciro Marchetti
I asked if he had visited the website, as I had suggested, to know how I conducted readings. He had not had time, he said, and I reminded him of what I had said on the phone, that I start readings cold, and expect to deliver ‘psychic’ insights but thereafter, a reading works as a dialogue, and this is how I am able to deliver a useful reading, drilling down on precise particulars.
‘You’re doing OK. Carry on,’ he said smiling, then stonewalled me, leaning back on his chair with his arms folded, letting me know he was alert to my ‘techniques.’
Please do not do this to your reader. Of course any reader with half a brain will tap into social cues when doing readings. Why ever is this considered the sign of a charlatan? A reader with poor observation skills is a social munchkin and unlikely to deliver a meaningful psychic reading either.
I sensed he was hoping for a bit of help, but would not value whatever was not delivered cold. I had already sensed disquiet attached to his marital situation, and said so, but he had so far declined to verify this.
Now I drew the Page of Swords Reversed and said, ‘I sense a legal issue. An unwelcome communication. A letter, an email. Have you received it or are you sending it?
He smiled. ‘Suppose you tell me?’
There was a pause while I drew more cards. I was not at ease. Stonewalling is socially hostile and I needed to make sure my own discomfort did not skew my impressions about the card.
The Page of Swords Reversed may indicate a minor stress as well as a legal document, potentially. (It can also mean a minor surgical procedure, a minor injury with acute pain, a spy or a young person born under an Air sign: Aquarius Gemini or Libra)
From the Universal Waite, by kind permission of US Games
I pulled The Hierophant reversed (marriage problem) and the Seven of Swords Reversed (a card of plain speaking or alternatively; surveillance and covert research)
I had a ‘ping’ moment, took a deep breath and said, ‘Yes or No? Have you, or have you not, recently visited a solicitor with a view to asking about a divorce, but without telling your wife?’
‘Yes,’ he said, and the Tarot proceeded to share its insights surrounding this event and its ramifications past, present and possible future.
That might seem a reasonably specific psychic hit for someone who does not advertise as a clairvoyant (though I am sometimes, and sometimes clairaudient) but he remained unresponsive, politely thanking me for my time when we finished.
It is your time and money, and the reader’s time and energy. Research their service.
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
Curiosity about Life, respect and generosity. Life invites ongoing learning. Progress demands it.
‘Schools out for EVER. School’s out COMPLETELY’…though it never is, or shouldn’t be for anyone with a curiosity greater than an amoeba’s.
Teachers: great ones, good and bad ones, the malevolent or indifferent. The ones I remember with affection, I remember for a variety of reasons.
Gentle bachelor Mr F always wore a salmon pink jumper and taught history. I was in his good books for ever, after asking a guest historian, a Professor David Hampson, what was later termed in my report, as ‘a very perceptive question’…an over-egging of my achievement my family found hilarious.
Mr F died of cancer quite young, and was remembered by later pupils as prone to violence. But it was the affliction of the tumour in his brain, creating cruel change. He threw blackboard dusters at people.A most gentle person.
It wouldn’t be allowed today.
Big, loud, red-faced Mr W, was Head of Hawk House, of which I was an incumbent and he taught me Maths. You’d hear the roaring from his office after assembly as he dealt with one bully or another.
‘Ohhh,’ he’d roar.’So you think it’s clever to get a little first year lad by his ear, do you? Tell me, how do YOU like it when I do THIS?’
‘Aayaa, ayaa! No sir!’
‘Ayaa, ayaa! no sir!’
‘Well, don’t you do it then, or you’ll be back in here for some more.’
It wouldn’t be allowed today.
Meeting me in the corridor at break times he’d press me to the wall with his enormous belly, and, stinking of cigarette smoke, he would bellow good naturedly from his great height. ‘Hello! SILLY WOMAN! How are you diddling?’
I knew, as did my sisters at the same school and as young people immediately do know; he was OK, not even remotely creepy, so we only laughed about it, while avoiding it if we could. I only smile at the memory but…
It wouldn’t be allowed today.
One of my ‘life lessons’ came from an elderly and very gentle science teacher. Mr Vest (yes, really) gently admonished me one day for my untidily presented homework. Embarrassed, I explained that my pen was leaky.
He said, ‘Now Katie, I know you like sayings. What’s the saying for this situation?’
I couldn’t guess which one he might mean.
‘A bad workman blames his tools’ …
An apple for teacher. But our memories are the apples they have given us, crisp and sharp, rosy and polished, maggoty and rotten.
Today let’s talk about the ultimate Tarot card of Masculinity with a capital M, The Emperor.
‘The Emperor’ appearing in a Tarot reading signifies the current extra significance of an important man in your life, at an individual level. He’s a father, husband, employer, friend or advisor.
The Emperor stands for government, law and order, other big, hierarchical organisations. He is the Armed Forces, the Police, the Civil Service.
He is the principle of protection and of the guardian at work in society and in the home.
See those ram’s heads on the arms of his throne? The Emperor is associated with the sign of Aries, the fiery ram. It may indicate a future event occurring at that time of year.
Image below is The Emperor from The Gilded Tarot, by kind permission of Ciro Marchetti
Not surprisingly I’ve drawn this card when doing readings for police officers, both male and female. Women too can embody The Emperor’s qualities.
But once – and I won’t handle any more requests for lawsuit predictions; I drew the Emperor card, and it was talking about a real live judge. This judge was in the US. We won’t say where. A client’s son was facing a court appearance charged with sexual assault. There was no assertion of coercion whatsoever. In fact, the details of the charge sounded so minor as to be ridiculous, but whatever the rights and wrongs and the facts of the case; the man had already incurred serious consequences. He was a teacher and though the accuser was not a minor, a family friend in her late twenties, he had been suspended from his employment as it involved work with minors, and had been temporarily debarred from his own home, denied unsupervised access to his children. He was, at the time of the reading, due to appear in court four days later.
A Tarot reading is not of course a substitute for suitable, professional legal, medical or financial advice. The client had employed such; but wanted to be prepared for the worst, ready to support his/her son.
Based on this, I didn’t KNOW because a reader cannot KNOW for certain, ever. But I felt as certain as I could be, she was going to like this judge. I felt that the man was not guilty of anything much more than imprudence and that the judge would decide so.
Three weeks and several new grey hairs later, I learned the The Judge had thrown the case out. He had also offered this personal opinion:- verbatim (pardon me)
‘What a crock of sh*t.’
The Emperor at his very best represents order, structure, logic, sense and reason.
He is a defender, a chevalier, a sheltering tree, nests held safely in his branches. He is rule with mercy, compassion for the weak. He upholds fair play, raising his shield so not everyone sheltering behind it gets splattered with rubbish and, er…manure.
He has another side to him of course: war, dictatorship, tyranny, petty officialdom, overbearing bureaucracy. The card may alternatively signify absence of structure and leadership. As a person, it may be pinpointing weakness or conversely, a bully boy.