This morning, whilst rummaging around in the box where I put things that I don’t know where to keep anywhere else (necklaces I don’t wear but might one day, a promo postcard from a gig, that spare keyring, etc.) I found a dog-eared scrap of notepaper with unfamiliar writing on it. I’d kept it for about twenty years, tucked away in a ‘secret’ compartment and never looked at, until now.
It took me back. We were on holiday in a well-known English seaside town and it had rained every single fucking day. I think we spent most of our hard-earned dosh that week on hot meals, trips to the cinema, coin pusher and candy grabber games. Souvenirs from that trip included an emergency umbrella, a purse full of coppers and an extra half a stone in weight. By Thursday we’d run out of decent things to keep us entertained so the Fortune Teller advertising his services in the small arcade away from the seafront was an attractive diversion from the rock-grey skies and the nauseating combination of smells from Dickie’s Donuts and Fanny’s Fish Inn.
The Fortune Teller was not as I’d imagined. He was like a friend’s Dad – straightforward, ordinary looking and friendly in a slightly distant kinda way. His service was like a Three-For-One supermarket deal; zodiac, palm-reading and tarot cards all in one package - I think there might even have been a sprinkle of numerology and a mention of the Chinese horoscope too. He didn't go quite so far as to include rumpology which is just as well because I'm not in the habit of showing my bum to strange men. Not usually, anyway.
So, without any hint of mystery or supernatural powers, he told me what was apparently in store for me in a very prosaic manner whilst his assistant, a young girl, jotted notes down for me to take away and reflect on later – and that’s the scrap of paper I’m looking at now.
I’m wondering: do fortunes have a Sell-By, or even a Use-By, date? Should all the things he forecast for me have occurred already, or could they still happen in another twenty years’ time? The notes are like prompts so I’m thinking back to where my life has been in those two interim decades and, oddly, some of it's looking rather accurate. There are some specific initials, places and predictions which weren’t relevant at the time but which have been since. The initials get me more than the rest because they’re not common ones, so that’s a bit spooky. I realise the other things could probably happen to most people: suggestions of travel and buying property, etc., so maybe they’re a pretty good bet for many folks, although one or two specifics in there seem strangely apt, if you want to believe that kind of thing. And, yeah, I admit it: in a simple childlike desire to embrace some magical mystery, I do want to!
(An edited highlight!)
I remember his final words too - he said I was 'meant' to live by the sea. In spite of some dreams and half-baked plans to do just that for our own reasons several years ago, we never quite achieved it. Oh well, maybe one day – if the Use-By date hasn’t expired just yet. I’ll put the scrap of paper away for another twenty years and see what happens.
Tony Jackson & The Vibrations: 'Fortune Teller' (1965)