Rostrum clairvoyant

MARCH 28 05

I remember seeing cards on the noticeboard in a psychic bookshop run by a man who looked like a nonce who chain-smoked great gouts of smoke into the tiny shop. Teenage boys would hang around there. I gather they saw the owner as a bit of a wizard. Maybe he gave them fags. It wasn't a bad bookshop. Occultism in the suburbs has a kind of grubby charm. A lot of the business cards said 'Rostrum clairvoyant'. I looked at them for some time, thinking what the hell is a rostrum clairvoyant? So I asked the geezer running the shop. He hawked up a little phlegm and spoke, emitting greenish vapour from his mouth:

'Rostrum clairvoyant? That's a clairvoyant on a rostrum.'

I felt such a fool.

So I started visiting Spiritualist churches where the rostrum clairvoyants hung out passing on the words of the dead to the recently bereaved.


'Has anyone knocked over a vase of daffodils recently? I'm getting daffodils, in the hallway, recently sent flying. Can anyone take that?'

Heads turn towards movement.

'You madam, with your hand up, yes. Have you recently knocked over some daffys dear?'

She nods.

'That was just spirit's way of getting your attention for when you came here tonight. I'm talking to you now love.'

It was entertaining stuff, the clairvoyant reminded me of Reg Varney from On the Buses.

He turns to me, exciting my dread of being the focus of attention. His voice takes on an accent in trance and the spirit speaks through him, saying:

'I knew your father. He saved my life in the war with his letters from sea.'

His voice goes back to normal.

'Can you take that, an uncle perhaps?'

I ummed and arred.

'Take it away with you anyway and ask your dad who he wrote to in the war.'

He closes his eyes and listens out again, fingertips touching an earlobe, seems there's more coming through.

'He says he was a greengrocer in Gloucestershire. He saw you here today and just wanted to remind you you're a cat with nine lives. You'll land on your feet, you always do. You have a talent, you need to use it.'

The clairvoyant's eyelids twitched and darted, as if a darning needle tugged at them.

A voice from Gloucestershire comes through:

'So just remember that young 'un, there's no need to look so sad when your world is unfolding like a rose, and there is beauty hidden in the prickly bud.'

My father was still alive at the time. I asked him who he wrote to when he was in the navy during the war. He mentioned writing letters to an elderly man who was a greengrocer in Gloucestershire. Dad had enjoyed receiving his letters because he wrote about the English countryside and what was happening in nature in such a way as to lift his spirits during the grey days at sea.