There is a sign advertising a psychic medium etched onto a glass fanlight on the high street. I have not knocked, and I probably never will, but it is very reassuring to know that there’s one there should I require their services.
I started writing this, and then I Googled to find local psychics. I knew I shouldn’t, but I did it, and I didn’t find any. This is reassuring, as finding that my local psychic has a business Facebook page and 46 reviews on Tripadvisor would tarnish the mystery of that small entrance to the flat above the estate agents opposite Heron Foods. I can continue to imagine her (I’m sure it’s a her, though I can’t remember if there’s an actual name) exactly as I do, all incense and beaded curtains, phrenology heads, hands of glory and a small, shrivelled monkey’s paw. I think she’s the sort of woman you can’t imagine stood up. I think she wears a lot of rings. I think she’s a drinker, maybe, of leaf tea (for doing readings) and apricot brandy (for bad breath). She has a sweet tooth and a gold tooth and a missing tooth and a necklace of her enemies’ teeth. She has a very, very exotic name, that I can’t think of because I’ve never even heard, never imagined such a name and I certainly couldn’t pronounce it without asking her to say it slowly for me more times than is socially acceptable, and I couldn’t spell it, ever. It contains some characters that aren’t available in the UK edition of Word. Her age is unguessable.
If she’d had a website, I’d have found out that she’s called Janet and she was in the year below me at school, and she has a gmail account and a Nissan Juke. The problem with having the sum of human knowledge and endeavour at my fingertips is that I know too much. Or at least, I could; it also means that I don’t know anything at all. If I can find something out straight away then I will, and I’ll never stop to imagine the possibilities. I’ll never try and work it out. I love that I can find out the population of Karachi or who did the voice for Skeletor instantly, but that power should be used for exactly those sorts of things, the Trivial Pursuit cards of life, and not just to dispel mystery from those things that ought really to be partially concealed by smoke and cobwebs and beaded veils and lace curtains.
I anticipate a backlash to this, and a return to at least some appreciation of our ignorance. In blissful ignorance, you can use ridiculous, overblown, flowery, bombastic language and make baseless assertions on a whim. You can express your stupid ideas without being too worried that the self-conscious high-contrast over-exposed meta-sophisticates of the internet will respond with a cutting meme. Too much information stifles creativity. When you find out how a magic trick works, it is always terribly boring*, and that flat on the high street – yes, just opposite Heron Foods – is definitely magical.
One Hour Later
I thought that it wouldn’t be cheating to step out and actually have a look at the fortune teller’s place, on the pretext of dropping into Heron Foods for some Linda McCartney sausage rolls (they also had Cauldron tofu at 2 for £1 but I got the last two so don’t bother). I was disappointed but not really shocked to find that it was nothing like I remembered it, despite my walking past it several times a week for the last twelve years. Unfortunately she’s called Julie (which is fine, it’s just not, you know, right), and has a telephone number and a website. I’m happy for her; you can’t have a business without an online presence these days, even, apparently, in the clairvoyant trade. There is no etched fanlight, no strange combination of colourful veils and curtains at the windows. Actually there are those awful vertical blinds favoured by local councils and slum landlords, which are always dirty and usually there’s at least one missing and which have a complex assortment of cords for children to hang themselves by. I hope, at least, that she has a gold tooth.
*Jonathan Creek says that every episode, usually to women who are trying very hard to give him every opportunity to impress them.