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A Tarot For Today

by George Eckett

"The secret of the Tarot is what it symbolises for each individual, and those who want to become expert at divination by its use must become familiar with every little detail of each card, so that they know instinctively what the cards represent for them."

Brian Innes: "The Tarot; how to use and interpret the cards"
Macdonald and Co (Publishers) Ltd., 1987.

'Romany' Rose ("let me lift the veil for you") carefully mopped the stale beer from the table top with a soft towelling bar mat and emptied the ashtray into the bin behind the bar. From her bag she took out the black velvet cloth with pentagrams and astrological sigils picked out in pink sequins and carefully arranged it on the table. Unwrapping some pages from an old copy of Exchange and Mart, she removed the candlestick and the small incense burner she had bought in that Indian shop in the high street and using her half finished cigarette lit a sandalwood joss stick and put it into the holder.

"Want a quick half before you start Rosie?" Ted, the landlord of the Dog and Ear Trumpet poked his head around the door and dangled a bottle of brown ale into her line of sight.

"No thanks luv," said Rose, "the cards don't work proper when I've been drinking." She hoped that no-one would get close enough to her to smell the two G&Ts that she'd had before leaving home. It seemed unlikely that they would in this place: it stunk of drink everywhere anyway.

"Fair enough," said Ted, "I'll have it waiting for you when you've finished then."

Rose liked Ted, in fact she owed him a lot. It was his idea for her to do her card readings in The Snug each Thursday night. It had saved Rose's bacon financially coming as it did at a time when virtually no one was visiting her official "consulting rooms" at her semi in Shalimar Gardens. She had tried to thank Ted several times but he brushed it all aside saying that it would be good for trade and in his own interest, but she did wonder if it was really true....

Then there was the time that Ted had chased off that pervert who had tried to paw her in the car park one night after her session. It had been pitch dark and the car park lighting was on the blink. Someone, and she hadn't managed to clock any details, was obviously waiting to ambush her on the way to the bus stop, but luckily Ted had heard her shout and was there within seconds They had never caught the bloke but there hadn't been any more trouble either. These days Ted walked her to the bus stop himself He was a real gent was Ted.

Sometimes she wondered vaguely whether Ted fancied her and had other motives for inviting her to his pub every Thursday, but still she couldn't afford to be too particular. He had been a good friend, she needed the money, and that was the end of it... anyway, even if he did fancy her that wouldn't be the end of the world. He wasn't a bad looking bloke and he was well rid of that tart of a wife who had run of with the Whitbread delivery man last year.

There was a time, and not long ago either, when you could make a good living telling fortunes, but that time seemed to have passed now. Rose had picked up all her knowledge from her gran. She had learnt to scry in a crystal ball and to read palms. She was quite good at it, and for a while it looked as if she had it made.

That Psychic Fair she went to had been a rude awakening to her. It had been crowded out with those New Age types and whilst they all thronged to receive guidance from the myriad of Tarot readers there, few came to Rose's table for a palm reading. Afterwards, she had chatted the whole thing over with the bloke who ran the incense stall.

"Naa," he said, shaking his head, "they don't want any of that traditional stuff these days. You've got to give the punters what they want, Rose, and what they want is psychic counselling, Jungian archetypes, cosmic options and all that cobblers. They want you to give them an in-depth character analysis, not any of this 'tall dark stranger' routine. You need to get yerself a few more counselling skills, dear. Learn to read the Tarot. That's what they want these days".

Rose had taken his advice to heart. She had signed up for an evening class run by a poncy bloke called Darryl at the local Natural Therapy Rooms. Under his guidance she had grappled with the intricacies of the major and minor arcana but it had not been terribly successful. She didn't get on with the Rider-Whatsit deck at all and found the images baffling and difficult to understand. None of the exercises that Darryl had given her seemed to work either. She couldn't learn the meanings of all the cards or understand the relationship between the Tarot and the Qabalah. She was quite shocked when Darryl had suggested a meditation exercise to enable her "to contact her contrasexual image" and had to tell him not to be so bleedin' crude.

Eventually, Darryl had told her to stop using the Rider-Waite pack and to look instead through some of the many other Decks available and find one that she liked, but it wasn't until she had opened the TV Times one day to look up the starting time of East Enders, that she saw the advert for the TV Times Tarot Deck. Curious she had sent off for one. It had proved to be the breakthrough she needed and since then she had never looked back.

Even Darryl had been impressed by her progress. He explained it to her by saying that she found that the images "linked in to her subconscious in a powerful and intuitive way". She liked the way he had said that, it sounded all mystical. She ran through her cards now making sure that they were all facing the same way. One card, depicting lightning striking Fawlty Towers with Manuel and Basil falling out of the top window, and bearing the caption 'Total Disaster!' was covered in a brown stain which looked suspiciously like the pickle Ted kept behind the bar for lunchtime customers who dropped in for a sandwich. Rose surreptitiously wiped it off on her robe.

"You ready for your first customer?" called Ted.

"Give us a mo" said Rose. She put on her headress. pulled the veil over her face and settled into what she hoped was a meditative looking pose.

"May I approach the fount of all wotsiname and the glamourous Goddess of Fortune" asked a slurred voice. Rose cautiously opened one eye and saw what could have been a late career entrant to a Sumo wrestling school wedged in the doorway. He was shabbily dressed and clutched a pint glass of beer to his chest as he oggled her from the doorway of The Snug. She could tell from the rather desperate way that he was supporting himself on the doorframe that he was already well oiled. Without waiting for a reply he advanced unsteadily to her table and perched his huge bulk precariously on the bar stool.

Rose flicked through her cards looking for a suitable significator. Eventually she found what she was looking for, the card depicted a fat oaf with a cigarette dangling from his mouth launching a dart at a board in a pub bar. The card was labelled The Knave of Swords and Rose placed it carefully in the centre of the table.

"What do you ask of the Cards?" she intoned in a dead-pan voice.

"Well I wanna know me future, don't I?" said the man, taking a copious draft of beer. "What's goin' ta happen next month?"

Rose shuffled the cards and dealt them face down into the recommended "Five L's" spread, splitting them up into the houses called in the TV Times Tarot Handbook, Life, Love, Loot, Law and Luck. In the first house, supposed to signify general life trends, the first card laid in the form of the L-shape carried a picture of the USS Enterprise and the crew of Star Trek whilst on the second Rose saw a picture of one of The Gladiators armed with two poles and apparently intent on beating hell out of his opponent. Rose remembered that these cards corresponded to The Star and the Two of Wands in the old fashioned Tarot pack.

"This month will bring you the opportunity to boldly set out on a new mission in search of your hopes and dreams," she said. "And you will subdue all adverse factors which stand in the way of your success." "Probably by crushing them to death," Rose could not resist saying to herself.

"Yeah, well that could relate to a new scam I've got going," said the man obviously impressed in spite of himself. "Well I haven't actually got it sorted yet," he continued, "but I'm sort o' working onit."

In the next house, Love, Rose saw The Magician and The Lovers. Paul Daniels stood in front of a table crammed with rabbits and top hats on the first card and Cilla Black grinned from the second. Before giving her reading Rose sneaked a look at the man's left hand and noticed that he was not wearing a wedding ring. There was therefore a reasonable chance that he was looking for a woman.

"You're going to like this," said Rose, "but not a lot. By exerting your will you could achieve your heart's desire with the ladies although your new friend may not turn out to be exactly what you had imagined". Love was supposed to be blind, Rose thought, and it would bloody well have to be visually-challenged for anyone to fancy him.

"Sounds a bit dodgy to me," said the man. "When will I meet this new bird then - or have I done so?". He leered suggestively at her.

"I don't know," said Rose, trying to ignore the suggestion, "but something might turn up later in the spread. The cards always tell."

Loot was next. Rose recognised the face of Dell Boy on The Knave of Coins. The other card was also from the same suite and was known on account of the illustration as the Two Ronnies. She offered an interpretation.

"Watch out," she said, "someone is going to try and con you out of some money." She looked at the second card. "Somebody that you thought was out of your life for good will keep returning again and again." She gave a look of what she hoped was suitable concern.

"This is also reinforced by the cards in the next house," she continued, referring to the Luck spread which comprised a card showing Jeremy Beadle, and another with a picture of the cast of One Foot in the Grave, the nearest that the TV Times pack came to The Last Judgement. "A fool," she said, referring to the old name of the first card, "will try and frame you or at least try to show you up in an embarrassing light. You must wake up to this fact before it's too late."

But as she turned over the last two cards in the House of Law, Rose' s features took on a puzzled look. On the table was Justice with its forbidding picture of Inspector Morse and The Queen of Cups depicting Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous in a characteristlc sozzled pose. Now as it happened, Rose had always fancied herself as a sort of Joanna Lumley figure and quite often used the card as her significator when doing readings for herself. But what information were the cards passing on to her - and what was the connection between her, the man opposite and the idea of justice?

In an intuitive flash she realised - this fat slob, this odious hulk was the very one who had attacked her in the car park that night and that this particular spread were the card's way of telling her!

The next three things happened in rapid succession. Rose opened her mouth and yelled, the man made a grab for her across the table knocking the candle flying and Ted appeared at the door of The Snug with a large jug of Guest Bitter which he bought down with a crack on the man' s head.

"I suppose I should have been suspicious from the start," Ted told her later as they snuggled up together on his sofa. "I thought I recognised him; he was one of the last to leave that night you were attacked - I'm sure he was. Anyroad, the Rossers have got him now and I hope they lock him up and throw away the key!"

Rose leaned over and nibbled his ear affectionately. "lt gave me quite a turn," she said, "but it bought us together and you know what they say 'its an ill wind'..."

"Well," said Ted, colouring slightly, "you must have known that I've been admiring you from afar so to speak. If you want me to be honest that's the only reason why I got you round every week to do them cards. And I must say honestly luv that I didn't really believe all that stuff until tonight. The way you recognised him was a real miracle, if you ask me"

"Never mock the cards Ted" said Rose "they never lie..."

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