ETCETERA / Home thoughts

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The Independent Culture
YES, I admit it, I like reading horoscopes in newspapers and magazines. It is a small joy in my life, though I know many people who scoff at this pastime. My favourite astrologer is Celeste, who is in fact Patric Walker, in Harpers & Queen. His March predictions for my star-sign, Gemini, begin: 'Absolutely stunning planetary activity means it is time to jump in at the deep end and make a bid for promotion or recognition.' This sounds very exciting, but unlikely, given that I am giving birth next month. I fear that my boss will not appreciate that this really is the right time to promote me.

Patric continues that I must not evade 'responsibilities which would tie you down,' which is wise advice. And there's another bit that is spot on: 'Your freedom is certain to be curtailed and you may even have to cancel travel plans or long-standing arrangements.' You see, he knows.

I once interviewed Patric Walker, and I was longing for him to make some private predictions about my future; sadly, he remained rather vague. What he's really good at is writing horoscopes for millions of people, all of whom believe that they are at the centre of his narratives. Patric seems to care deeply about each one of his readers; however mundane and humdrum the daily grind, we're important enough to be the heroes or heroines of his predictions. He provides benevolent advice about our uncertain futures in a strange and worrying world, and what could be wrong with that? It's a lot cheaper than therapy.

I cannot be alone in wanting a bit of reassurance about next month, and the rest of my life. When I was a child (and occasionally as an adult), I would divert myself in times of stress by wondering what to do if I were granted three wishes. The adult ones are fairly obvious: health and happiness for my family and me, and some more money wouldn't go amiss (oh all right, a few hundred thousand, if it's on offer).

When I was 13, I wished that no one else would ever take my place in the netball team, and for long blonde hair and big breasts. (Actually, just some sort of breasts would have done.) None of these teenage wishes came true, but I coped.

Disapproving people say that all this is nonsense, and of course they're right; but other pleasures are nonsensical too, like eating a chocolate flake for breakfast instead of branflakes. Is that so wicked? Life is already full of small miseries: it's been a miserably cold February; the grass in my garden has turned into mud; there's still dog-shit on the pavement; my son is getting up at 6.30 in the morning, and I am looking older and more tired every day. At least Patric Walker says that March is going to be better. ('Jupiter and Pluto magnificently aspected by the Sun cannot fail to boost your confidence and morale.') That's something to look forward to, isn't it?