`I'm hearing Norbert'
A dubious Dominic Cavendish joins the Doris Collins fan club
Friday 10 March 1995
Not very many 77-year-olds receive annual Christmas cards from Michael Barrymore thanking them for passing on messages, on live TV, from his dead stepfather. And none will dare to suggest that they have cuddled the Dalai Lama. But Doris Collins's psychic finesse has made her friends with the famous: in her 50-year career, her consultees have included Peter Sellers, comedian Michael Bentine and athlete John Walker. The tabloids fell in love with her (the Sun made her its medium-in-residence for two years) and she is the beatific cover girl of this month's edition of Medium 2000 magazine.
When she takes to the stage for two hours in Lewisham Theatre next week, people will expect a few miracles. But she seems to be singularly unfazed by her psychic powers. "I suppose my family thought I was nutty, but what I had was quite natural to me - I never thought it was an extra sense. A lot of people have the gift, you know, but it's stamped out of them at a young age."
The story of Doris Collins, from church-hall do-gooder to reluctant TV star, is one which she has now talked about hundreds of times across the world. For the uninitiated, there are a few key moments, mainly in her youth. At the age of eight, she told her aunt that she had played in her garden with a girl called Connie - who turned out to be a cousin who had died 10 years before. At 18, she saw her deceased sister Emmie "in a blaze of light" while walking home in Woodford. It is often images from her childhood that guide her when she is working: a father here, a red blanket there ("I was put in a red blanket when I went to hospital and I've only to see a red blanket next to someone and I know it's shorthand for hospital"). She does not seek people out; she is "lead" to them - like a spiritual journalist scenting a story.
"Is this the second paper you've worked on?" she inquires suddenly, fixing me in the eye. I nod. "Yes, I knew that instantly you see. I hope it doesn't frighten you... it just comes." She speaks emphatically, with few pauses. I try to suppress a smile. Her answers begin to be punctuated with questions of her own. "I believe in reincarnation. Why do you want to go abroad? I want young people to see that there's more out there than they realise - why did you become a reporter?" These are minor incursions, until the big push.
"While you've been talking there's been a very elderly lady at the side of you. Did you know your grandmother?"
"Was that on your mother's side?"
"They're both alive."
"Yes, because this is on your father's side. Did your father have three sisters?"
"Did your grandfather?" I concede that he did, enjoying the process of watching her groping around Internet-like from hot to cold, from great- aunt to great-grandfather. She frowns, her head cocked to one side, as if listening, occasionally muttering, "That's odd, what a strange thing to say". "Who changed the name?" she asks suddenly. She said she felt a bit disturbed because there was a family name that had been changed. "Why does she talk about Europe?"
The vague questions subtly beg helpful prompts, but even though I concede my grandfather came from Europe, without warning she hits the jackpot: "Was your grandfather Polish?"
And so it doesn't matter that she then talks about the Jewish East End, or the non-existent artist in the family or someone I apparently know called Norbert ("I'm hearing Norbert"). I contemplate two stark, unpalatable options: either I'm putty in her hands or she's paranormally sensitive. "It's just like tuning into a radio," she says, explaining that every experience is imprinted on the soul. "A dog can hear a dog whistle, it's just a different frequency."
Although she can act as clairvoyant and healer to anyone in the world from her home in Milton Keynes, the sceptical should consider the pilgrimage to Lewisham to see her in person. "It doesn't bother me if people are suspicious," she says. "I can't make anyone believe until they've got proof, now can I?"
7.30pm, Lewisham Theatre, SE6 (081-690 0002) 14 March, £7.50
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Enrique Iglesias injured trying to catch a drone mid concert
- 2 Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, reveals new look on Annie Leibovitz shot Vanity Fair cover
- 3 Arsenal players boo chief-executive Ivan Gazidis after being told they would not get bonus for FA Cup triumph
- 4 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 5 UK weather: Temperatures set to soar making parts of Britain hotter than parts of the Mediterranean
The 1975 leave social-media after tweeting cryptic comic strip hinting at break up
Britain's Got Talent 2015 final: Winner Matisse had secret dog double, says owner Jules O'Dwyer
Top Gear to follow Have I Got News For You format with 'different host for each episode'
Britain's Got Talent final 2015: Ofcom receives 90 complaints about Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden's 'revealing dresses'
Ed Sheeran debuts new love song 'Sweet Mary Jane' about relationship with weed
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history