It wasn't quite the introduction I had expected to that night's 'Psychic Supper' - the first in what is hoped to be a series of social and mystical suppers in London for anyone with pounds 12.50 to pay the entrance fee.
The idea of a psychic supper conjours up visions of a group of sallow-faced people sitting round a large oak table in candlelight, communing with goodness knows what. What it actually turned out to be was a little party in a Marylebone wine bar full of media types and a sprinkling of doctors, solicitors, architects and secretaries waiting to be thrilled by a clairvoyant called Helenia.
'Heleneia's absolutely marvellous,' said a young female marketing executive on the next table. 'She's best on a one-to-one. She tells you everything about yourself. She's very mystical.'
She didn't look mystical. She looked more like a large, kindly, apologetic sort of woman with a tendency to knock over coats and chairs as she wove her way confusedly round the tables. 'I try to put people's heads back together if I can,' she explained with an endearingly nervous laugh. 'Mind you . . . ha] . . .my head's not quite together so it doesn't always work.'
Heleneia Brierley's background is as mystic as her vocation. They say that she was an abandoned baby, found wearing an ankh - a mystical symbol - around her neck. They also say, in hushed tones, that she spoke and wrote a strange language of her own in her early years that no one could interpret, and that recently that same ancient language has been unearthed by an archaeologist who has enlisted her help in translating it. There are stories about a near fatal illness and how she was healed by an unknown man in a red car who disappeared into thin air.
'Oh yes, it's all true,' she confirms, laughing again. 'It's all mad, isn't it? Not as mad as all this though. Anything could happen tonight.'
Once all the guests had squeezed themselves around tables in the tiny wine bar there was an expectant hush and Heleneia launched into her party piece (she is, by the way, available for variety shows, radio programmes, parties and hen nights, and has a wellrehearsed patter that will entertain any group of believers).
The show started off well. Taking an ear-ring from one woman, she told her she would be going to Australia soon. That was acknowledged. She knew one of the women near her was a relation although it took her a while to work out which one. She came up with a number of facts about the woman's domestic situation and a few that were very wide of the mark. But by the look of wonderment on her subject's face, though, it was clear our clairvoyant was doing a good job.
Her next subject, a man, was also suitably impressed by her vague references to America, a change of job and events at work. Then she came to me.
Taking my watch, she felt it for about 30 seconds and told me I had been divorced. No, I said, I've never been married. 'You have a Siamese cat.' No, no pets. 'You drive a red car.' No, it's blue. 'You've wanted to go into the forces.' No, never had any inclination. After a string of red herrings without a single accurate statement, and clearly distressed, she turned to predicting future events, some more extraordinary than others. If her predictions are anything like her knowledge of the present, though, I shall not be packing my bags in readiness for my predicted missionary stint in the Congo.
'Isn't she amazing,' said a wide-eyed psychology student afterwards. Well no, I thought, a bit hit- and-miss really. 'She knew all about my car accident and the problems I'd had with my hands,' she continued. 'I'm fascinated by the whole subject. I've been seeing blue and while lights since I was a child - apparently they're spirits flying.'
She was not the only one with other-worldly powers. One woman was there because she had had two dreams that predicted two separate accidents involving her boyfriend. They split up shortly afterwards.
The general opinion among the mainly female audience was that Heleneia was genuine and marvellous. Genuine she certainly seemed to be, but her most successful subjects were patently those who believed the strongest. Even the Harley Street doctor, frequently cited as providing scientific support for the evening, turned out to be a practising hypnotherapist.Reuse content