Martha thinks she's psychic. So do 29 other people sitting in a large circle in a room at the College of Psychic Studies, South Kensington. The workshop they are attending is called So You Think You're Psychic? - a crash course in 'accessing one's latent psychic abilities'.
Arthur Molinary, our workshop leader, tells us we are all psychic, though some more than others. The psychic, he says, is one's sixth sense, a subconsious extra intelligence which lurks in the back of our minds.
We are responding to our psychic abilities when we pick up the phone before it rings. Or when we can feel someone staring at our backs. Or when we remember where we put the keys to the shed.
Arthur says that when these uncanny things happen, when we hear that nagging little inner voice, we should learn to listen. Our first exercise, an icebreaker, is to divide into groups of five and to pass around a card in an envelope. We are to feel what the picture on the card is.
Martha holds the envelope and closes her eyes. She sees a clown. She passes the envelope to me. I think I see a rainbow. Tim, the bus driver, is next. He also thinks it's a clown.
Cynthia gets the colour pink. Sherry gets yellow with some sqiggly lines. Everyone is excited - like we just know the card will be of a pink clown sitting on a rainbow.
Sherry rips open the envelope. It's two cherubs.
'Isn't that a coincidence]' says Arthur. 'There's a clown in the envelope behind you on the table.' Martha's eyes light up. 'Oh,' she says, 'I must have been seeing things ahead.'
Our next exercise is the acceptable face of tea-leaf reading. He hands us each a piece of plain white paper. Everyone holds it up to the light and gazes thoughtfully at the watermark of a cartoon fox. 'It's got nothing to do with the watermark,' Arthur admonishes. 'Screw the paper up lightly in your hand'.
Why? Because we are to read predictions for each other in the creases.
'You like biscuits,' Tim tells me. This is the first real insight I've heard all day. 'I see a biscuit tin here.' He points to some strange creases on my crumpled paper. He also sees a tadpole. Tim interprets this as someone turning into a frog (my ex) and he also sees a shark.
Martha sees sunshine and a holiday for Tim. Sherry sees a kitten in Cynthia's life. They talk about this at length. This exercise takes up the rest of the morning.
I have lunch with two other young women and the workshop assistant. We girls are dressed similarly and one remarks that one is always drawn to one's own type, which I take to mean dress type. They are not wacky kooks, but sensible, friendly, thoughtful people. They both believe they get psychic premonitions and wanted to know more about them. One of them, a thirtyish fashion buyer, is coming back to do a 10-week course.
The afternoon's exercise is really something. Arthur couples us up and tells us to feel each other's auras. What could we sense and feel about the person opposite us, apart from their dress sense? Did they have a happy childhood? What did they do for a living? What were their personalities like?
Right. My partner and I stare at each other for a few minutes, exchange nice vibes and end up chatting. One or two couples knit fingers and look into each other's eyes for a very long time.
Arthur makes up for the boring bits by being funny. He is, after all, the Real Thing - somone with genuine psychic powers, supposedly. He's worked professionally as a psychic all his life.
It's odd to hear him talk matter-of-factly about the spirit world. Rooms, he confirms, do record dramatic and violent human behaviour. And 'fear attracts the lower (ie, evil) spirits'. Therefore, when alone and spooked at night and having a weird thought (or flash), it was important 'to hang up', to break the connection. Turn on the TV, leave the room, clear your mind.
This starts the class talking. Out tumble Twilight Zone stories. One woman told how she'd been driving down the motorway, and got a sudden urge to change lanes, for no apparent reason. Minutes later, a car in the lane she'd been in skidded on gravel and fast-moving traffic ploughed into the back of it.
Another had a similar 'idea from nowhere. Walking down a beach in India, she suddenly knew her boyfriend was wining and dining his ex. She called him from a nearby beach hut and ruined his
evening. (I was loath to tell her that most women have this rat-smelling device built into their psyche from birth).
Arthur waves us goodbye and I leave the workshop inspired to test my new mental awareness. From now on I will listen to my inner voice and take note every time I feel odd, chilly and strange about something or someone. This could change my life.
I ponder this some more on the station platform, waiting for my train home. But it never comes. It's been cancelled.
I should have known.
MEDIUMS RARE . . .
Mark Brandist (0380 727309) is a travelling evidential medium who can pass on messages from people who have passed into the spirit world. Pounds 15 for 30 mins.
Suzanna McInerney (071-589 3292) gives advice on the present and the future. Bring a cassette tape. Pounds 25/30 an hour.
Arthur Molinary (071-589 3292) is a psychic and medium. Pounds 25 an hour; bring a cassette tape. Book in advance.
Coral Polge (071-235 3351) is a psychic artist who draws pictures of people in the spirit world.
Ania Verhoeft (071-589 3292) pounds 25 an hour; bring a cassette tape.
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