Destiny over the phone: Heart Searching: Believe in fate? Star-crossed lovers? Lyndsay Russell decides to consult Britain's first clairvoyant dating agency

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The Independent Online
'YOU will meet someone tall, dark and handsome . . . he is the one for you.' Far too many of us have crossed the palm of Gypsy Rose Lee's daughter's-cousin's-sister-inlaw with a pounds 20 note just to give us such futile hope.

However, rising from London's mystical suburb of Hampstead, one soothsayer is brave enough to take her fortune-telling services a stage further. Terry Schonberger runs Kismit - the country's first clairvoyant dating agency. 'We all have a soulmate. And by using my spiritual powers, I do my best to help people locate their special partner,' bubbled the friendly cockney at the other end of my telephone. 'Having had the incredible joy of meeting my own soulmate, this job gives me a fantastic thrill.'

As a medium with auditory powers, Terry says she doesn't need to meet her clients. 'I hear 'messages' when I talk to members on the phone. A name will come to me, and I'll suggest a meeting. For instance, I was chatting to a man yesterday, when I 'heard' the name of an American woman on my books. Two minutes later, he mentioned he loved Americans. Hey presto, they're now dating. Oh hang on, I'm getting something . . . ' I waited, thinking she meant a pen. 'I get the impression you're a real career woman.'

Forget that. Where's my soulmate? 'If I find him for you, I hope you're prepared to travel. Some clients can be so unreasonable. They expect to find their 'twin being' within a convenient 20-mile radius. Then I get others who fill in their application form with ridiculous requests.

'I mean, we're talking soulmates here. A chance reunion through the mists of eternity with your one true love - and what do they put down? 'No smokers'.'

Finding that Terry's flat was situated behind a betting shop did not seem an auspicious start to my reaching emotional nirvana. Still, one has to try.

A small, rotund Terry cautiously opened the door. Dressed in Peruvian shirt and leggings, she ushered me into her cluttered flat. It was the Nepalese branch of Habitat. Indian masks, Tibetan shawls, Buddhist statues, and crystals. Tarot cards lay on the table. Sleeping on a rug from someone's home in Indonesia, lay a scruffy black dog from a home in Battersea. Was he originally a black cat? Perish the thought.

'I'm basically a spiritual catalyst. I started the agency three years ago, after I received a message that having re-found my own soulmate, I should offer the spirit world a service for its followers.' But there was no sign of a man about the house, so I asked Terry what had happened to the love of her life.

'About 11 years ago, I heard a voice saying that I must go to meet my soulmate at Heathrow Airport, midday between the 14th and the 15th August. I was a legal secretary at the time, and I cancelled an assignment to just wander around the airport.

'Then I saw him. Gorgeous. He had the same facial features as me (apparently, this is often the case) and I went all clammy. When I tried to approach him, he thought I was mad, but the impact on each other was definitely there.'

I glanced around curiously. 'No, no - he doesn't live with me. We only see each other about every six weeks. Didn't I mention? He's a homosexual.'

Terry continued: 'A soulmate can offer different relationships to you in different lives. You learn lessons off each other. It's the depth of feeling that counts.' But surely, most people pay to find themselves star-crossed with a lover?

Terry sniffed. 'Ideally. Well, maybe I shouldn't emphasise the 'soulmate' so much. People do complain, but whoever phones up gets a choice of whoever else is on my books. And quite frankly, that's destiny, isn't it?'

She showed me the questionnaire new clients have to fill in. 'It's pounds 75 for six months' membership,' explained Terry. 'That includes a maximum of four introductions by clair-audience. And a discount on telephone Tarot reading.'

Sneaking a look at the pile of forms, I was intrigued by the replies next to 'Personal Belief'. People had stated every religion under the moon: Pagans, Celtics, Quaker Spiritualists, Druids.

'My agency is for New Age and spiritually minded people,' smiled Terry. 'They understand that some of them aren't meant to find their soulmate this lifetime. And they're happy for me to introduce them to a less intense love affair or to new friends. They know there are are no guarantees.'

What about outright successes? She gave me the names of two 'perfectly matched' soulmate couples to check out.

Later that evening, 27-year-old Simon, an advertising account executive described how he met Louise in 1991. 'It was our first Kismit date, and it seemed almost mystical - like we'd known each other before. She's my dream girl. We're now so close, we're telepathic. We had both asked the forces for partners, and it happened.' Well, he sounded genuinely in love. And it at least proved one thing - someone in advertising has a soul.

Returning to photograph Terry the next day, I was shocked to see a metamorphosis. Her hair had turned blonde and grown two feet in length.

'It's a wig,' she giggled. 'I adore them - my Cleopatra one is beautiful, but I'm getting too old for it now.' Her wardrobe was packed with exotic robes from distant lands. 'I hate anything ordinary . . . ' she paused to switch on her answerphone.

Are any of her callers too extraordinary? 'I only advertise in Prediction so, yes - I have to weed out the weirdos. There was one man who insisted his partner must be multi-orgasmic in tantric sex. Another was convinced he was my guardian angel and asked me to talk to the fairies.'

As an experiment Terry took my watch and, concentrating hard, attempted to pick up psychic impressions. 'I feel like throwing it away . . . ' She'd guessed. It was a cheap model from Oxford Street. 'Would you like me to give you a free reading to help you find your perfect soulmate?'

By this time, a voice in my own head was warning me against accepting her offer. No thanks, Terry, I couldn't take the news. I'd had a sudden vision it was going to be my grandad's ferret.

(Photograph omitted)