Right of Reply: Marjorie Orr

The astrology for `The Express' newspaper responds to John Walsh's attack on divination

Comment: An audience with the alien

I HAVE been talking to an extraterrestrial entity. His name is Omar. And he is not best pleased with me.

The mission: Maggie O'Farrell tries to find out what the future holds - shame no one warned her about Kevin Kline

rophecies and predictions, I've always believed, are the territory of the mad and/or pathologically bored. And why would I want to know what's going to happen to me next week? I don't, after all, have to wait very long to find out. I also suspect it's a slippery slope: it may start as a harmless peek at your horoscope, but before you know it you're a crystal- carrying nutter frightening everybody with your talk about auras. But I decide - for one week only - to throw trepidation and scepticism to the heavenly spheres. I will believe the predictions and live accordingly.

Stuff and nonsense (I think)

THERE WAS a chap on the telly the other day who was a professor of Millennial Studies. It does not sound like a job with much in the way of long-term prospects. Presumably redundancy looms in 18 months or so, which is why he appeared to have such sympathy with the apocalyptic gloom of the last millennium.

Cross Words: Stars in their eyes

Head to head Credible or credulous? Astrology is a useful tool, says Nicholas Campion, president of the Astrological Association. It's just a game, says novelist Fay Weldon

School for the starry-eyed

It is a dark and stormy night in West London. A crescent moon bobs between the clouds and a diverse group of men and women gathers to discuss the alignment of the planets. Sally Staples joins them.

The sky at night

Gemini, the Twins, belongs to the magnificent assemblage of brilliant constellations that spangle our winter sky. It lies just to the north- east of Orion and can easily be located by following the Hunter's raised arm. Its two principal stars, Castor and Pollux, are both first magnitude. Pollux, marginally the brighter, is an orange giant, contrasting with the bluish white appearance of Pollux. Scientific scrutiny of Pollux reveals that it is in reality a system of six stars. Small telescopes can distinguish three, all of which turn out to be close doubles. Where Orion's uplifted arm almost touches the more northerly twin's foot lies a glorious star cluster. At fifth magnitude, it is in principle visible to the naked eye, though a very dark sky would be necessary. This is an object best viewed with binoculars. Surprisingly, it has acquired no name, either classical or fancifully descriptive. It is simply M35.

ciao baby ... Feng Shui

According to its acolytes, the ancient Chinese mystical art of feng shui brings order and harmony to our lives by first bringing order and harmony to our homes. As a luxury new age hobby for those with time and space, great. But what about the clutter of life - pets, children, friends?It's time to bin feng shui because:

Net Gains: Fortune cookies

It is easy to ridicule those who hang on the every word of astrologers such as Russell Grant and Mystic Meg (above). But when our own lives enter a period of crisis, doubt or deep reflection, you might find yourself lingering over the newspaper horoscope column.

General Release: UKTOP TEN

1 / THE FULL MONTY

CRITIC'S CHOICE

1. L'Appartement

Box-office chart

1 (2) The Full Monty

CRITIC'S CHOICE: Films

1. The Full Monty

Television review

Shortly before Predictions (ITV) began on Saturday night, I wrote down the following premonitions on a sheet of paper, sealed it in a heavy manilla envelope and deposited it with a local solicitor. Now that the programme is over I can reveal the stunning 89 per cent accuracy of my prophecy. This is what I wrote: "1. There will be unearthly music, redolent of strange powers beyond our ken (I failed to predict that it would simply be lifted from The X-Files); 2. An overweight woman wearing bright clothes (I see puce or cerise perhaps?) will make a statement of numbing obviousness and then pass it off as mystically knowing; 3. A young man with bright eyes and a vacant smile will pronounce himself "staggered" and "stunned" yet display no outward signs of mental confusion; 4. A strong odour of putrefaction will make itself increasingly apparent during the transmission." Not bad going, I think you'll have to admit, and yet I can now reveal that the uncanny accuracy of these predictions owes nothing to astrology or entrail gazing (no chickens were harmed in the writing of this review). They were simply common sense extrapolations from previous experience, a method apparently also much favoured by the "leading psychics, astrologers and clairvoyants" who appeared with Philip Schofield for what was described, more than once, as "a unique experiment". In fact, the only word that had any claim to accuracy in that phrase was the indefinite article: this sort of thing has been done before, alas, and to use the word "experiment" - with its connotations of method, rigour and fraud-detection - was nothing less than snake-oil salesmanship.

Letter: Rational faith needs no ark

Sir: Mark Smith ends his letter in defence of Creationism with "This is not fundamentalism. It's common sense."
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