It takes time and energy to be alternative

Vic, the primal scream exponent, came round to rebirth me in a brick pyramid like Mrs Blair

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Conmen and wacky friends are not, thank heavens, the exclusive property of the Prime Minister's wife. Sit me next to a conman rather than a lawyer any day and preferably the genius who sold that unwitting American London Bridge instead of Tower Bridge. Now that really was a scam. Getting a discount off a student flat in Bristol isn't in the same league.

As for the flak that is constantly being hurled at Cherie Blair because she goes in for holistic medicine, healing studs, mantras, mediums, re-birthing, pyramid power and organic inner soles, most of my friends have done some if not all of that. So have I and a great deal more in my quest to find the key, the light, the path, the Truth, the ultimate wild rocket salad with mixed leaves, a light basil dressing and white truffle shavings at the end of the universe.

I'm sure I've told you about the psychic healer I went to see in Chelmsford who "operated" on my frozen shoulder with an imaginary scalpel. Afterwards even my least wacky, most sceptical friend Kate, who plays bridge and breaks the speed limit to get her library books back on time, had to admit that she could see a small, neatly stitched scar.

I may not have told you about Vic the primal scream exponent from Streatham who came round to rebirth me not in a brick pyramid in Mexico like Mrs Blair, but on the carpet in the playroom. I remember lying in the foetal position with my eyes tight shut while Vic crouched behind me making loud whooshing noises to represent the amniotic fluid surging round my unborn body. I did scream violently at the moment of rebirth but only because in his final frenzied contraction as earth mother/birth mother Vic pushed me so violently that I fell headfirst into the Fisher-Price space station and one of the lunar modules jabbed into my eye.

I have done one of those back-to-back weekend EST courses from California where tanned team leaders fresh from the Erhard Seminar Training School harangued me and the 250 other questing students about love and joy and choice and life for 15 hours at a stretch until we cried: "Yes, yes. We understand, we've got the message, we'll sign up for another course but please, please can we go to the lavatory?"

I've spent a week at the ashram in Oregon set up by the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh when he left Poona and twirled in the Temple of Meditation alongside lawyers who had just flown in from Washington in private jets. I have meditated in Dumfries, chanted in Ladakh, worn a load of Tantric, Celtic, Egyptian and Chinese charms on every conceivable and inconceivable part of my body. I've had my runes read, my cundilini raised, my chi located.

But hang on, this was years ago before the really serious quest, the practical business of dealing efficiently with children, job, ageing parents, illness, pensions etc took over. Being wacky is a full-time occupation and, if anything, we should admire Mrs Blair, who even with the demands of a high-powered job, ditto husband, baby and endless social commitments still has the time and energy to be alternative.

Apart from the conmen who regularly sell me useless kitchen gadgets (I have half a dozen gizmos to turn radishes into roses) I can remember only two occasions when I've been well and truly conned. The first was a call to say that I'd won a year's free groceries. I said I didn't know I'd entered a competition to win groceries. Maybe my husband had filled in the flier, said the caller, could they deliver them tomorrow? Sure I said and the following night a smooth-talking, sharp-suited operator called Dan arrived and spent five hours sitting at the kitchen table trying to convince me that if I bought one of his company's giant deep freezes and filled it with food from the cash and carry I would save what I normally spend in a year on groceries in no time.

The second was a call around lunchtime from a man who said he was a researcher from the Department of Education polling public opinion about current attitudes to corporal punishment. Did I have five minutes to spare? Sure, I said. Did I believe in corporal punishment? he said. No, I said. Was I ever been beaten at school? he said. Yes, I said. I went to a convent where the nuns regularly beat us. There was a silence and then distinctly heavy breathing. What were you wearing? he whispered huskily. Wow. Two for the price of one – a whacky conman. Bingo.

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