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‘THE FUTURE IS NOT SET’ – SARAH CONNOR, CIRCA 1991, OR 1984, OR POSSIBLY 2015.


Standing by the harbour in the pretty Yorkshire fishing town of Whitby you’ll find a wooden shack owned by a gypsy named Lee Ester Alita Lee. If you pay her, she’ll look at your hand and tell you all about your future. That’s right, she’s able to see things that have yet to happen. I’ve spoken to this lady she’s very nice and friendly, but can she actually see things that will happen in the future? Science, logic and reason might say no, but various famous people seem to think she can, mostly the cast of the old northern television shows Heartbeat and the Royal. She has photographs of the actors from these programmes having their palms read and some look aghast.

‘You’re telling me they’re going to cancel Heartbeat after running for eighteen years? Oh, shit!’.

Back in 1990 a friend of mine started work with the British Antarctic Survey. One week before he flew to Uruguay to catch his ship down to the ice shelf, I was holidaying with him and a few other people in Whitby and, at my insistence, he went for a reading in the famous white shack. The gypsy saw various scenarios in his future and cryptically told him: ‘You’ll never be rich, but you’ll never, ever be poor’, and ‘I see a young lady in the near future with a letter E in her name, or possibly a letter S’.

The peculiar thing was her psychic senses never picked up on the fact that this man’s next three years would be spent in constant snow and ice at the very bottom of the planet, building a base at the South Pole in temperatures of minus sixty-five.

Lee Ester Alita Lee's psychic palm reading business features briefly in my next Bernie Quist mystery Claymation, where much of the story takes place in Whitby and the nearby town of Scarborough, and it got me thinking. I don’t know if this gypsy lady can see into the future or not, but if she CAN, you have to wonder why she’s sitting in a seaside hut, squandering her incredible supernatural gift on giggling Yorkshire tourists, when she could be working nationwide with the British police and the security services in an effort to pinpoint the next terror attacks.

The authorities have ‘watch lists’ of suspects, with lots of photographs and information, which could be scrutinised with her powers and any future bomb plots could hopefully be thwarted. The biggest hurdle would already have been crossed in that she’d have NAMES to work with.

Psychics are traditionally poor with names. Their sensory powers only pick up letters and, when spirits speak to them, they also only supply odd letters to identify themselves. The medium then passes these letters to the bereaved clients and they have to fill in the blanks…

‘I have someone here with a letter N in their name.’

‘Oh, er, right. My husband was called Mark.’

‘Wait a moment. It’s M, not N, and yes, it IS Mark. Yes, he’s here.’

This isn’t in any way the fault of the mediums. For some weird reason, the spirits won’t give their identity outright, but instead, insist upon drip-feeding their name as letters like this. Why on earth they do this has never been understood. If these people had no interest in word puzzles when they were alive, why do they start pissing about with them when they’re dead?

Things are slightly different when the medium isn’t operating one to one with a bereaved client, but contacting the dead on stage with a hall full of people, all hoping for a message. The spirits will then occasionally give their first name. They’ll say: ‘it’s David’, but although this seems fairly useless without a surname, various people will respond and raise their hands and the medium will pick one.

‘It’s you. Yes, this is YOUR David.’

If only the spirits would give a surname and mention who they wished to contact, it would be so much more helpful. How difficult would it be to say:

‘This is David Jessops for Amy Jessops sitting at the front there in the blue coat.’

'The lady I want to speak to is Janet Matthews in the fawn raincoat by the door'.

This would save the medium having to vaguely indicate to half the auditorium, saying:

‘I have a John here for someone in this right half of the room, or possibly the left.’

It’s extremely annoying and can make the medium look like a fake who’s just fishing.

Once this initial name hurdle is over, the spirits start chatting and the nonsense with the letter game never reappears. They’ll make vague references to pets, a favourite song, and a faulty vehicle or household appliance. The medium always sees someone in a uniform too. It’s pointless asking what kind of uniform it is, as this will cause the vision to become indistinct, and the best practise is for the bereaved relatives to keep things flowing by telling the medium what uniform it is…

‘Uniform? Oh, that’ll be our Terry. He was once in the army’.

‘Uniform? Uniform? I don’t think I know… Oh, it must be our Shirley. She wears a kind of uniform in the supermarket where she works.’

The main thing is, once the spirits are over the initial name hurdle, everything seems to flow just fine…

‘He’s telling me how he loved his holidays on the coast. Where was it again?’

‘Blackpool.’

‘That’s right, Blackpool. He says you both loved it there, but oooh, do you remember that time it rained and how wet you both got? And he did like his fish and chips, didn’t he? He’s telling me how he always asked for scraps and told them to put plenty of salt and vinegar on. You remember that, don’t you? He says you had a favourite song that always reminded you both of Blackpool. He’s saying it was… It was…’

‘Smile, by Lily Allen.’

‘That’s right, Smile. And he’s saying that’s what you should always do when you hear it. You should smile and think of him.’

Once the spirits start, it’s difficult to shut them up, but first they need to start and overcome that initial fumbling name business. This wouldn’t be a problem with the police watch list of names and Lee Ester Alita Lee could concentrate on them and get on with sensing their future and whatever terrorism shenanigans they were about to get up to.

Now if this woman (and other mediums like her) CAN see the future, we could make Britain a far safer place by having her work with MI5. If she CAN’T, then why is she allowed to take money by openly operating a fraudulent service?

She’s been trading in Whitby for decades and has never once been questioned by the trading standards people as to her blatantly advertised supernatural claims.

If I was to set up a stall next door selling cures for cancer (£25 a bottle. It looks like water, it tastes like water, but if you have faith when you drink it, your illness will vanish) I wonder how many days (or even hours) I’d be trading before the authorities closed me down and, very probably, prosecuted me.

I doubt it would do much good to point out that the woman next door was making lots of cash from a similar bizarre enterprise.

Who knows? To finish, here's a young lady finding out how wonderful her future will be from a medium who's been trading for a great many years...


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