I charge a lot. I have to. The ‘Romany’ caravan I rent from the owners of the pier on which it is sited costs me an absolute fortune every season but it is a prime location and they know it. In high season there are queues of mostly hen nights, sometimes stag do’s and gaggles of the DFL – ‘down from London’s’ who mostly take the piss. I don’t care. They cross my palm with silver – or more accurately, tap my contactless card reader, and they get their reading. I pay my rent and make a living, they have a story to tell about holiday adventures. It works for all of us.
I have a gift, passed down through the maternal line. I prefer the cards but I can do the ball if people want it. To be honest, it’s not rocket science. I can’t always tell whether it is the gift or just plain old perception. I wonder if I would earn more as a psychologist because reading people is incredibly easy if you are tuned in.
I leave my outfit in the caravan overnight so sometimes it is a bit damp. The van is made of wood and came from a play being put on at Glynde. The nearest it has been to a Romany is when it was used for the set of Carmen but I have tarted it up a bit – cushions, a bit of incense, a few crystals here and there. I got my robe from a charity shop – it is a Japanese kimono and not remotely mystical but when I put it together with the waist-length black wig I picked up cheap in a costume shop in Benidorm I look the part.
It was the second time she had been in. When I first saw her, I thought she was a young boy and that Kath at the Feral Kats art studio had taken an apprentice or summer helper. There was a rain shower and she was covering the art works on display with sheets of plastic. I pass the studio on my way to the pier. I grab a coffee and doughnut from the stall next to the arches most days. Kath’s studio sits in a row alongside others and seems to be the busiest. Kath is a nice woman. The next time I saw the helper, her dungarees were daubed so I guessed she was an artist.
The first time she came to the van I realised she was older than she looked. One of those cute boyish women who always look about thirteen, well into their forties. She seemed nervous and opted for the cards. I gave her a reading – something about being creative, about opportunities and new horizons but to be honest, I am not sure she heard a word I said. I remember her DM’s were hand painted but her feet were tiny. It’s funny what you notice. She must have liked my tarot cards because she came back. So when she came back that second time I had to take a different tack because turnover is so fast in the holiday trade it is fairly much a regular script which she had already heard. I suggested the ball rather than the cards and she was happy with that. I held her hands, cupped under mine, on the ball and told her to focus. Her hands were warm but rough and callused. Interesting hands full of character. I was glad she had agreed to go with the crystal ball. I guessed she was probably a sculptor rather than painter. Images of female forms came into my head, so I said something about my visions of female power and women rising up. It seemed to fit the bill.
But then she came back again! I was pouring down so I had barely done any readings all day. People don’t stop at the van when it rains – they just want to get into the warmth of the amusements but then she appeared in the doorway. The week before as I was on my way to work I ran into her outside the studio. She paid for my coffee and doughnut at the stall. We laughed a lot, mostly about my black wig. I said it was horribly itchy. She liked my real hair better, she said.
The thing is, tourist money is part of the pier experience. She was a working nearby neighbor, also trying to earn her living in a difficult business so I had to be straight with her. And… she was kinda nice. I told her that whilst I certainly did have a gift, my little van was just a tourist attraction really. I said I had the number of a really good clairvoyant I could recommend.
And then she told that since she had first laid eyes on me, that time I saw her covering the art with the plastic sheet, she had been madly, crazily in love with me.
I certainly had not seen that coming.