I am currently writing a memoir of sorts about the love-hate relationship I have had over the years with my mother Dot. It will be some time before it’s finished, but I thought I’d give a little taster here…
Round about the time of my father’s death in 1977 Dot gets into séances, spiritualism, and mediumship. She wants me to go along with her to clairvoyance evenings in case Dad is trying to contact us from beyond the grave. I suddenly remember the ghosts of dogs I saw in my childhood, and wonder whether there is something in it.
Mum’s old boss Ruth has kept in touch over the years, and suggests a medium whom she had visited years before and recommends highly. Dot agrees, and so off we go with Ruth into pastures new.
We arrive at the medium’s home, and are led by an aide down a dark passage into a back room where an ancient woman of at least ninety and with obvious cataracts sits at a table. The aide motions us to take the empty chairs opposite, and Dot gives me a nudge with her elbow as she sits down. I immediately want to giggle, but keep a straight face.
The medium doesn’t seem to be aware of our presence, and I have a sudden urge to be away from the dark, stuffy room with its overpowering aroma of camphor and back out in the sunshine. The aide stands behind the medium who looks ahead sightlessly, and then opens her mouth to speak.
“The jellies are all around us!”
I bite the inside of my mouth on receiving another nudge from Dot. The old woman begins to become quite agitated.
“Hide! Hide! The jellies are coming! They’re flying through the air!”
It is too much. I have to get out, or I will explode. I stand up quickly, closely followed by Dot and Ruth. The aide sees us out into the street.
“I’m sorry about that; Madam is not on good form today.”
As the front door closes the three of us erupt with the spontaneity of a volcano.
“The bloody woman’s mad!” Dot guffaws.
“Sorry about that; I haven’t been to see her for ages.” Ruth wipes her eyes. “She’s gone downhill a bit.”
It is some time before I can compose myself. My first clairvoyance event did not turn out the way I thought it would.
There are many more spiritualist meetings after this unfortunate start, but none as comical as that first one with the flying jellies. Soon after we are lucky to see the two Dorises at work in their characteristic kaftans; Doris Stokes and Doris Collins, although we never receive any messages from the hereafter. Dot remains unconvinced, but one night when I have left home and sharing a flat with a work colleague, I am brave enough to attend a meeting on my own in my local church hall. The medium points his finger at me straight away, and I am terrified.
“I have your uncle here.”
My heart starts beating faster. Uncle Tom had died three years before.
“Your uncle is looking after you. He says you have trouble opening your front door.”
I am astounded. This is true. Either the lock is old, or the key is a bad fit, but it always takes me ages standing there struggling to open the door.
“Yes.” My voice is shaky with nerves. “That’s right.”
“Well, your uncle says that from now on you’ll have no more trouble.”
Wow! I could hardly wait to get back to my flat. As soon as I put the key in the lock, the door opens as though the whole locking system has been oiled and given a makeover.
From then on I am convinced there is a spirit world. I’ve never had a message from my dad, and to this day Dot still is not sure about the whole spirit thing, but as far as I’m concerned I have had first-hand evidence. My uncle, along with my father, Aunt June and four grandparents are living it up somewhere on the astral plane, and one day I know I’m going to see them all again, just as long as I don’t get hit by a flying jelly in the meantime.