I KEEP an open-mind about the
occult. Crop circles, I can readily believe, are computer-designed,
pastoral patterns created by night-trudging, devilishly-clever,
practical-jokers with nothing better to do with their time.
saucers? You pick your indistinct newspaper photographs, fuzzy television
pictures and innumerable books on the subject and you take your choice
about whether they are fact, cloud formations, weather balloons or
fantasy. As for ghosts, headless or otherwise, in some ancient tower,
groans in long-deserted dungeons, apparitions in country or council
houses, cryptic messages via a table-top tumbler or ouija board, I
maintain an unwavering, agnostic stance.
Yet, strange things have
happened to me. For years, in our North Bridge office in Edinburgh, a
place of labyrinthine corridors and mysterious rooms where pallid workers
plied obscure tasks intricately connected with newspaper production, two
objects would land yearly and inexplicably on my desk. One was Flying
Saucer News, the other, Old Moore’s Almanack. Since mail staff denied
knowledge of them, as did colleagues, I concluded that they arrived by no
For years, the organs materialised, then, without
warning, the UFOs apparently skimmed elsewhere but Old Moore kept
appearing until about ten years ago, when he failed to arrive, leaving me
with no oracular pronouncements that "China is waking up", that "the
situation in Palestine continues to cause concern", whether the Lincoln
Handicap could be won by a horse carrying eight stones and my "health and
happiness assured" by possessing the Lucky Buddha trinket and The
Sorcerer’s Book of Love.
YESTERDAY, I saw the 2005 Almanack in a shop. The
only one left and obviously meant for me, I bought it: you cannot ignore
such signs. As I suspected, it was not Old Moore the merrier. If you think
2004 is bad, wait until 2005 slips on its knuckleduster.
instability could mean civil war in Israel, Venezuela and Colombia could
have a revolution, nuclear power accidents might happen in America and
Russia, possible unrest is forecast in Saudi Arabia, and British schools
will face disruptions. "We should," writes the gnomic Dr Francis Moore -
presumably a chip of the old bloke who founded the Almanack in 1697 -
"expect the unexpected." Including predictions of flood, fire and tempest,
national unrest, international confrontations and a plethora of particular
generalisations, the only possible upset unmentioned is that the pigmy
tribes in Africa might have a small war.
Produced by Foulsham, a Slough
company, it sells, say shopkeepers I have contacted, extremely well, and,
as an old player in the prediction game, doubtless creates an honoured
profit from those who believe in the advertised powers of salt, finger and
white magic and the Egyptian scarab on discount offer and, therefore, in
my opinion, will believe anything.
The Almanack is only one of
many clairvoyance and horoscopic organs that circulate in an increasingly
irreligious (excluding Islam) climate in Britain where mystical cults are
growing and belief in the occult flourishes.
IF homo sapiens is wired-up
for religious beliefs, he has also a superstition circuit. Lexicographer
Dr Samuel Johnson avoided stepping on lines between paving stones lest bad
luck befell him. Hitler had his astrologer, as had Nancy Reagan and, on
occasions, the fate of the world could have depended on whether the full
moon fell in Aquarius or whether the new moon was square to Pluto.
Princess Diana had her pet oracle, as has Cherie Blair, and it is rumoured
that some prime ministerial aides have protested: "Mr Blair, your wife
cannot be Sirius."
Meanwhile, what does Old Moore predict for our dear
leader whose zodiac sign is Taurus? One entry says: "A career move may
require a more thorough or cautious approach. Don’t insist on doing
everything your own way."
For Gordon (Pisces) Brown an
extract includes: "With fiery Mars in your sign, your competitive nature
is stimulated. Beware of seeing conflict where there is none ..."
Man Morris make a prediction. It does not need a crystal ball, crossing
palms with silver, reading the runes, sheep’s entrails, playing cards or
tea leaves to forecast that our home-grown Nostradamus could forecast a
possible end to this tortured planet, adding the vital information that a
three-year-old carrying eight stones, four pounds could win a November
Handicap at Doncaster. I salute the old, lucky charmer.