The Ouija Board
In the early 70s I lived in a charming flat at the top of a Victorian house at 19 Craven Hill, Bayswater, London W2. I shared it with my oldest best friend Helga who at that time was a journalist working for the newspaper France Soir in Holborn.
She in turn had a second generation Jamaican friend who was born in North London called Carole Frances who worked for the BBC Caribbean service at Bush House. Carole was later to become my friend when Helga went off to live in Toronto as a radio journalist for CBC.
Carole in turn had a Chinese friend who was a fortune card reader and a medium called Sonia. One evening Sonia announced that she wanted to read the Ouija Board. I was up for everything different and, in my innocence of the Occult, had no idea what that could be.
The three of us ate something at my place, lit candles, drew the heavy amber velvet curtains and in the flickering light waited for Sonia's words of wisdom from the spirits.
We sat at a central antique mahogany oval table in my lounge and she placed her precious board in the centre putting out cards with letters carefully placed in strategic positions before our eyes. A glass tumbler was placed upside down in the centre of the board. Then she went into a trance mumbling Chinese words. Quoting Confucius maybe?
Carole and I sat silently glancing sideways at each other suspiciously looking at Sonia with her incantations evoking the spirits. Suddenly she began to shudder and spoke in a deeper voice to someone who she claimed was a 15th century milkman! Did he have a message for us mortals? Yes he had!! The tumbler moved. I saw it with my own eyes. It moved from letter to letter and spelt out the word CAVE!
What could that mean? I had no connections with a cave!!! I had never been near one let alone inside one. But no! Ignorant me! It was Latin for beware!
Just then the telephone rang breaking the silence and mood of the evening. I ran to it in the small vestibule of my flat closing the door behind me for privacy.
It was an attractive tall Irish man called Jonathan who I had met in a pub with his friend in Knightsbridge a few weeks earlier. I was convinced he was connected to the IRA. Just a few clues and mysterious references and typically Irish blarney, no straight answers to my probing questions.
It sounded like he was somewhere noisy with music. He explained he was at a party by the canal in Little Venice in a town house and there was a rave going on with lots to eat and drink. I explained I was with two girl friends.
'Bring them along. Get a taxi and I will pay.'
We did as the seance was over and forgotten. We arrived and Jonathan paid off the cab. But we climbed the stairs into a silent empty uninhabited flat! Sparse furniture and just nothing else. No people, no drinks and certainly no food. He had tricked us. He must have played a tape down the phone to entice us. I think he was on a high because he disappeared into the bathroom and then ran around the room naked chasing after another naked man like in the film 'Women in love' when Oliver Reed romped around naked on the floor with Alan Bates. Only Jonathan had a leather black belt and this was flagellation.
Disgusted we wanted to leave immediately. An older Irish man who I had met previously in the pub called Donal, suddenly appeared out of the dark from nowhere and 'saved' me escorting me home. The other girls disappeared like frightened foxes. Donal was my saviour. But was this a trick too? Was he a magician?
A fascinating man. The Irish charm. A poet. An intellectual but was he IRA too? I was seduced. I fell for him on the spot and we began a brief affair. This was the promiscuous 70s after all. I cooked for him and was mesmerised by his softly spoken poetical words. He told me he had a pilot's licence and would be flying to Finland. Did I want to join him in the skies? I sure did. Saturday he whispered. I could hardly wait. He told me to bring my passport and my toothbrush!
On Friday he called and said he had something important he wanted to discuss with me, could he come over? I instinctively knew something was wrong. I could feel it. My heart was beating loudly. My stomach was in knots. He arrived and kissed me fatherly on the brow telling me that he was no longer 'available' for a relationship because he had gone back to his wife. I didn't even know he was married. I had never thought to ask. Stupid innocent me! I was about 27 and he must have been in his mid 40s. I was always attracted to older men. I broke down crying, even sobbing. He carried me into my bedroom and literally put me to bed. Kissed me again Adieu on my brow paternally, and crept out of the room without looking back. I recall the click of the front door and he was gone forever. I howled all night like a wolf. Life was so unfair!
I never saw Jonathan again either. He and his friends just disappeared. But a couple of years later an odd thing happened. My second flat mate the beautiful Patricia Barnes-Ward who worked in the sports department of the BBC, came back late one night and told me she found Donal repenting how he had treated me on the doorstep of 19 Craven Hill. She was confused when this midnight encounter took place and told me years later not at the time.
All very strange. I have never had Irish friends ever since. I adore them but they are rogues and rascals who have touched the Blarney Stone in the greenest superstitious island dancing with the lepricorns.
Written May 2015, Buyuk Londra Hotel, Istanbul.