If you’ve ever worked a minimum wage job in one of the most expensive cities on the planet, you’ll know that finding a place to live can be colourful at best, and at worst, absolutely terrifying. Your search results will invariably include dank, cramped rooms and stony-faced landladies telling you what the ‘trick’ to the shower is. (If you’re ever wondering how high up in society you are, count how many appliances in your home there are ‘tricks’ to. The number will be directly proportional to how many job applications you have not heard back from yet.)
This is why when I see an advertisement for a room ten minutes away from my existing flat for a mere £400 a month – including all bills – I dial the number with a degree of hesitancy. Surely there’s a catch? Soon I’m talking to Darren, the live-in landlord who is cheerfully able to relate to my miserable search. When I ask for the most convenient time to arrange a viewing, there is a brief pause.
“There is… ah, one thing I like to… well, do you mind me asking when your birthday is?”
Bewildered, I tell him it’s May 7th. I hear a short bray of laughter.
“Oh, I have been waiting for a Taurus to move in!”
We quickly arrange a viewing.
The flat is astoundingly normal, almost disappointingly so. To be fair, I think I was expecting some kind of zodiacal Manson family. Within minutes I’m eating organic paté and sipping chai tea, and before long, my two potential housemates and I are chatting as if we are old friends. I look at my watch, and realise that is somehow half past one in the morning. Jumping up to go, I see Darren is disappointed.
“Oh. I ... I was wondering..” another pause, like a child showing his toys to a new friend “I was wondering if you would let me read your cards.”
Most people have had a friend that reads Tarot cards. For a brief time in my teens, I WAS that friend. So naturally, I was expecting the pleasant parlour trick I had come to accept Tarot as being. This expectation is dashed when suddenly Darren is burning wild sage and lighting candles as some sort of cleansing ritual. He unravels his cards from a silk scarf, hovers his hands above them, letting them vibrate occasionally. He does this for about three minutes, and then sighs, seemingly exhausted.
“I’m sorry about this.” He says, exasperated. “I’ve never read for an Irish person before.”
“Oh.” I reply, puzzled. “Does that make a difference?”