Madame Charlatan. Telling Misfortunes under a fog of musk and a cloud of fag-ash…….
I’m often asked how I discovered my gift for Misfortune-Telling. Well, you don’t discover it, it discovers you. Naturally, my ability to see the worst in people and my Mother’s knack for inviting disaster wherever we went, all added up to the realisation that I could not escape what the Universe had bestowed upon me. That included my Mother.
You may have read in my introduction that the line of mystics I descend from can be traced back to 1973. That was the year my Mother decided this was how she would make her living. Telling Misfortunes, spreading doom and gloom, and charging a packet for it.
I never knew my Father. There was a rumour that he was the local fishmonger. I never had any proof and there was no resemblance. The only clue was my Mother often smelt like the Whitby catch, but as previously mentioned, personal hygiene was never high on her list of priorities. I never once saw my Mother wash her hair and as it often looked like a lobster basket, I never discounted it being home to live crustaceans. So that sea trawler odour was not enough evidence as to the identity of my Father.
My Mother was only 16 when she had me and she raised me alone with some help from Granny Charlatan. My Granny Charlatan had a smallholding with a beat up old caravan in the corner of a field. And that’s where me and my Mother lived. We had a bucket for a toilet and a baseball bat for the rats. But it was home. Not that I spent much time in it. When I got home from school, my Mother often had a visitor. Usually a man, but not always. I’d be sent out to play and told to only come back once I’d seen the visitor drive away. My Mother didn’t work, so I never really understood how we managed. The caravan cost us nothing and we had free eggs from the chickens, but there was always money for a bottle of sherry and yet another batik scarf. She dressed like the lovechild of Fleetwood Mac and LSD. Our little caravan could barely contain her penchant for a boho frock.
When I turned 21, my Mother asked me to move out. She then hooked the caravan up to our little Hillman Avenger and rattled it down to Clacton. I have no idea how it survived the journey, only the dirt and lichen holding it together. And that’s when she decided to launch her career as a Misfortune-Teller. She said she’d always heard messages in her head so it was about time she made some money out of them. There were still as many male visitors and they seemed very willing to cross her palm with silver.
The Charlatan Caravan is still in Clacton, I visit occasionally. The upholstery is being eaten by microbes and the bucket now catches the rain. But it’s nice to get away and it brings me some nostalgia. And I’m sure it’s being by the sea that explains the whiff of fish.
Putting the Shame back into Shaman