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The small round tent with it’s stippled canvas sat under the spread of an oak tree on the edge of the showground. All around rural folk talked rural patter about lambing and brewing, the price of rape by the acre and the eroding of environmental subsidies.
I didn’t feel as though I could bear another hail-fellow-well-met conversation with another farmer, which would begin with a friendly smile and end with a polite one, painted on just as they beat a rapid retreat back to the beer tent or the show ring.
the conversations followed an unavoidable and inevitable pattern.
“So what you going to do with those acres up on Claw Moor now you’ve bought them? Farm sheep?”
A moment of confusion which would change to a quickly hidden hostility.
“The Moor is a beauty spot you know.”
“So is the world.”
A puzzled frown.
“I don’t see -“
“No. Very few do. I quite understand.”
Then the choice between rancour and retreat. Retreat winning most often, to my relief.
So the fortune teller’s tent seemed to me as much a place of temporary respite from all that as a possible entertainment for a few minutes. Besides, I could do with the promise of a tall, dark stranger – especially one who didn’t run away as soon as I started talking about my farm.
Inside it was cool and dim, the scent of verdigris and myrrh gentling the air. The fortune teller was young, not the wise old woman I had expected. She said nothing, nodding regally to the chair opposite her and then lifting a crystal ball from the table between us and holding it in her hands. Silence spread into the sounds outside and absorbed them as my gaze became fixed on the young woman’s dark eyes.
Was it vision or speech? I will never now know, but for a moment reality was banished to the sidelines and something happened. I saw a barren earth devoured by her children, embraced beneath the sleeping flood of rising oceans and the moon riding the skies as sole witness to the coming of a time that did not know humanity.
Then I was standing under the oak tree in the shade that cast me apart from the sun soaked showground, the jollity of ice cream vans and warm real ale, listening to the announcer telling us the winner of the Waggiest Tail contest…