Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Why I believe in paranormal service

 By Derek Lord

IN the course of the 20 years or so that I wrote a weekly column for the Aberdeen Press & Journal, I would occasionally recount my experiences of the paranormal.

This would inevitably result in readers’ letters accusing me of being a liar, a fantasist, a raving lunatic, or worse. Never once did I get a comment from anyone who had had similar experiences, so I thought I would just throw this one out there in the hope of finding someone who could identify with those experiences.

My interest in the subject of the paranormal began at the tender age of 19. I had just beaten more than 50 applicants for the post of junior sports reporter with the Belfast Telegraph. The late, great Malcolm Brodie, a Scotsman who became a legend in Northern Ireland , interviewed me for the job.

I was over the moon when I found out he had selected me. I received my letter of acceptance on the Wednesday telling me to report for duty the following Monday.

Later that Wednesday morning, a cleaning lady called Margaret O’Flaherty arrived to do some dusting round our house. My mother wasn’t in the best of health at the time and needed a hand with the housework. When Margaret had finished, my mother sat down with her for a cup of tea.

These were the days before tea bags. When they had finished their tea, Margaret offered to give Mum a psychic reading based on the tea leaves left stuck to the inside of her cup. When she had finished, my mother called for me and insisted that I get a reading.

As a cynical teenager I thought it was all a lot of nonsense but I reluctantly agreed. I drank my tea and proffered the empty cup. Mrs O’Flaherty gazed into it and then told me that I would be crossing water shortly and that I would go into a building with a very long counter in search of a job.

I would be met by a woman who would lead me up some stairs to an office where I would be interviewed by a man with a moustache and glasses. The man would be very impressed by me. I sat grinning smugly as she spoke. She didn’t know that I would be embarking on my chosen career just 10 miles up the road in five days.

Two later my mother and father separated and my mother insisted that I accompany her to Coventry where she planned to stay with relatives. It broke my heart to have to phone Malcolm Brodie and tell him I couldn’t accept the job he had so generously offered me.

So there I was on the Belfast to Liverpool ferry within days of O’Flaherty’s reading. Two months later I applied for a job as a cub reporter with the Coventry Evening Telegraph. It was only when I entered the building and saw the long counter that I remembered Margaret’s prophecy.

Would I be met by a woman and shown upstairs to an office? Tick. Would the man interviewing me have a moustache and glasses? Tick. Would he be impressed by me? Tick (In the event, he put me on a shortlist of six out of 70 applicants). Unfortunately the editor gave the job to one of the other five and I spent the next year working as a quality control inspector in a very noisy factory.

Over the course of the next 40 years, Margaret O’Flaherty continued to predict what lay ahead for me in the same minute detail she had delivered in that first reading. And she never charged me or anyone else a penny.

Her reputation grew and she would have captains of industry lining up at her door for her advice. But, when she was put in front of the TV cameras, she froze. If she had been a phoney she would have prepared some Doris Stokes-style codswallop to get her through. But she was honest enough to say that there was nothing coming through for her that night and most viewers would have concluded that she was a fake.

I knew differently.

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