For as long as we’ve been married, Mr Z has started the day the same way. He says: “Do you want to know what’s in your future?” and I say: “No, I’m done with your bullshit,” and he goes ahead and reads me Mystic Meg anyway. I’m never completely listening, so I lose track of which of us will find love in a red car and which can look forward to choppy waters in the workplace calming as the moon comes into our professional zone. It bugs me because obviously I don’t believe in horoscopes, yet at the same time I am disappointed whenever they don’t come true. Also I can never remember exactly what I have been waiting for – only that it hasn’t happened for me.
Then, a month ago, Mystic Meg died. Genuinely sad news, because even while knowing almost nothing about her, I had decided that she was probably nice. She kept racehorses and gave them names such as Astroangel and Astrodonna. I admired her total commitment to the world of the unknowable outcome. It is a paradox of the vocation that when you devote your life to predicting the future and are never once held accountable when your certainties fail to materialise, it gives you quite a pleasant que sera, sera attitude. Just look at a picture of Russell Grant, if you want to see the face of a man to whom luck has been a lady.
In my first job, I was in charge of Shelley von Strunckel. Entry-level stuff – just making sure that nothing got mangled so the Pisces didn’t end up thinking they had fortunes in store for them that were destined for the Geminis. One time we spelled her name wrong on the front cover. The editor went bananas; when I picture the scene, I can see his head doing a full 360-degree on his neck, but this is surely the trauma speaking. He made me call her to apologise, even though it actually wasn’t my fault (checking how many consonants could possibly end up next to each other was way above my pay grade). She said: “If that’s the worst thing that happens to me today, this will have been a really good day.” See what I mean? Que sera, sera.
Anyway, nice or not nice, Meg had died. You would assume, in due course, that her predictions would cease. But no: she didn’t even take any time off for her own funeral. The Sun paused to take account of the poignancy of her final horoscope: “It can be the most routine of routine journeys that takes you towards your soulmate – and you may not realise this straight away,” she had written, which editors took to mean she was already on her way to the beyond, where Nigel Moores, her football-pools-heir love who died in a car crash in 1977, would be waiting for her. But the very next day, normal service had resumed: ever the professional, she had filed a lot of copy in advance, apparently. A week later, I found out that I could impress lovers, new and existing, with my personal passion power. Or was that Leo? It might have been Libra. As ever, I wasn’t completely listening.
Now, out of morbid fascination, I have started reading her properly and I realise that maybe half her predictions weren’t that at all. They were well-meant axioms for leading a good life. Putting passions and hope into words probably is a crucial step towards helping them to happen. Believing you can succeed is a strong part of finding success, sure, sure. But: “If you start the day single, a spicy scent can lead you on a love quest”? Imagine if that were true. One in 12 single people following smells around town, questing after love. Imagine the chaos.
Astrology isn’t like the weather. If you think you can predict the future at all, then five years away is no harder than tomorrow. Mystic Meg might have copy stashed and ready to go until the end of civilisation. I’m writing this on Easter Monday, and Mr Z is apparently set to find love over lunch today, when someone brings a family member along. And sure, it’s going to be lousy with family members, but unfortunately for him, that’s either incest, or it’s still me.