Fortune Hunting


Jonathan O’Sullivan is being made redundant and while his colleagues are out looking for other jobs, he’s looking for a fortune teller.


Desperate times have called for desperate measures. This is what had me sat in front of Cilla, Tarot Reader To The Stars. Well, maybe not the stars but Tarot reader to countless others. As with all skilled tradespeople, it took weeks to get a hold of her. I knew by the wait that she must be good.

Choosing Cilla over other Tarot readers wasn’t down to her skill alone. After a quick Google of similar fortune tellers in my area, I instinctively selected her. She has a kind, open face and the expression of a woman who’s uncovered a thousand secrets. Attractive, in her late 50s, and bearing a striking resemblance to Julie Walters, she doesn’t look like she suffers fools gladly. She made it clear that she’s not a clairvoyant; she just interprets what’s happening in people’s lives through her self-designed deck.

In the corner of a bookshop, with only a thin veil of fabric allowing us some privacy, we got right down to it. It wasn’t long before I had selected a full table of cards. It was strange how decisive I was when pulling them out of the deck.

“You have a drive to be something else,” she proclaimed, while studying the upturned cards. I remained stony faced, as we had agreed to do the first reading without her knowing too much about me. The next card was a man pulling a sword out of a stone.

“You need to unlock the fire inside you.”

Still vague, but at the same time oddly accurate. I’d promised myself I’d come with an open mind, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt.

“You’re in a state of metamorphosis,” she pinpointed. At this stage I could tell she was convinced I was a cross dresser, so I spat it out: “They’re making me redundant, Cilla. They’re making me redundant and I don’t know what to do!”

The company I work for merged into a bigger company and now there were a few too many cooks in the kitchen. (Just a turn of phrase – I don’t actually work in a kitchen. Yet.) Whilst the rest of my soon-to-be-jobless colleagues were probably meeting with recruiters or on their second interview, I was sitting by a bookshop window, begging a Julie Walters lookalike to assure me everything was going to be okay.

“What would you like to ask the Tarot?” she enquired with a sympathetic gaze. I explained that I hadn’t really loved the job in the first place. And that although they were making me redundant, there was the option of applying for a similar role with the new company. This would mean foregoing a small but not insignificant severance package.

“Well forget that!” she protested. I noticed that Cilla didn’t have to consult the cards for this piece of wisdom. I detailed the various writing projects I had long abandoned and wondered if they were worth revisiting now that so much free time loomed.

Cards to one side, she began to tell me how terrified she was when she was made redundant. She found herself unemployed for the first time in 33 years, with only four grand in her bank account and an idea of creating her own Tarot deck. She received encouragement from other artists, a financial dig-out from friends when needed and within six months she had her first deck published.

It was encouraging to hear, but I still wondered if now was the best time to give up the day job. She nodded at me to pick again, and I turned over the justice card.

“It’s absolutely the right thing to do” she said, and quickly added, “But you need to give it one hundred percent.” I enquired as to which card was telling her that.

“I’m telling you that!” she snapped.  Again, personal experience trumping mystic suggestion. She had exhibitions while working a nine-to-five but felt frustrated that she couldn’t put all her energy into it. It was a feeling I could relate to, not that I was anywhere near exhibiting anything.

She uncovered another card which was a queen sitting on a throne at the edge of the ocean, her bare feat just inches away from the water. This queen was introduced to me as my muse.

“She’s very open, very frank. A take-me-or-leave-me kind of person,” Cilla explained. I was going to make a smart comment about the queen not dipping her toes into the water, but I thought that might be crass, so I resisted. I’m to call upon her if I’m ever stuck creatively. Most people would eye-roll and call it mumbo-jumbo, but if some ethereal being wants to roll up her sleeves and sort my mess out, I’m not going to turn my nose up at it.

I surprised Cilla when I told her I wasn’t really bothered about covering my love life. I could tell she was used to having some unfortunate sat across from her agonising about the outcome of an already tenuous relationship. Not me.

“If it happens, it happens,” I proclaimed, arms folded. Undeterred, she pointed to one card, which signified my romantic state. The card portrayed a sullen looking woman, alone, staring into a half empty chalice. “Is that a spinster drinking white wine?” I demanded, my heart in my mouth.

To dig deeper she then matched it with another card that looked like a blood spatter on a wall. “Why are relationships so hard for you?” Cilla asked. Her tone was so genuine that the question hit me with brutal force.

I quickly changed the subject and asked her how financially successful I would be if I was to start writing again. She drew a card and her brow furrowed. “Don’t hold back, Cilla!” I urged, desperate for good news.

“You have two contrasting dynamics,” she said, and then chose her next few words carefully. “Personal happiness and financial wellbeing – it looks like you might have to sacrifice one for the other.” And with that ominous warning my session was over.

Although I received a mixed bag of predictions, I left the bookshop feeling much better about my situation. The session gave me the glimpse into the future I needed. However, it was Cilla, rather than her Tarot cards, that settled my mind. It was good to see living proof that a career change can actually lead to personal fulfilment. Everyone should have a straight-talking Cilla in their lives.



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