THE TEA CUP READER

by

Here’s another great tale from our favourite Aussie pom our East Leeds lass in Australia
Audrey Sanderson (nee Tyres).
Hit ’em with it Aud!

THE TEA CUP READER

By Audrey Sanderson

Reading Eric’s recent stories of poltergeist and all things ghostly set me remembering when I and two friends used to go to the tea cup readers. At that time there was lots of tea rooms in and around Brisbane. Predicting the future through reading tea leaves and tarot cards was illegal so they called it tea and entertainment. They were as thinly disguised as the brothels of the time were. The tea rooms were not as blazenly advertised as the other form of entertainment was. Most were what is now called Mum and Pop cafés. The only cooking done was toasted sandwiches; no deep fried anything or vast menus to choose from. Simple sandwiches of ham and cheese, plain ham, canned salmon, chicken. No gourmet cakes but scones with jam and proper cream, sponge cakes, fruit cake, shortbread biscuits, all homemade and delicious.
You usually found these small establishments by word of mouth. All the sign outside the establishments said was Tea Room and opening hours. Some were tucked away in shopping arcades, some up a flight of steps and over the shops on street level. All of them were very discrete and very quiet when you walked inside. There were only about 6 small tables with 2-3 chairs at each one. Tables have pretty cloths with a very small vase of flowers in the centre and an ash tray.
Everyone spoke in whispers as you gave your order to the waitress. They served coffee but of course if you were having tea leaves read you obviously ordered tea. I got a fit of the giggles every time I went in to one of those places. All the secrecy and whispering when everybody from miles around knew what you were going to a tea room for.
One of my friends was a staunch catholic and was having doubt if she should be there or not. We told her she could wait outside on the footpath if she felt that way about being there and we’d tell her all about it when we came out. She got huffy and said that would be worse as she’d feel like a lady of the night. We were acting like adolescent kids. I said she could stand on the other side of the street on the corner and swing her handbag; she might be able to earn a few dollars and only charge half price because it was in the middle of the day. She didn’t see the funny side at all. She didn’t leave though and said she wasn’t going to confess where she’d been as like the sign said it wasn’t fortune telling it was entertainment.
So we sat and ate the sandwiches and cake, drank the coffee and waited for our turn with Mystic Meg or whoever was the soothsayer that day. When the tea or coffee was served you were given a small ticket, about as big as a raffle ticket at the local pub for a meat tray prize. You had to give the ticket to the mysterious one for him/her to get paid for the day’s work. It wasn’t actually a full day they opened around 10 a.m. and closed at 3 p.m.

Waiting was like waiting in a doctor’s surgery when I was a kid. You looked around at faces and calculated when it would be your turn. My catholic friend thought the ticket was the number they called out when it was your turn. My other friend, a seasoned tea room visitor told her to be civilised as it was not like a queue at the local delicatessen.
She told me to stop laughing or I’d get the lot of us thrown out. Have you ever tried to stop laughing when you have a fit of the giggles? It makes me want to laugh more. I had to keep looking at the table cloth and try not to laugh. When I looked up to take a quick scan of the room I nearly had convulsions. The others in waiting were all women with dead set serious faces. I thought any minute John Cleese was going to walk in.
Discretion was the thing at these places. You weren’t meant to listen in to anyone else’s readings and being a novice I assumed there would be another room used for revealing the future. We’d sat at the only vacant table and didn’t know the folding screen next to us was where the actual entertainment was. It wasn’t until a lady left the cafe´ and one of the ladies in waiting moved behind the screen that it dawned on me that am where the action took place. My first thought was My God! Could they hear what we’d been saying? What a bunch of idiots thinking no one could hear us. It stopped me from laughing anyhow. You couldn’t hear what was beginning said behind the screen so hopefully the previous lady hadn’t heard us.
Eventually after what felt like hours it was our turn. My catholic friend didn’t want to go first the other friend said she always went last if she goes with anyone else. Looks like I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t feel like laughing as I went behind the screen and sat down at the small table. The man sat opposite me was on the large side and asked if WE were having our cards read today. I didn’t play up by looking round to see if there was anyone else with me so I just said yes and handed him my ticket. He put it in a very nice beaded drawstring bag that was on the table. Talk about surprised. I thought card reading would be from an ordinary deck of card with Kings, Queens and Aces.
I had an aunt who used to say she could read cards when you chose one but it was from a deck of playing cards. These cards were enormous and had medieval pictures on them. What have I got myself into!! Wait ’til I get outside, that lunatic who talked us into going had said nothing about weird stuff. The man asked me to shuffle the cards. I’m no good at shuffling normal sized ones these went all over the table when I tried to mix them up. The man wasn’t impressed, gathered them up saying he would give them a good shuffle but I must handle the cards before he could read what was in store for me. I could see my immediate future as a quick exit and not embarrass myself anymore than what I had done. The cards whizzed through his hands and he handed them back to me telling me to do the best I could and not to drop them again. Great, being chastised by card shuffler and owner of a classy evening bag. I managed to shove some cards into spaces without dropping any and handed them back to him. He did a lot of hmmming as he looked over them and said they were pretty good. He was enjoying himself playing with the cards and pictures; he could have told me anything I hadn’t a clue what any of the pictures represented. He made a big t’do as he told me what it all meant. Can’t remember word for word what he said but it was about getting news from overseas. This happened ages before the internet and airmail letters took 6 days to arrive from England. He was on pretty safe ground as my Yorkshire accent is as strong today as it was when I lived in Leeds. I’d drawn a money card he said I told him it was probably bills that needed paying. He said no, it was money coming to me. As I don’t enjoy losing I don’t gamble so couldn’t see that happening. My love life was on the up and up and a man was coming into my life that was going to disperse all of my problems. O Goody can’t wait for him to arrive. A bit more about me and how I got on well with people and he could see an aura surrounding me which was very favourable as it was purple and that meant royalty. More Goody Goody, Prince Charming at last going to solve all my problems.
I went back to the others at the table and my catholic friend nervously went behind the screen. My other friend excitedly asked what he’d seen in the cards for me. I pulled a face, “News from my mother surprise surprise, a money gain and Prince Charming on a white horse is going to sweep me off my feet.” She clapped her hands together and said she hoped he told her the same. O Good. I get a man and she wants him, that’s no surprise at all she’s man mad.
Back comes my guilt ridden friend saying the man was a nut case and said he could see a wedding looming on the horizon. She was as mad as hell saying it had been a waste of money. I said not a complete waste she’s had some lovely toasted sandwiches, melt in the mouth cake and a great cup of coffee. It wasn’t listed you paid for the card reading as the cops would have raided them you just paid a little extra than other cafés charged for the eats and drinks.
When the 3rd. of our little group came out from behind the screen she hurried us out onto the footpath. “What’s the hurry? Are you babysitting and got to pick up the child from school?”
“No, hurry up and get in the car I’m going out tonight”
“Why didn’t you say beforehand we could have gone tea cup reading on another day”
“It’s because of the cards I’m going out tonight. Can’t you go any faster I’ve got to iron a dress?”
We asked what the soothsayer had told her. One of her cards was cupid or whatever the love card was and he said today was exceptionally good for her to meet people and it might mean a romance for her. Green lights all the way as far as she was concerned. I’d hardly stopped the car outside my place before she hopped out and got into her own car and sped off.
Us two went into my kitchen where I put the jug on for more coffee and asked if she was feeling any better than she was half an hour ago. She said not much as she was sure it would be her ex-husband getting married to the woman he’d left her for. I said she was well rid of him and could now sleep nights without wondering who he was philandering with and to forget the card reader. She said it was etched into her brain. I said nothing he told me was going to make a penny worth of difference and asked if she could see a purple light behind me. She asked what the hell I was talking about so I told her how the mystic one had seen a purple aura around me and said it meant royalty so in future she’d better brush up on her curtsies in case I got lucky.
She laughed a bit and said “Shall I tell you exactly what he said?” I said not if it was going to upset her. She said she wasn’t going to cry but if she told me maybe I could make better sense of it. I told her I knew absolutely nothing about fortune telling. The farthest I’d ever been into it was to read the stars in the morning paper and that was one size fits all.
Again can’t remember word for word but the card reader hadn’t said anyone was getting married he said what he could see was a lot of people celebrating a happy occasion and it could be a wedding. He’d put the idea into her mind and she’d assumed it was her ex that was taking the plunge. We talked about it for a while, could mean this, could mean that. I asked if he’d told her anything else. “The idiot asked if I was thinking of buying a new car as he could see something metal on four wheels “I said it might be a billy cart and laughed…she didn’t. I told her not to take it serious; it was good for a laugh and got us out of the house for an afternoon. Still serious “There’s something else. He said he saw a female who might cause a problem. It will be the new woman in the old fart’s life, she’ll try to cut my kids out of his will ” I said I’d be the female causing trouble if she didn’t stop being a pain in the neck ” Look on the bright side, you might get an invite to a party in the next week or two. If you do, ask if I can go too “She shrugged I’ve already got an invite to the twins birthday party. They are 8 next week, you can come along if you want, and you like entertaining kids “I said I’d give it a miss. They were holy terrors and always fighting with each other. She started smiling “You know what; I think I’ve solved what the tea cup reader meant. I’ve bought Josh a model of a racing car for his birthday and Rhonda a bride doll. He has such funny sayings and makes me laugh and she can be a little madam when she wants” Thank God for that. No more mention of ex husband and his paramour, weddings or new man in her life and no more guilty feelings of having her fortune told.

I got frequent mail from overseas I wrote to a lot of people. I never got any surprise money just my fortnightly pension and the only guy who takes away something I don’t need is the garbage man who comes every Monday. It’s a good job I didn’t hold my breath waiting for Prince Charming or any other form of royalty. Maybe the purple hue he saw round me was the sun reflecting on something outside and I was stood in the way.
The man mad one had a string of guys and the last time I saw her she was still looking for Mr Right. She did continue going weekly to tea cup readers, sometimes to different ones in a week until she found one that told her what she wanted to hear. She also had a dabble with séances and oiuja boards. I cried off going to them. I’m not that interested what the future holds. I didn’t fancy being in a dark room holding hands with a bunch of strangers waiting for something to happen. I’d been in an amateur theatre group for years and found out how to make illusions happen on stage. I enjoyed that as I knew all the people well. They had big egos but they wasn’t that weird.
She used to tell me things that had happened at séances and kept asking me to go with her. She was O. K. with the oiuja board when she first started going to the group that had one. She swore she never moved the upturned glass as it spelt out the names of the people round the table. It didn’t stay that friendly after a short time. When she told me it had whizzed all over the board spelling out Knives, Maim and Kill she said she was scared. I told her to stop going and her problem would be solved. She’s definitely not into violence she’s more the Mills & Boon type of person and happy endings. She continued with the séances for quite a while before she said she was fed up listening to dead people she wanted a man with some life in him.
The funniest one of all she told me about was one of the earliest gatherings she’d been to. She’d mentioned others of candles flickering when a spirit was present, smelling perfume or burning wood, mist floating around and cigarette smoke drifting by. Real amateur theatrics making that happen in a dark room.
But the one I remember most was the one which she went to where the Clairvoyant had managed to call up the spirit of a lady’s dead husband. He asked her if she was looking after the rose trees he’d planted and she said she did exactly how he’d showed what to do. An older man’s grandmother said she’d met some of the other relatives and they were all fine and at peace with everything. Then the woman went into a trance and started talking like a parrot. It squawked out a man’s name and a man at the table said he was there. More squawking and the parrot said how he wished he was back with the man and the man close to tears saying how much he missed him.

Tears were running down my face too I couldn’t stop laughing. She said I was rotten for laughing and didn’t I believe her. I said I believed what she’d told me but didn’t believe the Clairvoyant.
She said I should go with her sometime and see for myself. “Any how I believed it. You know how much I like pets I’m telling you Audrey it really was the parrots voice. It was lovely to hear it say he missed the man and he thought so too or he wouldn’t have been nearly crying. Why don’t you come with me? Is there someone from your past you’d like to talk to?”
I said I could ask Cary Grant if he was coming back.
“You actually knew Cary Grant!!!!” Sure, along with Errol Flynn, Robert Mitchum and Clark Gable. I asked if the Clairvoyant had found anyone for her to chat with.
“No you don’t ask her to find someone. You have to wait until she goes into a trance and then she asks if there’s anyone in the room called ???? And if there is she tells them what the spirit wants them to know”
“O.K. That’s how it works is it… How come the parrot got to talk for its self?”
“Sometimes that’s how it happens and I think that’s when she becomes a medium and they talk through her “I was finding it very difficult not to scream laughing. Years later I was reminded of what she’d said when I saw the movie Ghost. I also asked if they got a cup of tea and biscuits afterwards. She said no, as soon as the overhead lights go on everyone goes home. She said the woman was exhausted after going into a trance
” It must take a lot out of her doing all that Audrey I wonder if it’s hard to learn how to do it ” She was always getting crack pot ideas so I told her she was crackers enough without going into a trance and floating around the room. Told her she’d be floating around forever as she’d forget how to get out of the trance. She was always losing her glasses, car keys, and looking round car parks at shopping centres for her car.

Time moved on after World Exppo ’88 came to Brisbane. Countries from all over the world brought the best of their countries to show to everyone and also for them to see Australia. Brisbane changed forever. Not only Aussies going overseas to see other countries the rest of the world wanted to see us. Tourists poured into the country and multi story hotels popped up like mushrooms. Sacrifices had to be made and lots of the older small building was replaced with flash new ones. The end of the tea rooms which were replaced by side walk cafés and the word alfresco became trendy. Glitzy, glamorous but not half as much fun as the quaint discrete old fashioned tea rooms.

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9 Responses to “THE TEA CUP READER”

  1. Doug Farnill Says:

    Thanks you Audrey for another series of good laughs about the frailty of our ways. I am trying to remember back to the late 40’s in Leeds. I have a feeling that there was quite open fortune telling at feasts and fairs but my memory is vague. Was there a Gypsy Rose Lee, or someone like that? It is funny, but scary that some world-stage statesmen have had their clairvoyants and astrologists. I am a modern man, but I wonder how thin is the veneer of my rationality and dismissal of all those superstitious crackpot ideas. What would it take to plunge me back into the dark ages?

  2. Eric Says:

    Another hugely entertaining & humorous yarn with a peep at what life in parts of OZ was like.
    \loved the bit about the parrot – that really is a classic.
    Although we may laugh at these ventures into the supernatural , & I’m certainly a sceptic, I wonder if deep down we still retain a little of our ancient, primitive superstitions & fear of the unknown, especially when under stress.
    I’ve heard & read of agnostics & atheists , when facing peril , will often exhort god or some other spirit to come to their aid.
    As Doug also questions, I too wonder just how robust the veneer of rationality & civilisation is & how quickly it would crumble under sustained pressure.
    But this tale isn’t about that , it’s a great story , well told & thoroughly enjoyed.
    Well done Audrey

  3. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Wow a great tale Audrey. What an interesting life you ladies had in those days. As you may be aware, my Gran lived in Ascot Street in the old days, but what you wouldn’t know is she used to read teacups, don’t think she did it professionally, but after you had a cup of tea she’d pour out any dregs then peer into the cup and tell you what she could see, and very accurate she was too. So your tale brought a lot of memories flooding back from when I was a young boy in the ’40’s. My Mums youngest Sister Eileen lived at No 144 Devon Street that was the house up Devon Street with the funny lopsided door and windows. She used to play the oiuja board, until Uncle Norman her husband banned it, he said it was getting too serious. Even today our Daughters visit the Clairvoyant, and are all enthused when they return from a session, where they’ve been told what they wanted to hear. I remember Gypsy Rose Lee, Doug as you say they used to do the rounds with the feast, “cross my palm with silver and I’ll read your fortune”. Thought the part about the Parrot was great Audrey thank very much for sharing those memorable occasions with us… I really enjoyed it…

  4. peterwwood Says:

    Great tale Audrey, beautifully told as usual., I remember my old aunts reading each others tea cups and saying things like. ‘I can see a black dog.’ and another one would say, ‘lets have a look and saying, ”.hat’s never a dog it’s more like a horse.’etc. I suppose the advent of tea bags would have put them out of business, anyway.
    Tarot cards.. I remember an episode of Father Ted ( I loved that programme) Anyway Ted was persuaded to to go to a card reading, against his will . The reader told him to pick a card and he picked The ‘Grimm Reaper’, Death. The reader said’ Not to worry that card can mean a lot of things pick another,’ So he did and The Grimm Reaper came out again. The reader made some excuse and told him to pick a third time and Death came up again. At this the reader said ‘Well yes that is serious, There are only supposed to be two in the pack. Of course that was to make us laugh But soon after that lovely Dermot Morgan who played the part of Father Ted died himself at a very early age. OOOOOOOOOOOO! Makes you think.

  5. aussiepom Says:

    What can I say gentlemen apart from glad you all have a sense of humour and are kind enough to read my yarns. I never delved into fortune tellers deep enough to see the dark side and afraid I’m sceptical of anything that can’t be proved by science or common sense. I ask a lot of questions about most things. I’m either too nosy or too inquisitive to have blind faith. Some of your comments are very spooky especially Pete’s. Perhaps the gremlins side tracked me because I can’t shuffle a pack of cards, don’t drink tea and would be looking for magnets under a ouji board. I hope I haven’t upset anyone by being flippant but there are a lot of charlatans around eager to take your money and a lot like my friend eager to part with it to hear what she wants to hear

  6. Edward Blackwell Says:

    aussiepom when I look up at the sky on a clear night I see the Milky Way Galaxy. It’s where we live, it’s 100,000 Light Years across, and contains billions of Star Systems not unlike our own. Our Solar System travels through space at 515,000 m p h, (that’s going to the Moon in an hour), travelling at that speed it would take 230 million earth years to cross our Galaxy, which is only one of Billions contained within our Universe, we are so insignificant in the Big Picture, it’s hard to believe. Nothing we could do would make the slightest difference to what happens out there. Yet your tale about the Tea Cup Reader, took me into a world of fantasy and make believe that made me forget all of that, for which I thank you very much. Please continue to write your tales they are very much appreciated.

  7. aussiepom Says:

    Everyone’s comments had set me off thinking maybe I have been too flippant in dismissing the idea of the supernatural. So much so I was awakened by a thumping noise at 3 a.m. It was pitch black and my heart was racing. Then I heard a scratching noise and my heart rate doubled. Someones at the window! Convinced they were fiddling with the lock on the window ..What to do? No one would hear me scream, No where to hide. I listened again. Silence. Now wide awake I had to know for sure if there was someone or something trying to get in. I yanked the bedside lamp out of the wall socket, gripped it tightly and pulled back the curtains. Sigh of relief, there was a branch of the frangipani tree touching the window pane. My relief was short lived as the thumping noise overhead started again. I was alert to go on the attack. The next noise I heard was the crashing of leaves in next doors palm tree. I banged down the lamp and climbed back into bed. First thing in the morning I’m going to find where that bloody possum’s nest is and stop it running all over my roof. Maybe it was the gremlins revenge on me for laughing at what might be floating around.

  8. Edward Blackwell Says:

    There’s certainly more out there than meets the eye aussiepom. All of this Dark Matter and Dark Energy they keep telling us about anything could be lurking in there. Reminds me of when I was younger and we had all of these UFO sightings, I know most of them were explained by natural events, but the ones that have no rational explanation, and were seen and heard by lots of people. Yes we laugh these things off, but is that our bodies defence mechanism kicking in, because we can’t understand what’s really happening. The truth is out there but would we accept it if we read it in a Tea Cup.

  9. Eric Says:

    I agree Audrey , let’s not be too flippant & EB’s introduction of cosmological matters opens a can of worms. Without unnecessarily delving into the complexities of particle physics, a hypothesis can be made for the existence of what we term supernatural events.
    Sub atomic particles are known to exist in multiple states simultaneously, known as superposition.
    Anthropic principles suggest that we see the universe the way it is simply because we exist & if it were different, we wouldn’t be here.
    So because matters aren’t fully understood, we cannot contemplate the existence of a life form other than what we can rationally see because of our anthropic perspective.
    Atomic physics tells us we exist in all states but the so called Arrow of Time lets us see only the past & present , yet that we do exist in the future.
    As it also tells us that atoms (which cannot be created or destroyed) exist in more than one place at the same time , who is to say that those atoms of the deceased , which can also exist in the future, cannot reconstruct themselves in another universe in a form which we can recognise.
    As our knowledge & the explanation of everything evolves , future generations , if we survive, may be able to experience events which are currently outside of our understanding & dismissed as bunkum ?.
    So absence of evidence isn’t the same as evidence of absence.
    The Universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper & discover them , So don’t give up hope, we may yet get to meet our ancestors.
    Anyway , the tales are always good for a laugh at least.

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