WHAT WORKS V WHAT DOESN’T

My wife is Chinese, her religion is Taoist.

In Taoism, clairvoyance is accepted as quite a normal thing.

But I’m from East London.

So I was brought up to believe it’s mumbo jumbo.

In fact, anything that didn’t obey conventional, ordinary working-class English standards was just superstition.

When we started going out together, Cathy asked me if I’d like to see a clairvoyant she uses.

All of my ingrained prejudices kicked in straight away.

My instinctive reaction was “No way!”

But I find continued ignorance lies in reacting.

And knowledge lies in experimenting.

I suspected clairvoyance was just nonsense for gullible people.

Like horoscopes.

But, even if it was, I’d know more about it if I actually gave it a try.

At least then I could reject it from a position of knowledge.

So I went along with Cathy one evening.

It wasn’t what I was expecting.

It wasn’t beanbags, and incense, and whale music.

It was a sweet little old lady called Nancy, who lived in Uxbridge.

We sat down, had a cup of tea, and started to talk.

She said to me “I’m getting someone from the other side.  A policeman with a little baby on his knee.  Do the names John, and James, and Amelia mean anything to you?”

I didn’t quite know what to say.

My dad had been a policeman all his life.

Maybe Cathy knew that and she could have mentioned it to Nancy.

But my dad had always been called Jack by everyone that knew him.

No one, except his family, knew his real first names were John James.

And there was something else.

When my sister became pregnant her appendix burst.

The baby was born prematurely and lived just ten days.

It was a little girl called Amelia.

No one outside my immediate family knew that.

I didn’t know what to say.

I had been expecting a charlatan.

Someone who would say, “You are going on a long trip some time in the future.”

Meaningless platitudes that could be twisted to fit any situation.

But this was different, this was pinpoint accuracy.

I find the best position to take in these circumstances is to be agnostic.

Don’t be an evangelist or an atheist.

Just suspend judgement, and see where things lead.

On a later visit, Nancy said to me, “I see you’re going to get the Holsten Pils account next month.”

Afterwards, I said to Cathy “She’s getting confused. We’ll get Truman Bitter and David Abbott will get Holsten Pils.”

Next month, while we were on holiday, I got a message from the agency.

“They just gave us the Holsten Pils account, without a pitch.”

I thought clairvoyance was supposed to be just vague predictions that could apply to anyone.

I wasn’t expecting names and dates.

A year or so later, Nancy told us we’d have two children, a girl when Cathy was 37 and a boy when she was 39.

I was upset, I didn’t want to wait that long, so I ignored it.

We tried for years but nothing happened.

Then, when Cathy was 37 she got pregnant.

But she had a miscarriage.

I was furious.

I said, “So much for clairvoyants.”

But Cathy got pregnant again.

And our daughter was born two weeks before Cathy was 38, and our son was born two weeks before Cathy was 40.

So where does that leave us as far as a view on clairvoyance goes?

Well, the mind decides on a position, then makes the facts fit.

So, if you want to find a way to believe, you will.

And, if you want to find a way to rubbish it, you will.

Me, I think it’s like anything else, there are good ones and bad ones.

Good and bad mechanics, acupuncturists, plumbers, lawyers, florists.

Why should clairvoyants be any different?

And as for superstition.

We know that £18.3 billion was spent last year on all forms of advertising and marketing.

We know 4% was remembered positively.

We know 7% was remembered negatively.

We know 89% wasn’t noticed or remembered.

Which means marketing and advertising experts spent around £16 billion on advertising that didn’t work.

In the belief, the hope, that somehow it would.

What’s that if it isn’t superstition?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to treat what we do the same way?

Keep an open mind.

Accept there is good and bad in everything.

In fact, we can go further.

We know from the facts we’re given that, in advertising as in everything else, roughly 90% doesn’t work.

So let’s make sure we only deal with the 10% that does.

Let’s deal in facts, not superstition.