A Jubilee Encounter

Story of the Week Jun 5, 2022 5 min read

Through the crowd, a voice cut through, 'You have a lucky face'.

Weaving through the jubilee bustle, I'd ducked down Bow Street to skirt the edge of the celebratory storm that stretched from Buckingham Palace to Leicester Square and overflowed into Covent Garden's piazza.

Thunderous applause erupted as the juggler's knife didn't impale him during the crescendo of his show, and lightning flashes filled phones with platinum pictures of friends, fun, spritz and sunshine.

My ego overwhelmed my apathy; I turned around to accept the strange compliment. My eyes met a middle-aged man with a trimmed beard, turban and tweed suit embellished with an eccentric detail – a bumbag.[1]

His eyes were saucers; his smile was a teddy bear. 'Three great fortunes will bless you in the month of July. What luck you have, sir.'

I shrugged his words off with a chuckle and thanked him for recognising the fortune smudged on my face. I must have missed it while shaving that morning.

'Look. Come. Do you have two minutes, sir?'. Being shrewd, I sensed a trapped. The levity of the Platinum Jubilee made me opt for a compromise, 'Sure. Why not?' and joined him on the side of the pavement while scanning my periphery for his accomplice.

It was something I'd learned in Paris. Two people with clipboards approach you, usually teenage girls, asking if you can offer a signature for their petition to end blindness.

That's when they rob you. Not the girls, but the men waiting in the wings for you to let your guard down.

My scanning found no one suspicious, but I thrust my hands into my pockets and clutched my phone for good measure. I hate the idea of being gullible enough to let my trusting nature turn me into a victim, so I halved my mind. One half continued to monitor for threats while the other half waited to gobble up the prophecy this man had read on my face.

The gist of the prophecy was that Saturn – the planet, not the god – under the creative direction of Venus, was behind the entire shebang. They'd aligned in favour of my star sign, 'You must be a Libra, sir!'.

'I'm actually a Pisces.'

'I knew it! Oh, that's even better, sir.' That's when he reached into his bumbag and produced a photo.

'This is my temple, sir. This is my teacher, and this is our temple's founder.' His finger plotted a path across the faces of men. Everyone wore robes and squinting expressions; it must have been an especially sunny day at the temple.

He flicked his wallet to another compartment. It was filled with pieces of parchment paper cut into perfect squares. He pinched one into his palm, scrawled a note and scrunched it into a ball.

'Here, sir. Take this in your hand and hold it tight. Then I can tell you everything.' I obliged. No wing-person had appeared, and I thought the parchment paper posed a non-life-threatening risk.

He pinched up another piece of paper and asked the questions necessary to divinate my future.

His questions and my answers led him to three letters: S.M.P.

'Do these mean anything to you, sir?'

'Statutory Maternity Pay,' I offered. He raised a bushy eyebrow. That wasn't what he was looking for; he said we needed to dig deeper.

'What is your favourite colour, sir? Don't say red or white.'

I wondered what red and white had done to become taboo, felt sorry for Poland and replied, 'Purple'.

'Excellent, sir. What's your second favourite colour?'.

That threw me. I'd put all my effort into deciding my favourite colour; I hadn't anticipated the need for an understudy. I found the colour green and offered that next.

'Green! What a wonderful colour, sir! What's your third favourite colour?'.

My creativity was running on fumes. I coughed up the colour everyone goes to when they're in a pinch: blue. That's when he started doing algebra.

He wrote down my colours and begun eliminating vowels and carrying consonances. The logic was beyond me. After blinking, the colours had been whittled down to a carcass of letters before being transformed into numbers.

He showed me the solution to the puzzle of my future and asked me to open the ball of paper in my hand. Both pieces of paper read, 'Blue 2 3'. He met my gaze, his face expecting wonder.

'These are your lucky signs, sir. You must stay true to your third favourite colour and these numbers. Then your July will give you three blessings for the S.M.P. in your life'.

That's brilliant. Statutory Maternity Pay needs all the support it can get (and maybe it'll enjoy a surplus and share some love with paternity policies). That's when he told me the catch.

'You have a bad habit, sir. If you want this fortune, you must stop polluting yourself from now until July. Grow your hair, stop shaving, and your signal to Saturn will be stronger.'

The displeased face of my barber flashed up in my mind as I imagined explaining how celestial forces were behind my sudden disinterest in my usual short back and sides.

The show was over. He took back the paper, unclicked his pen, and shook my hand. I then found out what was in the final compartment of his wallet.

'Now, sir, please share whatever coins you have for my service to you. No matter how small, they will be a great help to my temple'.

This was when the twenty-first century stepped in. I explained how I hadn't carried any coins upon my person for about a decade.[2]

'Do you take contactless?'. He didn't. I stepped away and thanked him. He suggested I buy a croissant or something and give him the change. I explained how paying by card meant I wouldn't be allowed any change. Did he just want a croissant? No, he didn't like pastries.

I withheld my judgement, thought about how beautiful pains au chocolat are, and continued our awkward parting.

I politely walked away, and by politely, I mean briskly, with many glances over my shoulder. I thought he might feel cheated, and his teddy bear smile would sour.

I zig-zagged through the backstreets of the West End and caught a bus to Shoreditch. You can never be too careful.

This was on Friday. Today is Sunday. I haven't shaved or had a haircut. Saturn, under the creative direction of Venus, I'm waiting.

Your friend,

Jamie | @JamoeMills

From a windy-but-sunny London, so I guess that's OK ☀️🍃

[1] For the Americans, that's what we Brits call a fanny pack. For everyone else, it's a bag you wear around your waist for quick access to your belongings. It's like Batman's utility belt, but embarrassing.

[2] Tell a lie. I found 20 pence the other week. I gave it to a busker singing Harry Styles. I like Harry Styles.

The Platinum Jubilee. The aircraft flyover taken from a rooftop on The Strand.
The Red Arrows.
It was a great day to be a Welsh Corgi.


Jamie Miles

🌱 Building a media company to make sense of the 21st century 🍎 Sharing the best ideas along the way 🍵 Former @Airbnb @Onfido @UniofOxford

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