Metro 85

Richard Herring: Running Bears, saints and fairies? I’m not a believer

Friday 11 Oct 2013 

Richard Herring meets an Armenian fortune-teller and learns of a matchmaking spirit guide.
I had my fortune told by an old lady in Armenia last month (it’s a long story). She dropped melted wax into a bowl of water above my head and told my future from the shapes of the cooling globules.
Well, she didn’t tell my future, she told me about some stuff that had already happened.
Actually, she didn’t do that either because she didn’t get anything right.
‘Did you have an accident two days ago?’ No. ‘It might be two months.’ No. ‘Or two years? There’s something with an accident and the number two.’
I’ve had the occasional accident involving a number two but that happens to us all, surely?
Eventually, she changed tack and asked me if I disbelieved in fortune-telling. I conceded that I was sceptical but I really wanted to be proven wrong.
The wax said I was adrift, unable to connect with my spiritual side and I never lit candles in church. Suddenly she was getting everything right.
The wax seemed angry with me for not lighting candles. You’d think it would like me for not murdering its cousins.
I was told that I have a saint looking after me (she didn’t tell me which one) but I wasn’t accepting his help.
I felt a bit sorry for this unappreciated saint but I was surprised to have a Christian guardian angel, because that’s not what I’d been told before.
In 2001, I went out with an actress who I had fancied from afar for years. Eventually she had been cast in a play that I’d written (somehow) and we ended up getting together.
We were very different. She was into crystals and believed that fairies genuinely existed. She practised homeopathy.
I am rational and scientific. I’m 95 per cent certain there are no fairies at all. I like medicine. But who cared? We were in love.
One weekend, we went for a t’ai chi lesson (I must have loved her). The woman taking the class told us that she could see spirits from the other side. Our spirit guide was in the room.
My girlfriend and I shared the same spirit guide!
I didn’t know that. I thought if you had a spirit guide you’d get one to yourself, 24/7. But apparently they take shifts.
Anyway, she told us that ours was a Red Indian (I would have said Native American) called Running Bear.
I felt that was a bit embarrassing and clichéd. If I have a spirit guide, I’d like it to be something quirky and unexpected, like a 19th-century accountant called Simon, who’s secretly bisexual.
She said Running Bear was smiling. He’d been trying to get us together for ages, he knew we were soulmates. Finally he’d succeeded and now we’d be together for ever.
Which was interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’d fancied this woman for ten years before we met and we worked in the same job. Surely any spirit guide worth his salt could have got us together in, what, a fortnight maximum?
Secondly, we weren’t soulmates: we argued constantly and split up about two months later.
A five-year-old child could have seen we weren’t meant to be. What was Running Bear thinking, bringing together two such wildly incompatible people?
I hate Running Bear. He’s a dick. I am glad my ancestors wiped out his entire civilisation. Though I do grudgingly respect him for agreeing to spiritually assist the descendants of the people who did that to his culture. Very forgiving.
Maybe that’s why he’s bringing together such unsuitable couples. The subtlest revenge.
Richard’s show, We’re All Going to Die!, is at London’s Leicester Square Theatre until Sunday. For tickets and details, visit