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The Magpie of Superstitions

Breaking my journey at Cheshunt I throw bones under the disinterested gaze of commuters. The omens are not auspicious.

They never are, some would say.

With Saturn quincunx to Virgo I am, as the stars dictate, approaching London from the North. A long and tedious journey given it began on the chalk and flint hills of the South Downs.

I finger the warning trio of tarot cards in my skirt pocket, worry them apart. The autumn day is warm and my hands damp as I trace the Celtic talismans around my wrist, touch my lips to the blue nazar at my neck. And then I board the next southbound train, continue my pilgrimage of appeasement. As we pass beneath the M25 I invoke the Sumerian gods of fair passage and pray they are listening.

At Liverpool Street Station I plot my course towards the gaping maw of the underground, waiting for the necessary confluence of a red-headed woman, a boy under the age of five, and a man in purple shoes, before I duck into the stream of the unaware as they trade time and energy for cardboard cups of overpriced stimulants.

I take the circle line widdershins, hoping off at the primes: two, three, and five. Up the escalators to the ticket hall, though never out through the barriers–I’ve made that mistake before!–then back down to take the next but one train. At seven–Baker Street–I switch to the Metropolitan; three stops to Piccadilly and change again until, finally, I reach Russell Square.

It is a most indirect route that, not by coincidence, resembles a wonky spiral.

I consider the 171 steps to ground level–tempting even if the number is divisible by three–but time is against me. Rose quartz gripped in my left hand I resign myself to the machinations of the lift.

Emerging onto the congested street I feel the naked hostility of the city. London is not so easily tamed and does not look kindly on those who fail to observe the proper forms. I make obeisance with a detour to Montague Place, enter the Museum from the North. The man who checks my bag raises his eyebrows but waves me through.

I’m in there for thirty-seven minutes exactly, long enough to prostrate myself before the Moai, the strange flat face that used to look out to sea. Then back out, careful not to step on any cracks as I loop up over the Euston Road.

In the depths of the red brick ziggurat the thin room stands silent. I pass other disciples of the arcane, fellow students of esoterica. They avoid my guilty gaze as I approach one final challenge.

She peers at me, hair straight and ashen, lips pressed, steel eyes unblinking. Frowns as I take out the brace of hide-bound grimoires and, with a deep genuflection, lower them to her desk.

“The British Library is not a lending library, Ms Straka,” the librarian hisses.

“Sorry,” I say with genuine humility, “Force of habit, I’m afraid.”

Liam Hogan helps host Liars’ League London, volunteers at the Ministry of Stories, and lives and avoids work in London. More details at http://happyendingnotguaranteed.blogspot.co.uk