The Cups family had invited me to an evening meal with them. I had never been to their house before although I had seen it, whitewashed and perched on a hill facing the road and overlooking the beach at the rear. There was a low white picket fence separating the garden from the road. There was short grass on either side of a path to the front door rather than a lawn but this was understandable, the property being so near the sea.
I used the fish-shaped knocker to announce my presence. There was no answer. I was about to knock again when I heard footsteps behind me on the pebble path. “I am so sorry,” said the Queen of Cups, hurrying behind me with her hair escaping from its pins. “There was a little problem with an anxious client that delayed me. All well now.” She opened the front door with a key with cockle shells dangling from it. We went in to the sitting room which was decorated with throws and cushions of soft bluey-greens and some stronger deep green and blue. The Queen pointed to a chair which turned out to be the sort you sink into and can’t get out of. It was very comfortable but it was also not particularly new. In fact most of the furniture looked very well-used, but the Cups had disguised the shabbiness very cleverly. There were shelves with books on spirituality, tarot and other decks, music CD’s and sheet music of all kinds.
“I wonder where the Page is,” said his mother. “I sent him out to the fishmongers a while ago. He’s probably day-dreaming somewhere ……” The Queen looked through the garden door and saw her son wandering along the beach with a golden container with what looked like a fish’s head sticking out. He drifted up to the house eventually. “Is that the fish?” asked his mother. “Surely the fishmonger didn’t give it to you like that.” “Oh, no, Mama” he said. “I dropped the parcel at the water’s edge and it got all soggy, so I found this pot and put the fish in it.” “It’s got sand on it, too,” said the Queen, eyeing the fish. “And you didn’t get the fishmonger to remove the nasty bits. Now I’ll have to.” She pulled a face.
The Queen disappeared into her kitchen and the Page asked me if I would like a tarot reading. “I’m learning,” he said. “Or I could play my guitar for you, if you like,” he added. “Or there’s this sea music of Papa’s that we could listen to.” “So your father composes music as well as teaches it?” I said. “Yes,” said the Page. “The children love his music. They say it makes them feel content.” And he put the CD on the player. I don’t know what it was about that music but it took me to another world, and I felt content, too.
The King and the Knight returned home and we all went in to dinner. The Queen brought in a large and elaborate tureen which contained a sort-of chowder which was somehow not thick enough, and served with sea vegetables which hadn’t been drained properly. The Queen looked crestfallen. “Oh, I am so sorry,” she said. I can never get this quite right.” and she looked a bit tearful. “The Queen of Pentacles showed me how to do it, but I don’t seem able to cook it properly when I am on my own.” The pudding was pretty white, green and blue ice creams served on cockle shells. “I didn’t make this” confided the Queen, “so it should be all right.”
The King turned to the Knight who had been staring at the wall behind his father all through the meal. “Aren’t you going to say anything to our guest?” he asked. “You’ve been watching yourself in the mirror all evening, haven’t you?” added the King. “Just checking I look nice,” replied the Knight. “I’m meeting Shelly later and we are going for a walk along the beach.” “Shelly must be rather bored with all those walks along the beach, dear,” said the Queen. “You could always invite her here for supper or something.” “It probably would be “or something” snapped the Knight, rather unexpectedly. “Well, if you don’t like your mother’s cooking,” said the King mildly, “you could always learn to cook yourself.” “Me? Cook? I might burn myself on the stove or splash oil on my best shirt. I leave that sort of thing to others. Besides, inviting Shelly here might change how things are and I wouldn’t like that.”
The Knight slid his chair back and assessed his appearance in the mirror again. Then he came towards me. He took my hand and gazed into my eyes. “I am so sorry we have not had time to talk,” he said. “Really?” I thought. “I’ve been here a few hours now.” “Perhaps if you come again we can go for a walk and admire the view. The beach is lovely by moonlight.” He kissed my hand and drifted out of the room.
I helped the Queen of Cups with the washing up and then we went back to the sitting room and sat by the open garden doors, looking on to tufts of thrift, horned poppy and sea lavender, shielded by tall sea grasses. It was a mild night, the sun was going down out to sea and I felt pleasantly relaxed. The King opened the piano and played little bits of Vaughan Williams and Debussy and a piece he was working on to use at school. “This piece is for eventual publication,” he explained. “There will be more of it, of course, but this section lifts the children’s spirits so we are going to use it in the school concert. My wife sometimes has it playing in the therapy rooms. It can make it easier for clients to understand how they feel.” He resumed playing.
The Page was doing something mystical with shells he had collected from the beach. The Queen looked contemplative and rocked gently back and forth in her chair, shedding the occasional hairpin.