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Jonathan Cainer Interview: A vision of my wife told me she was dying..then the doctor called.

Byline: SUE CARROLL

ASTROLOGER Jonathan Cainer was performing the less-than-starry task of repairing a dodgy central heating system at his new Yorkshire home when his life changed suddenly and violently and in a way that he could never have predicted.

The house, a huge, beautiful, remote and rambling stone building, was surrounded by rugged countryside with only sheep for neighbours. It was what he and his wife Mel had always dreamed of for their five children.

And it was here they knew they'd find the green and peaceful existence they longed for.

As Jonathan wrestled with rusty old pipes, Mel set off on the three-mile drive to collect something from the nearest village. It was a 20-minute trip, if that, but Jonathan was preoccupied with his task and barely noticed an hour had passed and she hadn't returned.

It was unusual. Devoted mother Mel would have been nervous leaving their seven-month-old twins and three young children for so long. Another hour passed before the heart-stopping moment we all dread arrived.

The knock at the door was the local doctor. Mel's car had careered off the road, and she was badly injured. In all probability, he explained grimly, she would never walk again. A combination of shock and practicality propelled Jonathan into action.

"Above all," he says, "I knew Mel would want me to put the needs of the kids first. Someone had to look after them, so as my mother in Leeds prepared to get to us, I cooked a meal for a houseful of kids. I'd had the hospital's assurance that although Mel needed an emergency operation, she would pull through.

Dishing up a hastily-prepared tea to his young family, Jonathan suddenly found himself distracted.

A pale blue flickering light on the kitchen wall had appeared from nowhere. It was the size of a TV screen and he recalls it was in colour. Gradually an image appeared.

It was Mel. "Jon," she whispered, "I think I'm going."

Jonathan, whose brilliant astrology column appears for the first time in The Mirror today, is not a man prone to visions. He tells me his moving story in the same matter-of-fact, detailed way he delivers his daily horoscopes.

I have no reason to doubt him, and a chill runs down my spine as he relates the extraordinary events that followed.

"I had loved Mel from the moment I set eyes on her," he recalls, "She had long, dark hair and was wearing this velvet coat, blue with stars and moons on the back. I was 15 and a hippy; she was 18 and a goddess.

"I thought I had no chance, but when I was 30 we eventually got together and were finally living our dream - five beautiful children and a lovely home."

Looking at her serene face, it didn't occur to him this scenario should be impossible.

Mel was lying in hospital 20 miles away, yet it seemed the most normal thing in the world to be having a conversation with her.

"I told her very clearly," says Jonathan. "You're not going anywhere. We need you here. You're just having an out-of-body experience, it must be the morphine."

"I'll try," she replied, "but I think I'm too far gone." Then she disappeared.

Less than an hour later, Jonathan opened the door to the doctor. He had come to break the news that Mel had passed away at precisely the same time she had appeared to him.

"She died in surgery," explains Jonathan, almost nine years after the day "a straightforward operation inexplicably went wrong".

"But she didn't leave me," he says, then hesitates. "You have to be wary how much you tell people about communicating with the dead. Everyone assumes you must be a nutter. But I did talk to her every day for two weeks after her death. And I saw her too. It was like Randall And Hopkirk Deceased.

"People began to fear for my sanity. They were grief stricken and couldn't understand my reluctance to see her body, but I was happy because I could see her and talk to her. In the end, more to please everyone else, I did go to the mortuary."

But, says Jonathan, the pilgrimage was made easier because he wasn't alone. Throughout it Mel was right by his side.

"She came with me in the car," he says, "walked down the corridor with me and sat next to me while we looked at her body.

"I saw her get up and try to get inside it. 'Look, it's useless,' she said to me, 'I can't do anything with it any more.' Then she did a strange thing. She stood quietly to one side and watched as I talk to the body. And when I'd finished she walked with me to the car and we came home... together.

"We talked, and we struck a deal. She had this studio in the attic where she did her arts and craft work. I promised I would put all her stuff in there and she could use it. Haunt it.

"Then a couple of things happened. I didn't lock the studio door, as I'd promised, and I let a plumber walk through. The central heating still hadn't been fixed.

"I could feel she was pissed off. Haunting is a sensitive business and she didn't like people on her territory.

"She told me this arrangement was going to be bad for my sanity. I don't know what place Mel was in, or who she was with, but she told me they were putting her under pressure to end our plan. I felt they were wrong. I was happy to live the rest of my life with a disembodied spirit, but Mel was always inclined to be more in awe of authority than I.

SHE finally went, interestingly, on the day I hired a nanny, Sue, to look after the children.

"Sue turned out to be brilliant. She's part of the family and I believe her presence allowed Mel to split. She promised me they'd allow her a hotline so we could speak when we wanted.

"It turned out not to be as advertised. Imagine you're in a field and the nearest village with a phone is miles away. Well that's what it's like for Mel to reach me.

"Over the years I've heard less and less, because making the call drains her. She's having a good time but finds it hard to relate to the person she was. I think it may distress her."

It's telling that Jonathan still lives in the home he and Mel pinned all their hopes and dreams on and were only able to afford when his success as an astrologer was just kicking off.

Since her death he's carried out all the work she had planned. The bathroom is the colour she wanted and he's erected housing for the bins.

"In the most inappropriate place," he says. "And I often have a go at her about that."

And, of course, the attic is still Mel's place, packed with her things.

"I've often thought," he says, "that the house is far too remote and if Mel were alive we'd have moved somewhere more accessible. But it was her home and where we wanted to raise the kids. It would be hard to leave it behind."

Or Mel, you suspect, is what he really means. Unsurprising, perhaps, that at 43 Jonathan remains single and has had only what he calls "improbable" partnerships. "I think subconsciously I avoid anything that means a commitment," he says. "In any case, here I was with two seven-month-old babies and three little ones to look after. My time's been fairly occupied.

"I'd never fed the babies, let alone changed their nappies. For while it looked as if I would have to throw in my astrology work and stay at home full-time.

"Having a nanny enabled me to continue. I did what I imagine most people in my situation would probably do, I threw myself into my career as a newspaper astrologist and author.

"I also did a Saturday morning slot on the Steve Wright radio show. So a regular weekend for me and the kids would be to get up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday, drive to York station, buy a family railcard and the lot of us would head to London.

"The kids would wait for me at the studio till I could take them out for a pizza, see a movie and be back in Yorkshire by bedtime. We coped. It was harder for the children but for the twins it's been strange to lose their mother so young."

Mel, I'm sure, would be immensely proud of what Jonathan has achieved, not just personally but professionally.

His Sagittarian determination and enthusiasm has stood him in good stead to create a business, based in a vast old York warehouse, where he employs 25 people to help prepare the horoscopes he will bring to Mirror readers every day.

Ebullient and energetic, Jonathan puts in a 70-hour week in the office where his internet site is based, the phone lines are organised and personal horoscopes are produced. Once a week he puts together his phone lines which he says "drain" him and he still fits in a weekly session on the Steve Wright Show. He's slighter than you might imagine and youthful for a wise old sage.

I must confess that I am a big fan. The horribly addictive kind who knows what her Moon and Sun signs are and dives for cover when Mercury goes into retrograde motion.

How thrilled am I that he's joining The Mirror? Well, imagine you're in a Premier league team and the boss says he's just signed the world's top player. You just know you're bound to win the Cup. That's the nearest I can get to it.

Cainer is the man who looks at the game, sizes it up and gets the ball between the posts. Astrologically speaking, that is.

"I don't do tall dark strangers," he says of his horoscopes, "or 'expect a letter on a day beginning with the letter M.' I would compare myself to a weather forecaster, it's more like 'do what you like but watch out for the rain.'

"I don't do specifics but I do realise that most people have problems and if they're having a crap time they'll turn to their horoscopes. If something's bothering us we want an insight into it and how to tackle it. I take the problem solver's approach and I like to think I take my heart to the heart of the readers.

"Astrology is self-discovery. You're trying to find out more about your life and how you tick. It's an ancient knowledge, and a lifetime's work. Believe me, I could study it till I'm 98 and still not know everything.

IT'S a belief system and I am a true subscriber to that belief. I hope I will be able to offer inspiration and encouragement, to say when you're in a tough period 'learn through it.'

"You know, for all our technology, cars, the internet, cell-phones and what have you, there are still a few little knotty questions, such as where do we come from, where do we go when we leave here? People are very much aware that there must be more to life than what we're being shown. Astrology is the key to what some of that 'more' should be."

His fascination with astrology started when, as a restless teenager with big Afro hair and an Afghan coat, he and one of his twin brothers Dan travelled to Los Angeles.

"I'd fancied myself as a musician," he says, "but I had to face the fact Dan was better than me so I became his manager. It was while we were promoting his career and I was also managing a night club that I met a psychic poet called Charles John Quatro who gave me a reading.

"He said I was going to be a media personality with a column read by millions, big in astrology. I thought he was off his rocker."

In fact it was the steer Jonathan needed. He decided to leave America and come home.

"The good thing about England," he says, "is that it might be a bit cold but they give you social security to live on. I also went on an enterprise allowance scheme which gave me a year of not needing to sign on while I studied at the Faculty of Astrological Studies.

"Through astrology I came to realise that you can be anything you want to be in this world."

And in his case that's pretty much how it's shaped up. He graduated from writing a book about star signs to becoming astrologer on the now defunct Today newspaper.

During the past eight years he's worked for two other national daily newspapers who fought hard to keep him, but says it's The Mirror that has always been closest to his heart and his politics.

"I was born in Surbiton," he says, "but went up to Leeds with my mother when she and my father split. I was 13 and I see myself as having good Northern socialist roots. I've always enjoyed reading The Mirror for its vision.

"On other more right-wing papers I always felt uncomfortable with their attitudes, which have occasionally caused my blood to boil. Often I felt I was the only voice of tolerance. Now I'm somewhere I don't feel I have to bite my lip. It's a paper that coincides with my social conscience and my own life vision."

"An open mind is the most powerful possession a human being can have."

And I remember something Jonathan said to me earlier.

"To hear the dead," he told me, "you have to listen very carefully. It comes as only a whisper in the air. But they're shouting as loud as they can."

And you know, I've a feeling that today, Jonathan will celebrate the start of his Mirror career walking in the fields with his children, by his beloved home.

And somewhere there will be Mel. Whispering.

s.carroll@mirror.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

HEART AND HOME: Jonathan and his children at their beautiful, rambling Yorkshire home. Left to right: Izaak, nine; Jessica, 17; Jemi; ma, 10; 1; 2; ; Jonathan; Sofi, nine; and Minnie, 14. Beloved wife and mother Mel is there in spirit
COPYRIGHT 2001 MGN LTD
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 
Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 17, 2001
Words:2409
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