Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope

Mister Pickle, formerly Monsieur Pickle, lives at 30 St Mary Axe, London. In another life he drank Messerschmitt for the Wehrmacht. Now he is writing exclusive daily horoscopes for Half Mast Gazette.


Probably time to batten down the hatches, dear reader. I’m coming home. Roy Keane told me this morning that the coast is clear for our return—he received a letter, I presume. He told me that this also means the two of us parting ways. I said goodbye from the doors of the Gatwick Express, having slept soundly through the flight, and I told him that I would miss his company and the sense of security that he gave me. Roy was standing on the platform, puffing a cigarette, squinting in his usual way. Stop all that nonsense, he said. The doors started to beep so I said goodbye again, and left him there. The train hummed around me and began to move. Back into London, back home. Here am I, and I shall rain whenever I please.


Elsinore—we have come to Denmark, across that colossal bridge, and now I’m on the train and someone behind me keeps talking about Elsinore. I was confused, until I realised that they were only talking about Elsinore because that was where they were getting off the train. At the risk of sounding foolish, I didn’t know that Elsinore was a real place, or maybe I thought that its name couldn’t possibly have stayed the same for so many centuries. The name doesn’t have the ring of a real place. It rings at a frequency which is altogether different.


Last night we arrived in Älmhult, and I found out why this little town made it onto the itinerary. Älmhult is home to the original Ikea store, where it all began, and the Ikea Hotel. In other words, I slept in a hotel where everything, from the food to the furniture, is authentically Ikea. Everything is warm, solid, wooden. Wood seems to be at the heart of Scandinavian culture—deep forests, carpentry, woodcuts and wooden houses, it all makes a lot of sense to me. Later today, Roy promised to take me to the Ikea museum. This complex seems to be all there is in Älmhult. In a lot of ways it’s like going to Disneyland; the experience is truly immersive. I didn’t expect to, but I’m enjoying my holiday with Roy Keane, even if I don’t really understand its circumstances.


Kompany’s testimonial match was on TV last night and Roy drove me to a bar to watch it, once he had concluded his business in Borås. The commentators kept calling Kompany’s team ‘the Man City Legends’, at which Roy would invariably cock his head, stare into the middle distance, and say, what’s a Man City Legend? I never replied to Roy because I was too preoccupied. S*****n I*****d was playing.


Closing in on Borås, Roy told me he had some urgent business to attend to in the city. He asked if I’d be all right, if I could occupy myself. I was nervous but he told me to stop all that carry-on, I’d be fine. And I was! The city was beautiful. As we arrived, the rain started, slicking every building face and blurring the car windshield. Roy was unhappy. How on earth am I supposed to park the caaar in this, he kept asking. Eventually we found a spot and Roy went off to attend to his business. The rain had cleared everyone out; I had the streets to myself. When I looked up, because of the density of the rainfall and the streetlights, the air had become a viscous, golden liquid. I saw a gargoyle which someone had put on the edge of a roof, and we locked eyes briefly. He reminded me of the k******s, from the last safe house, a little. For just a moment I felt all of the time that’s passed me. He was gurgling, spilling the rainwater down his chin, all over himself.


I went for a curry last night, with Roy of course. We were kept inside by the rain all day, and he seemed to suffer for it. Therefore, as soon as the sky cleared, we headed into Skärhamn for dinner. Roy insisted that the restaurant might be unlicensed and so, not taking any risks, he took a 20 pack of Carlsberg pilsners with him. We sat outside, over the harbour, and watched the sun sink, turning orange and flattening against the sky, until Roy couldn’t stand it anymore.


Patrick Vieira came up in conversation today, as we were cycling down the coast, this time to Klädesholmen. I had asked Roy what sort of music he likes. Klädesholmen is the herring capital of Sweden, resting just off Tjörn in the North Sea. They catch thousands of tons of the stuff every year and haul it back to the island. I suppose it all gets pickled on the mainland. I wanted to rent kayaks and push out into the open water, but Roy said there wasn’t enough money in our travel budget. He suggested going swimming instead, so I said we should just go and get a drink. I have noticed that Roy doesn’t make eye contact when he’s talking to me, but at the end of a sentence he will. He looks up from the middle distance and sort of peers at me. I asked him why there were so many windmills in this country, far more than I have ever seen in one place. Roy Keane just replied that he has always seen windmills as his greatest foes. Hatred is the word, said Roy, and he peered at me.


Early in the afternoon, Roy Keane took me out to rent bikes. He told me that we were cycling up the coast of the island to Pilane—this trip has been quite relentless. He wanted to visit a Neolithic burial ground, which I didn’t think would be to my taste. Roy insisted, however, and soon we were cycling along the coastal road into a headwind. As we got close to Pilane I asked Roy if he was excited to see the stone circles. He didn’t look up and just said, no, not really. Soon we were walking through the windswept grass around the stones. Roy told me to get close to the standing stones and listen to them, because generations of great men had been cremated and then buried beneath them, but the crickets chirping in the grass were deafening. Their collective hum filled the valley where the stones stood and it was all I could hear.


Listening to Roy Keane explain how ridiculous it was that the days should be shorter here, in Sweden, than they were in Dublin at the same time of year, my mind started to wander. Autumn seemed to have arrived just as I landed in Copenhagen, with its distinctive, lovely smell. Now we were driving north to the island of Tjörn, where Roy had booked a cabin. He hadn’t stopped talking. As I said, there’s no reasonable explanation for it, why can’t the sun stay out for two more hours—it’s two hours, for crying out loud. He gestured out of the window dismissively. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but the sky seemed to be massive here. What’s more, it seemed to change every minute, which I had first noticed in Gothenburg. The clouds swirled and gathered and left just as quickly. The rain was heavy—like I’d never experienced—but always brief, abrupt. I’ve never been this far north in Europe, to tell you the truth. Roy was still talking, his black eyes glued to the road, his knuckles white on the steering wheel. There’s an explanation, he said, there’s no doubt in my mind, the sun is just lazy. He tapped out his cigarette on the dashboard, a full-stop, and gunned the engine.


Kindly excuse yesterday’s overlong entry, dear reader. It was just one of those days. Now, I think it’s time to elaborate on my situation. The safe house in England was compromised, so I have been moved to Sweden by my editors. Moreover, they have sent Roy Keane to accompany me for the duration of the trip. They believe these measures to be sufficient, in terms of keeping me safe. Today we are in Gothenburg, having arrived late last night. Roy took me to an art gallery. I tried to find out more about our itinerary, but he got very exasperated and told me to just relax and enjoy myself. Right, he said, let’s find a bar.


Chapter 2: in which Mister Pickle wakes up on a plane, which is about to land in Copenhagen, and from there he travels to Gothenburg, Tjörn, Borås, and Älmhult. At least, that’s my itinerary as he explained it to me. I heard an announcement to do with a descent, Copenhagen, and seat belts, and I opened my eyes. The dull scream of the engines and a glance outside confirmed it—I was on a plane. For the first time since the w*r, no less. The seat next to me was empty, and the lady in the aisle seat was asleep. No answers there. The last thing I remembered was the safe house. Waking up in the night and being terrified. Someone came up the stairs, he said he was taking me away. I was still in my pyjamas and I didn’t want to get dressed or go with him. He said, stop being so lazy. But who was he? The name was on the tip of my tongue when, from the aisle, I heard a man shout, in a thick Irish accent, what are you doing, woman, stop being so lazy. The sleeping lady woke up and quickly moved to let Man United legend Roy Keane into his seat, next to me. He didn’t seem shocked to see me awake. He leaned in to confide in me that he never slept more than two hours a week and that he couldn’t stand laziness. He smelled like he had just had a cigarette. I asked him what day it was. He said Thursday, which didn’t make sense so I asked him for the date. When I heard it was the 5th of September I was concerned because, truly, the last thing I could remember was being bundled into a car by Roy Keane on the 23rd of August. I have lost 13 days, dear reader. Let me know if you find them. When I asked Roy Keane about them, he told me to stop all that nonsense. I was about to press the matter, but a flight attendant arrived with Roy’s piña colada, even though the seatbelt sign was on and we seemed to be minutes from landing. Roy tasted it and said, without looking up at him, a piña colada is made with orange juice, what did you make this with? It tastes very straaange. Actually, said the flight attendant, a piña colada is made with pineapple–but Roy Keane cut him off. He said, maybe you should think about winning a Premier League title before you tell me how to make a piña colada? The flight attendant ran off to assume his position for landing. Roy winked at me and sipped his cocktail.


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope is unavailable at this time. Please direct any questions, astrological or otherwise, to your second choice psychic.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope is unavailable at this time. Please direct any questions, astrological or otherwise, to your second choice psychic.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope is unavailable at this time. Please direct any questions, astrological or otherwise, to your second choice psychic.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope is unavailable at this time. Please direct any questions, astrological or otherwise, to your second choice psychic.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope is unavailable at this time. Please direct any questions, astrological or otherwise, to your second choice psychic.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope is unavailable at this time. Please direct any questions, astrological or otherwise, to your second choice psychic.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope is unavailable at this time. Please direct any questions, astrological or otherwise, to your second choice psychic.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope is unavailable at this time. Please direct any questions, astrological or otherwise, to your second choice psychic.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope is unavailable at this time. Please direct any questions, astrological or otherwise, to your second choice psychic.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope is unavailable at this time. Please direct any questions, astrological or otherwise, to your second choice psychic.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope is unavailable at this time. Please direct any questions, astrological or otherwise, to your second choice psychic.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope is unavailable at this time. Please direct any questions, astrological or otherwise, to your second choice psychic.]


I woke up moments ago, in the middle of the night. Despite the days of warm weather, my bedroom was suddenly as cold as a fridge. I heard a heavy crunch from the driveway, biting through the nighttime silence. Another car. Naturally, I was afraid that it was S*****n I*****d, the wellspring of all my trouble. I can hear multiple voices, and one shouts, Pickle, you slippery fucker! The accent is unmistakably Irish. The front door opens and I hear him shout something else but I can’t decipher it. He can surely hear the sound of my keyboard. I would have left sooner but I wanted to say goodbye.


Pleasant sunlight has filled the valley today, submerging it. I am struggling to maintain my train of thought, or even to keep track of it, because it seems to have become independent of me. Who was Mister Pickle before he came to this place? Leave a comment below with your theory.


Excellent news, dear reader. I have solved my sleeping problem. I found some bird seed and dried mice in a cupboard, and since feeding them, the k******s haven’t bothered me at all. I put on some rubber gloves and filled up a small bucket, which I took to the bottom of the garden. First, one k*****l stopped circling and dived towards me and my bucket like a Stuka. The others followed one by one. Soon the trees were full of them, feasting. I was glad to be wearing the gloves because the whole thing felt very hygienic. Once they were all fed I thought about trying the door again.


Last night wasn’t a good one. Maybe it was the k******s squawking all night. More likely is that I couldn’t sleep because of that door at the bottom of the garden. It’s set in the wall, and the dense and twisty nature of the trees in that part of the garden makes it impossible to know where it might lead. Honestly, it could open onto anything. I think about it more frequently every day. Other than being a little overgrown, I don’t think the door is even locked.


Kindness is the last thing I associate with my editors. However, I am beginning to enjoy life in this odd little house, which they prepared for me. It is unbelievably quiet at night. The cupboards are well-stocked. Above all, the garden is fantastically mysterious. (There is a door set in the wall, at the bottom of the garden.) I spend most of my time out there, now, walking among the plants.


Confusion is the first thing I associate with the act of remembering. Somehow the events which make up my life are the most confusing things in the world to me. Memories become painful over time, or they become fuzzy., but this doesn’t correspond to how you experienced them. Maybe it’s to do with how you treat them—how they end up being preserved, for instance as something you have to squint at. The place is also significant. Certain memories can be consumed by their location. The people and the events just get eaten up by this glowing place. I was on the run once before, when I lived in Whitechapel in ’88, but I can’t remember the details.

“It” is raining, or possibly “it is raining.”


Placed on hiatus! My outrage is fathoms deep. Apparently, I gave away too much information in my last few horoscopes, relating to my location. The landscape, the k******s, the car journey—none of it’s good. As if writing this bloody column wasn’t hard enough. All of this was explained to me in another letter.


[Forgive the interruption: Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope has been placed on hiatus.]


Everything is coming to a head, again. I am in hiding—on the lam, if you will. I have also just done a bit of mental arithmetic and it turns out that tomorrow, August 15th, will be marked by the 100th entry in Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope. I need to have a think about how best to commemorate the occasion.


Luke Shaw kept me up last night. On the one hand United have strengthened massively at the back. Maguire can move across to cover the left wing. Shaw should accrue far more clean sheets and assists than last season. He’s still keeping me awake. As for Wilf Zaha, I’m truly afraid that he’s just going to stop playing for Hodgson. These are troubling times, dear reader. I have little doubt that my fantasy team’s performance will be a factor in the events to come.


Kestrels are hovering above the house. They dip into the fields and usually emerge empty-handed. I had a notion that they were extinct, but obviously not here. I have been out in the garden since the weather improved. It’s all topiary, twisted trees, vines up the brick walls. I mowed the lawn, because it felt appropriate. Now I’m having a tea. It’s excruciating, waiting like this for S*****n I*****d or God knows who to show up. It’s quite the pickle I find myself in.


Codes and ciphers are not my forte. Even so, I recognise a letter from my editors when I see one. Tonight will be my third night in this strange house, away from home. They have sent me out of London to a valley, which I discovered by looking out of the upstairs windows and seeing nothing but lush, sloping fields at all sides of the house—a safe house, I hope? Their letter, among its many implications, suggests that there has been a credible threat to my safety and that I have been moved as a precaution. Like bringing in the outdoors furniture before it rains. It is, however, impossible to know how long my exile will last. Above all, it is impossible to know whether I am really safe here.

If in doubt, paddle out.


Pickle! He said. Wake up! I kept my eyes closed, though. I could hear rain on the roof of the car. I could tell we had stopped, and through my eyelids I could sense it was dawn, or probably later. I think it had been raining in my dream, too. I kept my eyes firmly shut, until the driver crunched over to my door and dragged me out onto the wet gravel. I opened my eyes and said, sorry, were you trying to wake me. He led me into a house which stood alone in a large, walled garden, which was well-tended, and over which storm clouds had gathered. It was impossible to discern the time of day. He led me down the carpeted hallway to the kitchen. He pointed out to me that there was an envelope on the table, and then he walked back outside, opened the gate for his car, and drove off.


Evacuating the children of the Blitz was, logistically, one of the great feats of the Second World War. Millions of refugee children left London to be re-homed. It was called Operation Pied Piper. This was appropriate because Winston Churchill personally led the evacuation, playing his recorder non-stop on the train. In His memory, the recorder joined the national curriculum for every child in every primary school in Britain. God bless Sir Winston and his trademark recorder. All this to say: I have left London. A car came for me in the dead of night and the phone rang. A voice said, come downstairs there’s a car here for you. I was afraid, of course. You know me by now. I came downstairs in my dressing gown to an idling black car on the empty street. The driver said, you were told to be ready for this. You were told a thousand times. Why are you in your pyjamas? I was flustered and didn’t say anything. I do not know the roads in London very well, but soon we were outside of her and steaming north on deserted roads.


Lots to do, my esteemed readers. I have a habit of writing to-do lists on the back of my hand, and, at present, the list is as long as my arm. I have spoken to you about some of my conundrums, and I have not about others. I think the common trait, right the way down the list, is that these are problems which I am too embarrassed to address. In other words, to try to fix them would be to risk too much. Being risk averse is different to being cowardly. I wish I could talk to you about all of this, dear reader, but the editors have their own list, as you well know. I can’t help feeling like you could solve all of this for me, if I could just talk to you.


Koscielny is off to Bordeaux, I think. The last of the old guard. Over the last few days a queasy, paralysing anxiety has come onto me. It’s like seasickness. I distrust the ground under my feet.


Coming back to the weather, it rained a little last night. Now, however, the temperature is high and the air dry. I am becoming anxious at the prospect of another drought. What would that mean for us? Who knows what the future holds.


I have not received any complaints from the editors—maybe I’m in the clear? I largely kept the spine of the team, as I saw it—Ederson, van Dijk, Pogba—and I certainly wish I got Salah. But the blueprints were very specific. I wish I were braver than this.


Please standby for Mister Pickle’s final Fantasy Football squad of 15: Ederson; Patricio; van Dijk; Laporte; Chilwell; Shaw; Vertonghen; Pogba; Zaha; Barkley; Mkhitaryan; Iwobi; Deeney; Ings; Murray. Plus two pending transfers: Pépé in, Iwobi out; Ndombele in; Mkitaryan out. Maybe I didn’t achieve the form my editors preferred. I don’t think I care.


Exciting times, dear reader. Tomorrow is draft day. It might not be my team anymore, or my personal joy, but still I find myself at the bottom of a deep well of excitement. Competition, football, gambling—these are life’s great thrills.


Lighten up, dear reader. I just got back from my GP where I learned that I am not dying! A few days ago I found a lump on my personage. You never know with these things, and I will admit that I feared the worst. However, after extensive testing, I now know that it was just my old nemesis, the kidney stone, rearing its ugly head. I’ll have that pissed out in no time. What’s more, my GP told me that he has never seen a healthier lower intestine. He told me he’d never guess that it was home to thousands of ravenous worms just two months ago—if he hadn’t known, that is.



Closure has been on my mind lately. How do you end a thing? When death is staring you in the face. I have gotten myself into another jam, dear reader, and this one might be my last.


I love all my readers equally. I just realised that we are coming to the end of the month, and I wanted to check in on you all. I started my sentence at this publication on the 7th of May, nearly ninety days ago now. Plain kayaking, it has not been. I have been bullied, threatened, penned in creatively. All the same, I love you all. Whatever happens next, I love you all.


People who don’t take me seriously do so at their peril. Welcome back to the daily horrorscope. It’s been too long since I was last in London. It’s been too long since I was last outside. I deeply miss it. I should explain that I am spending a few weeks to the west of London, and, if you travel west of Teddington Lock, the Thames is no longer tidal. It’s just a river, sans salt. It’s shit. I wish I had known this before making my summer plans.


Everything seems to have changed in the course of a week, the most notable change happening in our leadership. From the rumblings that have been emanating from my loo, I have inferred that Boris is the new Prime Minister. Good for him. People in this country take the piss out of him, presumably for his weird blond hair and his pink, puffy face. I, on the other hand, think he’s proven himself a thousand times over as a mentor and a champion. I will admit to being surprised that he is a Tory, but I certainly feel more secure knowing that Britain will be in capable German hands at last. Good luck Boris, wir unterstützen Sie alle.


Late last night, the heavens opened. Thank fuck.


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope has been crippled by the drought of the summer of 2019, which lasted 10 days.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope has been crippled by the drought of the summer of 2019, which lasted 10 days.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope has been crippled by the drought of the summer of 2019, which lasted 10 days.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope has been crippled by the drought of the summer of 2019, which lasted 10 days.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope has been crippled by the drought of the summer of 2019, which lasted 10 days.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope has been crippled by the drought of the summer of 2019, which lasted 10 days.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope has been crippled by the drought of the summer of 2019, which lasted 10 days.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope has been crippled by the drought of the summer of 2019, which lasted 10 days.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope has been crippled by the drought of the summer of 2019, which lasted 10 days.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope has been crippled by the drought of the summer of 2019, which lasted 10 days.]


Kelly and Donen’s Singin’ in the Rain is my last pick. A classic.


Coming in at a close second is Das Boot. All three of my picks will be films, because I cannot stand music.


I have to pick Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, directed by Gurinder Chadha. As close to a perfect film as I’ve ever seen. Lindsay is such a slag.


Pickle’s top three desert island discs—coming up.


Each horoscope is stretched thinner than the last. Resources are dwindling. Need to get back to the big smoke.


Love Island doesn’t appeal to me for one simple reason: it hits too close to home. Here I am, trapped indoors over the summer, producing endless horoscopes when I’d much rather be out kayaking. I’m nagged endlessly by my editors, just as the Islanders are by their producers. It’s a lot like living in a fish tank, but I can’t even see out of it. Amy quit the villa yesterday. It’s certainly food for thought.


Kayaking weather. That’s what my grandfather always called this. Makes you just want to hop on the Thames, or the Donau, or your local reservoir. Just you, a tiny fibreglass boat, and a paddle. Of course, back in his day the kayaks were made from wood, and the Thames was infested with sharks and totally impassable.


Close, humid air has settled over London. It shows no signs of dissipating.


It feels strange to write to you, after all this time. No envelope from my employers today. I assume the list of draftees is finished. What sort of team is this? Why must it take this specific form? The purpose is surely sinister. Good night, dear reader.

Pep’s prodigal son, Raheem Sterling.
Eric Dier, I love Eric Dier.
Laporte, another one.
Kyle Walker, I suppose City defenders are a good option.
Chilwell, a good attacking LB.
I’ll take Mané too, why not.
PFA Player of the Season, Virgil van Dijk.
Everyone’s favourite LB, Andy Robertson.
Leroy Sané, sort of the opposite issue.
Kanté, same issue.
Cesar Azpilicueta, nailed-on at Chelsea but also nailed-on at Chelsea.
I wouldn’t mind Mo Salah too.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, joint top scorer last time round.
Eriksen, assuming he stays put too.
London’s Thames Barrier, strong defensively I suppose.
Kevin De Bruyne, as close to nailed-on as a City player can be.
Crystal Palace’s Wilf Zaha.
Iwobi, not sure about this one.
Pogba, assuming he stays put.
Ederson, would’ve been my first choice anyway.
Leno, a good back-up keeper.
Kane, I presume.


Circumstances have changed. The editors will be choosing my fantasy football team for me. I have been told to wait for their first inclusion, which will arrive in the post tomorrow.


I have been keeping my eye on the sky, studying it for change, and although the rain has eased a little it remains a saturated grey. Impassive. In every sense an astrologer’s nightmare. Why did I ever move to London? Tomorrow I will take the day to plan my fantasy football team for next season. I will admit to being a little excited.


Pickle is both a noun and a verb. It is also my name. Welcome back to my daily horoscope. London has been caught in a truly relentless deluge for almost 5 days. Perhaps it is for our sins. 35 more days and I suppose we’ll see. I don’t understand where I stand with this whole S*****n I*****d business. My employers have reassured me of my next cheque, they even seem happy with my work. On the other hand, I have hardly been an honest employee, and former professional footballer S*****n I*****d has taken notice and made numerous threats. Maybe he doesn’t work for the editors at all. I seem to be in a strange state, between worrying about this case and ignoring it. I thought I was a man of action but I cannot seem to take this on. Waters are closing in.


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope has been suspended due to bad weather.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope has been suspended due to bad weather.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope has been suspended due to bad weather.]


[Mister Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope has been suspended due to bad weather.]


Everything changes: to understand that is to be at peace. Shelter doesn’t last and the elements are immutable. For every accolade-filled season at M*n C**y, you’ll spend 2 months at B****n W*******s and have your contract terminated. I remembered something interesting about S*****n I*****d today. When David Silva came back to football in 2017 after his botched hair transplant, he sported a shaved head and beard. Looking like that, he wheeled in midfield, split defences, and suddenly S*****n I*****d was back. Now, David Silva has grown his hair back out, leaving me with a pressing question: where is S *****n I*****d now?


Lots of progress to report, dear reader. Lots. Today I found out that S*****n I*****d was the 2009 Player of the Season at C**y. I also found out that he is I***h! Additionally, according to Wikipedia he has ‘a number of tattoos including a pair of angel’s wings on his back.’ At least it’s something to go on. He’s a very reclusive man—information about him is scarce and nothing I have uncovered so far explains why he won’t stop calling me. I have stopped answering his calls, but today’s voicemail was, in its choice of tone and imagery, no less disturbing than yesterday’s. I keep my phone on do not disturb, so I can’t even imagine how the messages would sound with normal settings. Nevertheless, I remain undaunted.


King’s Cross was once a village, Battlebridge, named such because of an ancient battle which took place on an ancient bridge there, between the Romans and the Iceni. The bridge doesn’t exist anymore because the River Fleet doesn’t exist anymore—not to you and me. It became London’s largest subterranean river, a sewer, and no one has thought of it or fought over it in centuries. I plan to visit King’s Cross today. I am preparing to do battle, after all. What more appropriate action can I take?


Conspiracy is not my forte. Conspiracy against my own employers, no less. This case is fraught with risks and I have spent two days pondering how best to proceed. S*****n I*****d is my best—and only—lead. To know how he’s mixed up in all this and why he is threatening me would be to understand the case, at least in part. If I’m the blind man groping the elephant in John Godfrey Saxe’s poem, then S*****n I*****d is the creature’s trunk or, alternatively, a snake. A snake who came to me in a Garden. God, I hate the uncertainty of it all.


I don’t understand, I said. Why would a former professional footballer like you be calling me, S*****n I*****d? Listen, Pickle, he growled through the phone. I eat nobodies like you for lunch. We know exactly what you’re doing, we know you’ve been asking questions. Stay away from this, Pickle. And with that, he hung up. I kept the phone against my ear for a while longer. The Garden hummed around me and the irrigation pipes creaked a little. At last. I had a lead.


Pleasant, even tropical weather has done little to improve my state of mind today. I found myself at the Barbican, walking quite aimlessly through the Conservatory. Broke, embarrassed, and caught in a conspiracy to boot. I think I had decided the heat outdoors wasn’t punishing enough. I wanted to sweat, and the Conservatory would be relentlessly, artificially humid. Besides which, it’s only open once a week. So there I was, salt water beading in my every pore. The whole space was so bright, for obvious reasons, and I felt caught in it. A little like the tiger in ‘Tiger in a Tropical Storm’ by Henri Rousseau. Humidity tends to bring out the colours in everything. I am trying to describe a religious experience, because suddenly my phone started to ring. I stopped to answer it, under the bright ceiling and the cascading plants. The voice that came through was called S*****n I*****d, and he cracked the thing wide open.


Every day a new humiliation. On to the second final: Liverpool vs. Spurs for the Champions League. I staked my most recent pay cheque—the whole thing, mind—on Spurs winning and Kane netting a brace on his return. As it stands, at full-time, Liverpool scored twice, unanswered. Kane looked dull for 90 minutes, Salah no brighter. I think the age-old footballing wisdom might be true: you never really recover from kidney stones. I have written to the editors, asking for an advance on my next paycheck, and to Harry Kane for a written apology. I doubt either will arrive.


Let’s discuss the first of two finals: RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11. First, however, allow me to dedicate today’s horoscope to the invincible José Antonio Reyes. I have never enjoyed the lip sync part of Drag Race, but Yvie Oddly’s three live performances exuded something truly dignified and completely insoluble. Never in my life have I seen someone so in control of a situation, let alone a situation like the Lip Sync, which to me is so loud and humiliating. She just stood there, the master of it all. My employers are intent upon humiliating me. At least, that is my current theory. Having never met them, even after all this time, at my wits’ end, I decided to reach out to some of the other freelance writers in their employ. Most of them were not in the phone book. Those who actually existed had no memory of ever writing for a publication called the Half Masked Gazette. How could they have forgotten? I would certainly remember dealing with these cruel and unusual editors. Perhaps they are lying. Perhaps someone put the fear of God into them.


Knowledge is knowing that the Garden of Eden doesn’t correspond to any real location. Wisdom is knowing that, if it did, you’d get to it on the Docklands Light Railway.


Chelsea F. C.—a phrase which here means a loose collection of unlikable footballers bound together by an oligarch and the absence of a consistent footballing philosophy. Maurizio Sarri stands out as the one compelling, charismatic figure out of the bunch, which at least explains why the fans want him gone so urgently. I hope Eden Hazard is banished soon, for what he did today. I hope he is banished like we all were from his eponymous garden. Here’s a horoscope for you, Eden—you wasted the best years of your career at a shit football club.


If I have made one crucial discovery about London, it is that everything and everyone here exists in the enormous shadow cast by Arsène Wenger. Has it been a year, now, since he left English football? No, because he will never leave. Wenger has not been sighted in a year, and yet he looms large. I truly believe that I will never witness another team of Invincibles. When a Londoner closes their eyes, they see a 19 year-old Jack Wilshere bossing the 2011 Barcelona midfield, and they feel the accompanying sensation of joy or terror. They see United paying a reported sum of £180 million for Sanchez. They see the Emirates Stadium materialise, out of the earth. Arsène Wenger was a magician, or an alchemist. He changed the foundations of this city, its skyline too. His team were gradually worn down but he never stopped showing us glimpses, which were startlingly clear, of something else. The rhythm behind everything. For a moment, he alone could part the vinegar-fog that hangs over this city, to show us the beyond. I suspect that is far more important than winning, but God I hope Chelsea lose tomorrow.


Packing up my shh and I’m going real far/ Going off to Hollywood to be a big star / It’s nothing here for me so I gotta move fast / And I’m getting on the road and won’t never look back / Hey… These were the words Theresa May delivered outside Downing Street, signalling her intention to resign by the 7th of June. I spoke a little yesterday about acclimating to this strange country; nothing has taken more getting used to than the PM’s refusal to issue statements in any form other than flat, a capella samples of noughties pop songs. As far as I am aware this is not an imposition of the constitution, nor is there any precedent for it. Perhaps any native Brits could shed some more light on this? Whatever its mandate, I have become used to the PM’s strange habit. In fact, I suspect I will miss it. In the drab world of Westminster, Theresa May was a colourful song bird. No doubt her successor will return to convention, which I believe is to deliver public statements by shouting a short message into the sewage water at Greenwich Pumping Station, which then reverberates throughout London, and then Britain, emanating faintly from our toilet bowls. I, for one, am not thrilled. This system has been redundant since the invention of the radio. Some things seem to be quite exempt from the rate of change around here. This ends today’s horoscope—good night, London. Dream big.


Excuse my absence, please, dear reader. I spent my weekend in bliss, which is indescribable, and so I found myself with nothing to write about in a horoscope. Effectively, time was suspended. Would you ask a painter to paint what he cannot see, or a forensic pathologist to examine someone who isn’t dead? Nevertheless, I apologise. A series of threatening faxes from my employers awoke me and drew me back into reality. Time has recommenced, and so too can my horoscopes. Now, I find myself going through the process of reacclimating to these strange waters. It rains, lightly, outside my window as I write—there has been a two-day drought—and petrichor rises hundreds of metres from the dusty roads. The city envelopes me. In the words of a motivational bus stop ad I saw today: FLOAT FOR YOUR LIFE. If you fall into water, fight your instinct to swim until the cold water shock passes. Words to live by.


[Mister Pickle seems to have taken an unexpected and unearned leave of absence. Please accept this apology in place of your daily horoscope.]


[Mister Pickle seems to have taken an unexpected and unearned leave of absence. Please accept this apology in place of your daily horoscope.]


Lots of things have come to a head for me today, and now I feel myself in a sort of vacuum, a post-everything. I don’t know how I feel in this strange space. Therefore, I’d rather talk about the weather, which, happily, is present and clear to me. It has been sunny for most of today, but the light is still vaguely wintry. Even approaching midday, the sun, bright as she may be, remains low in the sky. It’s the sort of light that you squint into. The sort of light that makes it impossible to identify the person walking towards you on the pavement, until they’re just a few metres away and, shielding your eyes, you suddenly realise it’s a childhood friend of yours. But it’s too late to say hello so you just pretend to squint even harder into the light, screwing up your face into a mask of indifference. They walk right past you. Then, of course, you remember that he died, that particular childhood friend, decades ago. You realise that it was just his doppelgänger or maybe a malignant spirit, and you really received a lucky break from the wintry sunshine. Thank you for reading today’s horoscope.


Kunst. Fine Art. As a man of action, I don’t see much merit in it. Art objects aren’t functional and, above all, they’re almost never edible. I hope that my legacy will be something concrete, something nourishing. When I was a boy, I lived in a town with a famous, virtually mythic sweet factory. Not a single person, however, had been allowed inside in my lifetime. No one even knew how the place could operate—who worked there? Then, quite spontaneously, the owner held a sort of competition. The winners would tour the factory. Winning one of those tickets was the happiest moment of my young life, but it was hardly a shock, considering the sheer mass of chocolate I consumed at that age. That tour, that factory and its eccentric owner, are etched into my memory in filmic detail. Stalin, of course, would go on to ban chocolate in the ’50s, and that grand place slid into disrepair. I have been thinking a lot about memory, recently. I’ll never forget a great man like the factory owner, or indeed Stalin, who waged war against him.


Crossing the road outside my flat today, I had to hurry at the sound of sirens. First a police car screamed past, then a police van, then at least six more sirens passed me in a few seconds. Everything around me, particularly the sound of this city, seems to be building to a crescendo. Each time I ride the tube my train seems to plunge deeper into the earth, each time excavating further. I don’t know what I will find. I will find it soon. DREAD isn’t the right word, but it is a fantastic word. Monosyllabic and somehow felt. It sounds something like DREDGE to my ear, although of course they mean completely different things. DREAD is a noun and a verb, whereas DREDGE only is a verb. To DREDGE. To be DREDGED.


Israel is now on my list of banned topics. Allow me to explain: every week the editors send me a revised list of subjects which are off-limits. It comes in the post, a brown envelope with no return address. The list, like my address, is typed, and other than by inference I suppose I have no way of knowing that it is from my employers. The list isn’t new every week—only updated. One week, for instance, the subject of ‘dreams and anything related to sleep’ might be forbidden; the next week perfectly permissible. There are many constant features of the list, which I am not brave enough to disclose. When you begin to know a city, to understand its geography, the result is a kind of Gothic romance. It will resemble, as Emily Brontë wrote, ‘the eternal water table beneath.’ Beneath us and within us, all at once. A long time ago I was a p***t—and the editors did strictly forbid me from discussing that—and my focus, my concerns, were entirely aerial. Now I only feel connected to something deep in the earth, relating to salt and stone.


Pickled herring—where can you find it but Ikea? Today I visited the Ikea store in North Greenwich to receive my monthly dose of pure Swedish culture. I ate their meatballs. I got anxious navigating their busy showrooms. I must have come close to dislocating my shoulder carrying my shopping home. I am not being dramatic when I say that I would—and have—put my body in harm’s way for Ikea. I bought everything in sight in an effort to take the whole place, the whole experience, home to reassemble. If they sold jars of that cinnamon-scented air then I’d buy a crate of them. As a side note: while I was in North Greenwich I saw signs for something called the Thames Barrier. I intend to investigate further.


Exhausted—that was your favourite clairvoyant after yesterday’s happenings. So much so that I delayed publishing this horoscope until today. My deepest apologies for leaving you all rudderless for 24 hours. Now to explain: I lost a bad amount of money on the FA Cup final. Who could have predicted six-nil? After the full-time whistle, I think I must have had a minor psychotic break due to the stress of it all. I hallucinated that, for the first time in my life, I watched the Eurovision Song Contest, live on TV. However, dear reader, this was no ordinary programme. It was as if my aerial was picking up its signal from another reality. First of all, at least half the run time was just a hypnotic inducement to visit Israel, possibly comparable to a fever dream Richard the Lionheart would’ve had. The strangeness escalated whenever one of the presenters came on stage. I would bet my life’s savings that none of them had worked in television before yesterday night. Or had spoken English. Or had spoken to a human. Overall, it was a very bold artistic choice. Then Madonna and the Icelandic act staged two independent pro-Palestine protests. If anything, this seemed to make the presenters less flustered. So that was my first time “watching” Eurovision. I just wish I’d managed to stay conscious for the actual show. For those of you who did, how was it? That’s definitely enough about Eurovision and Israel. Tomorrow I will be exercising my right to return to the regularly scheduled horoscope format.


Leeds won’t be promoted and the day is mercifully overcast. Welcome back to Mr. Pickle’s General Daily Horoscope. The Lewisham air has exercised its fabled healing properties and I finally feel ready to return to society. With a clear head and a colon clear of parasites, no less! Never take your health for granted, dear reader. Now that my body has been returned to me I feel as though I can navigate this murky, underwater city. I can do anything. This job, writing daily horoscopes for faceless employers, might in fact be a blessing, rather than a curse. I would be more confident in this assertion if it weren’t for the snakes. To any native Londoners, is it normal to regularly find venomous snakes in one’s flat?


Kit proclaims the man. That’s what the postman said when he delivered a hotly anticipated parcel to my address: a replica 1996 England away shirt. The same shirt that the English wore when they beat the Germans, my countrymen, in the Euro 96 semi-finals. This was, of course, a pivotal moment in the tournament which England would go on to win. In the words of Joni Mitchell in that song from Love Actually, I’ve seen that semi-final from both sides now. First from under the crushing weight of sour, acidic sorrow. Now suddenly with a sense of national pride. At the time, I had never seen the first twelve shots in a penalty shootout find the net. But somehow England matched each move. Shearer, Platt, Pearce, Gascoigne, Sheringham, Southgate. We were watching a harrowing poker game. After Southgate called their bluff for the sixth time, who could blame the Mannschaft for folding? I plan to don my new shirt as a symbol—a reclamation of my failures but also a tribute to the great Terry Venables and the great Gareth Southgate. In other words, my immersion in English culture continues.


Croatia have never won the World Cup. That’s not relevant to the rest of today’s horoscope, but it is important. I am spending today and tomorrow in Lewisham, on the instructions of my GP. Something to do with the air down here, and recuperating. The weather has remained fair but I’m not sure that I feel relaxed, like I should feel. My stomach remains tightly knotted. I have managed to venture outside but after my isolation everything is too bright and too loud. I am writing this horoscope next to a fountain, but the gushing, dark green water unsettles me. The sun is so bright. Believe it or not, valued reader, these horoscopes go through hours of astrological fine-tuning and dozens of handwritten drafts before publication. Right now I can barely see the paper in front of me, let alone the words I think I’m writing. Everything has become over-exposed. I wish it would rain.


If today’s weather were a Bourbon monarch, it would be Louis XIV—The Sun King. I haven’t ventured outside, of course. I am still recovering from a condition my GP called, ‘the most worms I’ve ever found in a person.’ Nevertheless, the weather has buoyed my mood considerably. Outside my window the sun shines on the city like a symbol meaning decadence. Everything has been bathed in its golden, malt vinegar light. A woman is sitting out on her balcony. That hasn’t happened once since I moved here. I am beginning to think I will like London in the summer. Today, for the first time, she is well-seasoned.


Please excuse the brevity of today’s horoscope. I have fallen ill. I suspect that, upon receiving my new contract yesterday, I celebrated a little too hard. I drank two full pints of river water, and for once it didn’t seem to agree with me. All I want is to fit in with these Londoners, to submerge myself in their culture. Despite my efforts, my body has betrayed me and it has rejected their salt blood. Or perhaps the city has rejected me. Today is the thirteenth day, meaning DEATH. I feel sick to my stomach. I feel like death.


Everything has led us here: to Super Sunday. For around twenty minutes Klopp’s men had done it. They were one-nil up and City were drawing, then losing, then drawing. Brighton really don’t score a lot, and for those twenty minutes I felt the Champions League frisson returning. In the end, Klopp bottled it, just like Solskjaer whose men lost again, two-nil to Cardiff. They are a pair of bottlers, probably on a genetic level. That leads me to some good news, however: Mesdames et Messieurs, the editors have allowed me to keep my job. Negotiations passed fever-pitch and entered a higher, inaudible frequency. My path was slick, treacherous, and green with moss or something. My livelihood and my new life in London were on the line. Like most in my profession, I loathe uncertainty. And then the letter came, from our gracious editors, with a revised contract. Their motives for keeping me on at this publication remain a little unclear to me. I suspect that the pair were simply impressed by my aggressive approach to contract negotiations. Please expect a very different, more financially satisfied Mister Pickle from this moment forward.


London. ‘The Pickled Apple’. ‘The City that Sleeps at Night-time’. At night the traffic here becomes homogeneous. A caravan of Toyota Prii wind up and down the city, like a wagon train to the frontier. They cross and recross the Thames. Every ten minutes or so there’s an ambulance, of course, but as soon as it has passed, the hybrids will take back up their never-ending journey. Did you know that Uber insist that their drivers are independent contractors rather than employees? It’s strange that semantics can affect a person’s quality of life. I only mention this fraught topic because of my current employment situation; the charmless editors who run this publication make Uber and their cronies look quite angelic. I have been penned in, chained up, and milked like a mystic cow. Their phone calls are particularly jarring—I suspect they speak into the receiver in unison, possibly using a voice modulator. I receive cryptic instructions in the post nearly every day, but I have yet to receive a CHEQUE. At one point they had the gall to ask me to talk less about football. I might be nearing the end of my tenure here at the Half Masked Gazette, but I choose to see that tenure as a mask half-full, as opposed to a mask half-empty. Good night, London.


K as in Knausgaard. K as in Karl Ove. Tonight, the legendary Norwegian author spoke at the British Museum on the topic of Edvard Munch. Yours truly was lucky enough to be in attendance. Karl Ove Knausgaard spoke with the same diplomacy, the same effortless charm, and the same abrupt syllables as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, although maybe I just haven’t met enough Norwegians in my lifetime to notice their differences. Like the embattled United manager, Knausgaard seemed deliberate in every word he chose, pausing between them as if the wrong one could mean unemployment. During the Q&A section, a lady in the audience said something along the lines of: ‘Norwegians are famous for their silences.’ Perhaps to Knausgaard, to Munch, and to Solskaer, silences are not silent. They might relate to the act of listening, instead. Munch’s famous existential scream was something that rippled through nature, which somehow only he could hear. If I heard a weird noise, my instinct wouldn’t be to try to depict it in a painting. At one point, Karl Ove performed a reading of the introduction to his new book. As he read he began to rock backward and forward in his chair, where before his body language was, like his words, so controlled. He seemed to be tapping the bassline of the universe.


Coming out of my building today, I was caught in a biblical deluge. London is defined by her relationship with the water—caught between the sea and the sky, between East and West, between salt and fresh. On the Isle of Dogs, the delicious salt spray from the East mingles with the rain, meaning the rain falls both up and down. The city offers a daily baptism to its residents. Today, Spurs have received its blessing: the new White Hart Lane has been christened, and I can announce that I unreservedly endorse them as Champions League winners. Go to your local Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, or William Hill for more information. I am becoming more and more fascinated by the river. It has explained much of the city’s strangeness to me. The people here run on salt blood, mainlined into their veins from the North Sea. My jeans won’t unstick from my thighs. I think we are already drowned. I plan to investigate the river further.


If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times: football is magic. As I predicted, the final will be an English affair. Questions were asked before these two incredible fixtures about Divock Origi and Lucas Moura. Through no fault of their own, guided on celestial strings, the two back-up centre forwards seemed to melt through tackle after tackle. Neither man quite seemed to exist on the pitch. A divine hand molested these otherwise ordinary fixtures. It tweaked the aggregate scorelines, to the delight of this strange country. Of course, its true motives involve a deep-seated hatred of Johan Cruyff. The Camp Nou and the Johan Cruyff Arena have too long stood in defiance of God, like twin Towers of Babel. Klopp is, to me, a German shaman. His gegenpress was dilligently employed, as ever. He channels a once-in-a-generation charisma.


Perhaps none of us belongs here in London. She is inhospitable, or maybe just unseasonable. Under the hot, dense cloud cover of the last few days, I feel myself beginning to ferment. Mo Salah is injured for tonight’s second leg, Kane for tomorrow’s. Things look bleak for the Britons in Europe. To be strictly medical, Salah has been ruled out from facing Barcelona due to new kidney stone protocols. The point is that we are all helpless—dazed by our high salt intakes. She seems to blast us with a hot chemical wind, wherever we might go. Maybe it’s like walking past une launderette and being hit with that lovely smell. Maybe the Romans accidentally built London over a cosmic laundry vent. Come back tomorrow for more disquieting revelations!