Seeking grand-parental advice, Charlotte Rietveld watches the tea leaves being read on the upcoming general election result.

They say only a fool would predict an election outcome. But with Grandad foretelling Judith getting Aturn at the National reins, I’m ever happy to play the fool and take a punt. With Crusher ensconced at the oppositional helm, it was time to once again brew the billy with my unsuspecting Grandfather to see what visions the tea leaves conjured for our nation.

With 98 years worth of grisly tales to tell he’s possibly more of an entrail-stirring type prophet, but with communal blood pressure to consider I figured the rest home matron would frown upon such malarkey.

Channelling Colmar Brunton I politely offered various tea options; “Perhaps you would like green tea? Or a red berry tea?” True to demographic Grandad’s response was unequivocal; “Black tea please”.

Clearly the fortune telling had begun; I immediately disregarded all media proclaiming the demise of Winston.

Barely one sip in and oblivious to my intentions, Grandad was in a reminiscent mood. He began talking about his 1943 war training days in the army. Months spent on sentry duty day and night, awaiting an invisible enemy to New Zealand shores. The threat was submerged back then, airborne these days, but significant either way.

“The Government compulsory conscripted us and we willingly obeyed. We had to stop farm work and take up dull army duties but it was the best thing we could do for the country.”

The tea leaves were surely talking already, providing me a stab of guilt for wavering from the patriotic ‘team of five million’. I translated such talk as a clear nod to a Labour landslide come September.

Half a cup down and tea leaves still swilling, my century-nearing seer was obviously going to keep me guessing; “But I hated the army! So much so, I requested to transfer to the air force at the first opportunity and never looked back”.

Replacing the army’s duty, parades and drill dictatorship, the air force apparently operated under stern, straight-talking leadership that let one think for oneself. Such free market talk invoked visions of Crusher ably piloting a trusty Tiger Moth. Surely invisible undercurrents now had the tea leaves making an unreported rush to the right?

But before I could press the matter, Grandad politely paused to thank me for a lovely cup of tea. “After several months of air force training we were put on a ship that sailed to Canada. On the ship we longed for a decent cup of tea like this. Fresh water was a closely guarded commodity.” Well I’ll be darned if the Beehive-shaped ship wasn’t now lurching to the left. Surely this was a clear sign of the Greens’ ongoing influence?

Unable to contain my confusion I was forced to realign, “who was in government then?”. Grandad replied with an indecipherable “Labour”. Seizing the opportunity, I diverted my glance, desperately trying to be casual while inquiring whether he thought they would get in again this ‘wartime’. He stretched back into his chair and arguably took a quick glance at the tea leaves left in his cup.

“Well” he said “you never can tell until it’s all done and dusted. But the worst never happens”.

And thus, the tea leaves had spoken. Grandad’s far too wise to be drawn into such tomfoolery, but history suggests I’m highly likely to be. Combining tea leaves and technology, I suspect the current polling of a Labour majority government is well off the mark and instead we’re in for a repeat of exactly the same coalition government.

Sneaking in with an ethically sourced 5%, the Greens’ ardent loyalists will see to their second term. ACT will be rewarded with 7% while Labour will slip to 44%. National will shrug off the scandals and slowly grind up to 39% leaving the ol’ dog to decide. Benefitting from last-minute reluctant ‘hand-brakers’, Winston will sneak in and bluff victory.

That, at least, is the optimistic fool’s punt. Reality is pointing to a Labour-Green coalition with their rogue hand-brake long forgotten. With United States-China relations deteriorating by the day and Covid-19 knocking on our door, we’ll be in for dual wars abroad and an anti-farming one at home.

I’ll be ditching the tea for tonic and holding tight that the worst never happens.