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Paul Daniels

a tweet offered a place
a Paul Daniels Master Class
twelve would-be magicians
to spend a day
at his house
I answered and got it
the last place
the last minute

he answered the door
a beautiful house
near a village
called Wargrave
I looked down
he really was
that small

Debbie McGee made coffee
I was filled with a sense
of the surreal
we waited for the others
with a tongue tied guy
paralysed with nerves

they rang to say
they had broken down
so the three of us
started without them
they never did
show up

before she left us
Debbie warned us
he could talk forever
when we had had enough
we had to say so

there were two big white rabbits
in an enormous cage
and bizarre magical paraphernalia
in every corner

in the toilet there were photos
of the great man posing
with all the political figures
I detested

he started with all business
how to make a living
all the tricks
of making money
he told us of his poverty
claiming he was eleven
when he saw his first tree
the industrial North East
sounded like Mordor
it started to make sense
his allegiance
to those who charm and trick
so the rich get richer
bugger the rest

he was hilarious
and brilliant
amazing us
every few minutes
our silent partner
leaving the conversation
to just me
and the grandee

there was an endless stream
of incredible anecdotes
he had known
anyone famous
for over fifty years
my favourite
was about the Prince of Dubai
who he had entertained
without props or preparation
when the hired magician
another famous name
had managed to offend
Paul had disappeared
everything off the banquet table
by piece

after the third racist joke
1970s style
and vile
he said
“you can’t tell jokes like that anymore”
I said
“there’s a reason for that Paul”
there was a frosty silence
but he forgave me
and pointed towards his neighbour’s house
around the bend of the river
it belonged to the spoon bender
Uri Geller
Paul said the river
used to be straight

he challenged me
to vanish something
I used his own method
slightly ashamed
to ingratiate

he gave up his secrets
in such a sweet way
I could tell that he liked me
he told a story
of someone offering hundreds of pounds
waving the cash around
for a trick
but he didn’t give it up
because he didn’t like him
he then went on to show me
I felt blessed

at one point I asked him
about the Mrs Merton joke
she had asked Debbie McGee
“what first attracted you
to millionaire Paul Daniels?”
a crack that has lasted
the one everyone seems to remember
he was clearly wounded
and said that the irony
was that it was Debbie
who was the rich one
when they first met

some months later
we went to his show
at the Wyvern Theatre
at the meet and greet
he recognised me
we smiled
so complicated
that acknowledgement
I liked him
not a lot
but I liked him

it was among
his last few shows
shortly afterwards
he disappeared

Paul Daniels and me

HC: 2020