Paul Daniels

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should remain a hobby, I had to content myself with showing my tricks to school friends.
    I had left the Mission Sunday School by now and joined the Normanby Road Methodist Chapel for the highly religious reason that it had a better youth club facility. On my very first visit there, I watched other members running up to a vaulting horse and diving head first over it into a forward roll aided by a springboard.
    ‘I’ll try that,’ I thought. I ran. I hit the springboard. I flew through the air. I forgot to roll and landed right on the top of my head and invented the ramrod landing. What a natural athlete I am.
    One evening I could not attend the club and that was the meeting when they organised a concert. Various members were assigned to perform and, in my absence and because I was always doing tricks, they put me down to do a magic show among a few other acts.
    In true Variety style I was to appear singing as one of ‘The Bold Gendarmes’ and then dressed as a baby with ‘Sisters, Sisters’ before my solo six minutes to prove my conjuring worth. I was determined to do well and spent several weeks sorting out what to do, rehearsing and honing my craft. Up until this time, I had only performed magic from the pocket. Now I was being asked to do a spot in a hall, which was quite different. Being able to purchase props was out of the question, so everything I used was created from cardboard boxes and steel coat hangers. A lot of searching through notes and magic bookshelped me choose what to do. I had stopped reading any other books by this time anyway. Looking back I am amazed at my choice of magical effects. The act would work for me now, if I chose to do it.
    Then, nervously standing in front of the mixed crowd, I began to perform the multiplying billiard ball manipulation routine. The balls appeared and disappeared between my fingers and I was delighted as the mums, dads, grannies and granddads laughed and clapped in all the right places. My assistant, complete with fishnet tights, was Margaret Dawkins, a young girl who had been cajoled into helping me. With a hat in one hand and a pack of cards in the other, Margaret went down into the audience and invited a member to shuffle them and throw them into the hat. Bringing the hat back on-stage, I did a routine called ‘Seeing with the Fingertips’ and with the hat held above my head, pulled out the four Aces.
    My grand finale was the production of a full goldfish bowl from an empty box, complete with two goldfish. By the time I was 14, my mind had already started to extend the tricks in the books and look for ways to make them more entertaining. I also wanted to adapt the tricks to my own style of presentation. I had bought the plans for what was called ‘the Inexhaustible Box’ for one shilling and sixpence from the Boy’s Own Magic Club in Prestatyn, North Wales. My dad made it for me and I produced the goldfish bowl from that. I was to use this box in all shapes and sizes for the rest of my career. What an investment that was!
    Once the applause had subsided, I reached inside the bowl to grab one of the fish by its tail. The audience looked on in wonderment as I held the wriggling orange fish in my hand and quickly slipped it straight into my mouth. I ate it. The audience grimaced and groaned.
    ‘Ladies and Gentlemen,’ I announced. ‘Because there arechildren in the audience’ – remember, I was only 14! – ‘I will show you how this trick is done. What you didn’t know was that I had swapped the real goldfish for a piece of thinly sliced carrot.’
    I showed them a carrot and took a small slice off it. I shook it about to make it look real.
    ‘This was what I swallowed.’
    The audience laughed. I then dropped it into another bowl
and it swam away.
A gasp of surprise superseded the applause and I left the stage as high as a kite.
    Twenty years later, I did a fund-raising show in the same hall and a young woman came up afterwards and said she remembered

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