Around London in 80 days
In these uncertain times, I need a lifeline and a horizon so I have — somewhat arbitrarily I’ll admit — set a date. April 1st will be my horizon ; my lifeline will be the 80 days separating me from it.
And as I cannot go around the world right now, I give you A Mad Belgian’s “Around London in 80 Days” : eighty impressions of London, eighty stories, places, thoughts from my experience of this wonderfully mad and maddening city.
Day 28 : Magic Corner
Taped to a lamp post on the corner of James Street, there is a list of names. Scribbled, crossed out names, on a worn-out piece of paper. Most people don’t notice it, distracted as they are by the glimmering lights of Covent Garden.
Later, though, they might stop on this very corner, this currently empty corner. Because later today, as everyday, this will become the Magic Corner.
A magic show will start, seemingly out of nowhere. It’ll start small, for a few passers-by, but will soon grow, gathering a large crowd. Mesmerised, people will stop to watch. They’ll laugh and gasp at the performance. They’ll scream at the sight of the performer ingesting a three-foot-long balloon, and watch, amazed, as he magically makes little balls disappear, reappear and travel from cup to cup, before turning them into tennis balls or oranges.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the end of the show. I hope you enjoyed it. But before you leave, I’d like to remind you that this is what I do for a living. No one else pays me to be here ; my job relies on your honesty. So if you had a good time, please contribute £5, £10 or whatever you think this show is worth ; and if you can’t afford to give any money, that’s ok, but don’t just walk away, please at least come up and say thank you. It’s been a pleasure to perform for you today. This is my hat, this is my heart. Goodbye”
The magician bows, and stands there, hat in hand ; a lot of people come forward, they shake his hand, drop a few pounds in the hat. Others sheepishly walk away.
And the corner, once again, goes quiet ; completely empty, but for that list of names fluttering in the wind. The performer looks at it ; calls out : “Martin, you’re next”, and retreats in Covent Garden’s invisible backstage.