By Paul Osborne
Regrets, I’ve got a few. Growing up, I wish I’d used my spare time more productively when practising magic tricks.
As a teenager, I had no magician mentors. There were no magic clubs nearby where I could get guidance from other magicians, no magic shops; the internet hadn’t been invented, and my local library had very few books on conjuring. When I eventually got hold of some decent magic books – Dai Vernon, Lewis Ganson, Ken Brooke, etc – I found the card routines too advanced. So, a proportion of the large amount of youthful spare time I had was spent feeling disheartened with my lack of ability. I would read, “Control a card to the top using your favourite method”, and then realise I didn’t have a favourite method, or indeed any method.
I also sometimes struggled with translating what was on the page. “Grip the upper packet firmly by pressing down upon it with the first phalanx of the left ring finger. Press the first phalanxes of the index and middle finger on top of the pack …” Eh? What? Phalanx? I had no one to tell me, “Start with The Royal Road To Card Magic. All the basics are there.” I was trying to run before I could walk.
I was well into my 20s before I heard a magician on TV recommend Royal Road to Card Magic and Bobo’s Modern Coin Magic as great starting books to learn sleight of hand. The Other Side Of Jerry Sadowitz was a brilliant three-part series that focused on Jerry’s close-up magic and contained lots of great advice.
By that time, however, I’d joined a band and started to indulge in my other passion: playing the drums. I still enjoyed magic – keeping one eye on Penn & Teller, David Blaine, et al. – but it took a back seat. And this is where my regrets kick in.
Drummer Charlie Watts famously said that being in the Rolling Stones was five years of playing the drums and 20 years of hanging around. I know what he means. Not the fame (obviously!) but the hanging around. Why didn’t I put all that hanging around to good use and work on my sleight of hand?
During our eight-hour band rehearsals, I could have worked on, say, my double lift between songs. After sound-checking at a gig, when the band was sitting around for a couple of hours waiting to go on stage, why didn’t I have a coin with me, working on a classic palm?
Away from music, why wasn’t I working on my Downs palm in the supermarket queue? Or retention of vision vanishes when I sit in the passenger seat of a car on the way to visit relatives. All that spare time was wasted.
But it’s really not healthy to dwell on the past, despite my spending the last few minutes dwelling on the past! It’s today that’s important. And today, now that I’m back in love with magic, I use my precious spare time wisely. When watching a movie at home I’ve got a pack of cards with me. When I’m waiting for a bus, I’ve got a coin in my hand. While the kettle is boiling, I’ll pick up a deck and practise a card spring or a dribble.
Yes, spare time is more precious as you age, but you have more of it than you think for practising magic tricks.
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