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Wetherspoon Nights

Posted 24/12/2008 By admin

Wetherspoon Nights

(Bush/Mackay and a wee shout out to Bronte)

Out on the tiles in George Street, we will roll and fall in goo
You had a temper like my jealousy: Too drunk, too needy
How could you leave me when I needed to possess you?
I stalked you, I loved you too

Bad dreams in the night:
The doctor told me I was going to lose my sight
And leave behind my Wetherspoon, Wetherspoon, Wetherspoons nights

Cheap drink, whisky, Caffreys
And then home, It’s so cold
Let me in at your window

Ooh, it gets dark, it gets lonely, on the other side of me
I drink wine a lot, I like a shot of Glenmorangie
I’m going back, though, for cheap drink: Hoegaarden, my only master

Bad dreams in the night:
The doctor told me I was going to lose my sight
And leave behind my Wetherspoon, Wetherspoon, Wetherspoons nights

Ooh! Let me have it
Let me grab your Skol away

There goes my kidney

On The Riviera by Colin Milne

Posted 15/05/2011 By admin


by Colin Milne

You’ll have read about it. Old guy hired a Roller for a vacation – with a chauffeuse he had personally selected. They floated through Europe, stopping at five-stars, all the way down to the Riviera, up to Switzerland – and he vanished. The girl got payment in cash – so tax free then. Refused interviews. The media sensed a story; sieved facts, texts, emails till all became clear.

With all the publicity, the girl was not about to repeat the exercise. He’d taken a one-way trip to meet some Swiss folk he’d heard about. Did it in comfort. It’s legal over there. She went to ground somewheres. Hasn’t stopped others from copying such a handy means of avoiding the dreaded Care Home and protracted hospitalisation. Doubt she knew in advance where the trip was heading. Wouldn’t talk about it – to anyone. What’s that? The car? She returned it to the specialist hire company in Kensington.

We’re in this glistening black Rolls Royce. She has pulled off the poplar lined road. The layby doubles as an access for tractors trundling back and forth across a vast field. On my cheek the Sun has the warmth of a lover’s breath. There is a teak lined recess behind her seat, in which nestle chunky little glasses – and Courvoisier. The glasses clink once as our fingers touch. Her smile is warm, natural. The brandy glows in my throat. Aside from the Hôtel bookings, I’ve made all the arrangements. No one is going to lose out – unless it be the Tax Man.

A little luxury is going a long way. Last place we stayed – near Lyons – we were the talk of the Hôtel. “Father and Daughter?” “Mais Non!” they took us for pragmatists who strike a bargain over their disparity in age – and wealth. Almost true, but we take separate rooms and that’s the way of it. Age and medication ensure I’m no longer a threat – to either sex. Comes a time desire recognises this – adjusts accordingly. I battle yet with this spectre.

You’ll be wondering about my driver? She is skilful with the Rolls. You said?… I see. You don’t give a Euro for her driving ability. Sorry. I’m not about to tell you a damn thing – other than that she is lovely and my companion – for the duration. The car? It is everything it should be – even if some foreign concern owns the marque.

Tonight we’ll stop in the Dordogne. Our route, courtesy of the AA is sidestepping frenetic French motorways – in favour of trusty, cosy side roads (where one must ‘Tenir a droite’). A lunch amongst village regulars in a weathered Hôtel is a delight for nose and palate. Try it while you yet may. A friend of a friend left it too late. Sinister diseases conspired to immobilise her with scant warning. Her last brave effort was a taxi ride to her home – to tell it goodbye. Quick ending though – in the Hospice.

I don’t object to Britain’s weather – though France’s – at this season – is, as they say, to die for. The temperature guage on the dashboard creeps ever upward as we journey south. Her money? It’s in a Gladstone bag in the boot. She knows that. I have no fear she will run off with it – yet. We’ve reached Florac. No five-stars in the place. Not needed. We’ll rest up here for a day or so while I catch my breath – savour the familiar fragrances of the place. The river is a mucky brown-green. Could be due to the fact that cattle use it to cool off in the midday sun.

Come sundown we brave insect bites out on the long verandah as we take our evening meal. She has come with a well planned case that has, I see, provided her with a blouse that exposes her shoulders, a pendant cross and – an unusual feature these days – a skirt – which lightly caresses her knees and reaches the floor.

She asks few questions. Words destroy moments. Much is left unsaid. She is tactful, kindly disposed. Are you experiencing a flicker of that green stuff? Envy? You should. Read on. I’ve not done yet. Every tale has to have its ending.

Avignon is a maze of streets. We leave the car, surrounded by urchins, in the shadow of a church; to wander mindless amongst patisseries, shops, cafes, fruit sellers and the obligatory fountain that waters its trough and will provide a cold drink if you press the button – and have handy a flask – or open mouth.

Nearing the coastline there is a palpable sense of anticipation as the car glides up a long incline. From the summit it will be possible to see the Med. Yes, I have been here before. Just this once it is good to go back! I’d feared the magic might have faded.

The road twists this way, that way, as we descend amongst olive groves – and those trees that still seem to be providing corks for the Vignerons. We head for the harbour at St Trop. Brigitte used to take her curly-black-haired squeeze to purchase Brie in the market. They had an olive green mini-moke. My driver is taken with the simple stylish garments fluttering in the breeze. I lack desire for anything but am allowed to buy one for her.

We have a simple lunch, looking over at the big yachts decorated with God’s chosen people; tanned, shoeless amongst white paint, chrome and varnished mahogany.

Time for coffee and then we must leave if we are to revisit Pampelonne beach and reach Cannes in time for supper. It is all too much. I doze off as the car snakes around the coast road above the precipices reaching down to the sea.

I am woken by silence as the Rolls glides to a halt behind a queue of stationary vehicles. We wait for a lengthy age till, moving forward, the cause of delay becomes obvious. The barrier at the roadside has been torn away. A driver lowers his window and advises that some vast transporter has overturned, trying to avoid two parallel oncoming vehicles. Les Gendarmes take their time. You tend to rubberneck such situations, but there’s nothing to see. A few skidmarks. Something eerie to think of – the thing toppling on its side, bouncing down the cliff to vanish in the water.

Neither of us offers comment. She presses on, foot down. We reach Cannes as the street lights are wakening. Later in the evening it is warm enough for a stroll at the edge of the foothills. We wander up a side road. Grapes ripen in the fields. I steal small bunches for us as the light fades. The farmers must hate such acts. Few things though beat the sensual pleasure of sinking your face and mouth into the mauve spheres to bite your way inside.

It has grown dark now. I am dark too. I have changed my mind. I do not wish to face the aseptic sterile Swiss room with its lethal clear liquid – that liquidates. I can’t do it… I am remembering that accident at the cliff top.

The firm she works for? They believe she’s on holiday with a friend. She’s told me her small son is being cared for by her parents, as the father is apparently a distant and unsatisfactory memory. Listening, you could imagine she no longer cares about the split. We all build walls around ourselves when they seem to be needed.

My mind races forward. That accident. I well remember the car in Françoise Sagan’s ‘Bonjour Tristesse’, the terra-cotta cliffs, the wreck of the convertible being winched up, dripping, from the ocean bed.

Pity about the Rolls. I can’t manage without it. I fear heights and always avoid venturing near a clifftop. I don’t intend she is involved in my accident.

The door of her room self-locks. Beyond it I picture her lying half covered by a sheet, the French windows open to her little balcony. Fast asleep? Perhaps it’s as well I can’t see her for real. I might bend to run a hand through that hair of hers. She could waken. Instead I post the note beneath her door:

It’s two years since I drove a Rolls. I’m familiar with their size and abilities. I remember the controls, but it is an effort to remember what to do (and the actual doing of it). I shall probably glance up at your window as I leave. Will your light be on? Has the night porter brought the Gladstone bag up to your room? Did you see the car leave – you’d never have seen me at the wheel.

Twenty minutes will bring me to that gap in the barrier. Memorise (and destroy?) this warning and the pencilled number: 662011. It is now your numbered Swiss account. Maybe you will keep my little diary? It too is in the Gladstone bag. Think of me sometimes, in June, as the man who couldn’t face the Swiss – but is forever ‘On the Riviera’.


In The Dark by Fraser Drummond

Posted 24/12/2008 By admin

In The Dark by Fraser Drummond

In the dark, in the night
I feel I have some kind of sight
I can see, things never meant to be
In the dark of the night

Every nameless fear that wallows
In every sunken hollow
Of every tear stained cheek
On every rain soaked street

A captured heart, vanquished in the dark
Trapped, like amber in a dream
Wrapped, in sheets, a silken shroud you weave
As this earthly realm you leave

Your every nameless fear
Every awkward sound you hear
Footsteps on an empty stair
By the open door to the demons lair

Come with me, vistas vast and free
Uncurl, behind your eye
Skies, unfurl, as far as you can see
We want you to be free

Another dawn breaks like a heart
Pumping blood as it tears apart
I only wish that we could see
The child inside who’s wishing he could be.

Impossible Songs (FTM) – The Magicians Assistant

Beverley was the assistant to “The Great Gondolli” a travelling magician who worked the lower levels of the club, cabaret and occasionally cruise liner circuits. Based in Plymouth, because of the climate and some loose family collections they toured the UK in short but lucrative bursts. Tonight they were in Doncaster, tomorrow Chester, and next day Salford. Life was a series of long night time motorway drives, travel lodges and guest houses, snacks and crisps and rehearsal and live sessions. The act was in its twelfth year, “The Great Gondolli” having graduated from part time party work and kids conjuring shows to their now staple diet of clubs, bingo, discos and bill sharing with hypnotists, drag acts and pole dancers. Beverley had been his assistant since day one and as the act had changed and developed she had adopted a more glamorous and at times technically demanding role. Much of the act consisted of her handing him items, shielding him (blinding in the trade), distracting the audience and participating as a skilful willing victim in numerous stunts and illusions.

Gondolli (real name Bill Blair) was always hoping for the big break into TV work or into the high paying US or European cabaret circuits, but despite years of working and developing the act the big break was no nearer. The killer trick, the great illusion, the big bang he needed had eluded him and so their optimistic treadmill existence continued as he sought the idea and effect that would make both him and Beverly household names. Beverley had, as part of their visionary planning changed her surname from Hinchelwood to Hills some years ago, the irony of their current situation and their stubborn bad luck was now a constant source of annoyance. Bill and Beverley had been lovers in the early years, this feeling had now dissipated and though they remained together as a couple in practice their love and tolerance for one another was at a low ebb. Rooms with single beds were generally sought after though following a recent performance in Dudley and the consumption of a fair amount of champagne afterwards they had spent a night of unplanned passion together in a large double bed in the Station Hotel. Little was said about it the next day, both acting as if it hadn’t quite happened as the hotel bill was paid and they loaded their cases into the back of their Ford Transit.

This evening however Bill was grumpy, the creative muse was eluding him as he sat on the edge of the main hall at the Starlight Club, Doncaster nursing a glass of bottled orange and eating a packet of cheese and chives crisps. His feet were on a bar table and he was chewing a pencil and pulling faces. He thought again of a disappearance trick involving Beverley appearing to be cloned on return from her banishment. Somehow she would return from behind the cabinet she had disappeared from, but on both sides as a twin of herself for a personal confrontation. The problem was the size and angle of the mirror and how it was placed. Factors also were the light glare and portability all brought about because the scale of their act was too small for the kind of elaborate tricks a more sophisticated audience wanted. Bill knew that they needed to have and develop big working illusions in order that they got some kind of worthwhile media attention.

Beverley, wearing an embroidered silk robe was absent mindedly doing her nails on the opposite side of the hall, filing and inspecting each one, applying colour and polish, looking close, looking away and fiddling with the various bottles she had in her cosmetics case. She remained a very good-looking woman, tidy and fastidious and not prepared to drop her standards of appearance at all whilst on the road. She firmly believed, even after all this time that her face and figure were her fortune and that they must be cared for and maximised so that her part of the show was always as striking and well presented as it could be. Hair (mostly wigs and pieces), face, costumes (mostly skimpy), poise and movements were all given maximum attention in her preparations. She was dogged by thoughts of how she could have done better, had a part in a bigger show, worked with a name rather than a nobody but it was hard to change when that big break may be just off the next slip road. Finishing her nails and allowing them to dry she started on her eyebrows, squaring and plucking tiny hairs forming almost invisible lines over her eyes. She sipped a diet cola and tried not to look over at the doodling Bill.

Bill was sketching mirrors and angles, planning and designing a cabinet in a stage set and getting nowhere. The idea was good, dramatic, could be misunderstood though as Beverley II could simply be a double, so the clone idea had to be well emphasised, the audience had to engage, the patter and presentation had to be right. Bill scribbled on for another half hour without making any more progress becoming more and more frustrated over his inability to crack the trick. The punters were starting to arrive and by now Beverley had completed her preening so with the minimum of spoken contact the two headed to their dressing room to change for the show that was a little over an hour away.

In the dressing room they discussed tonight’s set as they changed. It would their normal £500 show with a set menu of tricks and illusions, lasting over an hour. Bill would wear his special tuxedo with pockets and string pulls and various other hidden features. He always was meticulous and careful as he loaded up the pockets and laid out the cards and cups he needed for the first part of the act. Actually putting on the tux had become a ritual of order and timing as had preparing the trolley and the cabinets. Bill busied himself with the final trick preparations and then began to dress fully, white shirt, trousers and black socks, special shoes with hidden compartments, and the fully loaded and prepped jacket. The black tie was the last detail added as he rechecked his mental list of items and their locations, patting each hiding place for luck. Beverley was made up and quickly dressed in a silver spangley two-piece over a shimmering body stocking; her hair was pulled up tight with a ponytail topped of with a tiara. She spent fully ten minutes picking at and smoothing herself in the mirror whilst staring at her own bum. Conversation during these times was minimal, both knew the routine and timing and as professional’s mistakes were not expected or tolerated and there seemed little new detail to discuss.

Their set CD music piped up from the sound system and they were on stage and plugged in. The show ran smoothly as they slickly moved through their routine paces smartly and to decent levels of attention and applause. The big illusion they did as their climax was a disappearing cabinet trick, one Bill liked to think of as his signature, not only did Beverley disappear, so did the cabinet and so did Bill. With Bill and Beverley reappearing at the opposite side of the hall and the cabinet simply gone. In these smaller clubs, with a close up audience it was an impressive trick that went down well, in the wider world it would be considered cheesy and old fashioned. So “The Great Gondolli” and Beverley Hills effortlessly pushed through with their act and being well received returned relieved to the dressing room to relax, recover and pack up for the road. The manager of the venue was pleased with their act also, though felt it was a little shorter than he would have liked, but the comedian and singer now on could fill time easily with an extra couple of songs or gags.

Once the whole show was over, about 1030, Bill was able to remove all his props and cabinet parts from the stage and stow them in the back of the van. Then once Beverley joined and helped to finish of the last of the loading it was of to the travel lodge for a cup of tea, a shower and as good a nights sleep as either could get. Both were a little more talkative than usual as they drove back, Beverley had enjoyed the venue and Bill though frustrated by the problems with his trick development felt the show had been a good one. They came close to congratulating one another, brushed hands and arms in an air kiss manner as they turned into the lodge car park. The girl at the check in was politely uninterested in them as she handed them the key card to room 333, “last left on the third floor, checkout by 1100!” Bill thought it an odd room number, half of 666, foretold as the Biblical Beast’s, the Devil himself’s   number, but never mind, he wanted a rest now, not a maths or theology problem to solve.

They lugged their overnight bags up stairs and along the corridor and found the half evil room, everything in it in the usual place, to the normal standard. The only thing Bill and Beverley noticed was a sweet smell that seemed to be hanging in the air by the door. They acknowledged it tiredly, set themselves ready for showers and bed in their routine way and flopped down into their single beds a little after midnight. Tired as he was Bill found sleep eluded him. That smell seemed stronger too, almost thick in the darkness. Disturbed he got up sniffing the air and opened the door into the lighted corridor. A sharp stab of cleansing light rushed into the room momentarily disturbing the sleeping beauty Beverley before Bill quickly closed the door. Nothing wrong, no obvious incident or noisy neighbour, just an increasingly pungent smell.  Bill returned to bed, Beverley groaned a little in her sleep and turned over. Silently Bill watched her, sitting up on his elbows and craning over in the dark for a few moments allowed stray thoughts and old hopes to run quietly riotously across his mind. Then he slowly lay back down and fell into a conjurer’s magic sleep.

It is strange to think that a magician occupying Room 333, a magical room in Doncaster at the junction of some ancient ley-lines, would fail to sense the signs or recognise its inherent magical properties. For a real, red bloodied magician, born of earth elements and from the universal riddle school the combination of numbers and air borne odour (plasmagratamn) would have been like an early warning slap in the face. Bill as himself or “The Great Gondolli” had no real appreciation of proper magic, it was like a blunt idea to him, a half formed religion, a science with no base and not his business as he (and Bev) were entertainers. The plasmagratamn and number combination were however at work now and not on the unbelieving Bill as he hugged the pillow like a lost lover. Beverley was the focus of the magic’s attention. Magic is a conscious force, it has a purpose and a life, it is mainly good and benevolent but it can be mischievous, cruel and vindictive, the recipient or victim’s attitude can play a large part in the outcome. Stumbling into a magic hole or finding yourself in its presence will be life changing and it is always best if the moment is recognised and handled properly by the individual, even in sleep. Tonight for reasons known to no one living or dead the magic was choosing to work on Beverley.

It was at one o’clock the morning, in the quiet and dark it all began to happen. The plasmagratamn was like a cone and conduit for magic, it rose and hovered over Beverley, the tip of the cone directly over her sleeping head. Silently invisible magic juices were dispensed by the cone into her ears, nostrils and mouth. Still asleep she breathed them in, absorbed and ingested them until her being was fully explored by the magic and its power. She trembled slightly, her skin flushed, slight sweats came and went, as the blood flow and the endless road map of veins and arteries carried magical gloop through every part of her body. She dreamed vividly through the process, wildly and colourfully, the magic told her stories and pulled through elaborate plots and conclusions. New explanations and knowledge pulsed into her mind, threading through every conscious level, magic talk, magic ideas, powers and transformation. Her dreams grew new vivid life as if in cinemascope, 3D and surround sound.

Firstly she was a white horse with great deep dark eyes and a golden mane and trashing tail, galloping and racing with no rider, thundering across endless sands and seashores all unrecognisable. Snorting and bellowing into the wind and surf, splashing in half formed waves in an ecstatic and never ending run. Then she was herself, naked and hugely pregnant, in a squealing tightening pain, fit to burst, her belly expanded in quick time then her waters broke out in a pink and blue splashing flood. The flood signalled an orgasmically delightful release of pressure, the multitude of new infants sailed away on the flood like laughing dolls come to life. Her breasts suddenly filled with milk and the babies returned from the distance to feed and grow fat and healthy – all played out in a time in the world when fat was healthy. She saw their little happy faces as they fed, paused and stared and fed again. Then she was a black dark witch, beautiful, queer and distant crouched over by a black Bakelite telephone on a hallstand in a stony walled and candle lit dungeon. As the phone rang she picked it up and devoured the receiver hungrily so that the caller and all their conversations were swallowed whole and into her digestive processes. She pulled back her witch’s cloak to reveal a glass aquarium tummy full of floating and swimming phone users babbling and squawking in frustration as they slowly disappeared and were consumed. Her two hands covered the greasy glassy front to protect and hide the telephoning victims she had feasted on. Then the phone rang and another victim was on line.

She was herself again in one of her silver stage costumes lying on a couch. A stemmed glass materialised in front of her containing a pale bubbly liquid, it pushed itself against her lips and she drank the lot.  Next she felt what seemed like a hot cocktail of buzzing herbs and hormones in the back of her throat tinged with lemon juice, she gulped the liquid back and screamed as instantly her genitals bulged out from her costume to form a huge penis and testicles. She grabbed the member with her right hand tightly digging in her fingernails and drawing blood, the penis thickened in a pulsing erection pointed up between her eyes and angrily came, splattering her mouth and face. She licked her lips and swallowed more, once again tasting that lemon juice cocktail. The cycle continued for many minutes, coming, licking and swallowing until she was exhausted. Then she was aware of a floating sensation, floating in air or water or something unknown with the plasmagratamn smell heavy in her nostrils making its way through her head like a small green snake. She could see the green snake pass through her nostrils like a ghost, swimming and squirming across her brain and inside her skull, then down through her neck and throat twisting in a new route round her nervous system and vertebrae. The clinging beast moved easily and slithered round each plate shaped bone, tingling and touching every nerve in the switchback railway system that her nerves relayed messages on. It coiled and uncoiled around her belly and intestines, through her womb and emerged from her glossy wet vagina a look of exploratory triumph on its little snake face. Then half way out it turned back on itself again, opened its mouth to reveal razor reptile fangs and promptly gripped and bit into her clitoris. The searingly painful and electric effect made her pass out, lapsing into a black sleep devoid of dream or feeling as her hands clutched firmly to her groin grasping for unperceivable comfort, pleasure and protection. Then morning came, the smell was gone and daylight was struggling to pass through the heavy hotel drapes.

“I’m afraid of this flow I’m feeling” said Beverley “I woke up this morning not understanding myself, my dreams last night were grotesque, crazy and I feel sooo tense like I have to do something, but I just don’t know what it is!” Beverley was speaking and spouting far more than ever she did so early in the morning and Bill had no idea what to make of it. Their breakfast was now almost over in the Little Chef next to the travel lodge, there was no make up or preening, she’d not eaten much anyway as she was preoccupied with talking about anything that seemed to cross her mind, and there was a lot of anything. Certainly he hadn’t enjoyed a great sleep in Room 333 and that sweet and sour smell had made him uncomfortable but why on earth was she suddenly so animated, so bloody annoyingly alive and in touch with herself? It had been a very odd morning so far, she had wakened him by jumping naked into bed beside him, mounting him and giving the hottest early morning sex he could remember, next she’d taken a twenty-minute (cold?) shower and then she’d started babbling almost in tongues about her sleep and dream experiences the previous night. None of which made any sense to Bill. It was with an acute sense of relief that he’d led her out of the room and down to the diner for breakfast, but now the drivel and chat and enthusiasm for everything wouldn’t stop. Was this the stress of the road manifesting itself, was she breaking down, what had she found?

He noticed that as well her continued chatter and observations she was fidgeting non stop, she had a hold of the salt cellar, gently thumbing it and as she put it back down Bill noticed that it was floating an inch above the table. She had picked it up, held it for a few moments and now it was floating, he stared transfixed by the phenomenon and then as it slowly lost the power to hover and returned to the table he looked Beverley straight in the eyes interrupting her in mid flow (she was talking about snake charming), “How the hell did you do that?” Beverley had been so busy talking she had genuinely not noticed what had happened so Bill explained. She picked the salt up again, rubbed it whilst suppressing the strong desire to talk about snakebites and once again let it go. It dropped as if to strike the table, then stopped once inch from the cloth. The sight silenced Beverley this time and Bill’s eyes grew wider and more focused. With a little thump and a few seconds delay the salt returned once more to the table. “Whatever has happened to you”, began Bill, ” I believe it and it’s something else!”

Beverly resumed her chattering, Bill listened with a new interest and seriousness as they returned to the van to begin the journey across to their next engagement in Chester. “There must be a way we can add this levitational power you have to the act, we have to test it, we have to know how powerful it is, how you can control it!” Bill ranted and explored levitation ideas as he drove the van, Beverley still was rewinding and processing, talking about the white horse, and the sexual significance of her dreams, and the lightness she felt all about her. By ten thirty they were on the motorway, busy as any morning but today with the added hazard of thick patches of seasonal fog that controlled the speed and flow of traffic, though some drivers paid it little heed and still hammered along in the fast lane relentlessly. Beverley felt a little tense as the fog thickened around the van and Bill duly slowed down, visibility was poor with only dim lights and traffic noise breaking into their floating frost fog world. Beverley was gripping the door handle on one side and the arm rest on the other, than van was travelling at about fifty, slowing down slowly for the fog when Bill exclaimed,” bloody steering’s gone!” The wheel was suddenly light and unresponsive, the van was moving forward in the fog but the speed and sense of motion were indiscernible as the fog flicked passed mirrors and screens and tortured the wipers by holding onto the freezing moisture.

Neither Beverley nor Bill spoke as they realised they could now see nothing but fog, they were moving, the engine was running but Bill was hardly steering or driving. The sensation was like flying through the clouds because that was exactly what it was. Bill suddenly looked over at Beverley, she was still gripping the door handle and armrest and he realised what had happened. He took a deep breath, met her eyes and started to speak quietly and slowly “Bev, don’t move your hands, don’t loosen your grip on the handle, your magic thing is at work!” Beverley didn’t answer, stifled a building scream but remained still, her mouth dropping open now as the van broke through the top of the cloud of frozen fog and they got their true bearings at last. Beverley had levitated their van from the motorway surface to well above the fog bank; they were not really moving forwards, only gently upwards as if floating in a hot air balloon. “Don’t take your hands off!” repeated Bill, his voice had risen an octave and he was trying to think what best to do, as if there was some obvious solution to their predicament that he must have missed and was about to remember. It was Beverley who came up with the only practical course of action. She spoke calmly but her eyes were wet with fearful tears, “In the restaurant, I did this with the salt, when I took my hands off it didn’t crash down, it floated, it came down smoothly, it did!” “Yes!” said Bill, “you are so right and we have more control than we think, this is worth a bloody fortune!”

Beverley relaxed a little but still kept her hands on the rest and handle, Bill was having his big idea. There was no need for his hands to be on the wheel as they floated, now about three hundred feet above the fog, the cold winter landscape unfolding and the patches of surface fog breaking to reveal roads and bridges and buildings, trees and farmland carpets below them. Bill picked up his phone and called his agent. “Fred? Bill Blair here, have I a story! Get all the TV and press people you can, Bev and I are performing the fucking stunt of the century right now above the M18! Our van is being levitated by pure magic, we’re five hundred feet in the air and we’re not coming down until you get us a £10 million contract to do this over Las Vegas, Niagara Falls and the bloody Great Wall of China!” Fred was naturally a businessman first and a passionate unbeliever but Bill persisted, Bev was screaming and wailing in the background, “He’s not kidding, he’s not drunk, it’s all true, we want £100 million!”

Fred relented and agreed to call back so that coverage could be arranged, however the secret was already out. Bill and Bev became aware of a chop-chop noise and saw a completely shocked and puzzled police helicopter patrol crew staring at them and gesturing whilst flying at their own level fifty yards away. The white Ford Transit was slowly rising and spinning, they had been in the air twenty minutes or so and were somewhere above the motorway bobbing impossibly on the breeze. Bev’s hands were now getting sore and stiff and she was sobbing slightly in a mixture of pain and delayed shock. Now the challenge of how to execute a safe and a controlled landing became the main topic of conversation in the van. “OK just keep doing what you’re doing, we have time.” Said Bill now as animated as Beverley had been at breakfast. “When Fred gets back to us with the TV details you’ll slowly loosen your grip and we’ll descend as smoothly as the elevator at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, avoiding all motorway traffic, and we’ll be on every news broadcast in the world tonight!” Beverley allowed herself an apprehensive smile in return but was trembling and shaking more and more. The chopper was shadowing them still and signalling and trying to communicate allsorts as they floated like competitors in some surreal balloon championship.

Bill’s phone rang. It was a newly and increasingly hysterical Fred, the news was out, they’d been spotted, the companies and agencies were going wild, vans, crews and reporters were speeding to the area and the agencies were all wanting patched to Bill’s phone. Fred told Bill to start talking, as the news agencies were recording and broadcasting live. “Yes this is “The Great Gondolli” you are hearing and I, accompanied by my lovely assistant Beverley Hills, am performing the greatest feat of magic you will every see or hear of in your lives. We have levitated a Ford (get that Ford! Get them on the phone!) Transit along with ourselves hundreds of feet in the air through pure magic. Nobody can explain or replicate this trick – it is the greatest feat of magic ever!” A series of questions followed from various broadcasters in assorted accents. Bill trumpeted and crowed whilst Beverley clinging to the arm and handle began to sweat and struggle more and more with the situation. “I have to let go!” she sobbed, “I can’t stand this!” “OK, OK,” said Bill, “It’s time, the crews will have our bearings, we must have drifted well away from the motorway, we’ll do it!”

Looking down they could see that from about their seven hundred foot height they had drifted south of the motorway and looked to be above open fields and woodland. “Beverley, we’ll go now, we’ll go now!” Bill sounded calm and confident, he was already thinking about the interview he would give as they stepped out of the van onto the grass and into the media spotlight and the offers that would surely follow. Almost petrified with fear, but able to make the move Beverley slowly loosened her grip with both hands. Down below three TV trucks, two police cars and an ambulance were spinning round a farmyard trying to predict where the van might touch down. Members of the public had joined the chase around the minor roads and lanes that edged the motorway and numerous digital and video cameras were trained on the white van. On the motorway itself the traffic was crawling as everybody stared beyond the vanishing fog at the sight of a 700ft highflying van. Bill had opened up his phone line again and was about to start to describe the descent to SKY News.

“Beverley, we’ll go now!” The voice came over clearly via SKY, BBC, ITV and CNN; it was “The Great Gondolli’s ” finest moment. The white van hung in the air as the cars and vans below stopped, it looked set to land on a soft green hillock backed by a hawthorn hedge about half a mile from the motorway. Lenses focused and crews recorded as the flight was about to end and “The Great Gondolli’s ” triumphant interview and explanation would be broadcast. The van hung as if on a thread that God held, dangling like his son’s toy from some unknowable heavenly location, nose slightly down, lights on with the two occupants visible and waving inside. The police helicopter maintaining a safe and respectful distance whilst gravity and all the known laws of maths, physics and nature were being so publicly challenged before a watching world.

Then as if God had cut the thread the van plummeted back down to earth in seconds, gravity and all the accompanying laws quickly returning to their rightful and proven places from their previous temporary suspension. As the van impacted the three quarter full petrol tank exploded in a red and orange flash and fireball, a delayed thump followed and then an all consuming fire that ended the careers, hopes and lives of “The Great Gondolli” and the lovely Beverley Hills for ever. “This footage is worth millions! How on earth did they do it?” Moaned a perplexed and shocked SKY News cameraman-reporter. “Magic!” said the Police Constable.

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