The first sign of the magician was the series of loud thuds as he fell down the stairs. He ended up in the doorway to the kitchen with a cloud of cards fluttering to the floor around him. It took a moment for anyone to rush to help him as everyone was laughing so hard. What an entrance.
This week was my first overnight motorcycle trip. I was invited to Kate’s house in the English countryside for an evening of drinks and magic, then we were to have a meeting the next day. Little Bookham is 30 miles from my house, although it seems further because the riding through London is very slow going.
I stopped on my way to Kate’s at the Hein Gericke in Chiswick, where I bought a magnetic tank bag with a clear plastic top so that I can have maps and/or directions in front of me. What a difference that makes. Now I can quickly check that I am on course without having to pull over and get papers out of my pockets. I purposely take unfamiliar routes when I have time, to help become accustomed to not knowing where I am going, and to learn to keep an eye on any and all road signs. It’s difficult enough when they are in English – it’s going to be more challenging when they are in Spanish!
Kate’s drinks gathering was really lovely, about 20 people came and went over the course of the evening, the wine flowed generously, and the magician caused constant exclamations of surprise and peels of laughter. There was an older couple, Jill and Peter, who live across the road from Kate. Jill was a bit nervous of the magic at first, but when the magician made a foam ball in her hand turn into two, she was delighted. I started speaking to them and found that their story was full of twists and turns. They granted me a fascinating glimpse into their lives, which had I just looked at them, I would never have guessed. They had owned a local hair salon in Bookham, and lived on that street for more than 30 years. (Although they did move to the house next door at some point.)
Peter is ten years older, and when he was 26, he occasionally caught sight of Jill walking down the street. He followed her in his car, and one day offered to give her a lift. They started going out together, and then one day Peter decided to drive to Spain. He told of having to ask Jill’s father and mother for permission to take her to Spain. Pretty controversial in those days, but they were allowed to go.
They told me about their son, who had worked as a musician on cruise ships for six years, until he met his now wife, who was a dancer on one of the ships. I asked about their other children and immediately regretted the question. They had a daughter, who in her early twenties, died very suddenly of meningitis. These tragedies in people’s lives come about so unexpectedly, and the effects are so very profound. I floundered – not really sure what to say after that revelation.
Groping for a change of subject, I remarked on the beautiful opal ring Jill was wearing, and that set us off on another set of stories. It was her wedding ring, an antique, which Peter had secretly bought for her after she admired it in a shop window. It cost more than a year’s salary at the time! Jill has almost lost it twice. Once on a beach, where a local beachcomer with a metal detector was recommended to them, and he found it the next day, and the other time the band came away from the stones, which were found on a seat in a pub. If ever a ring belonged to its owner, this would be the case. They are obviously not meant to be separated.
They were married just ten days after they decided to move to Jersey. It would not have been proper for them to go as an unmarried couple, so the tux and tails was hired, a church found, and that was that. No need for months of preparations or thousands of pounds. I wonder how many couples could manage that these days?
Another benefit of planning the Ultimate Ride is that now when I am faced with strangers and the need to make small talk, I suddenly find myself with something to say. I spent the evening explaining our plans, confirming that yes, it was my motorbike outside in the drive, and having everyone tell me how very brave I am.
After everyone had left, I showed Robbie the only card trick I know, which went a bit wrong because there was an extra 9 of hearts in the deck, and he showed me how to make a card I had chosen appear on his arm… I will certainly be using that trick whenever possible from now on. He ended the magic with a “trick” that involved me with a face full of water, and Kate falling over with laughter.
I awoke suffering from the night before, but a trip out to see Cobweb, Kate’s horse, and a very productive meeting over a delicious pub lunch set me up for the ride home.
Two things to remember from my first overnight motorcycle experience. Everyone has a story if you give them the space to tell it, and don’t get too close to a saucer of water if Robbie’s anywhere near it.