My route home from work the other day took me along the Euston Road in London – one of the main arteries through the city, clogged with traffic, the sound of thundering lorries drowning out almost all possibility of thought. I decided to take the back streets instead – luckily I wasn’t in a hurry, so I could take the extra time. I found a small, cobbled street that was quieter, although the pub on the corner meant it still had a huge truck half on the pavement, delivering heavy, shiny barrels of beer to an open cellar door. Beyond that, it was quiet: people working in offices, getting on with their days, and lots of tall, wooden door fronts through which nothing was to be seen.
I was just glad to be away from the main road with its noise and exhaust fumes. I wasn’t looking for magic, but extraordinarily, it found me. Literally: one of the many closed tall doors, it turned out, belonged to the headquarters of the Magic Circle. How incredibly is that?! Instead of a normal doorbell or plaque announcing the company within, it had two large signs representing the symbols of the Zodiac: mysterious, intriguing, thought-provoking.
I started wondering how long the Circle’s headquarters had been based there, and thus how many famous magicians would have crossed that threshold. It got me thinking about the Victorians, and their fascination with trickery and spectacle, of Houdini, and more modern illusionists, who create amazing, sophisticated displays that can still take our breath away. Thoughts started to swirl in my head: ideas, images, illusions, magicians past and present … and suddenly I wasn’t thinking about the journey home any more. I was completely, brilliantly, distracted.
Further down the street, just a few buildings along, I saw a huge question mark graffittied on the wall.
It all made me think. And wonder. And all in five minutes – a quick diversion from my usual route.
Literally, finding magic.