Saturday, 13 November 2010

Tricky old boys.

I will reminisce of a story told to me by my grandfather many years ago, he passed away in 1959.

My grandfather and his brother were a couple of sharp characters. Tom, grandfathers younger brother had learned a few card tricks and how to do simple basic conjuring in his youth. They were both also a bit fond of the odd pint of beer 1-3-5-7-9 any odd number would do! Another one of their pastimes was to invest money on ex-canal boat horses running in various races. You may have guessed, their investments are still running.

I was taken by them as a child to what I think now was Doncaster races. I can remember going on the fun fair and a very large noisy black guy called Prince Monolulu who kept shouting "I've got a horse, I've got a horse". I never did see his horse so who knows where he kept it. Maybe down on the towpath? On this particular day out, they had run a bit short of investment money. So it was off to the pub to obtain beer and the much needed investment dosh. I was left outside with a packet of crisps and a bottle of pop.

Obtaining the needed money also meant they had to obtain a glass of beer. Not pints of beer - because they would soon need to drink up and be on their way pronto. So into the pub, where Tom would start doing a few card tricks, just for a laugh. They would migrate to the end of the bar away from the till. Tom would start producing card trick after card trick. The punters would gather round to watch. Each trick would seem to get more and more complex. Handkerchiefs' watches and then coins would get involved but they were always carefully returned undamaged to the punter.

After a while, Tom would ask the landlord for a white fiver - yes its that long ago - He would get the landlord to write his name on the fiver, show it to everyone and would proceed to fold the fiver up and place it in an envelope. The envelope was then laid on the counter and kept at all times in full view. He would ask grandfather to go and get two glasses of beer. He would then get the landlord to hold the envelope tightly to the counter by pressing down with his hand.

Grandfather would get one of the other bar staff to serve him and then appear with the two glasses of beer. Tom, would pass his glass of beer over the barman's hand several times and then drink it down in one. He would then ask the landlord to take the fiver out of the envelope. There was no fiver to be found inside! He would then ask the landlord to look in the till - and to look at the first fiver on top of the drawer inside the till. he would ask the landlord to examine the fiver. Surprise shock - the landlord would find it was the fiver, the one with his name written on it! There you go landlord - your fiver is returned safe and sound!

Key for grandfather to start a round of applause and cheering. Tom, taking a few bows and wishing everyone a very good day, they would then quietly disappear through the door. They would hot foot it down the road to place their investment on the next favourite!

So how did they get the much needed money. Its called distraction. Once Tom had the fiver in his hand, he would hold it up for everyone to see and make a flourish of folding the fiver up. At the point where he was ready for placing it into the envelope, he would call grandfather over and ask him to get a couple of glasses of beer. Whilst everyone was distracted by the conversation with grandfather he would then "palm" the fiver. Then grandfather would get the fiver slipped over to him. He would then go to the bar and purchase the two glasses of beer with it. Hence the fiver was now in the bar till. Grandfather would get the two glasses of beer and would also pocket the change! Tom would finish the trick and everyone would be amazed - but not as amazed as the landlord when he came to check the till later.

They did this many times and in the big pubs, but only those which were near the race track - and only in the afternoon when everyone had a beer or few inside. Because on race days white fivers were much more common than on normal days.

My late brother also inherited considerable card skills. However, his party piece was to get someone to shuffle a pack of cards. Place them one at a time on the table, face up one on top of the other - then turn them over, cut the pack in half and show him the top card. He would then name the rest of the cards before they were turned over. His memory was amazing.

He did one card trick and I never did learn how it was done. He would take a full pack of cards, place them face down on the table, dealing one card at a time until the whole table was covered. He would tell you the name of a card and ask you to place your finger on top of it. You could place your finger on top of any card of your choice. He would then collect up the cards leaving just the one still under your finger. It was always the card he had named. - How did he do that? - he would never divulge the secret. He only ever said there was no skill involved, it was just a very simple trick. As a trick, it's puzzled me for years. Now that he has passed away, its one of those nice warm memories I have of him.


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