Tricks and licks

Jen and I and eight other guests went to a friend's birthday dinner-party yesterday evening. As ever, the food was excellent, although the pigeon-breasts-on-toast starter had to be renamed dark-chicken-on-toast, for the benefit of the two young grandchildren present.

Also as ever, I somehow ended up with the job of keeping the kids entertained. So I showed off my crap magic tricks, including two which are actually quite good: the jumping-match trick, and the rubbing-the-coin-against-the-table-until-it-disappears trick. It's just a shame I didn't have a small set of wooden steps to hand, otherwise I could have shown them my totally awesome disappearing trick. Then, of course, I had to show the kids how to do the tricks themselves. Or, rather, I had to show the elder of the two kids how to do the tricks himself, while his younger sister contented herself with shrieking in my right ear.

After a while, I realised that the short, fat, bald man at the other end of the table was seriously winding-up the kids' mum. He's a bugger for winding people up. Should I intervene? Yes, I probably should…

Then I had a flash of inspiration, and turned to the kids:

“Hey, did you know that it's really lucky to lick a bald man on the head?” I asked.

That soon diffused the situation all right.

International diplomacy's loss is unpaid-childcare's gain.

One in 100,000

Times: Pope's robe cut up for 100,000 'holy relics'

Fragments of a cassock worn by Pope John Paul II are being offered for sale to the faithful, causing concern in the Vatican over the resurgence in the veneration of relics.

Devotees of John Paul can apply via e-mail, fax or post for fragments of a white cassock to augment their prayers. A cassock worn by John Paul has reportedly been cut into 100,000 pieces to satisfy demand.

The scheme is run by the Vicariate of Rome, which is promoting sainthood for John Paul…

The Vicariate said that it has been overwhelmed by requests for the relics, with priority now being given to those who were praying for the sick or were themselves seriously ill.

I well remember watching stage magician Uri Geller on telly in the 1970s using his so-called psychic powers to mend timepieces over the airwaves. He would tell everyone watching to dig out any broken watches or clocks they had stored away, give them a wind (no battery-powered watches in those days), and concentrate with him as he tried to beam out his psychic energy, or something like that. Then he would practically beg you to phone in if your timepiece (which you had just wound and shaken around in your hands) miraculously started working again.

Even as a kid, I realised that, with several million people watching the programme (only three TV channels and no internet in those days), some timepieces were absolutely bound to start working again—if only for a short time.

The Vicariate of Rome is using exactly the same trickery to obtain vital evidence of a John Paul II miracle: distribute 100,000 holy relics to the desperate and credulous, encourage them to pray to the old sod, and let the Vicariate know if anyone miraculously gets better.

With 100,000 trials and only one success needed to demonstrate a miracle, I'd say the sainthood was in the bag.