I have written several Blogs on Characters of the cut. I could write a book….hmmm. File that idea Larry. We met a few on this recent boat trip from Apsley Marina to the Paddington Basin. Two come to mind, Cockney Paul and Magic Robin G. The first is simply a character. The second is a character with flare.
Cockney Paul lives on his boat as a continual cruiser. He travels the canals around London, taking jobs wherever he can find them. He’ll do anything on or off a boat and tells anyone who’ll listen that he is the best at what he does. He may be. But my experience tells me he probably isn’t. Still, he’s ‘hail fellow well met’ and was ready to accommodate us while we were moored at Paddington Basin for the week, as if he were the welcome wagon agent. He would make suggestions where to eat. On this count he could not have been more wrong. His dog, Sam, was my favourite and the true character in this story.
So, here we were, leaving Southall and heading for Alperton, finally, but not lovingly, into the heart of urbanisation. The only positive thing I could find about Alperton was a mention of it being the place where a character from The East Enders, Dirty Den, was shot (on the program, not in real life….what ever that is) and fell into the canal near where we moored. The North West of London became the East of London.
Alperton. High rise apartment buildings and pubs that are about to shut for good. The latest census concludes the area is now 27% white and 73% Indian and Asian. A sign of the times for the old city. Makes for interesting lifestyles and the constant smell of curry in the air. Alperton.
We moored next to a boat that was basically under construction. Eddie and Miriam, our travelling companions, moored beside the next character in our tale, the magician and comedian Robin G. It would be a night to remember. Most of the jokes were raw, ribald tales of body parts and assorted fantasies. But, if you are ever past that way, ask him to tell the one about Poy. You won’t be disappointed.
The main attraction, other than a very strong Antiguan rum, was the magic the man produced. Mind you, he is a professional. Rob does his act for a living and, believe me, he’s worth every penny. He reminds you of a cross between Gandalf with a hair cut and a pirate of old. Wizened, wise, wacky and wild, Robin G has seen and experienced it all. His tales are as funny and crazy as the life he has lived.
For years, Robin G was a merchant seaman. He saw the world. For a man in his 70s, he has the zest for life of a young man. Eddie knew him from Rob’s days in Apsley Marina. The two got up to stuff I dare not repeat on this (or any other) Blog. Legendary things. When the women went off to Sainsbury’s for comestibles and more rum, Rob’s tales became more lively, the stuff of man gatherings. I’ve never laughed so hard. And I’m not even a macho kind of guy.
Once we had the Chinese takeaway out of the way, the serious magic began….card tricks that were performed up close. Slight of hand so quick that even when I focused on his hands and sleeves, I saw nothing that would give the trick away. We all gasped after each new trick. Rob uses a lot of humour in his act. We all laughed as much as we gasped. And it was all free. You would usually pay a fortune for such an act.
Rob is part of the Magic Circle and knows all the greats. He says his finest moment came when he was doing a show where other notable magicians were also performing. A woman in the crowd was brought to the stage (random and not known to Rob….he did the same trick for us) and asked to pick a card from a full deck. She did. She was then asked to look at it, hold it to her forehead and return it (the Jack of Diamonds) faced down in the deck.
Rob shuffled the cards. He then produced the Jack of Diamonds. As if that weren’t enough, Rob had a card sized brown envelope that he produced and asked the woman to open it and take out the card. Another Jack of Diamonds. As his piece de resistance, Rob opened his shirt, revealing a T-shirt with the Jack of Diamonds on it. Even the other magicians gasped along with the audience.
Rob finished his show and at the end of the night, all the other magicians gathered around Rob begging him to show them how he had pulled off the impossible. He told them it was one he’d never reveal. But they pleaded and after they had run out of guesses, he told them it was a fluke, a coincidence. An odds maker’s nightmare. He said it probably will never happen again. They all laughed.
There is, I’m afraid to say, a rather sad ending to this tale. Rob’s companion for the last 7 years has been a little black dog named Henry. You can see him in the video. He has a cone around his neck because they had to operate to take away a chicken bone from his throat that he had swallowed. They also found that little Henry was full of cancer. We got a phone call while at Paddington Basin. Rob said he had to have Henry put to sleep. We were all gutted. Poor Henry. Poor Rob.
We spent another night with Rob on the way back. There was a barbeque, more rum and more magic tricks, this time with ropes and other gizmos and gadgets. It was a little more subdued this time. But Rob, ever the gracious and charismatic host, made sure this too would be a night to remember. And so it was.