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Two things happened this week.

My last two bookings between now and Easter cancelled.

And I was paid a salary for the first time in 17 years.

To be frank, I was expecting the bookings to cancel.  I’d been waiting until the new tier system was announced today before contacting the clients, but they had already made their decisions that now is not the time to be gathering families together for a Christmas party, and I completely agree.

This year I haven’t approached any of the clients I performed for last year in the vain hope that things might improve by December. The last thing they needed was me reminding them that things will be very different this year, and as I’ve said before, Zoom shows are not an ideal environment for a Magic Peter party. To be honest, I’d rather we all remained safe and we do it all properly next year.

So for the first time in more than five years, I have an empty diary – at least until Easter.  Please tell me things will have improved by then?

Man with a Van

I’ve written before how difficult this year has been for the entertainment sector.  Try as I might, the restrictions the government has quite rightly imposed to limit social gatherings has made it impossible to earn a living by performing live shows, and in September I took the difficult decision that I needed to mothball my magic business and find alternative employment until the situation improves. 

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Two months later and it seems very little has changed.  The Rule of Six is still in force, and although I’m fortunate to live in an area that has not been placed in Tier 3, the restrictions in Oxfordshire still mean we’re unable to hold social gatherings in the way we used to. So, sadly, I think my decision has been vindicated.

So this month, more than 17 years since I resigned from the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority to buy my local pub, I began work for Waitrose and Partners as a customer delivery driver.

I’m not alone; many of my fellow entertainers have taken alternative employment, and I know magicians driving for Morrisons, Amazon and a dairy, amongst others. I think we’ll all be keen to hold onto our new, more conventional jobs when we return to entertaining – Covid has taught us how precarious our business can be when the unexpected happens.  And just as no one expected a Covid pandemic this year, who knows what we can expect next year or the year after?

From what I’ve seen so far (and I’m not being paid to write this!) the John Lewis Partnership is a very good and considerate employer, and I hope that as the entertainment sector slowly reopens the company will be flexible as I restart my business. 

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Last year I was delivering Christmas cheer in the form of magic shows for shools, nurseries and company celebrations.  This year I’m delivering it as crates of champagne, mince pies and pigs in blankets. Plus ça change!

Having worked for myself now for more than 17 years – as a publican, a freelance copy editor and as a children’s entertainer – I thought going back to working for a big organisation and not being my own boss would be far more difficult than it has turned out.  And I have to say, being out each day, meeting new people, delivering groceries and smiles on the doorstep is wonderful after so long staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving lives.

I hope we will all able to get out again soon. Until then, please stay safe, look after those you love, and watch out for a Waitrose van driven by a magician delivering Christmas cheer around central Oxford.