Previously: Part One, Desperately seeking escapism

My first foray into entrepreneurship was at age 15 when I began importing magic tricks and other stage props from America to sell, by mail order, in the UK.

At the peak of my garage empire I had maybe a thousand customers, most of whom would send long letters with their cheques (almost always cheques, this being a million years ago), explaining how they planned to use their new props, and sometimes asking my advice on what they should buy next.

My favourite notes, though, came from the non-professional magicians: Those for whom magic was a hobby, not a job. The teacher who used close-up magic in his high school history classes, the doctor who entertained young cancer patients with badside illusions, the well-known musician who would hide away on his tour bus, practicing false cuts and complicated coin manipulations while his bandmates partied with groupies.

And then there was Mr O’Doyle...