My career as an actor, entertainer and magician was exhilarating – 35 years, 700 TV shows, 7,000 stage appearances.
I enjoyed being part of the big TV spectaculars of the 70s and 80s, particularly The Best of Magic, which I co-hosted for twelve shows. And I also have a bit of a soft spot for Countdown, where the producers indulged me in my love of words and puzzles, as well as asking me to perform close-up magic on 165 editions.
Theatre was important to me, too. For twelve years I toured the UK and abroad with a series of one-man shows. I loved them. And it was during the final show of my 2006 tour that I decided to quit the whole thing while I was on top. I was nowhere near retirement age, but I’ve always liked to leave a party early and it seemed a good time to go.
I haven’t missed it for a second. I’ve continued to advise and mentor professional entertainers – mainly magicians, but there have been musicians, too – and I’ve found it fascinating. I’ve written a manual for working magicians, Professional Secrets, now long out of print, that was sold to prospective purchasers from a password-protected website. And my work as a magician still occasionally turns up on TV, where my newspaper trick has been a big favourite with producers of those ‘Fifty Best TV Moments’ types of show.
I continue to work on radio from time to time. I appeared regularly on Radio 4’s Puzzle Panel until its demise in 2012; I’ve greatly enjoyed my appearances as a critic on the arts show Saturday Review; and in 2014 I did two Thoughts for the Day (May and August), when the Today programme were marking the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. They asked me to reflect on the anniversary from my point of view as a Quaker.