‘So let me get this straight,’ I say, trying to get comfortable in the back of the van. ‘I agree to blog about you, and in return you will show me REAL magic.’
‘Right here at Westwood Cross?’
The year is 2014 and it’s a decent day in July. Not for the first time, I glance sideways at my mate Andy….but all he does is nod and say quietly ‘I’m telling you, Dave: this guy is the real deal.’
I’m reserving my judgment. I’ve met too many so-called ‘wizards’ and they’re all from either the Derren Brown school of psychological manipulation or the Dynamo academy of elaborate setups and high impact visual illusions. Alternatively, they’re just plain nuts.
There’s no such thing as real magic.
‘He’s like Gandalf,’ Andy whispers. ‘It’s proper Lord of the Rings stuff, mate: blew me away when I first saw it.’
I return my gaze to the wizard, who is in fact a guy of average appearance in his mid to late forties with a receding hairline and a beard that looks like he just fished the hair out of his armpit and slapped it onto his face. His name, for the record books, is Derek…..but I am told that his friends call him Derry.
‘Why aren’t you rich?’ I can’t help asking the question, because I’m so narrow-minded that I automatically assume anyone discovering that they have magical powers would immediately use them for financial gain.
He simply smiles, shakes his head and says: ‘Money isn’t important to me, David. I was given this power for a reason, and it wasn’t to make myself wealthy. I think I was put here – in this place and time – to make the world….better.’
I sniff. ‘You’re doing a rubbish job.’
‘Yes, well….I haven’t really started yet.’
I take a deep breath, and try to maintain my most serious expression. ‘Okay, Derek. I’ll buy in. A few quick questions, though…before you do anything EPIC.’
‘Go for it.’
‘Firstly – do you believe in God?’
I’m quite taken aback by this: people who claim to have supernatural powers nearly always answer ‘yes‘ to the question of a supreme deity. I try again.
‘What about gods? Plural?’
‘Something evil in the woods?’
Andy is getting restless. He suddenly leans forward, puts his hand on my arm and says, rather urgently: ‘Dave – just WATCH him do his stuff. PLEASE.’
I heave an enormous sigh.
‘Fine – but I’m not blogging about it unless what happens is absolutely incredible.’
‘It will be.’
‘Okay….let’s do it.’
Andy hauls open the back of the van and we step into the car park outside WHSmith. I expect a few moments of meditation or something, but Derek is off like a rocket, doing a kind of fast walk in the direction of Boots. I have to run to keep up with him, and Andy is left at the back because he has the physical conditioning of an elderly tortoise.
For some reason, I’m fully prepared for him to go straight into Boots, but he suddenly veers right and starts hurrying through the main thoroughfare, past River Island and HMV before stopping outside Waterstones bookshop.
When I catch up with him, he turns, looks me directly in the eye and says: ‘In exactly ten seconds, I will go into Waterstones, locate a certain book and turn it around so that it is on the shelf facing the other way. Doing this will start a chain of events that will immediately bring a devastating amount of power down on this shopping centre.’
I’m trying hard not to be rude, but what I’m hearing is ridiculous. ‘Derek – people do that stuff all the time, mate…and apart from making more work for the booksellers, I’m pretty sure nothing ever happens.’
He leans in close to me, and smiles. ‘They’re moving the wrong books, David. Now….GET READY.’
I gulp and make a face, just as Andy puffs and pants his way up to us. Derek is rolling up his sleeves and beginning to move his fingers in a really odd way.
‘Hang on a minute,’ I say, suddenly aware that there might be something a bit off with this guy. ‘Nobody’s going to get hurt, are they?’
He shakes his head. ‘Not at all: the people in Debenhams might feel something, but I doubt anyone else will notice.’
‘You said DEVASTATING POWER?’
‘Just…..watch and learn. Oh, and do as I say. Okay?’
‘Sit on that bench, both of you.’
Andy and I wordlessly take a seat on the bench outside Waterstones.
‘Now…..watch Debenhams. Watch it VERY, VERY closely. Not the people…..the building itself.’
Andy and I turn our heads and focus on Debenhams. It’s a bit difficult to stare at the place, because there’s a car outside it with a giant statue of a greyhound on top. This would be even be a distraction in Twin Peaks, but we’re in Thanet…and it’s normal. I give Debenhams a really good, intense stare….until my eyes start watering. A minute or so later, I turn to look at Andy…and he’s not moving: he’s totally, TOTALLY fixated on the building.
The wizard Derek emerges from Waterstones, looking incredible smug and self-satisfied, and swinging his arms as if he’s just won first prize in a Lovely Sheep competition.
‘Well?’ he says. ‘Tell me you’ve seen something better than that….and I’ll never bother you ever again.’
‘Something better than what?’ I flash a glance back towards Debenhams. Andy is still mesmerised. ‘Nothing happened.’
‘I moved the building, David.’
‘I moved the building ever so slightly to the right.’
‘-moved the building, yes. I think you’ll find that the people coming out of it now are a bit disorientated…’
I stare at the glass doors of Debenhams, where a couple are emerging. They’re laughing, joking and swinging their bags.
‘He HAS,’ Andy confirms, now rubbing his own streaming eyes. ‘He’s only gone and bloody MOVED Debenhams! Look at that sign for Costa: it’s now LEFT of the entrance.’
I crack my knuckles, and pat Andy gently on the shoulder. ‘You’re telling me that when you see a small sign for Costa is in a different place, you assume someone has moved the building behind it and NOT the sign itself? You’re a TIT, Andy. An absolute NIPPLE.’
‘Listen, Dave – you don’t understand. Derek-’
‘Derek is bigger than a tit, Andy. Derek is a complete and massive BREAST. You’ve wasted my time: both of you.’
I get up and walk away.
‘Will you blog about it?’ Derek calls after me.
I turn around to give him the finger, but he and Andy are both now deep in conversation. For the tiniest fraction of a second, my perspective shifts and I suddenly see Debenhams on the RIGHT side of the complex….but a quick blink reveals it’s all in my imagination.
I’m 99% sure that Debenhams didn’t move an inch, and I’m only blogging about this for the following reason: if, by some miracle, a future architectural survey reveals any sort of dynamic shift in the Westwood Cross complex, I want to point to this moment and say: ‘I was THERE.’
The Wizard of Westwood Cross was originally written in Debenhams at Westwood Cross, which is slightly right of where it used to be. For more Bloke Called Dave posts like The Wizard of Westwood Cross, click HERE.