Paul Daniels at the Mill at SonningBy Jon Nurse
May 24, 2012
A good number of people enjoyed a lie in on New Year's Day, but not Paul Daniels.
The celebrity magician was working on a saw in his Wargrave home when he performed a sleight of hand even he hadn’t anticipated.
The block of wood he was pushing on leapt up, causing his finger to fly on to the blade.
His left ring finger was slashed, taking the end of it off, and he darted to his car to make a panicky 25 minute drive to hospital.
At one stage, he jumped out to ask a woman to move her car – only to mount the pavement and drive round her.
“I know how to frighten people on New Years Day,” he quipped.
He was all jokes speaking to media at the time and is still all jokes when we chat.
“It’s all healed up now,” he said.
“It feels strange to me but not to people watching.”
Five months after his horrific accident, and with the end of the finger reattached, Paul is on tour with his wife and on-stage partner Debbie McGee.
And the couple are looking forward to a cosy home leg in Sonning.
“The Mill is a completely different space to work in,” the magician said.
“It’s got its Roman amphitheatre shape, so everyone gets a good view. You have to cover so many angles. I like the intimacy of it.”
“Oh, I love the Mill,” added Debbie. “We often go to see the plays there. It’s a cosy, intimate venue. We love the people being so close.
“We like to be able to see them and shake their hands. This is a really good funny show.
“We haven’t laughed this much in years.”
If the audience has half as much fun as Paul and Debbie do on the night, people are in for a good show.
“We always have a good time – it’s like a family party,” Paul said. “We have an outline we try to work to but there’s no set script. It’s mostly improvised.
“And I think that’s great. It’s changes the rhythm and the pace, it keeps it fresh.”
The act also keeps Debbie on her toes, but she is well versed in the routines, having first worked with Paul during his summer season in Bournemouth in 1980.
“Oh, I’m used to working with Paul,” Debbie laughed. “So much of it is on the fly. We’ve got thousands of tricks we can call on.”
The pair are currently on a 35 night tour, performing three or four times a week, but always wish they could be at their beautiful riverside home in Wargrave.
Paul said: “I’ve insisted there had to be gaps at home this time. Last year we weren’t at home for three months. I love my home – I want to be at home.”
Debbie also has to make sure she returns home for her weekend slot on BBC Radio Berkshire.
“I love Sunday mornings,” she gleamed. “I drive back especially for them. I’ve often arrived home at 2.30am and left at 7.30am to be ready for the 9am start.”
Paul spends a lot more time on Twitter than on the radio. The 74-year-old has sent nearly 22,000 tweets from his account.
“It’s incredible. It’s so easy. It saves me hours of answering emails,” he said.
“Being 74 doesn’t bother me at all. My mum’s 96. Her name’s Nancy.”
With plenty of spring in his step it looks likely Paul will still be touring and performing in years to come.
And to learn a lesson from the enthusiastic pair – when life deals you a bad hand, as it did for Paul on New Year’s Day, it seems that laughter is always the best medicine.
Paul and Debbie will be presenting Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow at the Mill in Sonning on Sunday. For more information call (0118) 969 8000.