EVER since we took the boys to see illusionist Derren Brown in London in December, 13-year-old Albert has been obsessed with magic. While the rest of us came away from the show amazed by what we had seen, Albert emerged determined to master the art of the seemingly impossible.

Ever since, he has been watching old Derren Brown TV shows and reading the books he has written. He has also been investigating magic tricks and the art of hypnosis on the internet.

Brown, of course, has never given away too many secrets. Much of his success appears to be down to astute psychological insight and prompting people by the art of suggestion, as well as the usual sleight of hand, with the aid of a few clever props along the way.

Loading article content

I appear to have been chosen as Albert’s guinea pig. I can barely turn a corner without him appearing, seemingly out of thin air, and thrusting a pack of cards in front of me. In one case, I had to recite a particular phrase over and over in my head, then pick a card out, shuffle the pack, place it back in, shuffle again and, voila, Albert pulled a card out of the pack.

“This is your card, isn’t it?” he announced confidently. “No it isn’t,” I had to break it to him.

“You are not doing it right,” he moaned at me. “You have to follow my instructions precisely. Listen carefully next time.”

And so, we did the trick again, and again. Each time he chose one of the 51 other cards, not the one I had selected. It was, of course, all my fault.

He has tried to plant words and phrases in my mind several times too, but this has failed because I never come out with the correct ones, he says. Being a novice at this, I had assumed I could think of whatever I wanted. I didn’t realise that this is not how it happens.

As Albert pointed out, the correct words are the ones he has written down on a piece of paper and put in his pocket at the beginning of his act. While I consistently get it wrong, amazingly, he has the right words every time.

The hypnotism hasn’t worked with me either. Apparently this is because I am not a fully willing recipient (I believe Derren occasionally has this problem too).

And Albert wasn’t best pleased when he did his magic “vanishing” act and I blurted out that I could see he had jumped sideways behind the doorframe as he dropped the blanket he had been holding aloft.

I also had to point out that simply discreetly dropping the pound coin he has had in his hand on the floor in front of me isn’t the same as making it disappear.

He has, however, mastered a number of the card tricks he got in a magic set at Christmas. He is slowly building up a half decent repertoire. So I am encouraging him to keep trying.

“Derren Brown had to start somewhere,” I’ve told him. “I’m sure he made lots of mistakes along the way too.”

But I wonder if Derren’s mum got the blame every time it went wrong.

UNIVERSITY student Patrick did a series of online tests in an attempt to get an internship with a large company for the summer.

While he was at home over the holidays, he was contacted to say he had got through to the next stage, which involved a telephone interview. He may have done the first series of tests in his pyjamas for all I know.

He wore his usual scruffy jeans and T-shirt while he was on the telephone. But now he has to go and see them in person at an assessment day: “Mum, I need a suit,” he announced the other day.

You would think this might be easy to sort out, but not when you have a 6ft 5in giant of a son who doesn’t like shopping and refuses to try things on.

“Those trouser legs look too short,” I said in the first shop.

First of all he refused to try the next size up, then insisted he’d take them without trying. “Look Mum, this is starting to become a bit of an ordeal now,” he moaned, “I really have had enough.”

This was the first shop and we had been there ten minutes. How different might my life have been if I had had girls?