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The One With The Derren Brown Determination

Have you ever wanted something so much that you find a way to make it happen against all odds?

Have you ever wanted something so much but other people just don't get it? That they maybe even have the cheek to discourage you?

Have you ever wanted something so much that the UNIVERSE ITSELF gets in your way?

Can you see where this blog post is going . . . ?

That's right, this is a story of human endeavour, of dogged determination, of a girl getting what a girl wants regardless of the absolute shit-show of 'signs from the universe' flung her way that express the absolute contrary.

This is the story of a girl going to see Derren Brown.

Meeting Derren In Newcastle, 2012

Ok, full disclaimer, I have already been to see Derren Brown once. It was back in 2012 when I still lived in my native North East and was mothering two terrifying little ones pretty much on my own. My husband was working an illegal amount of hours in a local hotel and I was flipping knackered trying to keep the babes alive, running a home and writing my debut novel. A lot has happened since then, but I still recall the bone-deep fatigue that drenched my daily existence, as delightfully peppered as it was with cute toddler stuff and baby giggles.

Anyway, I remember that night so well because it just so happened that the hubby had a rare night off and I knew Derren was playing his hit show, Svengali at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. We didn't have tickets, we didn't have a babysitter, and we didn't have much in the way of money. But remember that dogged determination I mentioned? Well, that night it was beaming out of me in waves.

I called in a favour and got my friend's teenaged daughter over to the house pronto. I scrounged round in the emergency money jar and raked through the internet for last minute tickets. There were none.

It could be said that my hubby once found my hippyish trust in the universe a whimsical and endearing thing. Especially when we first got together on the magical, golden shores of a Turkish beach. By this point however, five years into our marriage, his attitude towards it all was more of a 'what the hell is she up to now?' kind of vibe.

How things have changed since then . . .

"It's okay." I assured him. "We're absolutely meant to see Derren Brown tonight. We'll just turn up at the theatre, ask for any cancellations and take the first thing they offer us. And look! I even have my copy of his book that I can take with me. I have the strongest feeling we'll get to meet him afterwards and he'll sign it for me. The universe is going to help us. This is so going to work."

And do you know what? I wasn't wrong.

I dropped off the hubby at the theatre with very clear instructions to 'trust in the universe and bloody well get those tickets'. I got a parking space in the very first NCP I went in, and returned to find my one true love positively hopping up and down outside of the theatre because he'd secured two tickets in the stalls.

We had the most incredible night and were completely awe-struck by Derren's creativity, ingenuity and hands-down magical powers. I dashed to the stage-door afterwards, not caring that the NCP was going to take me for all I was worth, and gripped my book fiercely, in the hope that he would pop out and see his fans before he left for the night.

Alas it was raining, so it looked like Derren might be rushed into an awaiting car and whisked off to a hotel to rest his magical brain.

But actually, not alas at all . . . because, remember? The universe was on our side!

One of Derren's 'people' came out and told us that because it was pouring down, Derren would invite us in ONE BY FREAKIN' ONE to chat with him and say hello. This was much better, evidently, than have him stand in the rain and get soaked right down to his magical, brilliant bones.

I was in my element, people.

He was such a dude!

When it came to our turn, we ducked into the backstage part of the theatre and had a good five minutes of chat with Derren. It had been my intention not to just gush at him (as natural as that might have felt) but to ask him specific questions that I really wanted - no, needed - his thoughts on. We had a lovely old chinwag and being with him for those precious few minutes confirmed to me that he is the amazing and down-to-earth human being I always expected him to be (he will be glad to know he's still on my fantasy dinner party list along with Jimmy Stewart, Russell Brand and Lizzo). Honestly, people, the night could not have gone any better and I was happily smug that my deal with the universe had totally paid off.

Talk about your laws of attraction.

But, over the years, it seems something has changed.

Because I have a different story for my most recent visit to a Derren Brown show.

I'm guessing (because we were all there for COVID), that I don't need to bang on about how incredible it is that we can now go out and see actual live shows. We're all peeing our pants over getting this opportunity again, and any tickets for live events are now tinged with even more gratitude and wonder than they ever were before. Am I right?

So, a few months ago, when I heard that Derren was touring again, I was on it like a bonnet. Money in bank account? Tick. Coming to a theatre near me? Tick. Universe on my side? Tick.

Or so I thought.

I bought tickets to see 'Showman' as soon as I heard about it. I'm now living in the South West of England so I booked two Friday night tickets in the GODDAMN SECOND ROW of the stalls, for Bristol Hippodrome. I had a flush month with a tax rebate and couldn't think of a better way to spend it. Yes, the show was a good six months off, but I didn't care. That gave me plenty of time to talk the universe into helping me out.

I told the hubby the good news and warned him to get that night off work, come hell or high water. We live a good two hours away from Bristol so I wanted to make a weekend of it.

"In fact," I told him, "get the Friday and the Saturday off work. That way we can find somebody to look after the boys, spend the weekend in Bristol and get a nice hotel. It'll be fun. We can go see some art, eat some nice food, wander around the city and swig ridiculous-sounding lattes. We can meet Derren at the stage door again and he can sign one of my books. The universe wants this for us. It's going to be perfect."

As the weekend drew nearer, the excitement grew. I started telling people about what an amazing weekend I was going to have, about how swish and sophisticated we would be sauntering around the city, and about how much I was gagging to find out what wonders Derren's new show would bestow upon me.

We sorted a babysitter. I booked the time off work. The tickets arrived. It was all happening.

Sometimes, though, as optimistic as I am, there are things that get in the way. Life has a habit of reminding me, on occasion, that not everything is sunshine and roses (no fair!), and I have to face some cold, hard facts.

Cold Hard Fact No. 1

We were skint. Friends insisted that if I scoured the internet hard enough, I'd find a nice little boutique hotel for a mere hundred quid. A hundred quid is not peanuts to us, or to many people, so it looked like an overnight stay was out of the question.

No matter, I thought, we can just hop on a train in the morning and have a fantastic day out in Bristol instead. We'll do city-type things, have some lovely dinner, then go see Derren in the evening. That's a good compromise.

Cold Hard Fact No. 2

The hubby was needed at work. Like, really needed. He absolutely, categorically could not have the day off work.

No matter, I thought, he can just knock off work early, we'll get our train to Bristol and have a romantic, champagne picnic en-route. It'll be quaint and cute with lovely scenery and we'll still get there in enough time for the show. That's a good compromise.

Cold Hard Fact No. 3

Trains are expensive. Very expensive. With the cost of rail travel coming in at eighty quid, it looked like the champagne picnic whilst traversing the picturesque, cross-country landscape was all in my head.

No matter, I thought, We can drive instead. Petrol will be slightly cheaper. We'll just leave a little earlier so we've got time to grab a bite to eat before the show starts. We can eat street food on the hip and happening streets of Bristol. It'll be great. That's a good compromise.

Cold Hard Fact No. 4

Kids get ill. And that illness often hits just as parents are about to embark on something selfish and fun. I think it's a universal law or something. Our youngest was puking his guts up dangerously close to our Bristol getaway and I didn't like it. Not one little bit. I almost told him to swallow it back down at one point. That's how much of an awful, awful parent I am.

No matter, I thought, as long as he doesn't puke 48 hours before we go, it'll be fine and he can still go to the sleepover I've sorted for him. Will not feed him anything but dry toast and water for three days and make up for it later with Doritos. That's a good compromise.

Cold Hard Fact No. 5

On the day, husband did not finish work until 5pm.

No matter, I thought, I'll pack a bag of snacks. There's last night's left-over garlic bread, dry-roasted peanuts and cheese strings. That's all we need to get through the show. That's a good compromise.

We did get there.

We did see the show.

We arrived with seconds to spare - look how pleased the hubby is

Our seats were amazing and the show was mind-bafflingly good.

However . . .

The hubby developed a migraine throughout the night.

We had to hurry back to the car so no stage-door action with Derren for me.

We had to drive back in silence on account of the migraine situation and the very real possibility that the hubby was going to puke on his shoes.

We got home exhausted, grumpy, famished and completely spent. Despite that, I felt a maddening urge to discuss the miraculous shenanigans I'd seen on the stage that night, but I couldn't because hubby was in migraine land. How very dare he?

Over the next few days I grew to accept that either:

a.) The universe has, in fact, deserted me forever


b.) Derren Brown set all this up and we are part of an elaborate new TV show

When I tell you what happened next, I think you will agree that it is most probably B.

Just as I was coming to terms with the reality that our swish weekend in Bristol didn't come to pass, a formal letter dropped through the letterbox. have you guessed it yet? Yup, it was from Devon & Cornwall police. I was caught speeding on the M5 on the way back from Bristol, just after midnight.

I know, I know, there is absolutely no excuse for speeding. But to be fair, it was a temporary speed limit that I obviously had no clue about and I was concentrating on getting my sick husband home to safety (and a working bog).

So now I have to fork out the hundred quid I could have bloody well spent on a boutique hotel after all AND take a day off work to go on a speed awareness course. When I rock up for the course, it's about that time that I'm expecting Derren to jump out from somewhere and inform me it's all been a painstakingly complex, hypnotic set-up. To what ends, I'm not sure but I'd hardly know that if I was the subject of such a groundbreaking, psychological experiment, now, would I?

So expect my next blog post to be about that, and not about how the universe has deserted me forever.

I lie in wait . . .

Go well,


P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post then make sure you sign up to get ALL Abigail's bookish news as and when it happens. You'll also bag yourself a FREE copy of Life Is Yours - the first book in the Life Is Yours Trilogy. Sign up here

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