I was walking to the Library when it became apparent that something was going on, the sound of a voice over a PA, a glimpse of a gathering of people, a palpable buzz in the air. I turned the corner into Briggate to find an impromptu arena having been improvised with a rope. Inside was a set of three metal frames, placed like hurdles, little more than four foot wide and three foot high. One was lined with jagged metal teeth. The second, as you can see, was arranged with inward pointing knives, taped to the frame. The third was surrounded by burners, soon to be lit.
It was obvious that a remarkable stunt was about to be performed. But, then, all could surely not be as it seemed. It defied belief. The margin of error was incredibly small. The stakes were ridiculously high.
The stuntman was a showman, as well as a great salesman. The audience was at first a little reluctant to engage, perhaps like me, not able to comprehend what we were about to witness. He started having people test the strength of the teeth and the sharpness of the blades. That got our attention. Nobody was now able to walk past without stopping. The crowd continued to grow.
And then he took out a blindfold.
I wonder now if the blindfold makes it easier rather than more difficult. Talking to Liam afterwards, it’s about perfect muscle memory, conditioned from years of being a hurdler. He’s a world-class athlete. He must shut out all thought, all fear, relying totally on that physical memory of the muscles, programmed deeply into every part of his body. Start to finish took him just a handful of seconds. It was all over so quickly that it was hard to register the reality of what we saw. It seemed just as improbable afterwards as it had done before.
I paid him handsomely for his efforts, as did lots of other people. He deserved every coin and note. After a few weeks of being stuck in my head, it was as if I needed that experience today. It was inspiring. Hold no fear.
There was another street artist down the way, someone I see quite regularly. I think he was finding business a bit slow. “You’re going to have up your game mate,” I told him.