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  • Writer's pictureRomany Romany


Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Persistance: noun

1. perseverance, tenacity, determination, resolve, resolution, staying power, patience, endurance, application, diligence, dedication, commitment, stamina, doggedness, tirelessness

2. the fact of continuing in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.

The woman sitting by the front desk looked up in surprise as an enormous bunch of gold balloons tied with silver cascading ribbons bobbed optimistically through the large glass doors of the imposing grey-stone building. A book wrapped in clear cellophane and matching ribbons floated behind.

Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic seminar had already re-started after lunch and the gatekeeper guarding the door to the lecture theatre was reading quietly. Her long white hair swept up in a bun, the rest of her was comfortably wrapped in soft drapes of purple silk. She had not been expecting balloons. She raised her eyebrows as the bunch parted to reveal a woman dressed in a gold-sequin catsuit.

I hardly dared explain. What I thought was a good idea a year ago and even last week seemed ridiculous now. There must be a time and place for a gold-sequin catsuit and balloons. Judging by the expression on the woman’s face, this wasn’t it.

“I’m a magician.” Her eyebrows raised a little higher. “I got off my cruise ship to come to the workshop but I can’t stay because I have a show tonight and I have to catch the next train back.”

When she still didn’t say anything, I added.

“I’ve written a book inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. I finished and published it in time for this workshop and I've brought it to give to her.” I didn’t mention the balloons.Thirty gold balloons can speak for themselves.

If you're puzzled, let me explain. This is from the epilogue of my book:

“And then my imagination jumped up and imagined giving Liz Gilbert a thick stack of paper wrapped up in beautiful swirls of gold organza and curling ribbons.

Oh, and gold helium balloons! Squeaked my five-year-old inner child. I bet she’d love balloons! Please, please, balloons! Balloons!

How am I going to get on the tube with a huge bunch of balloons? asked my older practical self. But getting excited about making a beautiful gift to Liz that her book and podcasts had inspired was enough to silence my inner critic. It wasn’t about me anymore; it was about honouring Liz’s inspiring work and spirit with a book in return."

When I paid for Liz's workshop a year ago, I assumed it would be for about fifty students in a smallish venue. My book was still only a manuscript. I planned to arrive early, put my stack of pages and balloons in a corner and give them to Liz at a quiet moment without disturbing anyone. Then, the workshop was postponed for six months and I used the new date as a deadline to get the book finished and published. But then I found out that I was booked to perform on a cruise ship that week, so I’d given up on the whole idea.

But three months before, I discovered my ship would be docked near Bristol that day. I could get to London with a taxi then a train then another taxi. The return trip would take six hours and be expensive but possible. I had a show for five hundred people that evening and going so far from the ship was risky but I figured if the trains were late, I could get a taxi back whatever the cost.

On the morning of the workshop, I got up early and set my magic props backstage in the dressing-room. I’d gift-wrapped and signed my book for Liz the night before and the balloons were in my bag ready to blow up on the train. I wondered whether I was completely mad. It would be much easier to forget all about it. But I’d been thinking about giving Liz this book with the balloons for a whole year. Her encouragement had got me started, re-jump-started and finished. I wanted her to know how much her work had changed my life. Plus, after the difficult year she’d had, losing her beloved wife to cancer, I wanted to give her something to make her smile; something golden to comfort her heart.

On the train, a friend already at the workshop texted that there were four hundred delegates. Four hundred! I tried not to think about how impossible it would be to enter the class late, holding a great bunch of balloons. I kept blowing, knotting, tying on silver ribbons, curling them into falling swirls with scissors. Keeping ten balloons under control on a moving train is tricky. Twenty is worse. Try thirty.

“I can’t allow you to go in with those.” The white-haired, purple-silk gate-keeper said firmly. “And you can’t give her your book. You’ll have to put them down over there.” She pointed to a dusty square of floor by the wall.

I paused, wondering whether I should make a dash for the workshop door - I figured a catsuit could outrun purple silk - but decided against it. In a way, I was relieved; the idea of interrupting a large and serious seminar had scared the bejeezus out of me all morning. But my inner little girl, the one who’d excitedly imagined the happy bunch of gold balloons in the first place, the one who wanted to make Liz smile, was disappointed. I put my gifts down in the dirt and dust.

“The balloons are beautiful.” The gatekeeper said more kindly, feeling sorry for me now. “And really, you know, in energetic terms, you have delivered your book to Liz.”

Close to tears and empty-handed, it didn’t seem that way.

I showed her my official ticket for the workshop.

“I can only stay a few minutes but I’d like to go in all the same.”

“Yes, that’s fine.”

I softly opened the main door and tiptoed in. Liz was standing on stage at the bottom of the auditorium-shaped room with four hundred students listening intently. I stood in the corner unseen, feeling miserable and foolish.

“Your job is to focus. Never answer the phone." Liz was saying, "Never answer the phone!” The room laughed.

Standing there watching, I understood that this class wasn’t the right occasion for my plan. I thought sadly about my book outside on the dirty floor, signed and wrapped with love. I hoped the gatekeeper would pass it on, but I wasn’t hopeful.

Nothing seemed very hopeful any more.

In a few minutes, I needed to leave to get my train back to the ship.

Then. The always whirring, softly humming cogs of magic clicked imperceptibly into a higher gear and made a different hum. Subtle but certain. I felt it.

“Persistence,” Liz said. “Persistence is the key to our creative work. Who here has signed up for the gym and not gone?” Most hands rose, people nodded and laughed. As I listened, my heart beat faster. Persistence. If I left now without trying one last time to give her my book, it would be the exact opposite of what she was teaching.

I looked around at the four hundred delegates. I looked at the steps going down to the stage. The room was bright, there was no way to get to Liz without being seen and probably rugby tackled to the ground.

“Take out your notebooks.” Liz said. “I want you to think of something that you need to be persistent about. Write a letter to remind yourself why this is so important.”

Notebooks were taken out, heads bowed; if you could have heard the sound of four hundred minds thinking and four hundred pens writing, it would have filled the room. There was another unsigned book in my bag. No-one saw as I silently took it out. No-one saw as I quietly, quietly tiptoed down the steps to the stage. Even Liz had her head down writing in her own notebook. I gently put my book on the edge of the stage about two metres in front of her. Startled, she looked up and shook her head indicating that she didn’t want to be disturbed. Fair enough. Leaving the book there, I sprinted back up the steps to the exit, sped past the purple gatekeeper and out the front door, my heart hammering.

I hailed a taxi and jumped in.

“Oh my god!” I said to the taxi driver. “That was the scariest thing I’ve ever done!”

When I told him the story, my gruff London cabbie said, “I reckon you did the right thing mate, you would have kicked yourself if you hadn’t. No-one can say you didn’t try. After all, if that woman was going on about being persistent, she can’t blooming complain if you was!”

Right! As my heart relaxed and calmed, I realised that it didn’t matter whether Liz got my book. What mattered was that I’d tried, that I’d had a plan and done my best. I’d been scared but I’d followed though. As we twisted though heavy traffic to the station, I sat thanking Liz in my imagination, sending her love. The white-haired gatekeeper was right, energetically I had delivered the balloons. Everything we imagine is real in some form or other.

But did Liz get either of the books I left? What happened to the balloons?

I don’t know. I haven’t heard.

But one day, a reader who hangs out at Liz’s local cafe will notice the dedication to her on the first page and casually mention it. Someone, somewhere, somehow.

Golden-intentioned gifts have no sell-by date; if anything, their heart-value increases as the intertwining of cosmic co-incidences become more intricate, and finally, Magic will precisely and efficiently deliver the imagined result in the perfect place and time.

When I do hear back, I’ll let you know.

I’ll say, “See? This was the perfect way.”

This is how magic works.

Keep the faith.


Romany's new memoire Spun Into Gold - The Secret Life of a Female Magician is available on Amazon worldwide.

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