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After a glass of red wine, Blaine begins to unwind.

He’s still in black but no longer the weird showman of the other night.

It was huge in America, rebooting his career by reminding people that he is a master of close-up magic. This isn’t a trick, you’re just sticking a needle through your arm.

There is also a disturbing moment that goes right to the heart of what he is trying to do, when Ricky Gervais watches Blaine put a meat skewer through his bicep.

“I’m going to try something new,” he says quietly, in a New York hipster drawl. He makes a pack vanish from under our noses, by riffling it in one hand. Blaine practises with the cards for eight hours at a time and astonishes people every day of his life. “Oh, I think we can work something out,” says Blaine.

Blaine is here to work on a secret project he hopes will be the crowning glory of his career.

When he comes back down he is wet through and his hands are frozen into claws. “I wanted to see it.” And somebody told him he couldn’t? That too.” David Blaine is 40 now and afraid of becoming complacent. That hunger, that curiosity, that desire that creates the ultimate passion to do something new.” Talk of hunger drives us to his hotel, where he orders steak tartare, salad and toast.Dressed all in black with a black baseball cap, the American illusionist is big, bulky and intimidating. So a card goes missing and is found under a wristwatch. Going without food and hanging in a locked box over London for 44 days. If it works.” He is also meeting young British performers – “some of the most creative minds in magic” – and working up ideas for a show to be held sooner, possibly at the London Coliseum, home of English National Opera.His eyes are droopy but his gaze wanders the room constantly, until he has something he really wants you to know, when he stares at you like the snake in the Jungle Book. Another is chosen at random and its suit and number appear written on the side of a pen. Some of these tricks are familiar to those who know magic but the execution is breathtaking. And besides making him peerless at close-up tricks, this obsession has led him into danger in a series of death-defying stunts that would make his hero Houdini proud. Holding his breath underwater for 17 minutes, so long that brain damage should have been a certainty. Blaine suggests we meet there for a chat, and maybe a photograph. He’s travelling alone, following his instincts, acting spontaneously. “I would like to go up with the lions,” he says to a member of Coliseum staff, who says no, that isn’t really possible. Although its overuse might make you think it’s nebulous, or even obsolete, term, it’s actually a powerful tool for retailers.Every retailer has a story to tell, whether it’s how they were founded, why they decided to enter this industry, or a passion project that turned into a lucrative business.

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