David Blaine takes his leave amid hugs, hyperbole and placard-waving protesters

With a hug for members of his entourage, a shy wave to his fans and a final burst of psychobabble, David Blaine was lifted up in his transparent cage and away from public contact for the next 44 days. And thank goodness for that.

In a bizarre evening, which combined all the worst excesses of the Big Brother house and World Championship boxing, the world's most hyperbolic illusionist embarked on his toughest challenge yet.

No food, few distractions and nothing but nappies for his most tortured moments as he sits in his 7ft by 7ft by 3ft box next to the Thames at Tower Bridge.

After an hour of tortuous build-up, and of valuable insight into his mind ("I don't know anything yet, I just think it's beautiful"), Blaine, 30, clad in scruffy black sweatshirt and jogging bottoms, climbed a ladder into his new home.

After it was raised by crane to 40ft above the ground, Blaine took his first sip of water from the tube at 9.37pm. At 9.40pm, he wrote the first words in the journal he had with him but appeared to have little to write about. It looks likely to be slim pickings for the viewers who decide to tune in on satellite and the internet.

"Take a s**t," shouted one frustrated member of the crowd, who had gathered in their thousands for the start of the attempt but then quickly started to slip away. One placard read: "A fool chooses to starve himself and we choose to watch. One billion people have no choice and we ignore them."

The awful warm-up man was telling the crowds that they would be telling their grandchildren about this in future years.

Even when the great man finally arrived in a silver saloon car things were slow to pick up. First he had a full medical check-up in an ambulance.

"I think he's nuts," said Dr Adam Carey.

Blaine, for the benefit of his television audience, said: "It's for my art."

The checks over, he then walked down the gangway to the steel and Plexiglas case. He even ignored an egg that came flying out of the crowd, hitting the plastic shell.

There was only time for a few good luck messages before the lid was closed and he was locked away.

There he will dangle with enough security guards below to prevent people throwing things at the cage until 19 October when he plans to come out. It was all terribly dull and even Blaine seemed to get the message. By 10pm he was tucked up in bed.

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