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Tuesday, 4 February 2003

Richard Cooper's 2003 Hoban Adventure 15/28


Temple Station & Surrey Street

(Angelica’s Grotto)

In the fifteen minutes I’d sat in the Zetland, the shiny blue sky of the morning had been completely replaced by the much more Hobanesque grey. I descended into South Ken Tube station just as a Circle Line train drew in. There was a sign inside the doors saying DANGER – KEEP EVERYTHING AWAY FROM THE DOORS. What, I thought, absolutely everything? I imagined the doors flying through space in a desperate effort to achieve true, pure door-nirvana.

Two or three seats were occupied on my side of the carriage. The one next to mine was empty, except for a woman’s hat. It was fairly large, reasonably floppy, quite luxurious, certainly beige and a little grubby. I looked around at the other travellers in the carriage to see if they had any facial comments on the matter, and once I had established their lack of interest I picked up the hat and looked at it for a long time, wondering if it was some kind of lucky chance-souvenir communicated to me by the People of the Underground from the psychological world of Russell Hoban (specifically the “Hat” chapter in Kleinzeit). Almost involuntarily I started to see the whole situation from the point of view of an audience at a showing of a laid-back, offbeat European film which switches between the two main characters, a young man who finds a hat on an underground train and the woman who lost it.

When I emerged at Temple station the sky was looking decidedly dicey. Outside the station entrance was a tiny square with a newspaper and magazine kiosk and a fruit and veg stall run by a couple of young geezers with lean, pasty faces. There were no Big Issue vendors today. The photo I took faced in towards Temple Place rather than out towards the river and the OXO building on the South Bank which Harold Klein also notices on his reconnaissance mission. I walked up the steps into Temple Place, past the sympathetically-titled WALKABOUT restaurant, and into Surrey Street which features later in Harold’s buttock-clenching encounter with Leslie in the van. In Surrey Street the RCAesque dull greyness of another London college, Kings, mumbled itself as two or three men with anoraks and placards picketed the entrance in a protest against something-or-other.

Outside the Temple Bar Restaurant, a wind with a bite to it was whipping up a storm in a teacup. I was tempted to go in but I was planning on lunching at Gaby's Deli after my next few stops, so I left both quotes on the shelf of a phone box between WALKABOUT and Temple station and descended towards the road and the river... whereupon it immediately started to snow.

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