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Tuesday, 4 February 2003

Richard Cooper's 2003 Hoban Adventure 5/28


Eustace Road

(The Bat Tattoo)

Eustace Road was just a few yards up from St John’s. Dieter Scharf, the craftsman who provides Roswell Clark with the working parts for his crash-test-dummy bonkers in The Bat Tattoo, lives down this road, whose name itself is redolent of Riddley Walker’s St Eustace/Eusa (and, while we're at it, Eustacia from Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native) which in turn is referenced in Scharf’s wonderfully atmospheric workroom, where he keeps an automated version of St Eustace’s forest encounter with the stag. The road was opposite a branch of Ryman’s, the stationers from which Russ used to buy his yellow paper (I don’t know if he still does; my personal experience is that Ryman’s is a shadow of its former self, and since I was a kid I’ve always preferred the more classic WH Smith in any case). The thought had struck me to put a pertinent passage through the letterbox of a random house (no publishing pun intended), but although it’d be great if it gave the inhabitant a “Herman Orff rush” of manic inspiration similar to the sort he has after the HEAD FOR IT flyer lands on his doormat, in my own rush the previous night to cut-and-paste location-specific quotes, the one I’d chosen described more of the street itself than Scharf’s mysterious workroom, and this, although accurate and entertaining, I reasoned could feasibly give someone a bad start to the day with the description of the houses in their road as “looking at me the way the regulars look at you when you wander into the wrong pub” and the observation that the door of one of their neighbour’s houses (or even their own) “was answered by a stern middle-aged woman like a housekeeper in a horror film”. So I moved on, keeping the quote in my bag.

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