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Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Paul Saich 2006

I discovered this site a few days after the Some-Poasyum event last year so didn’t take part but I made a mental note to remember it – then forgot about it. A couple of weeks ago in chatting with a friend who travels on the Piccadilly line to Russell Square I suddenly remembered that there was something I was supposed to be doing – and fortunately was a few days ahead of myself.

A few words about the choices of locations and quotes.

Locations – no plan. Any plan I might have had (which was rather vague and involved travelling to South Ken and the Science Museum on the tube and then meandering back to Liverpool St on foot and by bus) went out of the window with the news that much of the Circle was out of action, no Metropolitan, and no Piccadilly. So I went for a bit of a walk and let locations crop up as and when.

For the quotes – I chose five. (I was trying to make up for missing last year but also I just couldn’t choose between them.) One is from Fremder, three from Amaryllis Night and Day and one from Her Name was Lola. I tried to find things that might strike a chord for people. The quotes were all chosen as examples of different sorts of romance (and there’s plenty of that!) Russ’s books all seem to me to be love stories – rather romantic, all the better for being eccentric – and all make me feel different about the world as I read them. For that reason, I’ve deliberately not read them all – I’ve a few that I’ve not started as I suppose I am saving them up for when I need refuelling. I think Amaryllis might be my favourite. And I had to choose something from Her Name was Lola seeing as Max travels in on the Piccadilly Line to Russell Square, which was the start point for me in taking part this year.

I was up at 7am on the day but due to a few distractions, didn’t get out of the house until about 9.30am. The train to London stops at Stratford so my lack of a plan was itself derailed when I decided at the last minute to get off there and leave something on the Central Line – to float across London from East to West. However people kept asking me questions about tube stations – I didn’t realise I looked especially tube-informed! – so instead of leaving anything I got off at Liverpool St and left the first quote on a seat near the platform.

As always, her face came to me half-turned-away. Probably she wouldn’t want to be taken for granted after last night’s glim. With that in mind I went to the first place where we’d seen each other in the unglim world: the Klein-bottle display in the Science Museum. There I waited as I’d done at the town library when I was fourteen and hoping for a glimpse of a girl I hadn’t yet dared to speak to. I seemed to have a lot of breath in me and I had to keep exhaling.

from Amaryllis Night and Day

And then, stuck on the information board of a public phone on the concourse at Liverpool St station, the opening of Fremder:-

In the deep chill and the darkness of the Fourth Galaxy, in the black sparkle of deep space, oh so lonely, see a figure in a blue coverall tumbling over and over as it comes towards you: no space suit, no helmet, no oxygen. Is he dead? He can’t be alive, can he? What’s in his mind now? Are there pictures frozen in his mind?

from Fremder

When I first read Fremder it took me quite a while to get through the first few pages as I kept stopping and returning to what seemed to me to be an impossibly cinematic and romantic start to a story.

Liverpool St was supposed to be the start point of my half-baked plan but it was here that the plan unbaked entirely when I discovered the disruptions on the tube. I’d had notions of leaving quotes circulating around London by leaving a lot on the Circle Line – not today, mate! Well maybe if I walked to Holborn and got the Piccadilly Line to – Nope! Back to the Central Line, I went as far as Chancery Lane. Before leaving, I taped to the inside of the sliding doors:-

‘But I need you to stay with me longer than that, I need you not to wake up too soon.’

‘ “Not wake up too soon!” I don’t think I’ve been asked that before. You need me to stay with you in a dream? I don’t understand that. And I don’t understand how you managed to get into my dream when I’ve never seen you before in my waking life.’

‘It wasn’t your dream, it was mine. I brought you into it because I tuned in to you. I wasn’t sure I’d connected, though, until you turned up at the Balsamic.’

‘You call it “the Balsamic” as if it’s a place you’re very familiar with.’

‘Too true.’

‘You often wait there for the bus to Finsey-Obay?’

She folded her arms across her chest and hunched her shoulders as if she were cold. ‘More often than I’d like,’ she said, looking past me.
from Amaryllis Night and Day

Off the train, out and into the world above. Along High Holborn I taped the Fremder quote to a wall near a cash point and then the following to the central reservation of the crossing with Southampton Row:-

How quickly the strange becomes the usual! I was in love with a woman who was most responsive to me when we were both asleep. Between the glim and the unglim, where was reality? I went out on the balcony and looked to the west. There was the moon, one night past the full, sailing serenely in and out of the cloud-wrack. Perhaps Amaryllis too was looking at it now. It was 01:35.
from Amaryllis Night and Day

Next stop Shaftesbury Avenue. I’d planned to leave this in a phone box:-

‘A notable show of restraint,’ says Lola. ‘Would you like to help me out of this corset?’

‘Yes,’ says Max in his bed in Poole Hospital. The essence of Lola is feeding into him as it were intravenously. Never until now has he felt the charm of her, the strangeness, the sweetness and the pathos of her running in his veins like this. ‘Lola, Lola, Lola,’ he whispers.

‘Did you call me?’ says Nurse Laura, approaching on sturdy footsteps.

‘Just talking to myself,’ says Max.

from Her Name Was Lola

I wasn’t entirely sure about taping a quote mentioning corsets and nurses over ads for the various “services”… and at the last moment changed my mind. Instead I taped it to the side of a building near a phone box. As I emerged from behind the pillar, I nearly bumped into an enormous policeman who seemed as startled as I. I had half a mind to explain myself but didn’t – I just continued down the street. I saw him glance at it but I’ve no idea if he read it or took it down or did anything at all about it. The Chinese lanterns around Gerrard Street obviously reminded me of Amaryllis! Not part of the non-plan and it was nice to be caught off-guard.

There wasn’t a colossal amount of thought going into the rest as I’d had a tiring and odd few days. So – Piccadilly Circus and then a cafe nearby for coffee and on leaving I taped a quote to the table. Went for a wander back along Regents St. It sounded as though there was some sort of disturbance at Oxford Circus. Two of the quotes I left in a branch of Waterstone’s in Oxford Street, and two in the HMV opposite Bond St tube. Carried on wandering west but then at some point decided I’d gone far enough so I crossed the street to make my way back. At Oxford Circus there was a woman talking about God and having a fulfilling life. There was lots of fulfilment. She was very insistent. She also had a loudhailer.

I bought Come Dance with Me in Borders on Oxford St (as well as a new copy of Kleinzeit – no idea where the old one is) and left the “How quickly the strange becomes the usual…” quote folded up into a display copy of Ian McEwan’s Atonement as I was leaving the shop. Then went for a quick (1pm) drink at the Pillars of Hercules. Just tomato juice (on the grounds of overdoing it the night before) but it was one of those pre-mixed ones that was over-sauced. I’m not convinced I felt any better on leaving the pub than I’d done on entering. I left the “bus for Finsey-Obay” quote from Amaryllis on a table near the back of the pub where it’s quite dark.

Nearly at the end. I left the Finsey-Obay quote in a display copy of the new Hilary Mantel book in Borders on Charing Cross Road, Fremder in Virgin on Oxford Street (in between copies of the new Franz Ferdinand CD). Taped one to the front of a vending machine on the Central Line platform at Tottenham Court Road tube, then went back to Liverpool St. The one I’d left by the public phone earlier was still taped there so it lasted at least two and a half hours! A quote folded into a book in Waterstone’s in Chelmsford, and a quote into a copy of the new Murakami. Then – that was that! Off to chat to a friend, watch the rugby with people, etc. Coincidentally I was out at a birthday bash (for two people) in the evening.

A belated Happy Birthday!

And happy birthday to all the rest of you… whenever the solar system gets around to making it your day. It’s been really nice hearing your thoughts.



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