Monday, 4 February 2008

Anthony Davis 2008

I hadn’t yet provided myself with a bottle wherewith to furnish the flat I was going to, so when I got into the lift I pushed STREET. The maintenance man and I were the only passengers and I avoided eye contact as we shook and rattled slowly down - I didn’t want to hear any long stories, not even my own. Several times he seemed about to speak but didn’t. When we got out at street level he followed me at a distance for a while, then I lost sight of him. With one hand on the stunner in my pocket I went cautiously... oh no, hang on, this is the quote, isn't it? Sorry mate, I thought this was your account of your 4qation! As you were - Ed.

This, on both sides of 13 sheets of genuine gold A4 from Rymans, is what met the light of dawn on my account, 4th February 2008:

Strange is as strange does

I hadn’t yet provided myself with a bottle wherewith to furnish the flat I was going to, so when I got into the lift I pushed STREET. The maintenance man and I were the only passengers and I avoided eye contact as we shook and rattled slowly down - I didn’t want to hear any long stories, not even my own. Several times he seemed about to speak but didn’t. When we got out at street level he followed me at a distance for a while, then I lost sight of him.

With one hand on the stunner in my pocket I went cautiously through streets glittering with broken glass, islanded with excrement, and odorous with nitrates. There were few people about and those few were all accompanied by large xenophagous-looking dogs, often in pairs. Eventually I saw a man with an introspective-looking Irish wolfhound. When I approached to ask where I could find an off-licence the dog licked my hand and its master offered me his wallet. ‘Here,’ he said, ‘take it - I haven’t got a watch or jewelry or anything like that.’

‘I don’t want your money,’ I said. ‘I’m looking for an off-licence.’

‘Down there,’ he said pointing while the dog sniffed my crotch. As I thanked him and walked away he said to the dog, ‘You don’t have to lick everybody’s goddam hand.’

After a while I found a Corporation off-licence and bought a bottle with a label that said WHISKY and nothing else. Being simply a MAN who was going to DRINK in a ROOM I liked that.

I went to the thirty-third floor of the crumbling tower block [...]. As I unlocked my door I felt that little rush of despair that always hits me when I walk into a downtime and breathe in the pong of emptiness and the last occupant. It was a classically existential short-stay dwelling - even the dim grey dusk in it seemed to have been used by too many people.

Without turning on the lights or looking at anything in the room I switched on the air cleaner, set it to HIGH, went to the viewbubble, sat down, and looked out into the rain and the twilight. I wanted to be very careful with the twilight, I wanted to be deep and silvery in it, wanted to hover quietly in the pinky-purple and the dove-grey of it, wanted to drink the Chopin of it and the yearning. The holes of bright emptiness grew small and twinkled in my vision like distant stars; if I held my head right I could lose them in the lights of Oldtown West 81 below me, its glimmers and its colours that flickered in the rainy dusk.


from Fremder
Jonathan Cape, London (1996), pp. 100-102.


* * * * *


This extract from his eighth novel is distributed on 4 February 2008
in celebration of his eighty-third birthday


I can report the distribution of the remaining dozen 4qations as follows (sadly, lack of time, energy and people to ask prevented them all being made on the appointed day, but I'm really not one to bother about rules, and, in any case, it had been my decision, based on a favouritism that stems from my birth-date, to try to 4qate 13 times):

1. Left in the telephone-box in my village where my other bout of 4qating began. However, unlike then and as was known to me from a visit to the scene of the wreckage (at which I was given to understand that it had been brought about at 4.00 a.m. - no, not 3.00 a.m. - on the Sunday before Russ Day), it no longer stood on its base, its top was separate and broken, and it lay near a partly demolished wall. I left the A4 sheet inside, floating it in from where the top used to be, in the hope that someone might see it.

(I have now learnt, courtesy of one of the local free rags, that the story behind what I saw was the theft of the BT cash-box, carried out using a chain and what was thought to be the power of a pick-up truck - whatever vehicle it was pulled the phone-box off its foundations. Since the phone-box was listed, readers will be glad to know that it appears that it will be replaced 'with one of a similar age and style'.)

2. With Blu-Tack®, displayed at the centre point of a large bookcase at the Leisure Centre at Fulbourn Hospital (see item 8, below).

3. Similarly, on the back of the door of the toilet near the patients' bank and pharmacy. (At one point, I turned it over and stuck it up again with the acknowledgement showing, but someone then put it back...)

4. To the attendant at my local Total® petrol-station who sold me some peppermints.

5. To my friend Robert on meeting him for a drink at The Exhibition in Godmanchester (which is named after The Great Exhibition).

6 and 7. To bar staff on the same occasion (the last of the items distributed on 4 February).

8. To my colleague Paul (on Wednesday 6 February), who then told me - as no one else has - that he had read item 2, above.

9. On the same day and with a drawing-pin, attached to a notice-board near the chaplaincy office (also at Fulbourn).

10. Later, to my bemused neighbour Adam on his doorstep.

11 to 13. Put into the post on Saturday 9 February (without identification, beyond the handwritten address, or explanation) to my friends Nigel and Linda, Jo and Ed, and Piers (in the case of whose 4qation, it was first read by my friend Penny and her brother Rob).

QED,

Anthony

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