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Tuesday 4 February 2003

Richard Cooper's 2003 Hoban Adventure 20/28


Gaby’s Deli

(The Bat Tattoo)


As I left the National Gallery I was almost limping. Cursing my choice of shoe for the day, I leaned on the parapet overlooking Trafalgar Square and wondered about my chances of seriously completing this odyssey in one piece. I was disappointed at how quickly my feet had given up on me, especially as the rest of me felt perfectly okay. “Well,” said my feet, “you’re not walking on the rest of you, are you?” I had to concur. “Memory coming up!” said another bit of me, and I was put in mind of a time when I was about eleven when my friend Jethro and I had enlisted for a charity “Fun Run”. I can’t remember how long it was but I was confident that I would do well and had no doubts at all about my ability to complete it. My first mistake was to look upon it as a race, although I suppose most kids would have had the same thought, and my second mistake was to sprint from the start line at such velocity that I wore myself out after about five minutes. I did eventually complete the run, but I ended up losing whatever lead I’d gained from the sheer exhaustion of those first few minutes. I guessed I was already guilty of repeating past mistakes by even thinking of taking on such a huge task today, and to a degree I had sprinted the first section of the schedule. But there was nothing to be done about the past, the present was all I had to work with. I fell back on the approach that has pulled me through any number of dodgy situations before – “Just go, and see how far you get.”

I hobbled around the corner, up Charing Cross Road towards Leicester Square and found Gaby’s Deli on the other side of the road in a row of shops and cafés between two theatres. I had actually been there once before, and even before there was a declared Hoban connection, for a terrific falafel-and-beer dinner with another Krakenite, Sam, who used to work nearby; sadly he hasn’t been around the group for quite a while. When I last spoke to him he was working on his own children’s book; I hoped he’d found some success. Gaby’s looked steamy and warm in the post-sleet street and it was tempting to go and sit inside, but I couldn’t justify it at that moment; it’d have to wait for another time.

Just by me was a black telephone box, where I deposited the quote and gave some serious thought to my schedule. The London Zoo (from Turtle Diary and The Raven) and Islington (Amaryllis Night and Day) locations would take anything up to two hours, meaning the chances were I’d probably get to the British Museum too late to go inside, and I was really looking forward to seeing the lion bas-reliefs, and in any case my feet would be a disaster area from tramping over a part of London I didn’t know very well. That might be an unscientific measurement but it’s psychologically a lot easier to walk a mile you know well than a mile you don’t. I made an executive decision at that point to save London Zoo and Islington for SA4QE 2004 and instead proceed directly to Tiranti’s.

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