SA4QE 2015 - Thoughtcat - Colchester, United Kingdom

I've been taking part in this curious and lovely annual celebration since it started in 2002, and today was the first time I celebrated in tandem. I met my girlfriend Katy on Twitter after we got into a conversation about Russell Hoban, specifically The Medusa Frequency. Two years later we're still crazy about each other, in the full Hobanic sense of the word, although for logistical reasons we're not always able to be in the same city at the same time. This year though we made sure the two of us and SA4QE coincided near her home in a quiet hamlet a few miles downriver from Colchester, "the UK's oldest town".

I was wearing a special SA4QE t-shirt I'd had made years ago with a quotation from The Moment under The Moment on it:

It was a stunning bright winter day - not the sort that Russ himself liked (he was what Bob Dylan might have dubbed a rainy-day man) - on the river Colne. It was very quiet and the river was very high. Katy (her report is here) first posted a quotation from The Moment under The Moment on a lifebuoy stand, and then we walked up a little way to a jetty which had two yellow instructional signs on either side, each with a handy space for our quotations to be taped adjacent. We affixed our respective quotes at the same time. Mine was from The Medusa Frequency, not just our favourite of Hoban's books and the one that brought us together, but the first of his I read, back in the late 1980s. Who would've guessed what that would lead to.

Pressure of work and, ironically, co-curating the Hoban website and Twitter accounts meant I left it late in the day to actually choose my quote. How to pick the perfect passage for this doubly-special occasion from the most romantic (as well as beautiful and lyrical) of novels? I gave myself up to chance, albeit probably by now somewhat de-chanced by my deep personal relationship with the book, and my eyes lighted on this paragraph. I trusted in the idea of it and went with it.

'The world-child has been told that this is a world,' said the head [of Orpheus], 'and it believes it; it is the energy of this belief that binds the world together. The world-child holds in its mind the idea of every single thing: root and stone, tree and mountain, river and ocean and every living thing. The world-child holds in its mind the idea of woman and man, the idea of love.'

It was only when I came to write this later that I realised the quote was perfect for the occasion.

Katy then posted a third quotation, one from Fremder with a personal resonance, on the village notice-board. As we were walking away we noticed a man who had been working on the boat in the background of the photo above reading our quotes by the jetty; he walked away in our direction, smiling, but didn't say anything to us. We then descended on the local Co-op where, under cover of me buying a bag of sugar, Katy secreted strips of yellow paper with a quotation about the meaninglessness of reality amid a variety of groceries. All the while I was singing to myself an adaptation of The Smiths' classic, "Shop-situationists of the world unite..."

Then we went home and tweeted about our yellow-paper excursion.

Later we went back out briefly to see if the lifebuoy quote was still there. When we got there we were struck by the moon - a full moon, low in the sky, smeared with a yellow wash, reflecting over the low-tide mud. It was very cold but we warmed each other up with a hug. In the distance, on the other side of the river, the local commuter train slid home almost silently through the woods, seemingly endless, its yellow windows flickering through the bare trees. The lifebuoy quote was still in place; it was good to think that some great words might be thrown out to save someone having a bad day in the same way you'd throw the lifebuoy out to someone struggling in the river.

We didn't check the other quotes as it was so cold. When we came back we found a local Colchester Twitter account had replied to us about the quotes. This was the first time in my 13 years' experience of SA4QE of anybody finding and commenting on a quotation - the tweet helped, of course, but the tweeter did actually see it in situ, not just online.

Happy birthday, Russ, and thank you again for introducing me to Katy. I owe you one.

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