Some Poasyum Reportage


Participants are invited to submit their memories and personal highlights of the convention for publication on the website. This page will be updated as submissions come in. Please send your stories, either in Word format or just typed in the body of the email, to nexovollma @


If you're just after vital statistics of the weekend please click here


Click here to read Lisa Greenstein's 'Diary of a Some-Poasyac'.



by Chris Bell


Yes. You can have three days in London with like-minded souls,

connected to the sky as to a grid,

like human dodgem cars sparking off each other’s electricity,

and the warmth; the surrounding energy positively charged.


Life is peopled by unconnected strangers and curiously fleeting relationships;
sometimes, we are even pleased when they come to an end.
But when a group of souls with one mind converges in one place
this union inspires us to the unexpected.

There was so much that might have gone wrong, and yet nothing did.
The truth is that it couldn’t;
it was physically impossible with this force-field of love around us,
blessed by the contagion of smiling, beautiful faces.

You read about couples meeting and marrying on the strength of email and web dating.
And yet this was the coming together of an virtual family that had never met before.
Spanning generations, we were unified at the Friend At Hand (“Migrants welcome”),
through love and an appreciation of a life’s work.

And now we are One:

Connexions made over dinner at il Fornello can never be broken;
those smiles have fused, forming a bond;
one that makes the rest of the struggling more worthwhile;
leaving us with images shared and personal:

A hangover seemed to be the right state of mind
from which to view a fibreglass Christ.
So many miles between here and lunch,
from the V&A to the hidden lion at the British Museum.

Somewhere between Lewisham and Peckham
a house like the Bates abode in Hitchcock’s Psycho.
And the Venue in New Cross painted entirely black —
window panes and all.

The people on the streets and in the bus queues worn out and beyond hope;
Western Union money transfers and jerk chicken;
seemingly endless terraces and semi-detacheds in the half-darkness
on the sleepy coach trip back into London from the Canterbury chill

Between Victoria Coach Station and the tube station
(where in the morning the girls working the Costa coffee were Eastern-European super models)
in the evening rush, confusion came at us from all directions;
Crosshatched trajectories, hurrying commuters,

While Africans calmly carried gigantic wooden idols in amongst the chaos.
Nothing could take the shine off this Wonderful Thing,
this confluence of strangers,
the happy magnetic forces of this mysterious togetherness.

I have no photographs but I do have a grab-bag of memories.
I don’t need to try too hard to smell the exotic timber among the cobbles at Moss & Co.
— the scent of drying lime is like the concentrated pages of books unwritten —
and the spiced savour of the salt beef in Gaby’s Deli spans twenty years of my mixed-up life.


As well as a bag of tangible souvenirs I have 33 names:


Alida, Dave, Eli, Ruthie,
Hugh, Val, Gillian, Peter,
Linda, Roland, Richard, Malcolm,
Anthony, Coral, Helen, Catherine,
Emmae, Lisa, Kim, Tim,
Fiona, Martin, Steve, Deena,
Stuart, Toni, Olaf, Diana,
Marion, Yvonne, Franz, Linda


plus Russ, overseeing us all:


A Some Poasyum mantra
For those who shared this incomparable place
This high point in Time
I will never forget


An afternoon in Canterbury,
like the Eusa folk,
shedding tears into the crypt among the stone trees
but surrounded by the smiles beaming on each of these new friends’ faces.


This, then, the realisation: The summation of our efforts,
the concentrated power of our affection.
When what brought us together was suddenly manifest
in the voice of a stranger reading familiar words.


I needed space to take all of this in,
and walked off into the shadows
to touch
the wood of stoan trees growing unner the ground
in the woom of her what has her woom in Cambry.


You may not need any of this expressed in words
but since touching that stone I’ve felt compelled
to capture some of what was extraordinary about it,
and yet it will not be documented.


It can only be an abstract,
as it refuses to be contained by language;
it was its own experience, its own sensation.
It can never be repeated.


It will always be The First One, and that’s important now that it’s over;
always be a thing that can never be grasped in its entirety,
never held onto by any one of us;
and, I have just realised, that’s why we did it.


It spoke for itself In the words of Russell Hoban;
And when those words all came together in our minds
we got this One Big Thing made of just two little words:




~ ~ ~ ~





by Lisa Greenstein


Taking flight
Quarter past eight had been the wrong thing to think. Oh-eight-fifteen had been the right thing to think. But the numbers didn’t tell me that till I squinted hard at their little square selves. Oh-eight-fifteen says the plane ticket. Oh shit, I say. Max and I are on our way to meet an imaginary aeroplane that should fly at quarter past eight. The real one flew hours ago, is probably juddering onto a Heathrow runway now as we peer out at Cape Town's afternoon rush hour.

Until the revelation of the square numbers four lines ago, I was The Picture of Calm. Now at the airport, the picture is slightly muddy.
"Your chances of getting on standby are quite good," says Imtiaz, the Passenger Services man. "There are always nine or ten no-shows. You can usually count on a no-show."
I know, I think. You're looking at one. I feel like I've arrived on opening night asking for an audition. Noshowtime. Hi, my name is Lisa, this is my passport and I'd like to play the passenger in 43C, please; for an audition, I'll be giving my rendition of I'll Be There By Eight, in E minor, and a terse monologue entitled Really Wanna Be in London by Tomorrow. I can make it it a real tearjerker, I think, but although no one shouts "Next!" it's fairly obvious no one is transported.

I have an hour to kill before they announce the cast list for the flight. Buy a notebook and a banana milkshake – all the ammunition I need for this unwitting hour. A suspenseful performance. The Academy Award (TM) for Poker Face Performance must surely go to the people at the standby desk, who maintain their expressions of stony indifference even as they announce, fifteen minutes before the plane leaves the ground, that I should send my bag onto the conveyer belt and advance one flight further on my adventure. Lisa Greenstein, cameo role: the passenger in 43C.

Lost and found
The plane lands at 5.30. Delayed, ready to dock, we wait among the smells that build up in an aircraft: a breathable residue of cooked eggs and plastic, black foam earphones and thin airline blankets, cramped sleep and dreams left with their mouths open. I am suddenly walking into the strangeness of my mission. If I didn't know there were no other delegates from South Africa, I would be tempted to walk around holding up a book as my sign.

Once you are through customs at Heathrow, you could be in the hub of the whole globe. You can tell from the wrapping around each head: a turbaned, bearded head; a head which has lost a war against a fine-toothed comb; a head which earns more in weekly highlighting foil than some countries earn in monthly income; jetlagged hair; 12.30-meeting-in-Zurich hair; never-to-be-revealed-from-beneath-a-headscarf hair. On the tube train, I am reading The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz. Every time one of the heads glances inquisitively at my cover, I think: where are you going? Who will be there to meet you? Could it be me?

The book is speaking to me fiercely. My Leo sign has always growled within, restless, trying to live given too little space. The pages are offering a little more space; each page, a little more place to prowl. It was something I saw in Leonhard when we first met: sea eyes in a mountain creature. A wider plain in which to unfurl.

I check in at the Lord Jim hotel. The man at the desk has a pale forehead and thin dark hair. I mistake his accent – where are you from? I ask, expecting Spain, Italy, Portugal, maybe France. Somewhere you could eat salted sardines and wine from a stumpy, pitted glass. North Africa, he says. You are from the south, I am from the north.

Buying time

It is 7.30 and London's sky is silvery white and gleaming. The North African man points me towards the breakfast room and coffee, but I have in my mind the idea of a tiny bookshop where I found – and failed to buy – a beautiful copy of The Medusa Frequency last time I was in London. Now I am here just for the birthday celebrations of the author, it seems the obvious place to go.

In my mind's eye, the book was on a shelf behind the door. At the shop, there was no shelf behind the door. Never was, said the man behind the desk. Still, the book was there – the same one, with the Vermeer girl on the front, shining behind the plastic jacket. I wondered where the shelf behind the door had gone – or where it had come from. The Vermeer girl had neighbours: all beautifully covered first editions. It was difficult not to buy all six. I left the shop with arms full of purchases: Pilgermann and The Medusa Frequency, both of which I'd been seeking for a while. And Riddley Walker, a gift for Lara who didn't come to London except in spirit and who accompanied me quietly going There! How about that! Aren't we lucky to be here! even though she wasn't.

Eton mess
Have lunch with Alice. Catch the number 14 bus to get there, obviously. Hear about Richard, who I call Plummy because Alice's Cape Town accent goes all Eton plummy around him. But Alice says Richard's not the plum for her.

A Friend in Hand is worth two on the bus
We spot them almost instantly at the back of the pub, recognisable by the size and mottle of the collection, by their photographs (of course) and also by the hint of slight amazement on each face that this peculiar and excellent gathering is happening and is here. Here we are, a variety of tall and short stories – the website never hinted at height we all notice, as the towering infernos burn alongside tiny fireworks and tapered candles. Each shedding their own light; altogether something to see and hear.

Underground, overground
Nine o'clock on a Saturday in London is not the same as nine o'clock in Cape Town. Nine o'clock in Cape Town is halfway through the morning, with a mountain under your feet and the sun furious in your eyes and last night's love long burnt away in the mid-morning heat. In London, you might worm out of bed by eight, if you really have to, into the grey morning that hasn't quite given up night yet. Huddle in a coat through damp streets. How can a walk through the streets of London be anything but a search for kindling, for love?

It is morning and we are gathering at Hammersmith to go to Moss & Co, a timberyard which Russ visited in researching his novel The Bat Tattoo. From here we will follow a trail of locations and artefacts: Fulham Broadway, the neighbourhood where the author lives, where most of his characters live too. To St John's Church, to see the fibreglass Christ that Roswell Clark visits in The Bat Tattoo. To the Science Museum to look at Klein bottles and other gorgous pieces of 3D geometry.
"These truncations are doing my head in," says Dave Awl.
I know what he means. I could stay here all day. My world is hijacked daily by mathematics textbooks: writing them, rewriting them, overwriting them, pasting them up and then tearing them apart again. Mathematics buys my days, paying in heavy coins that cover the passage to London for just long enough to taste different kinds of days, the kind that aren't bought. And now, on one of those very days, I find myself back with geometry, marvelling at it from behind glass.

"So, you came quite late to Russ's writing," says Olaf, walking beside me. "I am intrigued: which of the books convinced you to fly all this way, all the way to London for the weekend?"
I think: I have never been good at choosing favourites. As a child, questioned: What's your favourite colour? What's your favourite food? What's your favourite subject at school? I line up the colours in my head. Would I know the culprit if I saw it, and would it look the same hauled out of the line-up?
"I'm not sure," I tell Olaf. I say: it was more the feeling of the thing. I like the ideas in Russ's writing, the idea of his writing. And I like the idea of a gathering, especially a gathering that takes such an irregular shape: no long oval tables or horseshoes here. There is no agenda. What discussion happens, happens over food, between underground stops, on the bus from Canterbury.

We take the tube to Nomad Books. A walk through icy streets filled with no people. Are we lost? Eventually we see a door, a small board outside. Inside, lights, books a few clusters of people. Near the back of the shop a man in a purple waistcoat looks brightly toward us. I recognise the eyes, the gleaming, which is even brighter in real life than in photographs.

The first event of the evening is Punch and Judy. We see Punch kill the man and we see the crocodile come after Punch. Afterwards, the puppeteer tells about life with Punch. It's all about incoume, he says. The relationship with the police is, there isn't one. The ones that pay, they're the poor and the working class. No, not the wealthy. Yes, he gets heckled. Yes, he gets angsty women protesting the violence of the show. Yes, he tells them to fuck off.

A little later, we sit on chairs in the children's section of the shop. Russ sits in front. He reads the first chapter or so of Come Dance With Me. He is carried by the prose; he carries us with him. His voice is light in conversation; in reading it becomes weightier, textured, full of surprises. Afterwards, he takes questions, fielded by Diana ("I stood on my hearing aid on New Year's Eve," he says, glinting, "so it isn’t working.")

There's question and answer time. Russ talks about the writer as a shaman, about the voices that you hear that you write down… He talks about the 'period of high energy' in which he wrote Pilgermann and Riddley Walker; talks about his childhood; about coming from a Jewish family, the migrations that pushed and pulled Jews across the sea to America, and later, the personal migration that drew him across the sea to London.

"And then I stopped writing about toys and started writing about men and women," he said. Which made me think of the tellings of ourselves: are we not the stories we tell of ourselves? And how many men are brave enough to cross the sea in order to leave their wind-up selves behind and find their bigger story on the other side? Braver than me, I can't help feeling, and a little of our shared nomadic blood curdles slightly at the thought.

See above
There is a pause. A man standing at the side asks, "What is the role of the author?"
Russ blinks, then glints.
"Oh. I think we spoke about that before – with the shamans. Yes. See above."
Undeterred, the man pressed on:
"Then: What is literature for?"
To which, Hugh pointed out later, the only necessary answer would be: "To read."
Still, Russ drew a few lines to join the man's dots before moving along to signing heaps of books, each with an inscription. I was cross with myself for bringing so many – what a birthday present, I thought, tendonitis from signing your own work. Greedy us, I thought, greedy me, wanting ever more signs from the signer.

The Episode of the Little Man and the Scarf
Sunday brings a trip to Canterbury – or, as it's written in Riddley Walker, Cambry. The coach is warm, sleep-inducing, and the trip is long – almost two hours each way. When we get there, the air says, More north here it is. Icy. The coat that was thick and enveloping in London is lightweight in this kind of cold.

The tour of the Cathedral starts in about an hour, says Richard, so we should entertain ourselves, perhaps eat something, meet back here at one. I am eyeing the heated clothing shops, all open for Sunday shopping, picturing a big woolly hat and scarf. I don't feel like shopping, but thick and warm is a tempting thought.

Eli is telling us about the ruins of Canterbury Castle. He and Coral and Ruthie are taking a walk there; would I like to join them? Of course I'm coming to the castle, I say, shutting out thoughts of the frost and imminent hail. As the group exchanges plans and begins splitting off, I feel something brush against my back. A little man – perhaps half my size – smiles up at me then turns away. Wait! I think, but the thought doesn't even reach my mouth by the time he has raced away. Instinctively, I press my hands into my pockets to check: wallet, yes. Then one to my camera – yes, that's there too. Anyway, the little man looked friendly, like he wanted to tell me something, without talking, like he wanted to be helpful. And now he's disappeared. Why so quickly?

I turn to the group around me. They are stomping feet to keep warm, caucusing about who's going where. Did anyone else seen the little man? I ask. Eli? Ruthie? Coral? I get odd little smiles. Little man? What little man? Suddenly I'm in the Punch and Judy, shaking my stick for some audience participation: You must tell me, Which way did he go?

The others are still smiling at me oddly. I look down at my jacket. I have been wrapped in a thick woollen scarf. Dark blue and green tartan. It's not mine, I say. I look around – someone might have lost it, I say. I turn around again. No one anywhere looking scarfless, and the little man has gone.
Who put the scarf on me? I demand. They look back at me.
Eli shrugs.
"It wasn't me," says Coral.
"The little man?" someone suggests with more irony than I can try to unravel.
I am skeptical. It is not beyond this bunch of trustworthy weirdos to collude with a dwarf-man in order to scarve me in some sort of obscure way.
"Well, you have a scarf," offers Ruthie. "Whoever gave it to you." By now we are walking to the castle, into the wind, and she's right – I certainly have a scarf. A dark, thick tartan scarf, caked with generous streaks of human snot, but definitely warmer than no scarf.

I decide to overlook the snot, although I find it an unusual feature for a gift, think the thing about the gift horse and the mouth, wrap the scarf around my neck and head off for the castle where we will dizzy ourselves looking up at the clouds through the broken window gaps.
Just before we reach the outer wall of the castle, a little voice, out of breath, stops us.
"I'm terribly sorry," says the little man. "I'm so terribly embarrassed…the scarf…"
"It's not mine," I say.
"Yes, it blew away," he says, looking tiny and miserably. "And I picked it up. I thought it was yours – there was nobody else."
"And when I turned to tell you, there was no one there."
He retrieves the scarf, doesn't seem to see the snot. I'm glad its not his own scarf; it's easier to conduct transactions over neutral snot.
Eli gestures with his camera: "Would you mind – it makes a great story."
The little man looks up at me and beams.
"Tall and short, too."
We stand side by side, a tall and short story outside Canterbury Castle. When the picture is done, both scarf and man are gone.

"I know you are particularly interested in green men," says a man called Andrew, who is neither small nor green. The green men aren't green either though; they seem to have lost their green with the ages, and now are only their carved stone selves. Andrew shows us around the Cathedral, leads us to the painting of St Eustace, and tells us the legend as we look up at the fading green and orange paint.

We are shown the place where Thomas a Beckett was murdered/martyred. Where the pilgrims would come. We stand on the stairs, looking into the places where only monks would go. We can go there now, and there are few monks, posing for photographs with Japanese tourists. A candle still flickers over the place of St Thomas's grave. Before it lies an intricate patterned pavement, inlaid on each side with relief tiles showing the signs of the zodiac. A lion in the cathedral, I find myself thinking. Right in the middle of the pilgrims' target, the grave of the martyr. Lions and scorpions and goats. I wonder what the pilgrims thought of that.

After this, we go into the crypt. Here, in the heart of the cathedral, Eli will read The Eusa Story from Riddley Walker. There will be no photographs, since Andrew was severely reprimanded for overlooking two photographs taken at the Eustace painting. No filming, no recording, just some wooden chairs and us, the red-haired man and the book, and that's it. And the organ music that starts way back in the church and rumbles through us. There is only the hush and the reading and the listening. Eli reads, casting his quiet light into 'the hart of the wud' and leading us in. Willingly, unmoving, we follow him in, into the heart of the thing; open and listening, we are torn in two and brought again together with Eusa and the Littl Shynin Man, all in Eli's voice, all in the rare hush of the place, in the crypt in Canterbury Cathedral.

"Eusa sed, Is this a dream? The Littl Man sed, No. Eusa sed, Wuz the other a dream then? Wen I had a wyf & childer? The Littl Man sed, No Eusa that wuzn no dream nor this ain no dream. Its aul 1 thing nor yu cant wayk up owt uv it. Eusa sed, I can dy owt uv it tho cant I. The Littl Man sed, Eusa yu dy owt uv this plays & yul jus fyn me in a nuther plays. Yul fyn me in the wud yul fyn me on the water lyk yu foun me in the stoan. Yu luk enne wayr & Iwl be thayr."





~ ~ ~ ~






Black trees, bare branches.
Some travelled far to view it--
little old Hoban
  -- Sushi


* A total of 52 participants officially signed up to the convention, of whom 33 registered for the full weekend and the remainder came only to the Nomad Books event.

* Participants came from the US, South Africa, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland and Austria as well as from around the UK.

* The convention opened on the evening of Friday 11th February at the Friend at Hand pub in Herbrand Street and later at Il Fornello in Russell Square. Participants were presented with welcome packs which included the Some-Poasyum Celebratory Book as well as specially-designed badges, bookmarks and postcards; London Underground also donated mouse-mats and pens, and participants were able to buy specially-designed commemorative t-shirts and mugs.

* Some 15-20 people took part in the London tour, which slipped behind schedule somewhat but was still great fun; a particular highlight was Stuart Duncan, the manager of Moss & Co timber yard, mentioned in The Bat Tattoo, giving us a lecture on lime and other woods. Also, the Chinese "bat bowl" from the same book would not have been viewable on the day of our tour as it normally lives in a gallery of the Victoria & Albert Museum which is currently closed for a security review, but Ming Wilson, one of the original V&A staff who helped Russell Hoban with his research on the bowl, moved it to an open gallery specifically so we could see it.

* Around 60 people attended the Nomad Books event, which was also a great success. The evening opened with a Punch & Judy show by Konrad Fredericks, followed by a short lecture on the life of a Punch performer. Russell Hoban then gave a reading from his new novel Come Dance With Me and submitted to a question and answer session lasting about 45 minutes in which he spoke movingly of his childhood, his American and Ukrainian roots, his literary and cinematic influences, and what literature means to him. Afterwards he signed a vast number of books, both new and old, with the help of his longtime agent Bruce Hunter, who came along to all three nights of the convention and proved to be an enthusiastic supporter of the Some-Poasyum.

* Some 22 people took part in the Canterbury trip and were given a fascinating tour of the cathedral by director of development Andrew Webster, the focal points being the wall-painting The Legend of St Eustace, which originally inspired Hoban to write Riddley Walker, and the crypt, in which the group was treated to a wonderful reading from the novel by Eli Bishop, webmaster of Riddley Walker Annotations, an invaluable resource for scholars of Hoban's masterpiece.

* The weekend was rounded off on Sunday 13th February with a second group dinner at The Troubadour in Earl's Court, attended by about 25 participants, which was accompanied by the showing of Hoban-scripted animations Deadsy and Door (dir. David Anderson). Several participants also gave readings of favourite passages from the novels and there was a prize-giving ceremony for the winners of the Hoban Quiz - the first prize, a complete set of signed Bloomsbury Hoban novels, kindly donated by the publisher, was won by Deena Omar of London.


Photos by

Lisa Greenstein

Click on small photos to see big photos


The group dinner at Il Fornello (Friday night)

getting gifted on the first date

getting to know you

hi i'm eli and i want to take your picture


The London Tour (Saturday morning)

in the escalator 

doing my head in

coral, linda and diana in the underground

lisa and coral

number 14

ruthie, linda and others on the underground

yvonne and others on the undeground


Coming home from Nomad

stuart and richard

richard and kim


Outside the Lord Jim (photo by Marion Stevenson)


For more photos see the various events' respective pages.


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