The freest thing on the menu

By Jack Pedder

Originally published 23 August 2016 on Facebook

I walk to Edin’s with Jonathan Taylor Davies.

Jonathan looks lustfully at the camera shop window. I talk at him while he does this. He registers nothing.

We talk about
‘People think is a tribute to my dead friend Jonathan Taylor Davies.’ I say to Jonathan Taylor Davies.

‘I’ll have the freest thing on the menu.’ I say, when we get our table at Edin’s. Jonathan writes this quote down, as do I.

‘Someone retweeted us.’ Jonathan says, sat in the sun, wearing lawyer clothes. (He’s such an image. I wish you could see the IMAGE he is.)

Jonathan goes on the Twitter page of the person who retweeted us and reads their tweets aloud.

‘Ever wanted to know 15 interesting facts about books’ he reads.

‘They’ve put a link to an article entitled 15 interesting facts about books.

‘Ever wanted to know some #interestingfacts about #books.’ He reads.

The waitress walks over with a tray of tap water, spills the tap water – mostly on herself – and apologises many times. It’s her first day. Jonathan writes ‘something about a waitress spilling tap water.’ in his notebook.

We talk and eat soup.

‘I feel like we are the heirs to that early noughties ‘that’s so random’ culture.’ Jonathan says. ‘That sort of circa 2004, weeblstuff, David firth, asdfilm culture. We are that culture if it went to university and studied classics.’

‘I don’t know what to do about my YouTube persona Lars Underhill.’ Jonathan says, later.

‘Ow! Ow! The metal in my pocket is hot to touch.’
These are the sorts of things Jonathan says as we eat lunch (a tomato and feta risotto).

Walking back from lunch I hear a woman say to her daughter ‘are you for real’
I tell Jonathan.

Jonathan strides into the camera shop with lustful purpose for a ‘Lars Underhill vlogging camera’.

‘What will your vlog be about?’ I say.
‘About Lars Underhill.’ Jonathan says. ‘Who will be me.’

He also talks about vlogging in the present tense. I say he should vlog his lunch breaks with me. He says he’d like to vlog all day, continuously, in the Lars Underhill persona.

Unfortunately, a great deal of his conscious time is spent doing confidential things at a law firm.

He talks to the camera shop man about cameras, finds one, comments ‘this is such a camera’ and buys it.

‘An impulse buy to the tune of [undisclosed funds].’ He says, leaving the camera shop.

Jonathan talks about his finances.

We go to Hounds Gate and I boil the kettle.

The song Barefootin’ by Robert Parker plays on Radcliffe and Maconie while the kettle boils and I sweep the kitchen a bit.

I drink decaf coffee and Jonathan drinks lemongrass and ginger tea. The song ‘lean period’ by orange juice, produced by Dennis Blackbeard Bavel, plays.

We sit in silence, chuckling occasionally.

A bad song with a good noise plays. Jonathan looks lustfully at his new camera.

A good song – benny, by Mauno – plays.

‘That was Mauno… we think.’ Mark Radcliffe says, after the Mauno song finishes. ‘What are you paid for!?’ Jonathan says.

The news says: ‘David Whore, the head of ofsted, has resigned after calling the isle of white a ghetto of inbreds. “My comments,” David whore says, “were offensive and inaccurate.”‘

A song plays and Jonathan suddenly rants about people on his Facebook feed. He rants about the press Storm around Caster Semenya. ‘Who’s that?’ I say. ‘She won the 800 meters.’ He says. ‘She has controversial amounts of testosterone. Also, testicles.’

He says applying modern gender politics to athletics will completely destroy women’s athletics.

He goes back to work. I get a Facebook message out the blue from a high school friend.

Her profile picture is her, back to camera, standing in front of what looks like a Sonia Delaunay painting. I type ‘Sonia Delaunay’ into google images, scroll down, and find it.

It is a Robert Delaunay painting called ‘Rhythme no. 1’…/File:Robert_Delaunay,_193…

Christina messages me with a picture of a blackberry bush and Joanthan messages me with stuff about gender in athletics.

‘Oh you nefarious individual with your lies! How do you sleep at night?’ The friend from high school says, over Facebook messenger.

I ask permission to use that line in a poem. She says ‘Sure thing serious sir, all yours’

I try to imagine the phrase ‘sure thing serious sir’ in her voice, and the voices of certain friends, and the voices of my family, and the voices of various politicians.

I think about the Wetherby High School tie and blazer, and all the people who used to wear them.

I imagine various politicians in a Wetherby High School tie and blazer, and sigh.

I think about how impossible it was, at the time, to imagine any of my friends getting older.

I couldn’t imagine anyone I knew getting past the age of 17

I couldn’t imagine any of us looking BACK at what we were doing then. It felt so extremely present, it felt so inane and unmemorable, which was probably why we wasted so much time.

I go on their facebook pages now and again. Some of them have children, some of them are in other countries, some of them are still in Leeds.

I scroll back to the pictures of them at Wetherby, in the tie and the blazer, and shake my head and feel grey and nostalgic.

This is an awfully post-post-modern way of feeling nostalgic, I think – over a Facebook profile. What a strange, ugly platform to have a genuine feeling inside.

You used to be able to lose people, 100 years ago or whatever. You went to school with them, left, and never saw them again and that was that.

Now you see them – in pictures; wherever they are in the world you see them. And with a little bit of scrolling, you see them as you remember them, in the place you remember them standing, in the tie and the blazer you remember them wearing.

It’s hard to miss that part of life. It wasn’t very good, or happy.

It’s hard to miss the vast majority of my life, and I assume it is hard to miss the vast majority of everyone else’s life, but everyone misses everything anyway.

Everything, the worst included, is missable.

We’re missing animals, I think, looking at a man – probably a father – holding a little girls rucksack, and pointing at something.

That little girl could, potentially, miss the image of her father holding her rucksack, if she tried later in life. That could be an incredibly moving, affecting image to her, that sums up her entire childhood.

There’s nothing about it worth missing, but that won’t change her capacity to miss it and adore it and fill it with all sorts of vague longing.

I think of the last line of The Catcher in the Rye: ‘Don’t ever tell anybody anything; if you do you start missing everybody.’

‘To Neil, from Emma’ it said, in my father’s copy of The Catcher in the Rye. He told me he didn’t remember who Emma was.

I can only imagine what it’s like as a parent. – But it’s so strange seeing someone as an adult who you knew as a child, then being able to flick between pictures of them as a child and pictures of them as an adult, and not really being able to reconcile the two.

I’m not equipped to take that in yet. I’m not equipped to take in ‘age’ yet.

Forget black holes,
Forget e to the i pi plus one is zero,
an ordinary human being getting older. That’s the deepest, utterest, sincerest weirdness I can think of which is also probably true.

I find it unspeakably weird that everyone ages at the same rate. I feel like everyone at Wetherby should remain 16-18 forever. Except me.

When I say goodbye to you, friends, I subconsciously expect you to remain at that age forever.

Ben gets home. He had that rarest of things, a quarter to 3 lunch, which means he goes back to 15 minutes of real work.

He asks what I’ve been doing today. I am sort of unable to answer.

He eats a mayonnaise sandwich.

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