The state of human discourse


By Jack Pedder

Originally published 25 August 2016 on Facebook

I sit in St. Mary’s church, lace market, watching a wedding rehearsal.

Reverend Christopher Harrison smiles and says ‘Are you going to watch our Wedding rehearsal?’

‘Probably.’ I say.

Reverend Christopher Harrison smiles oddly and walks off.

I fight back the urge to write any of this down, and fail.

Christina sends this text: ‘have people started to integrate themselves into you day just to get featured on your Facebook statuses yet?’
And follows it up with ‘your*’ which clinches it.

I cannot do justice to the oddness of Reverend Christopher Harrison’s smile, gait, and demeanour, I think, looking at Reverend Christopher Harrison.

He is perhaps the most peculiar man in St Mary’s right now. I love him and everything he represents.

I look at his baige trousers and think about his Indian wife, and reaffirm my love for him, as an institution.

I look at how little his features fill his face and how little his face fills the church, and admire the idea of a Christopher Harrison wedding.

Children run down the isle. Grown-ups tell them to run back up the isle so they can rehearse walking down the isle.

I watch the company rehearse walking down the isle. I hear Reverend Christopher Harrison’s hugely odd laugh as he passes. I watch him walk down the isle and I look at his odd face, and his profile, and the back of his head.

You would be forgiven for thinking I am obsessed with Christopher Harrison, because he is my idol.

I don’t think Reverend Christopher Harrison, of St. Mary’s lacemarket, is of this world.

I think he has never had a chance to be sincere or comfortable with another human being – except perhaps his wife – and yet has nothing but tenderness for the human race.

He is like a candle filmed in black and white, I think, looking at him.

I think he is supernaturally lonely, and also the soul of England.

I think about Celiajayne saying that I look like Christopher Harrison, and am flattered. Not because Christopher Harrison is a handsome man but because he has a FASCINATING face, and is VERY FASCINATING.

I am fascinated with Reverend Christopher Harrison I think, looking at Christopher Harrison, Reverend.

I used to pass his demeanour off as a peculiarity of high Anglicanism, peculiar peculiar high Anglicanism.

I used to think all high church vicars were like Christopher Harrison but they are not like Christopher Harrison.

The Reverends of Southwell Minster, Lichfield Cathedral, and Lincoln Cathedral, as well as the Bishop of Exeter, are nothing like Reverend Christopher Harrison.

Revered Christopher Harrison’s sermons sometimes veer into speculative sci-fi. Whenever he must talk to more than one person he puts on this inscrutable earthless air.

I listen, with immense fascination, to Christopher Harrison reading the ring vows.

Amina messages me saying she has arrived.

I go to collect Amina from outside, and immediately go back inside. Amina says she has never been in a church ‘this grand’, except for one in Turkey.

I drop all mention of Reverend Christopher Harrison, my spirit animal, lest he be tainted by human discourse.

We sit in chairs and Amina tells me the plot of The Future Diary, an anime about a boy who writes everything he’s going to do in present tense, but it happens in the future.

‘I don’t know why I told you that.’ She says.
‘It’s good material.’ I say.

Amina points at the graves and says she would like to read them. We stand up and walk by the graves, reading them. Some of them are quite moving. I have a lot of time for Lt. James Still.

I call Amina ‘an ornament of social life’, quoting the grave of Lt. James Still.

A ginormous coincidence happens, when I look at Sarah Somebody’s grave, which I tell Amina it would spoil to write down.

Reverend Christopher Harrison walks by. All the wedding people are leaving. I ask Christopher Harrison about his trip to India.

‘It was absolutely lovely.’ He says, in deep, extreme melancholy.

I ask him where in India he was. He says the strip between Bangladesh and Bhutan.

‘Ah, was it mountainous?’ I say.
‘Yes, fairly mountainous.’ He says.

He asks how I am. I tell him I’ve got a job, and I tell him I’ve got quite a few writing projects on the go.

‘Forgive me.’ He says. ‘What exactly is the kind of writing that you do?’
‘Well…’

I end up telling Christopher Harrison about exactly this writing project, while writing it down. I am in ecstasy.

Christopher Harrison shows Amina and I the 300 year old grave of a ten year old child, who was fluent in Hebrew, Ancient Greek and various modern languages (‘with not inconsiderable advantages in Latin’).

Reverend Christopher Harrison is pointing his torch at a child’s grave. I am the happiest man on earth.

Amina and I leave. Christopher Harrison locks himself inside the empty dark church.

We walk towards Filthy’s, our original planned meeting place. The sky over pitcher and piano is ridiculously gorgeous.

We walk passed Filthy’s in order to look a bit longer at the sky.

‘Ooh, I know what to do.’ I say.

We go up the lacemarket car park. On one side is a rainbow and on the other is a Northern Lights style gold sunset.

It is all ridiculously gorgeous.

Amina is overwhelmed by the mythic beauty of the individual orange rays over the city skyline. ‘I just want to hold it.’ She says.

Nottingham I love you, I say to myself, in a kermit voice.

‘This is the best thing of my whole day’ Amina says ‘and I had a really good day.’

As the light fades, and the car park lights come on, it starts raining and Amina holds her hands out.

We walk in silence out of the rain.

We go down the car park life and into Filthy’s, where we both have elderflower cocktails in jam jars.

‘I used to live on gin’ I say ‘I don’t know what stopped me.’
‘Insight.’ Amina says.

”Insight’ Amina says.’ I say.

We sit by a picture of the Ramones feet. Amina has never heard of the Ramones. I ask if she has heard of Tom and Jerry.

‘Let’s have a few sweet minutes where nothing interesting happens.’ I say, putting my phone away.
‘That in itself is interesting.’ Amina says.
I take my phone back out and write this.

We drink 3 cocktails each and talk about childhood and culture and religion.

Amina goes to the loo and the couple opposite me smell a beer bottle and talk about the smell.

‘Some people go through a great deal of pain not to have to smell condoms.’ The woman says.

‘It smells like condoms.’ The man says.

Amina comes back. We talk about religion and culture and childhood. ‘An American person sober is like an English person very very drunk.’ Amina says.

Eight days a week starts playing. I say ‘oh yes!’

Amina leans on the sofa, drowsedrunkenley.

Help! starts playing. ‘Oh yes!’ I say.

Somewhere in this I forgot to mention we had two extra cocktails each.

We reminisce about the sunset while cape cod by vampire weekend plays.

‘It was like someone dipped their brush in the sun and painted the clouds with that.’ Amina says, which is exactly true.

We walk home and talk.

We play with the phrase ‘one must do what one must do’ like Gertrude Stein. ‘Do what must do what one must do.’ Etc.

‘Rose is a rose is a rose’ I say.
‘A rose by any other name…’ Amina says.
‘Would smell terrible.’ I say.

I stand in the middle of a concentric circle. Amina says that concentric circles are, in certain cultures, vortexes in which one makes one’s intentions known. I do no such thing.

We go to my house and sit on the sofa.

‘I love nothing more than staunch fascism.’ Amina says, with no context.

Ben arrives and opens his work wine. In its hilarious bubble wrap. He stabs the bubbles with a Natwest pen to withdraw the bottles.

Ben goes to bed. He just wanted to check that the laughter wasn’t burglars.

Amina and I scroll through Christina’s Facebook and debate the relative pros and cons of her various hairstyles.

Amina asks if I’m sad. I say yes, the undercurrent is always there. She says I have sad eyes. I say yes, I’m a sad soul.

‘I wouldn’t have it any other way.’ I say
‘Really?’ Amina says.
‘I have a hunch any other way is rubbish.’ I say. ‘A correct hunch.’
‘One can’t say something is correct if one has not experienced it.’
‘One cannot say something is correct if one HAS experienced it.’ I say ‘I trust people who’ve experienced nothing more than those who have sometimes.’ She laughs.

We try and remember something I said earlier. We succeed. It is everything after ‘rubbish.’

Amina tells me I don’t have to wait for a socially acceptable time to write anything down. I can just do it. She thinks it’s cool.

We compare our hands.

My knuckles are more prominent than Amina’s. My veins are more prominent than Amina’s. My tendons are more prominent than Amina’s.

I have a white hand and Amina has a brown hand.

I tell her the hand-comparison conversation is the natural conclusion to the evening. She disagrees. It is anyway.

Amina’s taxi driver dies over the phone with a bizarre gulp.

Amina leaves. I go to bed. I wake up in the morning.

Ben is surveying potential theatre spaces in the living room.

I dress and brush my teeth and wash my face and eat a cinnamon bagel and drink an instant coffee.

I pack a bag with my birth certificate, my national insurance card and Pascal’s Pensées.

‘Bye’ I say.
‘Train well.’ Ben says.

I walk to the train station and take a few passport photos where I have bad acne and a terrifying glare.

I sit on the train and read this sentence in Pascal’s Pensées: ‘All men shall pass away and be consumed by time.’

I turn and read the book the guy next to me is reading:
”Don’t fuck with me!’ Scream scream scream.
‘Think you’re a fucking hard guy, do you’ Think you’re a fucking hard guy, huh?’
No good.’

He is wearing a blue jumper and brown/grey corduroy trousers. His hair is white, his nose is round and solid, he has glasses and a silver watch. He sits with a grey rucksack on his lap.

The woman on the other side of me has Beyoncé as her iPhone wallpaper.

The woman in front of me is wearing a t-shirt that says:
‘WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER.
EXCEPT FOR BEARS.
BEARS WILL KILL YOU’

There is a little fake bear claw mark under ‘YOU’, on her left boob.

I turn the statement over in my head, and conclude it is nonsense.

It is absurd, ugly madness.

Unless it is saying being killed by a bear makes you stronger – which it isn’t saying – it isn’t an exception to the ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ rule at all. It fits firmly within the bounds of the rule.

It anything it is a completely separate event to the rule.

It doesn’t really have anything to do with the rule in any way shape or form.

Bears killing you has NOTHING to do with what DOESN’T kill you making you stronger.

How didn’t this sink in?

What was this t-shirt creator thinking (if you can call it thinking)!?

I can’t actually read this woman’s t-shirt without becoming depressed.

I can’t believe someone printed this on an actual t-shirt.

Only in a world where not being killed by a bear is culturally associated with weakness would this half-joke make sense; we do not inhabit this world.

I mourn for the state of human discourse.

I mean they’ve sacrificed having an actual punchline for having something that sounds like a punchline. This is what they’ve done:

‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Except for bears.
Bears build their huts over a matter of weeks.’

I begin to judge the woman for wearing it. I hope she is consumed with guilt. She is drinking San Pelegrino.

‘A stitch in time saves nine.
Unless bears.
Bears save no one:’

How is anyone taken in by this bear joke? It’s like putting a Chinese joke through Google translate.

‘I knew I didn’t have long to live unless I took some action.’ I read, in the man’s book next to me, and I sympathise.

‘Waste not want not.
Unless bears are there.
Bears are large mammals.’

I can’t believe no one is upset about this except me.

Why does the human race so openly surrender itself to chaos and absurdity?

Why am I (lest you forget, I am Jack Pedder) the only sane man.

Everything strange I have ever done I have been taught directly by the world around me.

We stop at Chesterfield and Sheffield.

We go through the Peak District. The hills are covered in fog.

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