Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

Low Life | 27 September 2008

Contemplative moments

The bride was several minutes late arriving at the church. Her side of the congregation were farming people, and while we waited, and the choir sang, the bloke on the pew beside me showed me photos of his new Bedlington terrier, Archie. He did look a handsome chap. My one ambition is to keep a dog — in particular a Bedlington crossed with a whippet — so my appreciation of the slide show on the back of his digital camera while we waited for the bride was enthusiastic and genuine.

It was strange to be sitting in God’s house again. I was brought up going to churches of all denominations and continued to go of my own accord as an adult for several years. But I’ve been dwelling in the tents of wickedness for so long now that God has despaired and given me over to a reprobate mind. Between photos of Archie and the bride’s arrival I sat contemplatively in the pew comparing my current, corrupted frame of mind with my once youthful, faithful one.

The bride, when she came down the aisle, looked a picture of joy. She took up her position beside the groom and we all sang ‘Hills of the North, Rejoice’. The woman I’d come with didn’t know this hymn but opened and shut her pretty lipsticked mouth in time to the tune to show willing. Then a handsome woman with a cheerful, open face came to the lectern and read a poem by John Betjeman called ‘In a Bath Teashop’. ‘“Let us not speak, for the love we bear one another/ Let us just hold hands and look.”/ She, such a very ordinary little woman/ He such a thumping crook/ But both, for a moment, little lower than the angels/ In the teashop’s ingle-nook.’

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