Do you listen to Judge John Hodgman? You should. It is an amusing way to while away a thirty minute* bicyclistic commute.** John Hodgman, whom you will know from The misnomered Daily Show, pronounces judgements upon trivial disputes both real and I very much suspect, fake. From time to time the disputants are so irritating that I am forced to skip to the next podcast in my endless list, most often these dark days Richard Herring's Leicster Square Theatre Podcast or as the cool kids are calling it Rehelustepu, (Rehelustepu!) but never before His Honour delivers his opening salvo, traditionally a modified culture reference that bears some passing relationship to the case at hand. If either party can name the piece of culture in question they are awarded a summary judgement. Such is the obscurity of these references that this rarely comes to pass.
I live a life of such terrible isolation from my fellow man that most of the greatest moments in my life are inexplicable to the rest of humanity. I have no close friends who share my passions. You may consider me a friend, but were I to explain to you how, as I completed my third consecutive ascent of Mont Ventoux this July***, I collapsed on the ground and wept as I have not wept since as a sixteen year old I learned, in a beer garden in Ballinaskelligs, of the death of my cousin, you would at best regard me with that glazed expression with which I have become so familiar and at worst do whatever it is you are doing right now. And so it was that I dismounted outside the unnamed gym and pushed my way through the turnstile while listening to the Judge intone words that felt familiar. I reached my locker as he finished his piece and on hearing the final line "That was nonsense.", I realised that I had won, that I was the champions, that I did indeed recognise the culture reference that the justice was paraphrasing. I did not exclaim out loud, but I was filled with an all encompasing joy, a feeling of connection with my fellow man, a momentary release from the constant fear, with the confirmation that I shared a passion for an obscure author with somebody vaguely famous.
Samuel Youd died this February, a mere thirteen days before my younger daughter's eighth birthday and, my red training diary tells me, two days after I dropped my phone in a toilet. All things are one. He wrote dystopian fiction for adults and "young adults" alike and if you know him at all it will be as John Christopher, he to be the author of The Tripods Trilogy. And the Tripods Trilogy was fucking deadly. But The Prince in Waiting Trilogy? Oh my. What a fucking book for a ten year old to read. It stands up still, though everything seems to happen too quickly and even main characters which I had remembered as Shakespearean in their depth seem to my adult eye to be little more than rough sketches. But he could tell a tale that kept the pages turning, with language that seems to me now an odd combination of stuffy stiff upperlipiness and an almost Chandleresque sparsity that results in an unabashed dramatic tension throughout. But what the fuck do I know? I'm not some literary cricket. Mostly he was an author I read over and over again, for whatever reason, in the halcyon days before I switched to Orwell and realised that this life, no matter how prettily portrayed, is just one long miserable march to death.
So thanks, Sam, and please accept my apologies for the lateness of my tribute. I hope your march had flashes of the joy that you so regularly brought me.
*Current world record 22'47''
**Let's not get into the cycling with earbuds thing because that's just going to lead to the no helmet thing and what are you my mother? Jesus.
***This, as you may now be gathering, was a pretty fucking big deal for me. I'm too scared of its enormity to deal with it in one go, so I'm just going to keep dropping in references until you scream "SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT MONT VENTOUX" and I can go "What? I've barely mentioned it!"