I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is’ Kurt Vonnegut Jnr
The above quote comes from Kurt Vonnegut’s non-fiction ruminations on the state of his country in the short volume titled A Man Without A Country. Though often pigeonhold as pessimistic and and cynical, Vonnegut mostly pedalled hope, shot through with a healthy dose of jet black humour. Vonnegut is one of my favourite authors and although primarily pegged as a science fiction author his novels transcended genres and always ended up being about real people with real hopes and fears. If you haven’t already, I urge you to read ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ his anti-war, time and space hopping classic or [in my opinion] his masterpiece ‘Breakfast of Champions’.
Over the years I have attended many weddings as a guest but the weekend just gone attended my first as a photographer. I did this as a favour to a friend whose sister was getting married and who didn’t want traditional posed wedding shots. The bride wanted to enjoy the day and not be herded around or posed; she wanted something informal that captured the day in its entirety from start to (very late) finish and something that was not going to cost a fortune. I am still not entirely sure why I agreed to do this although looking back I think red wine may have been involved and I was riding high at the time after my little exhibition coming into fruition. So it was (and so it goes Vonnegut fans) that I found myself in Devon photographing the wedding of two people that I had never met on the hottest day of the year so far.
To be honest, nervous does not really cover it. I was fully aware that it was within my capabilities to ruin two lovely people’s big day; two people who had put their trust in me after seeing some Glastonbury photographs on Twitter. However, I could not have been made more welcome than I was… by everyone from both families and friends. They accepted me as ‘the photographer’ which was kind of cool but hey, they didn’t know any different did they readers? I really was very nervous but managed to pull through taking almost 1000 images in the process. It would be unfair of me to blog a photo of the actual wedding here before the bride and groom have had a chance to see the photos but this is a picture of the location, a thatched cider barn on an eco-farm in Devon. I am currently ploughing through the photographs, whittling them down and hope to end up with a fitting set of images that capture the special day.
And the Vonnegut? This was one of the readings at the wedding. I have not quoted it in its entirety but please seek it out. In a nutshell, he is saying that we ALL need to give our own happiness a little bit of headroom. It was a perfect reading for a perfect wedding and was made under a magnificent ancient oak tree in the middle of the woods that bounded the farm. It fitted perfectly. Beautiful weather. Check. Happy friends and family. Check. A genuine sense of two people very much in love. Check. As the quote goes ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is’. My own wedding was 13 years ago this July. It poured down torrentially ALL day, so much so that a gentle steam hovered above the guests. Yet the quote still applies. Furthermore it can be applied on a daily basis. Even the shittiest day of your working week may have a Vonnegut moment. It may be The Elgins ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You’ coming on the car stereo as you drive home from work in the last of the day’s sunshine; it may be Portugal going out of the World Cup at the hands of a majestic Spain; it may be a realisation that the book that you are reading is one of the special ones that you will keep, treasure and force upon anyone that will listen. Small moments maybe but moments of pure joy and happiness nonetheless.
There is another quote by Vonnegut, again from A Man Without A Country that I have printed on a T-shirt. It basically carries much of the same sentiment but darkly skewed. It is this:
I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.
Kurt Vonnegut Jnr
Those 18 words say more to me than many a good book, particularly those of a self-help nature, could ever muster. It is the stark truth of the human condition and ambition laid bare, shot through with humour and joy. And if that’s not nice I don’t know what is…