WE’RE all familiar with the shouter on the bus taking the seat next to us. Or joining us when we were about to enjoy a sandwich on a bench.
It happened on a train recently to a friend and his wife when a couple under the influence of drink and stored-up grievances, a lethal combination, aired their relationship problems all the way from Aberdeen to Perth.
Not only aired, but shared with the entire carriage. High-decibel, high-obscenity rating, no detail spared.
In best-of-British everyone pretended to ignore the uproar, until Perth when the pair staggered off. Then, as it seemed uncertain whether they had reached their destination or were just trying to light cigarettes, there was a collective shout of “Close the doors!”
A miserable and unfortunately not unusual experience. But the “Hell is other people” rating is not confined to the noisy, foul-mouthed and might-be aggressive. You can be unwillingly bored to the point of “Death, where is thy sting?”
By mobile-phone bores, of course. By the pre-play or opera expert who explains in advance to all within earshot what will happen. At least during the performance, most confine themselves to whispered asides.
In a sports audience, no such luck, although in the days of terracing you could move away. Even now at our local football ground, seldom packed, on a good day a bore might need a loudhailer to reach his victims.
But among 17,000 people all seated for a one-day cricket international between England and Australia, bore and victims are stuck together for about eight hours. Last weekend, son Tom and I had no escape from the Geordie drone of the man behind, who had not only worked in every country from Norway to Afghanistan but had holidayed in any he had missed. To my astonishment, he wasn’t married.
He had no time for Jools Holland. Instead, Richard Thompson was the “best singer-songwriter this country has ever produced, but no-one’s heard of him”. We have now, at length.
He knew the best pubs in every city from Sydney to Stockholm, the best airlines, the worst hotels, the nicest people, the most expensive foods, the best car hires, the average rainfall in Turkey, daily hours of sunshine in California, why Middlesbrough’s attendance figures are so low and Sunderland’s so high.
When he started a second lap with Jools Holland, I realised time can stand still. Previously that had only happened when Geoff Boycott was batting.
» Last week Fordyce… reflected that the number of e-mails arriving is inevitably in inverse proportion to their importance – and the answer you’re waiting for won’t be among them
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west