The Commentator

The word “remarkable” is probably meaningless if you’re the sort of person who remarks upon everything. Maybe you would reserve the word for truly remarkable things – extraterrestrial visitations, for example, or a faulty KitKat with no wafer in it – but I doubt you can distinguish between levels of remarkability if you’re the type of person who finds polystyrene exciting.

I think this as I sit on a Glasgow-bound train from Dundee and the man behind me, in a constant monologue to a silent friend, relates the most mundane things imaginable with the verve of a seasoned Jackanory presenter.

Everything is remarkable to him: every last non-event is a piece of hilarious and endlessly reportable news. His life is a story in which every last sentence ends with an exclamation mark. He knows nothing of the world of the fullstop.

His voice is that of a Shakespearian performer and so everyone in the carriage must share his cardboard news. He makes the private public. He is a living weblog. Possessing the unusual combination of being both loud and dull, if he worked for the Samaritans switchboard, every last one of his callers would wind up as deaf suicides.

I know a few people with unusually quiet voices akin to that of William Wilson’s evil twin or the ‘before guy’ on a Strepsils advert. The universe must somehow balance out this unruly segment, hence, the Brian Blesseds of this world.

Much to the mortification of an old woman to my left, old Big Gob also swore a lot. Everything was “fucking” to him. Laughing, he said “At half time I ate a fucking orange!”


Irritated, I turn around in the fashion of a ten-year-old in a school assembly when the head teacher has singled out “you at the back” for chewing gum or looking a bit gay. I simply cannot help myself. With the vested interest of a freakshow spectator, I want to see what sort of idiot has a voice like this, swears so frequently and thinks that his one-day-late free gift from PC World is worth talking about so fervently or at all.

The voice belongs to a giant, well moisturised, amateur Nazi. He is young, Aryan, and despite a down-to-the-floorboards shaven head and fists like pigs’ heads is oddly handsome. He looks a bit like a Mitchell Brother but without the sphincter for lips.

The fact that he transpired to be this gentleman thug is the only reason I refrained from smacking him about the chops, pulling back his waistband and pouring my ScotRail coffee into the expanse of his trousers.

That and the fact that I am not Bugs Bunny.

If I had assaulted the noisy man, I would have been outed as being a librarian and the Metro newspaper would report the incident with a comedy skew.

It soon becomes transparent to those of us in Coach F (the designated quiet coach, by the way) that Big Gob and his friend work for the Navy. He has a few stories about being on Manoeuvres in the “Bristol Fucking Channel”.

You might imagine that this would make for at least semi-interesting eavesdropping but even his Navy stories were dull. Highlights included discussion of a “fucking spanner” which proved particularly effective on some tight nuts and memories of a former commanding officer who would address the men each morning with the phrase “Good morning, men”.

He found the latter story particularly funny. “Fucking funny” in fact. I suppose we could give old Big Gob the benefit of the doubt and assume that “Good morning, men” is unusually camp or cheerful for a commanding officer – akin to a vampire saying “hello, chaps” as he comes to suck your blood or a mass nuclear bombing being preceded with informative leaflets apologising for the inconvenience. But I doubt it. He was just a boring man. A boring, Mitchell Brother-faced DVD commentary-speaking Chubby Brown-tongued wally.

The thought occurs that some poor bugger might one day have to share a U Boat with him.

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