Sssh! for Joe’s sake

Lancashire Life - - JUSTIN MOORHOUSE -

Ev­ery train has at least one ir­ri­tat­ing loud­mouth and Justin nearly strikes a blow for de­cency

this time to his wife. He tells her train is de­layed. It’s not. He tells her he’s just leav­ing Glas­gow. We aren’t, we’ve just pulled out of Crewe. He tells her he loves her. I don’t believe him. Peo­ple are look­ing at each other with awkward dis­be­lief. I have to say something, but what? What’s the in­ter­ven­tion? ‘I’m sorry mate, I don’t think you are a nice person, and ev­ery­one here is try­ing to get on with their day’? No, we’re Bri­tish, and we don’t get in­volved.

Train rules say you can only com­plain if some­one is be­ing loud on the phone if it’s the quiet coach. It’s not the quiet coach. He makes another call. He begins to speak in a Belfast ac­cent. The wo­man across from me sti­fles a gig­gle. This is weird. He’s so far just used a pretty stan­dard North West ac­cent. He’s now sound­ing like he’s lived on the Falls Road all his life. He’s talk­ing to a wo­man. We know it’s not his wife. He’s whis­per­ing sweet noth­ings, which frankly isn’t that sexy in his cod Belfast twang. Imag­ine be­ing chatted up by the late Revd Ian Pais­ley.

The sit­u­a­tion takes a darker and weirder turn. He says bye to her and takes another call. He bel­lows into the phone again, back in his previous voice. ‘Hello, Joe.’ Is he sack­ing him now?

Is this the mo­ment. I feel a bit sick. No, he doesn’t say any­thing about sack­ing him. He tells him his fig­ures were a bit low, but he’s sure they’ll be back up next quar­ter. He in­vites him to a golf day next week and wishes him all the best. He even asks af­ter his wife. This man is heart­less. My heart sinks.

If you haven’t got any­thing nice to say then don’t say any­thing at all. Most of us have at some point been given this ad­vice; I’m now old and weary enough to add the caveat – un­less the person you are deal­ing with is a nin­com­poop of galac­tic pro­por­tions. I’m going to say something. Maybe I’ll just ask him to keep it a bit qui­eter. The wo­man op­po­site sees my move and smiles en­cour­ag­ingly. What­ever I do won’t make an im­pact to Joe, but it might just make Bel­low­ing Man re­alise we all hate him. I’m going to say something, on behalf of Joe, the car­riage and my­self. For ev­ery boss that’s been hor­ri­ble to any­one. To ev­ery wife that’s been lied to. For ev­ery train com­pany wrongly ac­cused of be­ing late (maybe they don’t need me to stand up for them on re­flec­tion).

I stand. I gird my­self. I walk over. He looks up. He’s a big man. Dressed in clothes that cost too much for the ef­fect they give stretched across his bar­rel chest. I see drool in the corner of his mouth. I cough. He looks up. This is the mo­ment I make a stand. A flicker of de­light dances across his du­plic­i­tous piggy eyes. ‘Justin! I loved your show last week in Dar­wen – can I have a selfie?’

I smile for the photo and skulk back to my seat, avoid­ing the glances from my fel­low pas­sen­gers.

ABOVE: ‘I’m on the train.’ Yes, we know, we can all hear you

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