Will Ye No' Come Back Again?Where had he come from? Lets just say he stood out. Celtic top. Celtic scarf, Celtic shorts. A mysterious little knitted woolly hat that said - yes, you guessed it. He was a different colour from everybody else - a livid purple colour that only a dedication to the consumption of cheap lager and the avoidance of all sun-care products can achieve. He was taller - and about twice the weight of anybody else in the carriage. He wouldn't have looked out of place in any bar on any wet Saturday afternoon in Helensborough, but this was a bright sunny day in July (don't they stop the football season for ten minutes in the Summer?), and this was the 7:15am from Cambridge to Kings Cross. And where the hell had he got his lager from? Didn't they stop doing the cans with the ladies posing in negligees on the sides sometime in the late eighties? How does that fit it with their nouveau-lad marketing? Well there she was - Deirdre, smiling out from both sides of the can in a frilly little nylon number, and there he was taking a long draught before holding the can high and giving Deirdre an admiring leer. And then leering at a charming young red-headed futures broker from Waterbeach who was suddenly wishing she'd worn a longer skirt.
The Japanese guy was heavily involved in his copy of Yomiuri Shimbun. His little exhibitor's name badge which he'd left pinned on his lapel said he was called Tatsuo Mishima and the little Union Jack on it perhaps suggested that he spoke English, but there wasn't really a language course that could have prepared him for this.
"Dae yae li' fitba'?" Mr Mishima dropped his paper and peered through his frameless Jean Paul Gautier specs. This hadn't been on his "Business English in 28 Days" cassette.
"Velly Solly," look, he really did say that. I could fall in line and pretend he said "Very Sorry" but he didn't. He really did say "Velly Solly"
A bit louder and with more lager-scented spittle - "Dae yae li' fitba'?" Terror was beginning to overtake incomprehension on the Japanese guy's face, he had no idea what this green and white and purple man was saying - or indeed in what language, but he was beginning to sense that it was probably important that he gave a correct answer. Maybe he was also sensing that the Telegraphs, the John Grishams and the Joanna Trollopes were being discretely lowered and he was becoming the centre of attention.
Once more with passionate intensity, "DAE YAE LI' FITBA'?" It looked as though the Japanese man was going to start crying. The eyes over the Grishams, the Telegraphs and the Trollopes saw everything and did nothing. Finally the spectre from the Celtic twilight seemed to realise that he was talking to a foreigner and therefore should speak more slowly and loudly.
"DO YOU LIKE FOOTBALL?" and it worked. He got it, by Jove he got it. The Japanese guy realised what was being asked of him and agreed as readily as anybody has ever agreed to anything that he liked football. "Ah yes! Football! Velly good." The pairs of eyes returned their to Florida law cases involving unfeasibly beautiful defendants, their women in floral prints searing joints on the tops of Agas, their detailed reportings of gross indecencies in Dorking. But it wasn't over yet.
"Dae yae li' Rangers?"
With a perceptible gasp the carriage re-clenched."Velly solly?"
"Dae yae li' Rangers?"
Tatsuo Mishima had wrung his Yomiuri Shimbun into a tattered mess. He looked as if he was about to wet himself.
"DO YOU LIKE RANGERS?"
You could see the look of uncertainty on the Mr Mishima's face. Was this really the way out? Was it really going to be this easy? Then he went for it in a big way.
"Ah yes? Rangers! Velly good."
How could he have got any more purple?
"Why d'you like Rangers? They're cra' !" and then in outrage to the whole carriage "this can' likes Rangers! Why d'you like Rangers? They're fu' in' cra'!" He was getting so excited that he was spilling his lager. "See Rangers fans? Know what ah dae tae Rangers fans..." We were all practicing our excuses, explaining to ourselves why we were quite right not to lift a finger while we watched a microchip wholesaler from Kyoto get the shit kicked out of him for admitting to supporting a football team he'd never heard of, why it was much better to concentrate on descriptions of everglade crime scenes, passionate glances at the vicar and letters to the editor deploring the uses of the words "chilled", "stressed" and "isn't it". But miraculously there was no need. The train stopped at Ashwell and Morden and the green and purple and white knight alighted, perhaps to test the sectarian allegiances of Northern Hertfordshire.
26th May 2002