Wednesday 5 October 2011

Laughing on the Train

Yesterday I was in my spiritual second home, the Derbyshire dales, where my cousin and I spent the afternoon enjoying the most spectacularly picturesque of them all - Dovedale (where we were greeted on arrival by a fine Red Admiral, posing to advantage on a sycamore leaf -but enough of Admirals)... On the train on the way back, I noticed a chap sitting diagonally opposite me on the other side of the gangway reading a book. Every few paragraphs, it seemed, he would be overcome by helpless laughter, rocking with delighted mirth. He wasn't guffawing or braying embarrassingly, just hugely enjoying himself. That must be one funny book, I thought, idly glancing across from time to time. What could it be, this riproaring ribtickler? A Wodehouse perhaps, even a Tom Sharpe?... And then I caught sight of the title: it was Anne Tyler's The Amateur Marriage. Now, this is a very fine novel - I wrote about it here - but a riproaring ribtickler it is not, by any stretch. I fear the chap on the train probably belongs to that class of eccentrics I used to come across in my reference library days, who would take down, say, the Port of London Tide Tables from the shelf and read them closely with every sign of enjoyment, laughing merrily at who knows what 'jokes' visible only to them.

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