Am down in Stratford for a pre-Christmas/Hal birthday-a-thon. 4.5 hours direct to Birmingham. First three and a half hours flew by; train was quiet, I had 2 seats to myself, all was good. I was reflecting how the pre-Christmas weekend's actually quite a good one to travel in - the corporate travel is dying down, but most people aren't really travelling for leisure for another few days.
An hour out of Birmingham the train stopped, for an hour, as the track was pointing the wrong way. That's when 2 weegies, Rangers fans* who from what I can gather spend all their time travelling round the country to Orange marches and getting drunk, moved into the table in front.
- a rousing song of [drunk no 1]: "Kill all the Catholics and the Jews!" [drunk no 2] "Come on, Jimmy, the jews are no that bad" (yes he really was called Jimmy)
- a delightful anecdote about how they should all go to Belfast for the next Orange march, as last time they were there the hotel messed up their mate's reservation so he kicked the crap out of a black guy**. He himself didn't intervene nothing cause it was 'nothing really to do with him' and quite funny.
When we finally restarted, they got off at the stop before mine, to run for a connection. Ten minutes later our train stopped again, for half an hour, as the police had to be called out for 2 guys on the train in front. I wonder who...
They were being nice to me, which was at first comforting and later verged on disturbing. When I was trying to sleep they tried to keep it down and spoke to others on the train about how they could just give me a cuddle, and drunk no 2 had to stop drunk no 1 from getting his coat out to put round me. They thought it was crying shame a woman was travelling by herself. I doubt they saw I was pregnant - if they had I suspect I'd have been treated to more nice-but-creepy.
Given the position I was in, I had to option but to be nice back. I told them my name (when asked) and gave polite banter. I batted off questions like 'Can you tell these cunts to fucking move?' with 'Oh, I don't think I have that kind of power'. I gave them my shortbread. Any other option: pointing out that most of my family was Catholic, that I considered myself a Celtic fan, that maybe beating up black guys for no reason was a wee bit unfair; or even just gathering up all my spread-out stuff and noisily and obviously moving carriages - was just too risky. Given they tried hard to get me to sit with them, they'd have only followed me.
Despite living in Scotland for 15 years, I'd been largely shielded from direct experience with sectarianism like this, but it really brought home to me why no drinking on certain trains, and recent moves to combat sectarianism in football, is a bloody good idea.
Ok, I think a lot of that was my need to let off steam. I started this as a FB status, but it sort of grew. I'm not really sure what my point is, other than 'omg that was terrrifying'.
* I mention this as it was hugely relevant to them. I know plenty of Rangers fans who are decent, reasonable, people and I don't meant to imply any tarring-with-the-same-brush here. Similarly: they were from Glasgow, but I prefer to think of incidents like the Clutha aftermath as my weegie yardstick.
**and a bizarre attempt at PC when drunk no 2 said 'a black guy?' and drunk no 1 corrected him said 'African', but drunk no 2 later referred to him as a 'Negro'. Goes to show that labels hurt, but not half as much as having the shit kicked out of you.