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Littlehampton, England

Onboard with Broken Britain

I’ve been living in Littlehampton for almost a year now, yet working 25 miles away from Brighton has meant enduring the somewhat tedious chore that is commuting. This is often a more eventful affair when the journey is taken later in the evening, and tonight was no different.

I’m not sure how this particular altercation began, but as is often the case it involved a group of young teens, the over consumption of alcohol, and a train conductor trying to do his job, be that simply ensuring passengers have paid their fare. These disputes typically conclude during a 5 minute delay to the service at West Worthing, whereby shouting, repetitive use of the words ‘mate’ and ‘fucking’ and various statements as to the passengers ‘rights’ are thrown about before they’re eventually escorted off the train.

However on this particular occasion the argument took place next to a table of middle aged passengers, who whilst equally intoxicated, thought their age allowed them to claim the moral high ground. This began by asking the group of teenagers to mind their language, but quickly descended into gibes about the irresponsibility of youth (with such classics as “I have a Hoover older than you!” and “shouldn’t you be in bed?”) before telling the “silly little tarts” to “grow the fuck up”. The situation only escalated further when one of the girls claimed to have been tripped over by the women sitting at the table, although given the behaviour of both I would be hard pressed to tell which was telling the truth.

Unfortunately stuck between these two groups was the train conductor, whose Eastern European accent meant he soon became a target for the young male ego who had lead the initial altercation. I wouldn’t like to repeat what was said, but the indent was clear. CCTV has it’s limitations, and with this passenger believing it to only record pictures not sound, hurled racial abuse at the conductor in the hope that it would provoke physical retaliation and ultimately lead to him losing his job.

This whole episode made me very angry, and at times I felt like joining in — perhaps my own voice would bring clarity to an argument that now seemed to encapsulate many aspects of British society as it stands today — but of course this would only add to a cacophony caused by heavy drinking, disrespect, and tensions around immigration.

Instead, I took a different course of action. Upon leaving the station I thanked the conductor for doing a good job, which I think he appreciated. Even though it didn’t seem like enough given all he had just put up with, I certainly felt better doing this than joining the generations of broken society that I travelled home with tonight.

  • Jon Roobottom

    Interesting and well written, however I can’t understand why you’ve taken the ‘Broken Britain’ stance. Is this a phenomenon restricted just to the UK? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. I agree with you totally that this type of behaviour is unacceptable and systemic of too much alcohol – but I think it’s more than that.

    In a society where we’ve perhaps lost our moral compass, this type of behaviour becomes acceptable and is passed on from one generation to the next. People simply don’t have the understanding that it’s wrong to hurl abuse at each other.

    I’m not sure what the answer is, or even if there is one, but to attribute this solely to Britain is a gross disservice to the (still) majority of it’s people. Its the Sun news paper mentality: “Broken Britain”, where the government is out to get us and society is breaking down at the seams. Sensationalist garbage.

  • Aaron Brady

    I agree. When I was staying at a (reasonably nice!) hotel in London a man and his wife tore into the person tending the bar because he didn’t have appropriate notes and wanted to give them 5 x £1 coins. I can see this is inconvenient, but at the end of the day, it’s tender.

    They argued for several minutes, got a manager called over, and previously used talked loudly about “cheap immigrant labour”. This was frustrating, watching on, because (while I have no serious problem with cheap immigrant labour, per se) the man tending bar had a badge on showing he spoke four major European languages, alongside English; it’s long been the tradition in hotels to employ multilingual people, many of whom are foreign.

    I wonder how many the couple spoke. Between them.

    I took the same tack as you, commiserated with the man when came around to serve me, said I perfectly understood the delay and thanked him for serving me.