Here’s a nice little story that illustrates what happens if you overburden a population with regulations. Eventually the spiritless majority will jump off a cliff if required to do so. But a few will refuse. There will always, thank God, be a few.
This incident took place on an evening commuter train in Scotland a few days ago. There was a stand-off between a ticket inspector and a teenager who didn’t have a valid ticket. The train was stopped. The teenager was asked to get off and refused in rich Anglo-Saxon terms.
The inspector said he was only doing his job and as far as he was concerned they could stay there all night. The boy said he didnae gev a feck. But then up jumped Big Man, who’d paid his fare and wanted to get home to his tea. He lifted the lad out of his seat, like he weighed no more than a bag of chips, bundled him off the train and received a round of applause from the passengers who would otherwise be sitting there yet.
The applause has now faded away (except in this house). The boy’s father wants Big Man charged with assault. His son, needless to say, turns out to be a sainted lad, diabetic, studying hard for his exams, who had taken one drink, well, mebbe two and… had been sold the wrong ticket. Well, caveat emptor as my old Gran used to say.
A robot from Scotrail (a suitably Orwellian name, no?) said, ‘While we welcome support for our zero tolerance stance on anti-social behaviour, our staff are trained in conflict management and therefore members of the public should not… blah blah, baaa baaa, over the cliff ye go….’
Big Man can take comfort that 90 percent of the sheep passengers on that train are grateful to him and would have done the same themselves if only they didn’t fear the consequences of a criminal conviction. Mr F and I were recently on a Eurostar train in a carriage full of drunk German football supporters. They made the other passengers’ journey hell and should have been put off at Ebbsfleet – can there be a worse fate? – but the staff did bugger all. So there’s conflict-management training for you.
What follows isn’t entirely a non sequitur. For one thing it continues in a Scottish vein. I don’t often recommend movies but The Field of Blood is worth a look. It captures perfectly the smoke-filled news rooms of yesteryear and features the excellent Peter Capaldi in a cracking cameo role. Here is a wee taster. American viewers will need subtitles to guide them through the Glaswegian accents. For me the film’s most keepable, though admittedly not very useful phrase was ‘getting off at Paisley Gilmour Street’: GlasgaeSpeak for coitus interruptus.
The treasure house of English idiom. If you live to be a hundred you’ll never hear the half it.