Thanks to Darren I managed to get away early and so avoided the 11.35 drunks express from Paddington. On the 10.15 I thought that I could sleep soundly, manage a new high score on word mole and attend to other matters. What I forgot was that by the time we arrived at Swindon it was 11 PM and that made this the drunks express for those leaving the town that gave us Melinda Messenger.
Hence, at 11, about 15 lads joined our carriage. I say lads, but a couple were older than me and within a few minutes as they shouted loudly in broad West Country accents it was clear that the collective IQ of the 15 was barely into four figures.
To keep themselves entertained they started playing a game “the gauntlet” which seems to involved 14 of them kneeling on their seats looking backwards while the 15th had to run past them. Those kneeling simply had to either hit the runner as hard as possible or to try to rip his underpants down by sticking their hands down his trousers. At the same time they has to shout abuse at the runner. The three most popular shouts were “you gay cunt”, you “fucking lesbian” or “you Leon Britton.” Or was that “you Leon Brittan.” Was it a reference to the Swansea midfielder or the former home secretary about whom so many interesting rumours circulate. I did not feel like asking about this cultural metaphor.
However, the irony of a bunch of men shouting homophobic abuse while try to stick their hands down each other’s trousers was not lost on myself or the small group of fellow passengers.
Occasionally the insults got too much and in our short 45 minutes together we enjoyed two real fights where a couple of the drunks beat the crap out of each other. Apparently this all harked back to a row about a pair of sunglasses lost at Butlins. Whatever.
My back was turned to this spectacle but – like my fellow passengers – I could not help but watch. I felt rather like a Victorian paying to go and watch lunatics humiliate themselves at the asylum, but – feeling a little guilty – I watched anyway. The late night trains to Bristol are a true gin alley