I think it was the feeling of absolute impotence which made me feel like bursting into tears when I got home last night. I’d travelled from a wonderful day of work in London (spent with fellow independent publishers at #Tal15), back to Darlington – a journey I do pretty regularly but last night was different.
It started well enough. A tweet from another journalist alerted me to the fact that this would be my last journey on East Coast Trains. I was feeling a bit nostalgic and went to buy a cup of tea, passing the time of day with the young woman serving and asking about their new work arrangements. (New name badges for Virgin are on they way, but not uniforms).
Back at my seat and the train stopped at Peterborough where five or six very noisy, drunk passengers got on and proceeded to break out the booze and amuse themselves with stories from the day’s football match.
Then the chanting started. Then some racist conversations. Then a loud assessment of any women passing by. Then what sounded as if it could develop into a sexual assault on a young women attempting to navigate past the group.
In my head, I wanted to be that person, the one who would go and stand up to them. With a hand on the emergency chord, threaten them with being handed to the police if they didn’t shut the **** up.
But of course I didn’t. I did what everyone else in the carriage did and shift out of view in my seat. Turned up the volume on the music, avoided eye contact, paid for extra wifi time to pass the time.
It wasn’t just due to English reserve or feebleness – it did actually seem to me that things might turn violent.
And so the abusive behaviour continued.The carriage was mostly occupied by women travelling alone and so I guess none of us wanted to run the gauntlet that would have been required to contact the train guard.
I considered attempting to alert East Coast by Twitter but then I heard the female thing (possibly called Rebecca) that was with the group mention she was tweeting, presumably between laughing like a drain at every joke and comment made.
But then it looked like something might happen to relieve us – a male train attendant with the drinks trolley. Even if he didn’t feel he could face up to things there and then, surely he’d go and call the transport police in readiness for the next stop.
But no, the train pulled up at Doncaster and half the group went to leave. The remaining half banging so loudly on the train carriage walls that the guard standing on the platform must have heard them. If he didn’t hear those inside the train, the yobbo standing behind him chanting back to the group as they staggered off to delight the ladies of Donnie couldn’t have been ignored. Still no action.
Finally, after two hours or so the remainder all got off at York. A collective sigh of relief turned to anger as the train announcer put out a message declaring the train company’s zero tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour.
The new female train guard came to check tickets and received all of our complaints. It was at that stage that I dared come out of my seat and discovered to my horror that two young black women had been cowering at the next table to the vile group. All that racist and sexist stuff could even have been directed in part at them.
I realise the chances of anyone being bought to book for any of this are sadly incredibly slim but I have lodged this with the complaints people.
It might well be the first complaint of this type which Virgin Trains have to deal with on the former East Coast route and I’ll let you know how they rise to the challenge.
I suggest there’s a couple of lessons to be learned – 1. what is the role of station and train staff in such situations and 2. how to empower passengers to be able to make a complaint from their seat.
It is legal, under special circumstances, for a 12 year old to get married in South Africa. That’s just one of the startling facts revealed through the open data work carried out by Code4SouthAfrica which you can interact with above.
The most disturbing part of the diagram is on the far left. Girls younger than 16 are getting married. Two 12 year-olds were married off, one to a 20 year old man, another to a 67 year-old.
The data set looked at 161,000 civil marriages in 2012. Trends such as popular months for marrying (December) and the most common age to get hitched are all there but it’s in the outliers that the biggest stories lie.
On Valentine’s day, who could fail to be touched by the story of a 92 and 94 year old taking the plunge!
Having been introduced to this data (we are currently working out of Code4SA’s Cape Town base) prompted me to have a look at the same situation in the UK.
But to no avail. The Office for National Statistics offers a listing for ‘age at marriage‘ in its menu but – not one piece of data is available. A couple of mentions in aged articles and summaries and that’s your lot…….
Not so open with our national statistics.