On January 30 last year I stood on the platform of my country station waiting for the 8.55am to London. I had a portable electric razor, a Philishave, made by Philips, and was having a late shave. I always like telling whoever chooses to listen to this kind of story about how the original Lion Philips, whose son and grandson co-founded the company, was Karl Marx’s uncle and Karl often tapped him for money for his revolutionary cause. Back in the 1840s and ’50s.
The 8.55am arrived on time and the doors burst open and out of them came an enormous chaos. Perhaps 10 boys of about 16 or 17 years old were beating what appeared to me to be one boy. People were shouting and fear seemed to spill over the platform, with many girls of a similar age also screaming.
I pocketed my Philishave razor and letting out the most vile, belligerent, loud, offensive bellow, I swore and gesticulated and ploughed into the tumult. And, pulling the boy who had punches and kicks raining down upon him behind me, told everyone else to “Fuck right off!”
I have been present on so many occasions when the above happened, among homeless people kicking off against each other. Boys and young men in prison, often picking on one person to take the brunt of their dissatisfaction. But here was pure theatre because all I had to do was be incredibly loud, appearing fearless and authoritative in order to shut upand restore, as the Americans like to call it, ‘normalcy’ to the platform. The fighters poured off the platform and the boy and the girl friends who were with him remained and I think I advised them to get back on the train and go to the next stop.
I have been a part of the chaos myself on occasions. Chaos and anger and accusations and opinions are thrown around, often causing fighting in the end. You could say that the participants are not thinking of what you might call ‘the common good’: the safety on this occasion of other people and themselves on the platform.
There are always causes for anger and belligerence breaking out. I once arrived at Fulham Broadway station on the train when aged 18 at a time when the local Chelsea Football Club had emptied. I was the only one getting off and as soon as the doors were opened dozens of people pushed into me as I tried to get off, with me ending up in the gap between platform and train, being trodden on without any thought. I managed to pull myself up and then attacked the hordes of men who stood confused and bewildered at my belligerency against their simple attempt to get on the underground.