I like trains, and I like train journeys. I arrive at work relaxed and calm, having enjoyed (a) a seat where someone else is doing the driving (b) a constant stream of good music, uninterrupted by imbecilic breakfast DJs, thanks to my iPod and (c) a couple of dozen pages of a good novel (this week: The Long Firm). Isn't that better than being jammed in a Fiesta on the M53?
There are times when I see their point, though, and Thursday night was one of them. I was sat on the train, reading away while I listened to my iPod (cliche alert! - Dusty Springfield), and I was so caught up with it that I completely missed the altercation going on behind me. The raised voices were a sort of backdrop to I Only Wanna Be With You that I just wasn't processing. It was only when my neighbours leapt up and stared behind me that I realised there was a full blown ruckus in progress.
Self-preservation instincts kicked in, and I moved too. Two shaven headed men in their early twenties were, basically, smacking seven bells out of each other, though one was doing less well than the other. He was sprawled over the seat, while the other man repeatedly punched him in the face.
The train pulled into Green Lane, and a couple of people got off; but mostly people just stared. No-one moved to intervene. I found myself watching their faces. Some were nauseated, some were scared, but most people seemed to be enjoying it. A fair few were smiling. It was as though Merseyrail had put on some theatre for their entertainment.
The train left the station, and they were still at it; a fat teenage girl who was with them was shouting at them to stop, but not with any great passion or ferocity. It was that bored exclamation you let out when the dog sniffs something it shouldn't.
Cavalry! Four Merseyrail guards came through the carriage, and I wondered (a) who had told them and (b) are there always four guards on a train? It seems a bit excessive. The fighters spotted them before they arrived, and stopped immediately - they didn't quite adjust their clothes and whistle, but as near as dammit.
My role in the little show was at an end though, because it was Birkenhead Central, so I missed the men's defence. From what I saw, it appeared to be of the "ah, we're just having a laugh" variety.
The guilt washed over me as I left the station. Should I have intervened? The ferocity of their fight would have no doubt spilled onto any good samaritan, and I'm a coward at the best of times. Should I have contacted the guards? Actually I don't even know how you'd do that - is there such a thing as a communication cord on today's trains? It felt wrong, being on that train as two men engaged in violent, angry fisticuffs before our eyes - but there was nowhere to go.
It did make me rethink my pro-public transport stance, at least for a second. Though not as much as the man sat opposite me on Friday who spent the entire journey from Bache talking loudly into a handsfree mobile. He was well-dressed, obviously wealthy, but a thousand times more irritating to his fellow passengers than the battling baldies. But please go back to my original point: I love trains and I love train journeys. Besides, a little bit of bloody violence adds a frisson to your day!