Civility breaks out on a rail journey to hell

It seems that some of the Olympic good humour lingers on, even for commuters

Related Topics

There was a person under the train – again. Hundreds waited at Liverpool Street Station, experiencing that discomfiting inner tug-of-war between sympathy for the private tragedy and exasperation at the public chaos. We stood looking up at the departures board like Earthlings gazing skywards in a science-fiction film.

After two hours, we were directed to a platform. There were scenes of undignified confusion as passengers tried to board a train that was as quickly packed as any Tube train during rush hour – only this journey would, for some of us, be well over three hours. After another long delay, the train heaved its way slowly out of the station. An hour later, it stopped. There was a broken-down train in front of us.

It is an everyday story of modern life – genuinely, if you happen to use Greater Anglia trains where, even when people are not throwing themselves in front of trains, there are regular problems of signalling, staff absences, unpredictable delays caused by freight trains, leaves on the line, and so on.

What is interesting, and less predictable, is the public reaction to inconvenience and frustration. It has become more grown-up. There is less of the clenched rage, the defeatist moaning, than, say, a year ago. It has become noticeable in the past few months that people are more prepared to chat to one another, to let down their personal barriers at times of stress.

Although the Olympic summer seems an age away, its subtle effects live on. Good humour, politeness, decency and individuality were the national characteristics on display – or at least, that was the marketing message broadcast to the world – and, as if by magic, those qualities seem to have hung around.

The whinge-and-blame culture has not disappeared, but the significant boost to our national identity provided by a successful Olympics has lifted some of the grumpiness and largely unexpressed rage which was such a depressing part of our national life. It may or may not be true that, as claimed earlier in the week, Britain now leads the world in “soft power”, the international influence of our culture and values, but at home the difference in confidence is noticeable.

The next step is for it to work its way into how our corporations are run. Few Greater Anglia passengers, for example, are great fans of the company but, on one ghastly journey at least, the hero of the moment was Emily, the train’s good-humoured, patient, and genuinely apologetic conductor.

Blandford, hero of our time?

If one were looking for a career which summed up the strangeness of modern Britain, that of Jamie Spencer-Churchill, the Marquess of Blandford, would be a useful place to start. Blandford’s main claim to fame, apart from the family into which he was born, is his imprisonment for driving offences and for prescription drug forgery. There were other incidents – an accusation of racial abuse against a taxi driver (strongly denied by Blandford), a road rage charge – regularly reported in the press. He was on a reality show, but walked out after being discovered staying in a hotel when he was meant to be sleeping rough.

Now he is back, running Blenheim Palace, his family seat and one of the great homes of England, when he is not wintering in Verbier or taking a couple of months to snooze and sunbathe on an island off the Kenyan coast. There is, of course, a TV documentary about his life and achievements. So much for those who say that it is difficult for criminals to be rehabilitated in modern Britain.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower