Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Riding the train with Dundee United

Returning from Scone last weekend, after being two days with mum, Amber and I expected a leisurely train ride back to Huntly. Arriving at Perth Station we encountered a crowd of mostly young men with flushed faces, cider bottles in hand and wearing football colours. Several tall policemen and women paced back and forth trying to look impressive. We knew that the lads were coming home after a football game, but had their team won or lost? If the latter, they could be mad enough to trash the station, or anything breakable in their path. Where were they heading? You guessed it, our train.

Waiting among them on the platform, we were treated to a chorus of chants. Less musical than Gregorian chants, with parent advisory lyrics, what the chanting lacked in musicology it had in sheer volume and emotion. You didn’t have to know the lexicon to know that the team had won, and yes…”Weeee’re the Dundee boys”. I yelled to Amber, who stood bewildered and deafened by the spectacle, “Here’re a bit of local culture.”

Train pulls up at the platform. With sinking hearts we see that it only has four carriages, and it’s pretty full. Doors open. Covering Amber with my left arm, we board, are able to take two steps before the horde presses in behind us, sandwiching us on all sides. “Can you breathe, my dear?” I ask. It gets tighter. I have visions of winding up beneath a stack of bodies, when I notice that we’re up against a pair of doors leading to First Class seats. We don’t have tickets, but so what. I open the door. Rushing in with the crowd falling on top of us we find two seats, which we grab. At least we’re sitting down. Dundee United squeezes into the aisle. Slowly, as if feeling its extra load, the train crawls off and lumbers over the Tay Bridge.

A lone voice intones, “We’re Dundee United….” And ten others join in. With the cops gone, beer and cider bottles multiply, get swigged, passed around. Names of players appear in chants, how this or that hero slew one of the Celtic “c—ts” I ask one of the guys what the score was, 2-1. They are ecstatic about the win that came from behind. Other passengers, like us sit bemused by the spectacle. No train conductor shows up; in that press no one can possibly move.

After half an hour we pull into Dundee and the fans stagger out of the train. We watch them disappear down the platform, still chanting. Silence, except for a giggle from a couple of little old ladies. The experience made their day.