Was I right to ask an Ipswich fan to stop swearing on a crowded train?

Was Steven right to ask the Ipswich fan to tone down his language while on the train heading towards

Was Steven right to ask the Ipswich fan to tone down his language while on the train heading towards Colchester? Photo: Neil Perry - Credit: Archant

I love a good swear. It can feel so cathartic: an outlet for all the rage and frustration that's ulcerating your insides.

But I don't always love to hear swearing.

A few weeks ago, I had a minor contretemps on a train, that threatened to turn into a more major confrontation – and it was all triggered by some sweariness.

I was on a Saturday lunchtime train from Norwich to Colchester, while a group of about seven or eight Ipswich fans (about half of their home crowd) were in the seats all around me, travelling from Norwich to Ipswich for a match.

Why anyone would travel from Norwich to Portman Road is beyond me, but I'll file that in the drawer marked 'Ultimate Mysteries of Life'.

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They were an OK bunch, despite their dubious taste, but the man sitting behind me was a big fan of loud swearing, with every sentence peppered with profanities.

The train was full, with children and elderly people on it, and it just seemed inappropriate.

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My righteousness gland began to become overactive – then it went into overdrive when he started to use the foulest word of all. You know the one, and it's not even nice to form it in your imagination.

And so, a lone Norwich City fan surrounded by the enemy, I asked him very nicely to refrain from swearing.

Yes, I sometimes have a death wish. But the initial reaction was: 'Oh, sorry mate.'

Then they stewed on it, travelled to high dudgeon and a couple of them started giving me abuse.

One of them ludicrously asked me how I knew that his mate didn't have Tourette's or an illness: 'How do you know he's not sick?'

'Well, he is going to Portman Road...' I said. And then I wished I had a rewind button or a longer delay between my brain and my mouth.

Too late, so I sat quietly while one bloke in particular kept insulting me, including by calling me a 'Nazi' for reading a book about German history. I guess that also makes me a Viking, a Mongol, a Hobbit, a Communist, a Tudor queen and a horse.

They got off at Ipswich, poor things, and I got back to my Third Reich history book.

It got me thinking about swearing: whether it's a person's right to do it when and where they like, or whether there's a time and a place.

It's clearly the latter.

I wouldn't swear in this column because my Mum reads it – and it's not in the Archant style book.

I don't swear in front of my Mum and Dad – nor my children (except on the football pitch, when red mist leads to blue language, followed by black looks from the offspring).

Nobody swears in church, do they? Even when a church is open, we go all hushed and whispery.

I would love to hear someone belch out a loud swear word during a quiet part of a service, though. Imagine the tuts, the horror and the judgement: after all, it's far more sinful than the gossip, back-biting, half-heartedness and hypocrisy that are often present.

I suspect a particularly hot corner of Hell is reserved for the evil issuers of profanities.

If so, I'll never grow cold in eternity.

You wouldn't eff and jeff during a job interview, in Santa's grotto, at a school nativity, in the middle of a wedding service, while ordering food in a restaurant, or while going around a stately home.

To me, it's all about the audience. If you're using blue language within earshot of people who don't like it, then don't do it.

A crowded lunchtime train is not an appropriate place for a shower of expletives. For many reasons, Portman Road is.

Zipping it for half an hour wasn't that big an ask, was it?

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