Before you start to read this, there is no sexual content so please feel free to move on!
She was the sister of one of the playground bullies. Two years older, blonde, very pretty and with a personality that cried for you to fall in love with her. Her brother, however, was a small, strong and a wannabe bully’s henchman. He and I played rugby together; such is school life. Left to his own devices he would have probably been a nice lad, maybe even a friend, however, that was not to be. He clung on to a wider circle that gave him security from his obvious short form that would, more than likely, make him stand out more than me. His sister, well she reached out to a boy who had blood and tears on his face one day, and I never forgot her name. It was Alison, and in the years to follow I discovered it was in fact Tracy. How I manged to screw that up I will never know!
At 14 years of age, I stood 6 feet (the 2 inches extra came not long after) and weighed no more that 10 stone dripping wet. Dressed in full (optional) school uniform, including blazer, I stood out amongst the back drop of those from a huge council estate; kids were wearing hand-me-down clothing mixed with expensive Fred Perry polo shirts and diamond pattern Lyle & Scott jumpers paid for with Saturday jobs. What also put me in the spotlight was my very bright blond hair and a spoken voice that pronounced every T and H; these consonants were long lost in this part of London. I was not from the other side of the tracks as most kids thought, in fact, my family were instrumental in laying the tracks having come from central London where the railways lines pushed out like a spider’s web into the sprawling masses of smaller towns. Despite my own similar modest upbringing, I did not fit in.
Bullies, like hyenas, hunted in packs at my school. There was a hierarchy and those that followed the leader were open to being turned on the same as another unsuspecting victim. In order to stay popular you had to prove your worth, create your own currency in order to trade for your place in the pack. Looking back I now feel sorry for some of these people, not all, just some. They were caught, either because they came with a known family name where it was expected that you should become a spiteful little shit like your 5 older brothers, or you just happened to be swept up in the blood lust. Whatever the reason, there was no way out, unless you suddenly matured and walked away with such confidence no one dared challenge you.
As I said, I was an easy target and not being part of a crowd didn’t really help. I had one good friend whose back garden bordered the school fence. This proved very handy when avoiding a good ‘shoeing’ after school. I was additionally vulnerable because my dad had taught me to box and I had practised Judo for about 4 years. I was no stranger to physical contact, however, I was taught tolerance and the implications of hurting someone. I knew I could fight, my cousin could vouch for that having bloodied each other many times before, and I was pretty strong from Judo. Despite all that, I did not want to fight as I was genuinely worried what the outcome may be. If I could hit my dad with gloves on and give him a look of surprise, another 14-year-old boy was not going to be a problem.
And so for many years I took abuse on a daily basis. Punching to the back of the head, spitting in my hair and bag slashing. Most kids didn’t own a school bag so they used supermarket plastic bags for books and sports kit. The bully’s favourite game was slashing the underneath of your bag with a craft knife. The contents would spill out on to the floor and a dozen black boots would kick the contents into hundreds of feet in the corridors. You found yourself scrambling around like a starved dog trying in vain to pick up the books and pens. A damaged book always resulted in the teachers slapping you with a wooden ruler, it was a vicious circle. Above all, the greatest torment was the name calling. It stripped you of your identity, and created a squashed but angry young boy.
“Hey pretty boy!” they would shout. “Prreeeeeeety Boy!”
The words even today ring in my head and I truly would love to meet again the little fucker who started it all. Well, I would but he’s in prison somewhere I expect.
One evening when hanging around the streets after dark with my friend, I was hit in the face by two well-aimed eggs. It was sort of drive by shooting, albeit on bicycles and with food. If you have ever been hit in the face by an egg you will know that it hurts, getting hit with two eggs is just a more painful mess. I remember washing up at my friend’s house and going on the warpath for the guy who threw them. I eventually found him alone and shouted in his direction what my intentions were. I admit that when the words left my mouth I regretted it. He was not just the bully, he was ‘disturbed.’ However, to my shock he turned and walk away, and fast. This my dear reader was an epiphany
I realised two things that night. Firstly, standing up for yourself felt good and secondly bullies are just people with all the insecurities of others, and a whole lot more. Over the next few months I challenged each minor celebrity in the bully pack. It involved a lot pushing and shoving, however, I was bigger and made sure they knew it. I was fully aware that my life at school was like a 1980’s video game. Each week I encountered a new enemy and each one stronger. The end of the game would result in the big-boss show down, and this worried me, a lot!
Three events happened that stopped the big-boss show down. Firstly, was the little guy with the pretty older sister I mentioned. He was well placed in the pack and decided to push me into a long urinal in the boy’s toilets whilst I was using them. Having cleaned myself up I queued for our next class, along with my tormentor. He only pointed and laughed at my soaking wet trousers, however, one punch without warning, a broken nose, lots of blood, a visit from his father to mine, and it was over. I had suddenly stuck my head over the trench, and having created such a mess, my rep’ was certainly over exaggerated for a few days. His lovely sister actually thanked me! She went on to become a glamour model in a well know UK news paper years later. I finally got to admire her in ways you could only imagine…
Secondly the big-boss bully entered into a fight with another lesser-bully who was also in my rugby team. He won. It was a big after school arranged fight and was over as quickly as it started. Big-boss looked a mess, his ego was flattened and he never fully returned to school. He just drifted away back into the masses of houses where 20 years later he fell in with some serious people. I was pleasantly surprised to watch police surveillance film of him robbing a warehouse at gun point in the course of my job in 1999. He went away for a long time. Oh boy, I really can’t express how much I loved that moment.
Lastly, I matured to the point that I stopped taking shit from kids at school. I was almost 16, fully grown in height and had a nice group of friends. Similar tastes in music, fashion and all with a history of being bullied, we were confident and very happy.
So why the excerpt of my childhood? Well I read a blog post by kit and Caboodle and it got me thinking about growing up and the types of people who became tormentors and how to manage them. As a kid it was all very scary, however, as my world expanded I realised what could be changed by having the confidence to manage these situations. Being isolated and not talking to others about people who victimise you is counter productive. Only a few days ago I saw a great ‘in-your-face’ retort by candy snatch to people who use the internet to fire their venom. A great example of turning the spotlight around and giving some heat back!
I have a strong aversion to any form of bullying, that will come as no surprise I’m sure. Whether it’s a troll, school yard or work place, the outcomes from this kind of behaviour are unmeasurable. 35 years on I still have the desire kick one person very hard in the nuts, however, having located him I would get more pleasure from knowing he grew up to be a well round person with a family and was happy.
It is very unlikely though, for he was truly a spiteful 13-year-old little bastard.