Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Bullying Sequence from Ultra Violence

Dear Mel,

Regarding your bullying appeal.

You might want to show your friends this. There is a supposition amongst young people that bullying is a modern thing, as if it only began, like a craze or something, in the the last month or so.

In autumn 1978, I was savagely attacked after a sustained three month campaign by the knuckle draggers in my class. My assailants included boys and girls who went on to become a concert violinist, a doctor, a stockbroker and...hehehehe...a teacher. 

Bitter irony there.

There was no particular reason for the attacks it was just my turn to be bullied. Hah! I would not be young again for all the tea in china, Mel.

I wrote about my experience in my book "Ultra Violence." I print it in full here. Chapter 2. It's not in first person, but it's in a style known as Second Person Omniescent, The writing style is very rare and judging by some of the book's readers - its sold about 300 copies, not bad for Indie - not one hundred percent popular.

And its completely true.

I wrote it in this style because it had never been done before in this genre. Pure and simple.

If you or any of your friends are being bullied you have only two choices.

One. Hit back. And hit back hard. Teachers in my country don't recognise this and get angry when it's advised by parents, but it was the first thing I told my son when he was old enough to listen.

Two. Tell a teacher or your anti-bullying co-ordinator. If your school doesn't have one then you are in a terrible school and you need to move. A kid needs protection from thugs, bitches, dribblers and knuckleheads. If all else fails, make sure the local constabulary have a record of any attacks.

You might also want to watch a film called "Kidulthood", a British film entirely starring young actors and actresses from London, which is quite the most horrific film I think I've ever seen. It will show that you're not alone, at least and will make you and your friends angry enough to fight back.

Take care, Mel and looking forward to AP.

PS: This is a DRAFT version of the Chapter. I appear to have lost my manuscript! :-)

________________________________________________________________________


You are thirteen and it is your turn today.
You don’t know why it’s your turn today but all you know is that it is.
The atmosphere has been building up for weeks.
Those little incidents.
Brief encounters.
Minor skirmishes.
You’ve never experienced anything like this anticipation before and you’re scared. Your stomach is turning over as if you’re staring down the side of a skyscraper. You are tense and dizzy and you wish you hadn’t had seconds in the dinner hall.
Manchester Tart. 
Two slices.
You’re thirteen, sitting at a large school desk, your satchel packed and blazer on.
Five boys are staring at you. You know it’s your turn.
You’re paralysed. Panic. You cannot move. You’ve never known a feeling like it. Trepidation courses through your veins. Your body is charged and you want to cry. But you don’t. Weeping will only make things worse.
You wish it isn’t your turn today but it is.
You pray.
That’s what they taught you to do at Primary School. Pray. When in trouble. Pray. God will provide. God will save. They taught you to pray before they taught you to read, those nuns. You really need him now but as you’ve long suspected, he isn’t there and somehow even if he is out there, you know he isn’t going to help.
You’re on your own.
You look at the faces of the five boys round your table.
You look at the girls sitting round the table behind you.
It’s planned. You don’t know when they planned it, but they did.
You shut your eyes.
Mrs Dixon has just given a lesson on punctuation and you cannot remember anything she has said about full stops and commas and semi-colons because the whole class is staring at you and they’ve been staring at you for three quarters of an hour because it is your turn.
Your turn.
Other people have had their turn.
They got to Paul Fisher last week. He still hasn’t come back to school.
They got to Clare Finch last month. She had to move classes. Then she moved schools.
They got to David Gunther two months ago. They say he’s in a special school now. One where they listen to quiet music in class and there are doctors in white coats instead of teachers in stinky jackets and polyveldts.
Its twenty-seven minutes past three the old clock above the blackboard tells you. You wonder whether the classes in the surrounding classrooms know it’s your turn.
(Please, God.)
They’re staring, your classmates.

On Friday nights, as a treat, your Mum lets you watch a regular ITV programme called Appointment With Fear.
Every week, they show an old horror film.
Taste The Blood of Dracula. Dracula, Prince of Darkness. Bride of Frankenstein. Curse of The Mummy’s Tomb.
You love horror films. All the old classics.
Plague of the Zombies. The Reptile. Vampire Lovers. Blood Beast Terror.
You and your mum watch them together and you drink Horlicks and eat digestive biscuits. Your dad is always in bed asleep, ready for a five o’ clock start. He’s always working. He always has done. You’ve learned that the function of men is to work and the function of a father is to work harder and to build a home. That’s what you’ve learned.
Scream and Scream Again. Dr Terror’s House of Horrors. Asylum. Trilogy of Terror.
You love your Mum. All your friends love your Mum because there are no rules in your house. It is open house and she’s a great cook and fond of giving out treats and cakes, but the people who come round your house are different friends from another school closer to where you live. 
Not the people staring at you now, all from other parts of Nottingham who come in on buses. Bestwood, mostly. Sherwood. Top Valley. You’re dad wasn’t happy for you to be schooled with all these lunatics, but he couldn’t afford to send you anywhere else. Times were hard. 
He blamed Ted Heath for it all.
Catholics.
Ultra Violent Catholics. 
You’re surrounded by them.
You don’t even understand religion and you don’t go to church. You don’t believe in God, thinking its all a bit silly. Your mum doesn’t go and your dad doesn’t go. Your mum is too busy keeping house and your dad is too busy working.
You want to go to a different school and maybe your classmates detect this. They choose their targets carefully. They choose them for a reason.
Sometimes your Mum lets your friends come to stay and watch Appointment With Fear. They don’t tell their mums.
Last month, The Midwich Cuckoos was on.
Sean and Shaun and Adrian and Barry and Dominic and Michael and Francis and James and Brendan and Peter and Tom and Fergal are staring at you like the kids from the Midwich Cuckoos.
They’re sniggering behind their hands. 
Their blazers on. 
Regulation white shirts. Oversized, loosely tied, brick tie knots.
Behind you, there is Sheila and Mary and Annie and Connie and Margaret and Elizabeth and Catherine and Jane. Blazers. White blouses. Oversized, loosely tied, brick tie knots. Lacquered hair and make up. Giggling behind their satchels.
You are paralysed with fear.
(Please God, make it not my turn. Please save me from this and I’ll go to church on Sunday and forever.)
It’s twenty-eight minutes past three and Mrs Dixon is a stickler for time. She’s sitting there putting pens and chalk into her Hessian bag. 
You like Mrs Dixon and you want to tell her what’s going to happen but doing that will only make things worse.
You can only hope that this will be the last time.
You’ve had warnings.
Francis punched you in the face before PE a week ago and then kicked you in the back. He walked off laughing as if he’d done something to be proud of.
Adrian stabbed you in the hand with a screwdriver.
Keelan approached you in the cloakroom outside the Biology labs while you were finishing off your homework. He gestured to an Adidas bag hanging on a coat hook on the other side of the cloakroom and asked you to come over and look inside. Curious and just a little bit na├»ve, you got up to see what he wanted you to see. Before you reached the bag, he hit you over the head with a rounders bat. It is the first time you’ve been hit on the head like that and you squeal. You will never forget the sound of the bat rattling on your skull as long as you live, the whiplash cracking, like a snapping plastic ruler. You fall to the floor and bang the back of your head on the tiles. It is agony, but it doesn’t hurt anywhere near as much as the sound of everyone in the cloakroom laughing at you while you lay on the floor.
Boys and girls.
All good fun at school, the best years of your life.
That was just Preamble.
The beginning.
You are scared this afternoon and you have never been so scared in your entire life.
You want to cry but you daren’t. It will only make things worse.

The bell for home time goes.
So does the first ten millilitres of the liquid in your bladder which stains the front of your underpants.
You make a run for the door but Keelan is already by the toilets outside. You don’t know how he got there, and he punches you, and you go down on your knees. He takes advantage of the freedom and space around him to kick you in the face.

Then they’re on you.
Mrs Dixon can’t stop them, how can she, and she walks past into the bright sunlight outside the New Learning Block, into the banks of freshly planted trees and the rolling carpet of the newly turfed school fields. It is a beautiful, sunny spring day in nineteen seventy eight.
You are thirteen.

You are down, your nose smarting from the impact of Keelan’s punch.
You’d think you would be able to hear the shouting and the screaming with all those people around you, but all you can hear is silence, a faint crackling of white noise. You can still see them though, God hasn’t helped you, in fact, perhaps to punish you for your lack of faith, he’s made your perceptions that much keener, and you can see them forming a queue to stick the boot in. You can hear their laughter and smell their excitement.
You notice their shoes.
The boys are wearing one of three types of shoes.
Shoe type one: Platform soles popularised by glam bands such as The Bay City Rollers, Slade and T-Rex.
Shoe type two: Cork soled brogues rounded at the front, known colloquially as Spoons.
Shoe type three: Ordinary leather soled brogues, also with rounded fronts. Most people in your class follow Northern Soul and these shoes are made for dancing, sliding across polished floors.
Sturdy shoes. Built in Northampton and built to last. Shoes which built the British Empire.
Their relentless impact in your face and body is wedging you underneath the cloakroom benches, keeping you tight in the confined space, making it difficult to breathe and impossible to move. You can’t even protect your face any more.
The girls in your class are wearing just the one type of shoe.
Shoe type one: Leather stitched moccasins with plastic corn coloured soles. Mocs, they call them. You notice the mucky sole of one as it crashes onto your face and you cannot believe that you’re being stamped on by a girl.
All of the girls in your class are kicking you.
They hate you too.
Boys and girls.
In the first thirty seconds of the attack, you have been kicked thirty times and then you lose count.
There is a break from the kicking. Adrian kneels down, picks his spot and punches you. His punch connects with your left eye socket and shuts your eyelid. You have never experienced a jab of pain like it and it soon turns into a thudding in your forehead.
You can see his face and it is etched with something.
Hatred.
That’s what hurts most.
You wonder when it was that he started to hate you. You went to primary school with him. Your mum knows his mum. You thought he was a fun friend. You used to play marbles with him. You used to swap Green Lantern comics. You competed with him in spelling tests.
I got nine.
I got ten.
I got seven today.
I got eight.
I win!

As each class emerges from the classrooms in the Learning Block, a coagulated, blazered mass of third year school children, some break away from the flow to join in the ritual putting in of the boot.

And as you’re being kicked, the blood pouring from your nose, the pain dulling by the second as you start to lose consciousness, your bladder gone, trails of poop releasing itself under the weight of the beating, something weird happens, something strange.
You don’t know why or how.
Maybe God is saving you after all because you can feel your fear dissipate.
You feel it rise like a lifting cloud and you feel it leave your body behind, leaving a warm glow and before long, you are no longer afraid.
The worst they can do is beat you.
You aren’t going to die.
You are going to hurt for a month. Your education is ruined. You will never have confidence in anything the teachers and nuns at the school tell you about life again. You are going to hate all the teachers who failed to protect you. You are going to hate Catholics, all the mad, frustrated, ultra-violent Irish who are beating you now, unmercifully and without pity, remorseless.
You know that you are going to hate every single person in your class forever, but you aren’t going to die.
And this is now over.
Your turn is over.
The beating is so bad, you know, it can never be repeated.
They’ve gone well over the top, the naughty Catholic boys and girls of Corpus Christi school, they’ve gone laughably over the top, the worst session of Feel The Pain imaginable.
Ho hum.

A teacher emerges from inside the learning block to see what the fuss is about. In your reverie, you can’t quite place the concerned voice shouting and though his voice is distant, as if you are hearing it through a glass bottle, you see the consequence of his appearance.
You know that everyone is running for it, squeezing through the door three at a time, escaping into the sun, leaving you wedged and bleeding under the cloakroom bench.
Two of your classmates, Andy and John, the only two people in your class not to hit you, help the teacher, Mr Davies – Physics – to prise you out, pick you up and take you into the boy’s toilets to clean up. The loos stink of cigarettes, you notice. All the toilets at Corpus Christi stink of cigarettes and the bowls are never clean.
They cannot understand why you are not crying. You’re in agony. Three of your teeth are loose. Your glasses – crappy National Health horse chestnut tortoise shells with springs on the arms – are wrecked, both lenses cracked and the frames twisted, but you don’t mind that; you spend most of your school life without glasses, you break them yourself. Your nose is broken; you can feel it shift when you touch it. Your ears hurt. Blood emerges from the canals of the right ear and you fear they’ve done some permanent damage. Both eyes are black and you’re lucky not to have broken a socket. Your school shirt is covered in blood.
In the mirror, the blood on your shirt looks curiously like the face of Jesus.
You lift up your ripped shirt and blazer. Your entire body is covered in yellow bruises inflicted upon you by Northern Soul brogues, Northern Soul moccasins and Glam Platforms. Your legs are stiff and you can hardly stand. There’s a recession on and your dad is not going to be pleased about having to buy a new blazer, but you’re no longer afraid and though you’re in some considerable pain and you find it difficult to move your face, you start to laugh.

And laugh.

That night, at home, after the school nurse tells you you’re miraculously okay, you spend the evening taking phone calls from your assailants.

Your phone has a lock on the dial to prevent you from calling anyone. At twenty pence a minute, the phone is for emergencies only, Dad says. Your mum has the key but you never ask her to remove the little cylindrical lock nestled on the number seven. You know times are hard and you’re a good lad. You don’t burden them.
Please don’t snitch, the disembodied voices say.
We’re sorry. It all got out of hand. Please don’t tell.
We’re sorry.
Please don’t tell.
It got out of hand.
Adrian calls you and though you cannot see his face, you know he is scared about what he’s done. His voice his trembling.
Please don’t tell on me.
None of the girls who kicked you call. Not even Helen O’Reilly, who stamped on your face. She didn’t call even though her brother, Nicholas, has your phone number.
She really bent her knee and put her heart and soul into the trample. You will never forget her face. Blank and merciless.
You learned something about girls you didn’t know, that afternoon.
I won’t tell, Adrian, you hear yourself say.
I won’t tell, Ben, you hear yourself say.
No, I won’t snitch, Kevin, you hear yourself confirm.
There is a concert violinist in your class. There is someone with ambitions to be a Doctor. Adrian wants to work in the City of London. You could do some serious damage to their career aspirations. How are they going to get a job knowing how psychopathic they are?
All three of the people with skills and ambitions laid the boot in.
Mercilessly.
A doctor? None of it made any sense to you and then, on the other hand, it all made perfect sense.

All of them laid the boot in but you won’t tell on them.
Your mum is crying and wants to go up to the school and get the teachers – even the Police – involved, but you won’t let her.
You won’t tell on them. You have nothing but contempt and each phone call hardens the contempt further.
You hate them and that hate burns deep into your soul.

Your dad takes you out into the garden when he gets home from work.
He proceeds to give you the most important piece of learning you have had up until that point and you know that the advice he gives you will last you for the rest of your life.
Son, if you can’t beat them, join them, he says.
You can see in his face that he’s tired after another twelve hour shift at the brewery.
He works six days a week, sometimes seven. The only time you see him for more than an hour or so is either at the match on Saturday afternoon, when Notts are at home, or on Sunday afternoon, asleep in his vest, snoring on the sofa, with Star Soccer on the telly and four cans of Double Diamond on the occasional table next to him, the smell of Sunday lunch in the ether.
They never show Notts on Star Soccer, he’s fond of saying.
They definitely never show Notts on Match of the Day.
And that was true.
You love your dad.
He would never lie to you.
If you can’t beat them, son. Join them.
You are surprised at the advice but deep inside, you can sense a door opening to a different world.

Thanks, Dad.
You’re welcome, son.

3 comments:

  1. What a passage from Ultra Violence ... you can feel his pain. Bullying effects all of us ... 2 of my boys have been bullied ... and I couldn't protect them, the school couldn't protect them ... they're saving grace, the summer holidays! Nobody should have to experience that. n x

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  2. Thanks n. This actually happened. The only saving grace was that it stopped and I was never bullied again, though in total, the abuse lasted three years. I detest my school years and don't keep in touch with anyone from there. It was a shitty school, to be honest, and a lot of the teachers - hippies, idiots - were culpable too. When I was being kicked in, several teachers walked past and did nothing to help. I have never understood that. I just couldn't do it myself. I've been reading a lot just lately about bullying and I feel frustrated. I wish I could do something to help because I remember feeling incredibly alone, as if no one could help. I'm so sorry your kids had to go through it and I hope it stops for them. Take care and thanks for reading. Mxx

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  3. Ngaire, sorry about your boys and Wiz sorry about your personal experience. Over the years there has been a concerted effort to stop bullying in the classroom but there is still a lot to be done. Thanks Wiz for helping keep awareness alive - we must eradicate this terrible practice. Prayers to you both.

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