A story: I was bullied intermittently from the age of about 6 until I was about 15. One of the awkward kids who mostly hung about with the other awkward kids. Basically the other ones who got bullied. That sense of me has never really left as with most people who have endured it.
There was a ringleader, slightly older than the small group of lackeys that hung around under the railway bridges and on the old Beeching line, like poisonous smoke. They mostly lived up the road, hung about waiting for us, usually found us when we were on our own.
We all got quite adept at avoiding them, knew their habits and patterns, spotting them in the distance and changed course accordingly, adapting out lives to this disparate floating crowd of kids.
One day a friend, who was quite new to the area decided he’d already had enough, we’ll call him Jim for the purposes of this, anyway he arranged to meet the ringleader in the precinct ‘for a word’ one lunchtime...
He took off his jacket, handed it to another friend, and punched him square in the face, sat him on his arse with one well placed punch in the face, he did this right in front of a group of other kids sitting on a wall eating chips.
It was a small wonder to behold. His little gang never bothered any of us again as far as I can remember. It was a status change.
I bumped into him about 20 years ago, a proper guts turn to jelly moment initially. He said he’d go if I wanted, but just wanted to say how sorry he was, apologised for ‘being a cunt’ in his words. We ended up swapping stories for an hour.
He’d had a shit life, suffered himself at the bottom of another pecking order which I was sort of aware of. He had his own imprinted set of expectations, the pressure to be something, ‘be someone’, a different sort of victim, one of poverty in the tiny world of a rural town.
One where there was little work and nothing to do, and I guess he felt he had to assert something of himself in what we both considered retrospectively, ‘a dead end shithole’, which it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
He also said he had no excuse for lashing out at me. I was admittedly just a fat, loud, slow-moving easy target, it could have been anyone, but he picked me.
His life was okay now, not dissimilar to mine, settled, own business. He’d done exactly what I’d done, moved away from a small town and its built-in neurosis, we’d both started again. I accepted his apology, it's history. We shook hands quite warmly, said goodbye.
He’d grown up, realised what he’d done, and tried to make amends. To say it was a curious moment doesn’t really cover it. What I realised was, that an action, that punch had in part removed his own sense of power.
And if you do nothing, you reinforce and enable bullies. So sack her, in fact remove her completely.
'Another pint of catharsis please John, and one for my old enemy, now friend'.
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