Four years of being bullied at high school came to an abrupt end one day in 1986.
My first day there was the most memorable because an older girl (a younger version of Matilda’s Miss Trunchbull) introduced herself by smacking me hard across the face.
“What was that for?” I asked.
“I don’t like your face!”, she replied.
I told a teacher..
The girl was made to apologise to me – publically.
Her eyes narrowed to a couple of slits as she spat out, “I’M SORRY!”.
I knew then that I’d made things worse for myself.
But it wasn’t just her..
I was bullied in the classroom too.
When you try to make yourself invisible – the opposite happens.
Name calling, kicking the back of my chair (and legs) having things thrown at my head happened on a daily basis.
Some teachers were aware of it but when faced with the dilemma of doing their duty as a teacher or having a quiet life – they opted for the latter and turned a blind eye.
Despite the unpleasantness, I had mates and we were close until we fell out over a lad.
Being bullied is one thing but being bullied by your friends cuts deep.
This is where I developed Bulimia.
I had no control over my life.
Every day was a kind of hell.
I woke with a sick feeling in my stomach and I went to bed with the same sense of dread.
English lit was fun (not) because it provided the school knob-heads with entertainment as I blushed and sweated my way through the ordeal of class reading.
At home time, I either had to get out before everyone else or hang back until they’d all gone.
I’d get back home and for a few short hours I was safe.
In those days, we had no internet or mobile phones so at least home was a safe haven.
But the anxiety was always there.
I’d comfort eat, then stick my fingers down my throat or take laxatives to purge the hatred that I felt.
Hatred of myself for being weak.
Hatred of them for being the reason.
I’d cry myself to sleep and dream of them all drowning in a freak accident in the school pool or choking to fucking death on their school dinners.
We all have our limits and that day, I reached mine.
We were coming in from afternoon break and as usual it was a seething mass of acne ridden teenagers all trying to squeeze through the doors at the same time.
Suddenly, I felt myself being shoved forward into the person in front who was not best pleased and shoved me back.
I turned around and there was one of my so called ‘mates’ with a smirk on her face.
My stack – I well and truly blew!
Fight obliterated flight.
All I could think of was battering her face into the floor.
The next few minutes were a blur of scratching, punching and hair pulling - a proper bitch fight the likes of which I deplored.
I could hear the morons egging her on to ‘smash my face in’ but I was too busy trying to get a punch in to care.
We both gave as good as we got.
One of my least dignified moments…
Before long, we were unceremoniously dragged apart.
The crowd dispersed – the show was over.
We ultimately found ourselves in the deputy head mistress’s office looking like something out of St Trinian’s.
My nails were scattered all over the corridor and I’d still got clumps of her hair in my fist.
My mullet was totally wrecked and I looked like I’d been savaged by a cat!
I struggled to look the deputy head in the eyes.
She looked at the girl and said “I’m not surprised to see you here!”
My former friend was a bit of a gobshite and made regular appearances in the deputy head’s office.
Then the deputy head looked at me.
” I am surprised to see you here!”
When asked how we came to be brawling in the corridor, the girl answered, “We don’t get on anymore, Miss”.
I looked at her.
We’d stayed at each others houses.
We’d shared fags watching Brat Pack movies at the cinema.
We’d both stood and shrieked our heads off at Spandau Ballet in Birmingham.
We were supposed to be friends…
But that day we were far from it.
Anger is a part of being human.
It is a natural emotion and anger itself isn’t the problem – it’s how it’s expressed.
I TOTALLY lost the plot and as a consequence, my school record was blemished within a few months of me leaving the shithole.
Worse than that- I had lowered myself to their level.
I should have bit my lip and walked on as I had a hundred times before.
Had I have done so – my dignity (and mullet) would have remained intact.
I will never forget the look of disappointment on the deputy head’s face.
I will never forget the look of bewilderment on my parent’s faces as they read the letter that informed them of their daughter’s unacceptable conduct.
They didn’t know about the bullying and were saddened that I hadn’t confided in them.
But Ma would have gone barreling in there – unleashing a can of whoop-ass the likes of which the school would never recover.
It was my battle.
As it was, the fight marked the end of the bullying.
It seems that violence brings respect but I respect myself more for all the times I walked away.
It took more strength to do that.
Given the circumstances, I would most likely react the same way if I had that time again because it’s about primeval instinct.
Fight or flight.
Thanks for reading.
“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”
~ Michael J Fox
Photograph by K J W Photography
This post is linked up to Sara over at mumturnedmom
Childhood is a magical time.
It’s magical because children are looking at the world with fresh eyes – everything is new and exciting.
Imaginary friends, climbing trees, making daisy chains, running, shouting, skipping, dancing, making mud pies, building sandcastles, giggling at anything and everything and not caring what you look like…life at it’s most carefree.
When does the magic stop?
The magic took a direct hit the day I saw my dad putting the presents around the Christmas tree.
The “There is no Santa coz my dad says so” had been doing the rounds at school and that night my fears were confirmed.
I’d slipped downstairs to get a drink of water and through the glass pane in the door – I saw the truth.
There was no Santa.
The whiskey and mince pie were gone but the carrot was there, allbeit half of it missing.
I looked at that carrot the next day with the heavy heart of a child who wished she could turn back time.
It’s a sad moment in a child’s life but just as gutting for parents because it marks the end of that magical part of childhood.
That and the “Santa’s watching you, so behave!” bribe no longer works.
Life was still semi-magical on account of me not having any worries except trying to keep Ma sweet in order to safeguard my pocket money.
But the sparkle had gone.
I’d already boarded the puberty express, not that I understood why I was such a cow.
I morphed into the bitch from the bowels of hell. I HATED THE WORLD!!
And everybody in it except for Duran Duran.
Worry, bills, debt, illness, grief, loss, depression, sadness, bullying – all destroy the magic.
I’m almost 44 now and recently I’ve come to look at the world with tired eyes.
Pain, suffering, fighting, hate, killing, stealing, abuse, lies – a daily bombardment of misery – especially if you read the Daily Mail.
You can’t hide from it.
If you manage to avoid it in the media- you hear it in the cafe, “Did you hear that terrible story on the news?”
Terrible things were happening in the world when I was a child but my parents did their job well – warning me of the dangers in life but protecting me from the horrors.
Another reason why childhood is a magical time is that children instinctively live in the present and I believe that living in the now is where us old gits will rediscover the magic.
Finding the magical in the mundane doesn’t mean taking leave of your senses, it’s the opposite – it’s making the most of them.
We’re not talking Peter Pan here…
Peter Pan only exists in books, movies – and in the form of Cliff Richard.
It’s not about reclaiming your childhood – you can never get that time back.
It’s about living in the moment.
So often we walk around but miss things because we’re too busy thinking of the clothes that need ironing or the guttering that needs repairing.
Necessary but boring.
Meanwhile, we’re missing the rainbows.
Living in the moment means keeping distractions to a minimum.
At some point in every day..
Close the laptop.
Turn the PC off.
Switch the mobile to silent.
Use every one of your senses.
Tell yourself that, no matter what you are doing, you will think only about what you are doing.
If you are watching your children play - watch them playing.
If you are reading a book – lose yourself in the story.
If you are playing some music – put the headphones on and listen to the music without distraction.
Enjoy the food you are eating. Make it a pleasurable experience as opposed to throwing it down your neck before Corrie starts.
Choose foods which tantalise the senses and uplift you – for me, it’s the smell of Earl Grey tea and freshly baked bread.
I’ve lost my way recently. I’ve allowed the difficult situations in my life total head space. I have been the perfect example of living anywhere BUT the moment. I’ve been feeling so shit, it’s almost as if the Dementors have paid me a visit – draining me of every happy thought.
However, while I can’t control the situations, I can control how I deal with them – and when.
I took advantage of little man being home yesterday (due to the strikes) to practice what I’m preaching.
These were my magic moments.
- Having a snuggly lie in.
- Enjoying a milkshake and a cake in the cafe.
- Listening to birdsong and counting how many we could hear.
- Sitting in the garden under a sun-shade – eating ice lollies.
- Doing sums on his black board. (I hate sums but he lights up and that’s the magic)
- Walking the dog with little man swinging his pink Bratz handbag.
- Hearing a sleepy voice say, “I love you, my lovely mumma.” and feeling my heart fill with love.
The magic that I’m talking about is the feeling that you get with magical moments that you make or those that are unexplained.
The universe is amazing and some of my most magical moments have been out of this world – literally.
When you open your mind – you open up the possibilities.
Do you believe in magic?
Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. ~ Roald Dahl
Why don’t you join in the Prompt linky with Sara over at mumturnedmom
What is it good for?
Television has changed a lot in the four (and a bit) decades that I’ve been on the planet.
When I was a child, we had one big television set in the living room and Ma used to ration our viewing time. On weekends and holidays, we were washed, dressed and out we’d go to play.
There was no such thing as a remote control – you had to get up off your backside and do it manually. Mind you, there were only three channels.
My memories are of watching programmes like Pipkins with the characters of Pig, Topov, Octavia and Hartley Hare who, it has to be said, looked like he’d got a bad case of mange..
My mother used to hog the TV for programmes like The Sweeney, The Gentle Touch and Juliet Bravo (bit of a theme going on there) and she went on strike during Wimbledon fortnight. But I’d get my own back by continually whacking a tennis ball up against the wall.
Revenge, Ma – revenge!
Dad claimed the telly for football matches, comedies like Last of the Summer Wine, Porridge and Dad’s Army and boring documentaries and they really were boring! There’s only so much a kid wants to know about the reproductive habits of tropical fish!
It was tradition in our house to watch Top of the Pops.
It was allowed in my dad’s presence for one reason – Legs & Co!
The launch of Channel 4 in 1982 was the most exciting thing to happen in our house aside my brother’s wedding. It became my channel of choice due to trendy programmes like The Tube and the best soap opera ever – Brookie!
Like a lot of other teenage girls, I was hooked by Damon and Debbie’s romance or as one TV critic put it, Romeo and Juliet in trackies!”
During my late teens, I became a mother and a cricketing widow into the bargain and when the boys were tucked up in bed, the TV was my company, aside from hour long telephone conversations to my mother.
As my Ma got older, and especially after dad died, she watched more TV saying that she didn’t feel so alone when it was on.
In my opinion, there are positives and negatives to the old goggle box. TV, that is – not my ma!
I love reading and listening to the radio and my world wouldn’t collapse totally without TV because I’d still have those.
There is a lot of negativity on television and some pretty shit role models who our children idolise.
I am sick and tired of music videos which border on soft porn. It’s a sad state of affairs when artists consider it necessary to get their kit off and writhe around in order to sell music. Maybe they’re in the wrong industry?
Our TV experience is down to us as individuals. We have a choice what to watch but we have a duty to safeguard our children from being exposed to inappropriate programmes.
However, it’s not all bad.
I love comedy. Shit happens and you need to laugh at life or you’d launch yourself under the number 472 bus (especially after reading the Daily Mail) but books or radio can’t give us the facial expressions that comedians such as the late Rik Mayall, Frankie Howard, Jim Carey and Rowan Atkinson are famous for.
Then there is the escapism of the movies. I can’t remember a year where I haven’t watched It’s a Wonderful Life and felt uplifted when Clarence gets his wings. This film and many others aren’t just a means of escapism – they carry a positive message.
I think television is important for older people. I certainly know how important it was to my mother when her condition made her practically housebound.
No doubt I’ll be sat in my comfy chair in Shady Pines, watching the millionth re-run of Heartbeat when I’m old…not too long to go now!
Could I live without TV?
I could physically live without it. I wouldn’t drop down dead if you unplugged it.. but would I want to banish it from my life forever?
Today, watching television often means fighting, violence and foul language – and that’s just deciding who gets to hold the remote control. ~Donna Gephart
This is a post for mumturnedmom’s linky
Have you ever heard of mesothelioma?
I hadn’t until a few days ago when a lovely chap by the name of Cameron St. James read this post and asked me if I’d take part in a campaign to spread awareness about it.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer. In simple terms, it’s cancer of the membrane which covers the surface of most of our body’s organs.
There are two main types - pleural mesothelioma (chest) and peritoneal mesothelioma (abdomen).
Facts and Stats
- Asbestos is the most common cause of mesothelioma.
- More than 2,500 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK each year (between 2000 and 3000 in the United States)
- It usually takes between 20 – 50 years for the symptoms to appear.
- Men are more likely to be diagnosed with this cancer than women. This is because, at the height of exposure to asbestos, most of the workforce were men.
- Mesothelioma can be caused by secondary exposure to asbestos fibres – for example – bringing dust home on their clothing.
Symptoms include rapid weight loss, shortness of breath, pain in the lower back or the side of the chest, high temperatures, sweating, a persistent cough and sickness. Also a swollen tummy, tummy pain and changes to bowel habits with peritoneal mesothelioma
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that was a popular building material from the 1950′s and was used regularly until 1999 when it was banned in the UK.
Surprisingly, the United States still hasn’t banned asbestos outright.
Where Can it be Found?
It can be found in many buildings, including schools, hospitals and homes. Being highly heat resistant, it was widely used in insulation and fire proofing – being used in products such as ceiling tiles, boilers, garage roof tiles etc. as well as being used as a bonding agent in plaster and artex.
What’s the Danger?
Asbestos materials which are in good condition are safe until disturbed.
Working on or near damaged asbestos material could increase your chances of developing an asbestos related disease.
When asbestos is disturbed and fibres are breathed in, they may get trapped in the lungs and remain there for a long time. It takes many years for the disease to develop – this is why it’s known as the silent killer.
There are other factors involved such as how much exposure to the asbestos, for how long and to which kind.
Asbestos and Health Regulations
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states that owners of buildings such as factories, schools and hospitals have a duty to manage asbestos by removing it if possible or making sure that it doesn’t get damaged. Any employer in an industry where coming into contact with asbestos is a possibility, such as construction, must give annual training to employees who are at risk.
Heather Von St. James’s father worked in the construction industry and the exposure to the asbestos dust that he brought home on his clothing is how she came to be diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma at 36 years of age – just a few months after the birth of her first child, Lily.
She was given 15 months to live.
In 2006, Heather underwent extensive surgery and later that year was given the all clear.
Heather describes herself as a cancer survivor and her story is special because mesothelioma is a very rare form of cancer. Historically, the prognosis hasn’t been great but survival rates are increasing and early detection plays a vital role in improving it.
What hits you about this amazing lady is how positive she is and it’s no wonder that she has become a research funding advocate and inspirational speaker for mesothelioma and asbestos disease awareness.
Not everybody is as lucky as Heather – we have a long way to go but with awareness we will be able to see more success stories like hers.
Up yours, Cancer!!
Awareness Saves Lives
It isn’t just construction workers and other professionals who need to be aware of the dangers of asbestos.. the dangers can be in our own homes, especially in houses built before 2000 so it’s important to read up on the facts before undertaking DIY projects. Not sure? – get an expert in. You can’t put a price on your health or that of your family.
I have read many blog posts in the last few days and discovered a community of bloggers or ‘mesowarriors’ who are helping to raise awareness for this preventable cancer.
When I agreed to help Cameron, I knew nothing about the disease and very little about asbestos aside the word itself putting the shits up people but that’s the whole point of the exercise – to educate.
I’d like to thank Cameron for giving me the opportunity to do something worthwhile with my little corner of cyber space and to wish him and his beautiful family all the very best for the future.
With hope, the odds don’t matter ~ Heather Von St. James
Links of interest
Image of Cameron, Lily and Heather used with permission.
All content provided on this post is for informational purposes only. I make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information in this post or found by following any link attached to it.
with hope, the odds don’t matter.
Heather Von St. James – Mesothelioma Survivor
- See more at: http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/#.U7KPwLHSb3g
Found this on a recent trawl through a charity shop..
What self respecting girl would without a copy of Jackie back in the day?
Or was it Blue Jeans/Patches for you?
My copy of Jackie was Ma’s weapon of choice when it came to my alleged bad behaviour. If I gave her any lip, she was on the phone to the newsagents faster than a greyhound out of a trap to cancel it.
I’m looking forward to time warping back to the heady days of teen fiction like I Saw Him First, fashion tips like How to dress like Kim Wilde (without looking a div) beauty tips on how to get that mullet just right and advice on how to handle spotty boys who can’t resist twanging your bra strap.
There will no doubt be the obligatory shot of Duran Duran or a complaint will be going in!
This fab annual is a must for all diehard Jackie fans and I paid £1.50 for it. Bargain!