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» Bullies

I'll do YOU a good turn...
There’s a [controversial?] vein of opinion which suggests that bullies are troubled beings, victims themselves one way or another. In many ways I hope we can sometimes spare a thought for the poor tossers. I know when I was bullied many moons hence I look back on the perpetrator with a kind of gleeful pity. This is a bit of a long one, but then I am a terrible gasbag – so tough.

I had enjoyed a long and productive career in the Brownies; grabbing up badges by the chubby fistful, rising through the ranks with a dark, Machiavellian intensity, and doing good deeds until all the geriatrics in the area frankly begged for mercy. I was a Brownie bloody virtuoso. I became a Sixer (those not in the know – it’s like a lieutenant to Brown Owl’s general) in the Pixies, and I ruled my little group of reports like a fucking despot. But then the inevitable happened. At 11 I became too old to remain in the Brownies and the day beckoned when I was destined to become a Guide.

So – with a brand new blue uniform to replace bile yellow and baby-poo-brown one, a sash bare of badges, and an acute consciousness that I was now at the bottom of the pile where until recently I had been lording it at the top – I threw myself into my new life on Wednesday evening instead of Thursday evening at the leaky village hall. Before you knew it, I was up to my old tricks – sucking up to ‘Mole’, the adult leader, like a Dyson, and generally being a little goody-goody arse.

A few weeks after I joined was the annual Guide Camp event, where we were sent off to large it up under canvas in a field in Withyham. I was put in a tent with seven other girls of varying ages who I didn’t really know at all, but I was the youngest and by far the fattest, specciest and most ginger. There was a leader, of sorts, called Gemma. It took about a nanosecond to interpret the atmosphere in that tent to be one of a relentless and really quite creative hatred towards me, personally. And one look at Gemma was all that was needed to see a laser-like determination to make my four-day stay at Guide Camp an utter, utter misery. After a few minutes it was established that I was ‘spastic Wheezy’, and every time I attempted to join in the conversation my words would be drowned out with a chorus of strained mooing – even if I was replying to a question asked of me. In retrospect, this was quite obviously genius, and if the roles had been reversed I would have laughed like a ‘tard as well every time it happened (every few minutes).

Things started to go wrong for Gemma when we were assigned our first task in tent-groups; lashing together wood we could find in order to make a free-standing wash basin. Would you believe it? I had perfected knot-tying to an art the previous week! So off I go, pushing other people aside, snatching wood out of their ham-fisted hands so that I could do it properly myself, ostentatiously undoing their [perfectly fine] knots and replacing them with my own. Most of the other girls (after a decent amount of ‘stop it you little bitch’, ‘get off, you fat spastic’, ‘moo’, etc) just gave up and took advantage of this saddo to do their work while they sat down and blew through grass whistles. Not Gemma. She was foaming at the mouth with rage that I was taking charge, and pinched and pulled my hair when I didn’t respond to her shouting in my face. I was just putting the finishing touches to the stand when she finally lost it, and, just in time for Mole to see her as she was coming around the tent to inspect our team’s handiwork, Gemma picked up the whole rickety structure and tried to hit me in the face with it. Totally worth it – Mole went postal. Gemma not only had to compose a formal apology and relay it in front of the whole camp at dinnertime that evening, but she was written down in Mole’s little book as a ‘troublemaker’. ‘Hah’, my sneaky little mind thought, ‘that’ll put an end to her tricks.’ Oh no.

Gemma just became more devious in her approach. She and her gang would wait until Mole was otherwise occupied before capsizing my kayak or putting mud in my opaque water-bottle. I managed to drive her to distraction by gaining particular commendation for my skill in recovering from capsizing and also my kindness for relieving a ‘hot and distressed’ sheep by washing it with my own bottled water, which was freshly replaced as a mark of appreciation. She cottoned on to the fact that I was paralysingly scared of the dark, and so would tell ghost stories in the middle of the night which meant that I wet my sleeping bag rather than going outside to the portaloo. The tent was a complete mess, and it wasn’t until the following morning that it was discovered that I had weed on Gemma’s copy of ‘Smash Hits’ with all the pictures of Shane Ritchie drawn around with biro hearts. She wouldn’t admit it was hers – the shame if she did! But I saw her face of real heartbreak when she thought the others weren’t looking.

At last it was the final day. Gemma and the gang had grown tired of mooing at me whilst I packed, and had retired outside to do cartwheels. I was jamming my (dry but slightly whiffy) sleeping bag into its carrier when I unearthed a pair of white kickers. ‘Not mine’, I thought, and looked at the name embroidered in the waist band.

‘Gemma’

I looked at the knickers more closely. There was a long, almost perfect light brown skid mark stretching a considerable distance in the gusset.

I pondered them, then, checking that everyone else in the camp were busy helping take down the kitchen marquee, I sprinted out to the flagpole at the centre of the ring of tents, tied the shitty pants to the cord, and whipped them up to fly proudly about 10 feet off the ground – just out of reach of even the tallest camper, but near enough that the crusty crime was evident for all to see. I scuttled back to my packing, chuckling in a fat, speccy, ginger way.

Gemma cried, and had to be picked up early by her mum rather than go home on the minibuses with the rest of us.

Sorry, Gemma, you poisonous slag!

*pop*
(Fri 15th May 2009, 16:15, More)

» Tramps

Tramp bingo
In the sprawling operatic narrative of our lives, tramps are the equivalent of tragi-comic walk-on parts akin to the gravediggers in Hamlet, or the surreal little characters who crop up for just a couple of lines in Dickens novels. There for just a vaudevillian flash, either silent or noisy; leaving such a deep impression that if the tramp were a performer playing a role it would be like powerful surrealist art. Waiting for Godot: quod erat demonstrandum.

If life were a theatre, they would all have their own official routines like real-life clowns have official faces in the Clowns International egg museum. Some of the tramps I’ve known could be billed with their professional stage names like the following:

London Bridge compulsive raspberry-blower`
With his little knitted hat, thick glasses and his duffle coat, this fellow frequents the station and surrounding areas all the year round; sometimes getting on trains and going for miles and miles on packed services of commuters – the silence of which is irregularly but persistently shattered by his staccato, ear-splitting fart noises. Trapped on there for upwards of an hour with this seemingly tireless soloist, rigid commuters adopt frantic eye-swivelling (presumably to try and establish that this is actually happening, they’re not going insane, and the other passengers can hear him too). Weeping attacks of the giggles are not uncommon from fellow travellers as well, but are usually strangely strangled-sounding, as we all know that noise is verboten on commuter trains.

Baron’s Court beaming drunk
This guy is the happiest guy in the world. When you come out of the tube station after a long hard day he’s always there with his shiny, happy face and his Big Issues, and suddenly everything seems a little bit better. ‘Thank you, tramp,’ you say to yourself as you walk home, ‘you always make me feel good about myself.’ Once we had a nice moment after I gave him a quid; I needed to pick up some wine for dinner on the way from the tube, so we shared a little trip to the off-licence together. He had no doubts about the best £1/maximum-alcohol optimum ratio, made his purchase decisively, and then helped me pick a good wine. ‘This one,’ he said, pointing to a cheeky-looking merlot, ‘made my sick go black’ (£2.99 from Londis), ‘whilst THIS one,’ he said, peering at a dusty bottle of Lambrusco, ‘gave me the shits’ (£1.89 from all good stockists). Then he laughed uproariously and my day was well and truly made.

Wimbledon garden shears toenail-clipper
Name says it all. A mute performer. I saw him sit on the doorstep of a suburban home using a pair of massive garden shears to trim his toenails. He was concentrating so hard his face was totally blank, and only registered a tiny flicker of triumph as he sent a sizeable, black, horny clipping pinging off of the houseowner’s car parked on the driveway.

Stepney Green determined tits-leerer
He’s going to get his leer, if it’s the last thing he does. You could be standing waiting for someone, calmly reading your book, when this guy could come along, walking like Frankenstein on his way to the village, with so much hair coming out of his nose it looks like an olive-green moustache. First, in a broad Manc accent, he starts out subtle; ‘what’s that you’re reading [leer down cleavage]?’ Foiled by book now blocking his view, he then gets cunning; ‘an insect just fell down your top [point, leer at re-exposed cleavage].’ In response to ‘please don’t look at my breasts,’ his excuse is, ‘but they’re really great [leer].’

Resentful Charing Cross Big-Issuer
Another mute. I couldn’t afford a magazine with the change in my purse, so I gave him a 20p instead. He looked at me as though I had just space-docked with a mangy dog and loved it so much I cried. I should have asked for my 20p back, but instead I just went back to queuing up for my Big Mac, fiver in hand.

Passive-aggressive Waterloo East train beggar
(All delivered at the top of his voice in a monotone with no change of inflection at all) ‘HELLO I AM HOMELESS AND I NEED A PLACE TO STAY TONIGHT SO PLEASE GIVE ME WHAT CHANGE YOU CAN SPARE’. Pause. ‘I HAVE ASKED YOU REALLY NICELY AND POLITELY.’ Longer pause. ‘IF YOU DON’T HELP ME I’LL BE OUT ON THE STREETS IN THE COLD.’ Pause. ‘IT’S GOING TO BE VERY COLD OUT THERE TONIGHT.’ Really long pause. ‘WELL – NONE OF YOU SEEM TO CARE.’ Silence. ‘DOES ANYBODY CARE?’ A commuter needs to get off at the next stop and starts shuffling for his things. ‘I HOPE YOU’RE ALL HAPPY THAT I’LL BE OUT SUFFERING ON THE PAVEMENT. I HOPE IT RUNS YOUR DAY.’ He opens the door to the next carriage, walks through and says exactly the same thing. Then on to the next carriage, and so on.

Brighton dog-frightener
Walking along as a family, many moons ago, with our dog – a red setter called Sam – on a lead. We were looking in at the pretty Brighton shop windows in the sun, when *out of nowhere* this purple-faced tramp lurches forward and makes a grab at Sam roaring ‘NICE DOGGIE!’ Sam, literally, crapped himself and ran to hide behind mum, wrapping the lead around her legs and making her topple over with a mouth shaped like a surprised ‘o’, narrowly missing a sizeable puddle of liquid dog terror on the pavement. The tramp continued lurching down the street roaring at passers by and himself things like ‘NICE SUN!’ and ‘SHINY CAR!’ I remember he looked like a sea captain, because of his knitted jumper and wellies.


This could be like a spotters-guide type exercise, so send me a virtual high-five if you’ve ever come across these chaps yourself. Anyone with the full set wins a prize.
(Fri 3rd Jul 2009, 15:22, More)

» Tramps

Truly lovely
Back in 2005, I think, there was an article in York uni’s Nouse paper about how student drinking was spiralling out of control in the city centre. To illustrate the truly Inferno-esque levels of depravity we pesky students got up to when we had a skinful, the article led with an enormous photo of two wasted girls sitting on a kerb outside the Gallery nightclub on a Tuesday night.

Girl A was French-kissing a tramp (who still had firm hold of his special brew with his fingerless gloves whilst working his moves), and Girl B was being heartily sick on Girl A’s shoes.

I was asked three times that day whether I was Girl A. I could say with confidence that I was not Girl A, as I didn’t own a pair of shoes like that.
(Tue 7th Jul 2009, 14:03, More)

» Teenage Crushes - Part Two

The memories!
From around the age of 11 right up to the age of 21 I was in a continuous series of crushes; proper crushes. Adrenalin-surge-when-you-even-just-glimpse-them, planning-your-entire-day-around-when-you-might-bump-into-them, being-rendered-speechless-to-the-brink-of-idiocy-in-front-of-them, thinking-about-them-to-the-point-of-insanity, all that lovely stuff. Even though I dabbled in the odd bit of sordid fantasising over famous people (David Duchovny, Johnny Depp – the classics), and even though I managed to slurp and fumble my way through your common-or-garden opposite-sex teen experiences as per the Rule Book of Life; I cannot remember a time from that period where I was not hopelessly, painfully, and - most importantly - secretly ‘in love’ with someone I knew.

I shall attempt to catalogue. First one below, next two in replies due to length.

Age 11 – 15
My brother’s best friend, Tris, was a couple of years older than me. He came round to our house relatively often, lugging his PC with him for some serious LAN war action with my bro. I would watch like a chubby, ginger hungry beast from behind the banisters, rendered totally, blindingly inarticulate by the mists of lust which descended whenever I saw his mushroom-pale, pimply face.

Oh, Tris! If only you had known how the breath came whistling faster through my train-track braces whenever you appeared in one of your horrible old black Iron Maiden t-shirts, your skinny (‘toned’ I called it, then) arms struggling to carry your massive monitor to our front room. How the thick lenses of my Boots spectacles fogged up at your powerful adolescent whiff of slightly rusty armpits and growling hormones! One day, after years of crotch-tingling desire, I finally summoned the courage to sneak up behind you as you were playing Quake and ‘seductively’ run my finger up and down your back. Unfortunately, in the thumping adrenalin override I experienced which fritzed out quite a lot of my brain’s circuitry, I instead roughly wiped a sweaty few fingers over your neck, making you shriek and leap in the air thinking someone had suddenly tried to grab you with some room-temperature Cumberland sausages. There was really no recovery from there, so from that moment I hid whenever you came over. We never spoke of it. Heartbreak.
(Mon 9th Nov 2009, 17:13, More)

» That's me on TV!

Weldin'
I went to an all-girls grammar school known for its ‘if boys can do it, then us gels can do it too, by gum!’ attitude. Whenever a newspaper was running a story on ‘gels doing frightfully well at all that learning malarkey, gawd love’m’, a photographer would usually be dispatched to our school pronto to do some shots of us typical school lasses BEHAVING COMPLETELY NORMALLY doing NORMAL THINGS GELS DO AT SCHOOL. Therefore, over the years, my schoolmates appeared in various broadsheets fiercely frowning in concentration at maths equations on blackboards, fiercely frowning in concentration at test tubes, fiercely frowning in concentration as they kicked a football, etc.

One day, my time had come. I was told that a photographer from the Independent was coming to take some snaps at our school, and wanted some shots of a girl doing some welding in the Technology department. ‘Just pretend that you weld all the time, and that it’s completely normal, my teachers said. ‘Get in!’ I thought, ‘I’ve never welded before – I bet it’s a right laugh!’

So the photographer gets in, stinking of last night’s beer as all photojournalists do, tells us he’s got ten minutes, and then points the camera at me expectantly. My teachers are waiting in the wings, and they spring out, jam the visor over my head, light the blowtorch, shove it into my hand, and then hold a piece of metal near the flame. Snap! goes the camera. ‘That’s fine’ the photographer says, and then he sods off back to London.

My parents are Telegraph readers (hardcore Tories, the both of them – the shame!) but every day for two bloody weeks they buy the Independent (for those not in the know, a newspaper made entirely out of woven organic wholewheat and GM-free ‘concern’), in a massive case of political affiliation treachery, until there – on the front page no less – is a little thumbnail of me, fiercely frowning from what you could see of my face behind the visor, welding. The story (about whether girls should be educated the same as boys) was in the Education supplement inside.

I bet you’re wondering what this has to do with being on telly? Well on breakfast TV that May morning they were doing a run-down of the main stories in the papers, and if memory serves me correctly the newsreader held up the front page of the Independent to discuss Ian Paisley’s denouncement of the Bloody Sunday inquiry as "a witch hunt of Protestants". So there I was! On telly!! A little thumbnail of me being held steadily at the BBC camera. Next to Ian Paisley.

I wished with all my might that somehow a TV crew or cameraman would take a picture of me whilst I was watching that bit of the news, with that little picture of me on the screen. And then someone would take a picture of me looking at that, and then take another picture of me looking at that…
(Fri 12th Jun 2009, 17:18, More)
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