Tuesday, 15 May 2007


In the grand scheme of things I suppose it doesn't matter if you know who I am or not. Obviously, in order to generate something that even approximates to a readership, I have had to tell some people that I have started a blog with a friend. Given that noisms has put a picture up on his profile (and very nice it looks too) then all of you people will know that I am me and he is he; likewise, if you know him then you will know that this is not him writing what you are reading now.

It doesn't matter if you guess my secret identity, but what about if you (hypothetically) guess the identity of a girl I like whose name I just give you the initial of? What if I give you a different initial, or a different name all together?

What if you are the girl?

What about a funny story, a hilarious tale that is guaranteed to have you in stitches, breathing heavy and collapsed on the floor because of your aching sides? What if it is a story that is really funny, but also could be quite embarrassing to the person or persons concerned?

Is it OK for me to just tell you the story and not worry at all about their feelings? Should I "change their names to protect their identities"? Should I not tell the story at all? Names are important even if we only use them as a placeholder, I can't imagine telling the following story without using a name at all.

At various times in my life I have been bulllied, and while I can look back on it and laugh now, or at the very least think about it without any particularly bad feelings, at the time it was a huge deal. I wonder what Raymond thinks of it all now.

Raymond was the kind of boy who was always going to come to the attention of bullies. He was a small kid, even through 'til the end of secondary school, and often circumstances seemed to gravitate towards him as if he were an attractor for weird situations. He was small, very freckly, slightly hunched and spoke very quietly except when he was particularly excited about something.

During the winter when we were about 11 or 12 there was a sudden flurry of snow one week all over the region. My memory exaggerates and tells me that it was several feet deep everywhere, but it couldn't have been more than a few inches; still for where we lived that was something.

One morning, our regular group of friends, banding together because basically we were the people not cool enough to belong to any other group, were talking on the top yard, shivering in the cold winter air when Raymond came down the steps from the crossing guard. If anything his manner suggested that he was even more dejected and downtrodden than usual, but he didn't wait for us to ask what was wrong before he launched into an angry tirade.

"Last night I was walking home," he began, "When a group of Year 8s ganged up on me-"

"What did they do?!" we all gasped, "Did they mug you?!"

"Worse," he replied.

We were Year 7s, and at this point Year 8s were pretty much the pinnacle of society's evils; for those of us who were bullied in one way or another, it was almost always by "a bigger boy," which was by definition an evil Year 8. Our minds boggled at the thought of something worse than mugging... None of us really knew what being mugged was, but we knew that it involved having all of your money taken. Fifty pence was a lot of money then.

"These three Year 8s saw me," he continued, slightly flustered but at the same time determined, "And they ganged up on me. They picked me up and dumped me head first in a snow drift."

None of us laughed. That's not because we didn't want to, it was just such a ridiculous situation that I don't think any of us could summon up a laugh. I think that we all must have just looked suitably shocked, and Raymond took that as a sign to continue.

"They all laughed at me, snow got in my eyes and mouth and everything, it was horrible! Then it was running down my back and stuff."

"You should walk home a different way tonight," someone suggested, "In case they're there again."

Raymond wouldn't hear of this. Why should he have to take another route home just because some stupid guys wanted to mess around. He shouldn't have to! (well, actually, he shouldn't, these guys shouldn't have been such jerks in the first place) Maybe Raymond should have gone and named names, pointed them out to a teacher, but at the time we all believed that "telling a teacher" never really worked (from personal experience, sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't, you just have to judge for yourself I think), and so he set off for home that evening wondering what would happen.

The next morning we were waiting for him, and he showed up around the regular time, but today with a big smile on his face.

"What happened?" we asked, The snow was still pretty thick in places, and nothing had really melted since the day before. If there had been a snow drift deep enough to dump him in earlier in the week it would likely still be there now.

"Oh, they dropped me headfirst in a drift again," he said, still grinning, "But they won't tonight."


"Because I've got protection!" he said, smile going even wider.

Protection? Had Raymond arranged to walk home with a sibling? No, he couldn't have, his sister went to another school... Maybe he had paid some other kids to act as bodyguards or lookouts? No, no, that was just silly... Well, what, what could he possibly have that was "protection"?

Raymond reached into his pocket after our questions, and pulled out his protection...

...a pair of swimming goggles.

I'm convinced that he must have taken our silence for awe. He put the blue and yellow goggles on right there and then (I can still see the light fall of snowflakes coming down as he adjusted the band above his ears), and explained it to us:

"This way, tonight, they won't dump me in a snow drift - because I've got the goggles on, the snow won't get in my eyes, so they've got no reason to dump me in the snow. Once they realise that they'll just give up!"

I know what you're thinking, this was startling logic for a 12 year old to employ. It was also, as it happened, completely and utterly wrong...

The next morning the snow had started to melt, but we still waited on the top yard to hear what had happened to Raymond. He turned up, dejected once again, slouching over the yard to fill us in.

"What happened Ray?"
"Did it work?"
"Did they leave you alone?"

"They were waiting for me, saw the goggles and laughed," he began slowly, "I told them that their stupid little prank wouldn't work, that the snow wouldn't get in my eyes. Then..."

"What? What happened?"

"Then they dumped me headfirst in a wheelie bin."

We laughed, not because we were malicious, just because it was so funny. Thinking about it now I still laugh, I'm just that bit older now that it makes me think on...

Maybe at the time it wasn't funny for Raymond. For the most part I think that he was a fairly happy guy, he was odd (and by all accounts I think he still is), but he was harmless, he didn't have a malicious bone in his body. Is he able to look back on these things now and recognise them for the trivial incidents of an otherwise happy childhood?

Would Raymond (clearly after my preamble, this isn't his real name) want this story to be told? I don't know. Should I have to check with everyone who is going to be mentioned in a post before I tell a story or recount something that has happened? If there are secrets or confidences involved perhaps I should say nothing at all, but what about a story like this?

Raymond is a part of my life story, and surely that gives me a right to talk about him. By the same token I should be able to talk about Jimmy, whose father was an author and had a basement full of old shop mannequins...

Or Frances, who at 15 would spend every Friday evening waiting for "her boyfriend" to come and pick her up from youth club in his red sports car. We never met this phantom, every week her explanation was "I don't know where he could have got to, he promised that he would be here!"

Or the guy who at 16 didn't look before he leaped, and foolishly jumped down some stairs at a youth weekend away. It was only four or five steps, but the stupid guy didn't notice the low overhang. His head went straight into it and he just dropped like a rag doll to the floor, waking to see his friends anxiously hovering around him, asking "How many fingers am I holding up?"

It makes me wince just thinking about how much my back hurt from where it hit the steps...

Anonymity and privacy are important, and I think they should be respected. I hope that that doesn't infringe on anything I want to say though.

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