« A Gold Lamé Heart | Main | Memories Of An Undy Urchin »

A Shout From The Attic: A Pernicious Habit

Ronnie Bray recalls how he dealt with a schoolboy bully.

Melvyn Stansfield was a conditional bully rather than an out-and-out one during the years I knew him at Spring Grove School. He moved to Spring Grove with Walter Fox and Kenneth Leech, from Saint Thomas’ School at Longroyd Bridge, a school that kept children until they were eleven and then sent them elsewhere. Although they were newcomers, they had little difficulty settling in the class. Walter Fox and I became close friends, sharing an interest in literature and working together on a hand-written newspaper titled, “The Pickwick Papers,” and going on a remarkable and memorable holiday together.

Little Melvyn hung around with tall Kenneth and chunky Walter, and that is what gave him confidence to pick on me. Even if he had not always been in the company of his protectors, I might not have stood up to him due to my pathological passivity.

We had one teacher for all subjects except when the boys trundled along to the Spring Street annexe for woodwork and the girls went downstairs near the science room for domestic science, as cooking was called. The woodworking annexe was intended to be a place of terror with wild stories about big boys pushing the newcomers’ heads down toilets and flushing them; an early fruiting of the urban legend. My head was never so much as threatened with a toilet, for which I was truly thankful.

Melvyn was not a heavy-duty bully; more of a niggler, but that was not pleasant, and he knew it. I bore his prods and pokes with the forbearance and patience of a plaster saint, but the real source of my tolerance was cold fear. I was afraid that Melvyn might do me injury if I protested, or that Kenneth and Walter would join in the torment instead of simply watching it. I was resigned to my fate, hard and long as it might be.

One day, whilst I was bent over my work bench chiselling away at the joints of a roller towel holder I had under construction, Melvyn walked into the workshop and passed behind me, giving me a painful jab in the back as he did so. For the first and only time in my life, I felt a powerful pulse through my whole body and saw a vivid flash of red in my eyes, as I responded with the sudden anger of an adrenaline rush. I spun round to see his leering grin showing the enjoyment he felt at intimidating me.

He was still grinning when he hit the floor, but then his smile vanished, and I saw terror in the bully’s eyes as he lay bewildered in a pile of wood shavings. I fixed him with a ferocious gaze and watched as he shrank into a puny quivering creature whose tormenting had boomeranged on him and brought him to terror by its swiftness and power. After a long wait, he got up and slunk away cringing.

Later that day, out of sight of Melvyn, Kenneth came and asked me not to hit Melvin when he, Kenneth, was present: a condition to which I agreed. However, from that time forward, Melvyn avoided my gaze and bothered me no more, leaving me with one less bogeyman to deal with.

Some years later, when Matthew was little more than two, we visited a family who had a son of about the same age, but who was taller and more aggressive. He enjoyed hitting Matthew who merely moved away from him. His parents took no notice of the little bully, much to my surprise, so the bullying continued unchecked until I said to Matthew, “If he does that again, punch him on the nose!” He did it again about two seconds later and Matthew gave him a solid punch on the nose, causing the little monster to sit down and take stock of the situation, from which position he decided against continuing attacks on my little man.

Most bullies collapse when they are challenged, especially when the challenge is vigorous. The tragedy is, the timid do not always know that to be true and are often too afraid to try it. But when we do, the results are almost always surprising and deeply satisfying.

Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.