It was my first day at primary school, I was excited and giddy. Nursery always bored me. I was always more interested in literature; both reading and writing, I wrote my first book at 6, was a 12 page extravaganza about a sad crocodile that had lost it's teeth and I was frequently stood in front of my class showing my fellow students how to craft boats, rocket ships and other exciting things from cereal boxes, used up toilet rolls and other homely/thrifty crafting materials.
It was exciting, the concept of being that kid into the future of my educational career. I'd always wanted to be a teacher– that is, when I wasn't wanting to be a rally-car racer.
I had prepared myself a little project the night before to take into school to proudly show off my creative prowess to my new fellow students and hopefully new friends.
I remember the morning well, my mother walked me to school every morning and if I had taken my super-ted in the morning I was allowed to eat a Cheese String on our way. I think this was a device to keep me quiet as I would constantly ask questions, like:
"What is the space under the toaster called"
"What is the gap between the teeth on a comb called"
I don't blame her, I was inquisitive about everything. I needed to know.
I finished off my Cheese String around half way there and we bumped into one of my mother's friends (who would later be a dinner lady and nick named nanny-fowl in secondary school) more on that later.
This gave me time to observe any imperfections in my to-be presentation to my new brethren and sistren. All looked good, it was a glorious little aeroplane made from lego and blue tack for better fuselage shape and so I could explain my basic understanding of aerodynamics. Dead proud, loved that thing.
We arrive at the new school, and my mother leaves. I spot some familiar faces about 30 yards afoot. I start heading over to these familiar faces and walk past a familiar but unfriendly face from nursery/pre-school. He spits at the ground beneath me and that is quickly picked up on by some older children near-by. I didn't have to worry about this mild threat, he just wanted and garnered acceptance from new social peers and I didn't need that kind of validation/acceptance. I understood what he wanted/needed but didn't understand the targeting, I pondered and moved on swiftly so not to aggravate any further unwanted attention on my first day. Not something I'd have usually done, I'm more of a deal with the issue up front kind of person but I let it slide so I could find out more about my school.
I get to the familiar faces and forgot about the mild threat pretty quickly, we look at the new building and exchange news on the contents of our bags. Everyone had packed lunches (everyone had Pom Bears, my goddamn favourite) but I wasn't from a particularly well-to-do family so had no such fancies just my notebooks and pencil case and Turkey twizzlers from the school (Jamie Oliver didn't ruin my school dinners). My pencil case was a black and white sports car, loved it so much.
We turn around and all gander at the new school block, which was only 300 yards or so from our previous school across a field and look up. It's 3 storeys high and beige bricked with a flat roof and double glazing. My house had steel framed windows from the 60s so double glazing was amazing to see, I wanted to see what made it so superior and how it was made when I got inside.
We start moving to the entrance of the school and that's where I meet my antagonists for the first time.
I'd never had a physical confrontation before and a group of 4 older children saunter over to me and my existing friend group, my friends seem to know who the leader of the group is and make themselves pretty scarce pretty fast. Not understanding the situation I pulled out my little aeroplane in excitement to show them and talk about it compared to the real things. My father and I have always had a penchant for aeronautics and I liked to share my passions with others, almost as soon as I had lifted my project to eye level in splendour it was snatched from my hands by the leader. I was nervous– maybe they just want to look at it closer, maybe they were impressed, maybe they'd never seen anything like it.
Just as soon as those questions filled my mind I watched my prized little lego and blue tack plane be torn apart like a piece of wet toilet paper and this immediately sent me into hysterical crying, "What will I show the class now?!" I cried as loudly as I could.
The witty retort is still something I deal with on a day to day basis when explaining things to people
He then proceeded to not only further maul my little wonder but also throw it on the roof of the school before carrying on his barrage of attack and push me down and walking away.
This was my first day of school and one of the worst memories of my entire life. I wondered what else was in store for this school and my educational career. I'd barely been at the new school for 15 minutes before I'd not only been spat at, I'd been emotionally and physically attacked.
A teacher (or another parent) noticed my sitting on the floor crying to myself, I don't remember which due to being distraught. She took me inside to see a principal (RIP) who instead of trying to aid the situation, had a much more political agenda in trying to find who it was.
I've never been one to grass on someone, it's not my style. I haven't even had the chance to talk with them about it myself, that's my style. I didn't say who it was (due to not knowing their names) and he continued to ask questions before eventually getting fed up and sending me on my way.
I'm now stood outside the headmaster's office, it's 25 minutes into my first day of school and just what the fuck do I do now? No idea where the classrooms are, where the time-tables are, where the stationer's is or in-fact what the hell I'm supposed to "do with myself" I turned and knocked on the door and entered again.
"What?! What do you want now?"
I left without saying a word. So far, this is shit.
Moving on through the days, it's much the same thing day in and day out. Sometimes they had nothing to say, sometimes they had a lot to say but that first day was the worst in primary school and I did okay at keeping it together while I was there hoping that they would eventually be transferred to prison or some other caged rehabilitation centre.
The summer holidays come and go, lots of scraped knees and bumped heads and it's over in a flash. It's a couple of years later and I'm wary about starting secondary school now and I haven't shown any fellow students how to build, make, write or do anything in 5 years now. I've had moments of renown for drawing Pokémon and Digimon characters with pretty high fidelity but that was it. A big step down from showing colleagues many creative feats.
I started to resent school, it had totally stifled my creative exercise. At this point I could walk to school on my own, it was just 600 yards from our house at the time in-fact.
School starts and I have some new friends and have lost some in the growing up phase, I again see familiar faces at the front of the school. This school is 4, maybe 5 times larger than primary school, it has many new things like a reptile shed, a small mammal shed, a full sized library and many other things and utilities.
It was an upgrade physically but my bullies also made the cut and they were soon on my trail. First day, first break (around 11am) I'm picked up, punched in the gut and thrown into some shrubbery, at least they left my face alone. I have long hair now and they come up with a witty new nickname for me that stuck for a number of years before it died out (and I resolved it's final abuser.)
I was known as "Wiggy", I still don't know what that means but I can only assume it was a joke/stab at my long hair.
Year 7 comes and goes in much the same way but I'm starting to feel different as the year ends and each attack leaves me a little more damaged. A new kid started in my class and for some reason (I'm really not proud) I start picking on him, it lasted a week before I took him to the library to explain the situation and deeply apologise for my actions. I never physically harmed him though and he accepted my apology. We became friends after that.
With no outlet creatively, emotionally or physically I started learning how to repress my emotions. It worked for the most part until the middle of year 8 when it starts to bubble over and I start falling into the wrong crowd (most of whom are now in some kind of correctional facility) and we vandalised a LOT of stuff in school. I acted out constantly for best part of a year while the increasing number of bullies in this group are continuously harassing me.
I start getting into a lot of fights with other students at school, breaking noses and knocking teeth out. I was nearly expelled and things got hard to explain to adults as like I say, I was never a grass. This never stopped "nanny fowl", her usual nickname was "Nanny Fowel", no idea why she was a draconian dinner lady who insisted that absolutely any infraction on school (or even playground) rules was a worthy trip to the deputy head master's office. Which he loved..
Year 8 continues to go this way and I'm getting in more and more trouble as each day goes by but one day it changed very fast, one lunchtime.
I was "hanging" with my friends, some teenagers from 6th form who I quite liked hanging around with, we commandeered a bench outside the back entrance to the cafeteria and it was commonly known as the "goth bench" passers by would hurl insults but I was impressed by the 6th former's ability to retort wittingly.
Sat talking about various comics we enjoyed reading, the kid that spat at my feet in primary school walks over and shoves me off the bench. Not wanting to get into a fight I fled as fast as I could, it was raining and he gave chase. After maybe 5 minutes of running I slipped on some wet/muddy grass falling forwards and braking my arm in several places.
The inner engineer in me noticed a misshapened arm and immediately anchored my elbow into my pelvis to "straighten" my arm/wrist breaking my arm, elbow and hand in even more places and totally shattering my hand.
At the time, it seemed wise but getting to the hospital it was not. The bully responsible vomits on the spot immediately as well as a couple of other kids in earshot/visual range and I'm so set in shock that I can't feel how much damage I've done to my arm or any pain that I'm in. It was a disaster.
I cut through my friend's back garden to get home cutting 10 minutes off the journey home to ring my mother at work (she now works as a dinner lady at my primary school) to tell her I've broken my arm. After some debate about whether or not I have actually broken my arm she finally concedes and comes home to see me/take me to the school nurse, she doesn't believe I've broken my arm.
The nurse knows, good god she knows it's broken. She can slide her clenched fist in the gap between where my hand/arm should be and the table without touching my arm.
After having an operation to fix the abomination that is now my arm. 4 pins and 2 plates. It serves as a permanent reminder that the human responsible for this exists in society today and probably even has children of his own now. Lovely.
I changed when I woke up from the anaesthesia, I was hysterical. Apologising to my mother for being a little shit and generally being stoned off my balls.
My school life changed, I still got bullied but I started to knuckle down and once the first term of year 9 was over I received a certificate for the mostly wildly improved behaviour. This made me feel a little more like I mattered as being bullied for a total of 7 years now had made me feel pretty worthless and all-in-all pretty empty.
"It's because they're jealous"
"It's because they're not as smart as you"
"It's because they're insecure"
"It will make you stronger"
Plus many other, useless platitudinal sentiments didn't touch the sides of the anguish nearly a decade of bullying had caused. I started looking for ways I could vent non-destructively and accidentally found membership in a unofficial boxing club.
After sparring a few times I was asked to join their actual fights. These were bare fist fights and they weren't fucking around. I got really hurt the first few times but luckily no real bruising or cuts but I got a new nickname after a while. "Dave the cutter" as my elbows were good at breaking skin.
This was pretty destructive and I stopped doing it after a few months to concentrate on my trial biking and downhill racing. I had managed to finally find a way to get this out of my system but the endless bullying had changed who I was permanently. I had become bitter, secluded and actually felt less intelligent and valuable as a person.
The following 2 years were much the same but we get to the last day of year 10 when the nickname "Wiggy" makes a comeback from a small Cypriot new to our school the previous year. I'd been having a pretty bad day with the bullies who had earlier that day soaked my clothes in various drinks, pushed me down a set of stairs and tripped me up in the busiest hallway in the entire school.
I heard him shout "Wiggy" across the playground during our lunch hour. I still feel the same shaking rage now as I write this as I did as I sprinted over to him at top speed and told him to say it again. He rolled in with the girlfriends of the people who had bullied me for the best part of a decade.
He did in-fact repeat what he had said and tried to run away (I was a lot bigger than he was due to weight lifting and riding my bicycle every day)
He didn't get far and I could feel myself regressing, I lifted him by his maroon jumper; we all had maroon jumpers, and his was too big for him. I carried him over to a hedge on a very steep hill and threw him through the hedge and down the hill.
He got up at the bottom of the hill and shouted "Wiggy" again thinking perhaps that was all I had, I gave chase and I had gone primal. Nothing could or would stop me, I was in a trance.
I caught him within seconds and he was pinned down on his back and I strangled him to the point he went purple before a teacher removed me. As soon as the adrenaline had receded, I felt awful. I felt like my ENTIRE identity had been removed from me and I didn't know who I was. I was back at square one.
I found him again later in the day and apologised profusely for my actions and explained what he did wrong and how to avoid it in future and he also apologised for what he'd said. I had become a pacifist as I got older, I would never want to hurt anyone and yet these bullies knew how to keep making it happen.
I only had one choice, I stopped going to school. To avoid being around the bullies as soon as I had completed my GCSEs. I was predicted As and Bs. I left school with 6 Es, 2 Ds and 2 Us.
I was never going back except for registration (truancy gets your parents in trouble yo) and skipped all the lessons I could.
I started to feel better within myself but the last day of school ever rolls around and the primary antagonist confronts me in the playground once we're all done with our farewells to friends and tutors.
He strikes me in the belly winding me instantly but as I say, I've started lifting weights and I had started practicing martial arts.
I had waited for something like this to happen, I didn't want it to but I was ready for if it did. One final blow out before school and these fuck-wits are but a distant memory.
I kicked him in the face, fracturing his jaw. A one time hit, he fell over screaming (muffled) and crying.
Police officers are at our front door at 6am sharp the following morning. They were aware of the situation and instructed me that I should say nothing more than "I don't want to talk about it." Something I'd been saying for a decade already.
Fast forwarding 10 years and a lot has happened, I no longer feel worthless or hopeless. I'm not an angry person anymore, quite the opposite but I still have issues with dealing with disappointment, dealing with failure, social cues/hints, detachment issues and a wide range of other things that can make it difficult to converse with me.
It's hard being a survivor of bullying and between leaving school and where I am now– A husband, proud father and the founder of a small successful business. I had some truly terrible times including alcohol abuse, attempts at my own life on more than one occasion and multiple issues with depression, detachment and general lack of any emotions.
Bullying has left me an emotional husk, the only thing that filled where my emotions should be was paranoia and alcohol which made me a horrible person to be around for half of the following decade.
It didn't make me stronger, it made me weaker and I'll be weaker for the rest of my life. The time and emotion that went into trying to survive that decade has given me a debt I'll never, ever pay back and one of the worst parts is the bullies will never, ever know how much damage they have done to a handful of people.
I'm not a paranoid person anymore, many years of practice have made me a much stronger and sensible person and I no longer rely on alcohol to fill a gap where my creativity/loving/sharing/caring personality used to be but I have a permanent scar in the form of memories of taking my bullying out on others and being bullied myself.