19 May 2010


"Put your bags down" said Jackie. 

I put my bags down against the youth club wall like this was a reasonable everyday request. It wasn't. I quickly realised that I was surrounded by a large group of girls from the year above me.

Jackie punched me in the face. It didn't hurt as much as you would expect. 

My arms were still at my sides as Jackie punched me again. This time I could feel a sharp stinging in my cheek.

I was having a fight. How was this possible? I'd always avoided confrontation and had only ever hit my brother (like you do and even then I wasn't allowed to hit him hard because he was ill).

Jackie grabbed my hair and pulled my face down towards her raised knee.

Oh God. Don't cry, Sandra, don't cry.

I had to fight back otherwise I was going to get beaten up. I pulled away and lost a handful of hair. I tried to hit Jackie, but she seemed too far away. I tried to grab her hair and put her face on my knee but it felt like I was underwater. I was hurting now. My head hurt.

I could smell cheap hairspray and cigarettes covered up with Impulse body spray.

I looked up at one point to see Mrs Butcher driving the school mini-bus with her netball team in the back. Our eyes met. Mine pleading with hers. She drove off.

I was going to be late home.

"FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT" rang in my ears. It felt like the whole school was watching. No one helped me. No one tried to stop us tearing at each other like angry cats.

Satisfied she had taught me a lesson, Jackie shoved me away from her. Her gang greeted her with congratulatory back slaps and well done Jackies. Someone lit a cigarette for the victor. She took it, half grinning, half wincing. They walked away.

I brushed myself down, watching clumps of my hair carried by the breeze. I picked my bags up and walked home alone.


That was 26 years ago. It turns out that I had snogged Jackie's boyfriend, Steve, one afternoon in a small town churchyard. I didn't know he was Jackie's boyfriend, but apparently that was my crime. I was 14 years old, naive, cheeky and invincible. I was wearing my 'Frankie says RELAX don't do it' t-shirt. When my friends and I walked past him and his mates, he said "Steve says relax, do it".  I never saw him again, but ended up with two black eyes for a quick kiss.

My Mum said I was bullied because I was pretty and clever. Sometimes it can be any excuse, the way you dress or speak for instance. The school, unhelpfully, said I shouldn't walk around on my own. These bullies made my life a misery until they left the following year. This was the first of many incidents, although I was too scared to fight back after that. The worst incident resulted in a suspected fractured skull and rather a lot of blood down the back of my coat.

I still look over my shoulder in that small town.

This is a pretty extreme example of bullying and it scares me that one day my boys may be picked on. My experience hasn't made me any tougher. I've had low self-esteem ever since. I really don't know how to protect them.

This post was written for the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop. This week I chose prompt no.4 Have you ever felt bullied? At school? At work? In your personal life? How did you deal with that? Tell us your story.



  1. Oh my god, what an absolutely dreadful experience. These things really do stay with you don't they? How could that woman have just driven off and left you?

    I'm really sorry that happened to you. x

  2. I want to post a commnet, but I can not for too many tears are flowing. I didnt like senior school, I didnt go

  3. Oh hon this took me way back to the day I was beaten up on a nearby estate just for being a bit cheeky, a bit loud, and a bit naive. I was about 14 too and I think, like you, it was sort of about being in the wrong place and wrong time. But it's so very shocking to have your fragile confidence shattered at such a vulnerable age. My heart goes out to your younger self - because I totally believe that that's not who you are now. Now you are a beloved, sensitive and groovy friend, totally awesome mother, loving partner and...well, oodles of other very cool roles in your life. You made it lady (oh, and you're a MAD's finalist!!)... and I'm chuffed to know you! xx

  4. How horrible. I was also bullied in school from the age of 7 until I left, it's still a little too raw to talk about properly without me crying.

    Bullying does horrible things to one's self esteem, I think that's why I'm so good at 'smiling in front of the rest of the world' when inside I'm breaking. :s

  5. oh that's heart breaking *hug* I was bullied in school, not the that degree fortunately, and only for 6 months before my parents took me out but to this day walking past the school panics me.
    So brave to post about it.

  6. I'm so sorry that the school could not protect you. I do hope your boys go to a school that sorts these things out. *Hugs*

  7. Oh god that is so awful. You poor thing. I love the writing in this post though. You clearly have strong memories as you take us right back there. Just horrific.

  8. Bullies have to be the most cowardly of people, surrounding themselves with an audience and picking on the vulnerable.
    When it comes to protecting our kids I don't know what more we can do than instill in them a strong sense of self worth.
    I consider myself *so* lucky never to have been bullied, but if anyone tries it on with my girls I suspect I will see red and want to give the culprits a good bashing!
    I bet *Jackie* is a real nobody now - and you, my dear, are a Somebody :-)

  9. oh mate :( what a horrible experience.

    What really grates with me is that these bullies have no idea how this stays with us over the years.

    Very brave of you to write about it x

  10. Well done for writing about this now. It seems like the memories are still strong for you. I don't think there is anything you can do to protect your own children other than to be there and listen and hope that you can spot anything sinister before it happens.

  11. I was totally sucked into this post and it's really stuck with me since I read it this morning, all credit to you for writing about it. I wonder what Jackie would feel if she were to stumble across this. Your Mum's sentiment for why this happened made me smile as I can imagine saying something similiar to mine to try and make them feel better.

  12. That is so so awful. I hope that karma came back to her. There is never any excuse for treating people so horribily.

  13. You write so vividly I was right back there with you. How absolutely horrible that you had to go through that.

    I remember once some girls shouting slut and saying 'Is you dogging I up? (charming bristolian phraseology for are you staring at me?) at me across the street and crossing over the street for a fight. No idea what I'd done. I managed to talk my way out of it by saying I was looking at her trousers and how nice they were. But I've never been so scared in all my life.

    How dare that adult Mrs Butcher have just left you like that? My blood's boiling just thinking about it. I do think schools have got a better handle on it these days, although it's still a massive problem sadly. My son's school comes down very hard if they even sniff bullying.

  14. Wow. To think that I treated the subject so differently, I feel awful... Please don't feel bad about yourself. I don't think we were bullied for ANY reason. I think some people are just mean and violent, and we should tell our kids that. And also, that telling their friends is the best thing to do.

  15. This is awful, you are really brave to talk about. You know what they say what comes around goes around! xx

  16. How horrid, but how well described. Impulse body spray and cigs, the smell of school!

    Tag for you at me http://geekymummy.blogspot.com/2010/05/two-memes-with-one-stone.html

  17. a deeply honest and moving story.
    You obviously remember still so vividly, you recreate it so clearly.
    i know i can't stop my boys from being bullied, but i'm gonna do my damn hardest to give them self esteem.
    i hope u realise how great u are soon


  18. Oh sweetheart - I was bullied at school and beaten up too (was much younger, I was 6) but I know exactly how you feel - I am absolutely determined my girls won't have that done to them

  19. What an awful experience, I'm so sorry for you. I managed to escape something very similar by running ofr my life and knocking on the first front door I came across. I dread to think how it could have been otherwise.
    I really do think that bullying needs tackling in schools, I too worry for my girls.
    Thanks for sharing

  20. Sandy this is awful :( What a horrible, horrible thing to go through.

    It must be hard to remember, thank you for sharing x

  21. How awful.Sorry. Yes, these things stick don't they. I hope she got a taste of her own medicine at some point.
    By the way, I had one of those t-shirts too. ;0) xx

  22. How absolutely awful. I'm not surprised it has stuck with you, Sandy, and it is not surprising you worry for your boys, it is natural too. I think we all worry that any thing difficult that has happened to us will happen to our children, but it can be different. You will be able to support your boys whatever life throws at them. Hugs my love. It takes a strong person to write something as difficult as that xx

  23. Oh my God, how awful. You poor thing. And I'm so so sorry that it's stayed with you this long. Most people in this world are nice and kind, it sounds like you were just very unlucky. So please don't worry too much about your boys(more than normal anyway, worrying's our job), I'm sure they'll be OK. Schools are much better at dealing with these things now. A very evocative post, and extremely well written.

  24. This brings back some dreadful memories. I don't ever want my kids to suffer like I did at the hands of other people. But do you know what? It might not be the right thing, but I tell my boys all the time: 'nobody's better than you, and NEVER take any shit from anyone'. It's probably not the best parenting plan, but I'll always back them up if someone's said or done something horrible and they've defended themselves.

    I wish I could go back to my 14 year old self (and yours!) and tell them 'damn well stick up for yourself - tell her to f*ck right off'. At the time it's the hardest thing in the world, though - would we have even listened? xx

  25. What a moving and brave piece. Its tough being a kid and a teenager, I would never want to go back and do it all again. I feel for you about your boys too, I want to put them in a wee box and keep them there so I can always protect them. Not healthy I know but I hate the fact I can't always protect them. Big hugs for the beautiful person and wonderful mother you are. xx

  26. Gappy, yes, I still think about that. The teacher driving off and leaving me made it feel like I was in the wrong. x

    The Mad House, oh love, sorry to bring back those memories for you x

    Gigi, you made me cry A LOT. What a lovely thing to say. Being bullied had a lasting impact, but now as more good things are happening I am putting it behind me. I'm so sorry you were on the receiving end too. Shame on these people. xxx

    Beth, oh honey, my heart is breaking for you. How awful. xxx

    Livi, I'm sure if people realised how awful bullying is for the victim they might think twice xxx

  27. jfb, I hope so too. I can understand why some parents choose to home-school! x

    Mummy Limited, I remember it so clearly. I remember what I was wearing, the colour of the youth club brickwall and what I said to my mum when I got in. x

    Sam, it's Jackie, not "Jackie". I used her real name as I figured she probably isn't a blog reader and anyway I'm not scared of her any more. Thank you for calling me a somebody, that means a lot x

    Nickie, I don't feel brave writing about it, it actually feels like an admission of weakness (which I know it isn't). I suppose I'm facing up to not being popular at school! x

    Jumbly Mummy, I will definitely be on the look out for any sign that my boys are being bullied (or bullying other children) x

  28. Scribbling Mum, I know, it's a typical mum thing to say! I'd be interested to know whether Jackie and her friends feel any remorse. x

    Capital Mom, you're right, there is no excuse x

    Deer Baby, My bullies only physically hurt me a few times, most of the time it was name calling and 'screwing me up' which I'm sure is the same as 'dogging I up'. It's menacing and intimidating though. I'm still shocked about Mrs Butcher too. As I said to Gappy, it made me feel like I was in the wrong somehow. I'm glad to hear your son's school is strongly anti-bullying x

    Marianne, hey, please don't feel bad! I hope my boys will be open and tell tales if they're being bullied x

    Kerry, I don't feel brave! I hope you're right x

  29. Geeky Mummy, I remember it so well! Thanks for the tag x

    Henri, thank you. I'll never forget it and I'll do everything I can to stop it happening to my boys.

    Muddling Along, 6! Oh you poor love. There's not enough cotton wool in the world to protect our little ones x

    Mari, you did well to run away - I was surrounded! Bullying is such a worry x

    Josie, I thought long and hard before I wrote it, but I think I released a bit of the hurt by writing it down x

  30. Chic Mama, I hope so too. Those t-shirts were fab! x

    Rosie, thank you, I don't feel particularly strong, but I feel better for writing it down. Children are such a worry! x

    Victoria, thank you. I hadn't realised how vividly I could recall it until I started writing. I hope my boys are luckier than me x

    English Mum, that is good parenting advice. I read your post about the local kids near you. My children will probably stand out for being well-mannered, but they'll also have a strong sense of self-worth. I wish our 14 year old selves had the courage to say 'f*ck right off' too x

    Susan, aww thanks. I know what you mean about putting them in a box. we do what we can to protect them x

  31. That's awful! At least my bullies just used words and excluded me from everything. That was bad enough. You must have had the worst time!

  32. Mwa, bullying is bullying, I don't think it turning physical is any worse than the way words, or nasty looks, or being ignored can make you feel. I'm sorry to hear you were bullied too. x


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