Saturday, 11 October 2014

It's not just for drawing circles, you know?

I don't recall ever being bullied in school. I remember being stabbed with pairs of compasses, referred to as "big nose" and having the change knocked from my hands by a roaring buffoon in the dinner queue, but I also remember stabbing my mates with pairs of compasses, defining my peers by whatever made them different and acting like a buffoon in the dinner queue. So, was it that I was bullied or that I was a bully? I don't recall if I stabbed someone with a pair of compasses before having been stabbed with a pair myself, but I'm sure I was, so maybe I was an aspiring bully. I've no idea. I hope I never made anyone feel like they were being bullied,

On a connected note, if you're ever struggling with the plural of compass, type carefully into your google box. "Cumpie" gives some surprisingly unappetising results.

But back to my school days. As I remember it, I had a number of Nemesis' who "bullied" me and suffered "bullying" at my hands. I was, genetically, lucky I suppose. I was generally far taller than my peers and kids are cowards, the littler ones suffer a far worse time. As a result, they tend to be the toughest by the time they leave school. When it comes to using your fists, practice makes perfect. The "hardest" man I know has a cleft lip and palate. His appearence and speech made him the target of merciless name calling and dead legs from day one. His early school years would have been Hellish, I'm sure, but by the end of his education he emerged as a popular young man that no one dared mess with.

Others don't cope. A girl at my high school had what was described as a nervous breakdown just before our final exams. She'd been bullied for years because she was clever. She was a friend of mine and I'm ashamed to say I hadn't noticed. She always seemed happy in the company of her friends, but I suppose brief spells of normality when usually in Hell would probably put a wide smile on anyone's face. Kids are horrid. As an author of several children's books I should probably keep that opinion quiet, but I'm speaking from the point of view of an ex-child myself. My kids I love, but I doubt I'd have loved the child that was me or any of my horrible, snotty, wee-up-a-tree mates.

Like so many things, it's all a matter of personal perspective. For me, being stabbed in the arse hurt, made me momentarily angry and then became funny. Funnier still whenever I had an opportunity to wreak revenge. I pride myself of the advancement of classroom based tomfoolery with the introduction to my circle of the little, black, clicky bit and button from a disposable lighter. I used it to deliver several electric shocks to one of my best friends before he caught me. He was impressed, and he held me down to administer several filling-popping shocks to my cheeks when my uncontrollable laughter rendered me helpless.

DickFingers is very much like me. Many's the time I've receive a well aimed and light hearted punch to the kidney as I'm doing the washing up and I've lost count of the number of times I've wedgied her whilst she's been showing me her new underwear.

I've come across many definitions of "bullying". The oldest I've come across is "to use ones greater strength to intimidate". Later "or influence" was added alongside "ones greater strength". Both definitions are perfectly clear on the meaning and, to my relief, none of the definitions I've seen mention stabbing people in the arse with pairs of compasses.

Some definitions go into far more detail. I once had a conversation regarding what was construed as bullying with my high school teacher sister. I was surprised at some of the issues that could, and do, call for official complaints which, ultimately, can lead to the destruction of someones career. I'm paraphrasing slightly, but "talking behind someones back" seemed to me not only to be unworthy of punishment by financial ruin and loss of reputation but also to be a little, well, pathetic. Surely such a transgression would better be described as gossiping? We're all guilty of that. (Except for "you know who".)

Many, possibly all, of us have the capacity within to bully someone, but most of us don't. We have empathy, we know the rules, we know what's acceptable. Kidney punch while washing up? Fine. Leaving the tea bag on the side when the bin is there, right there, right fucking next to you? You're a bastard. (Yes, I mean you, DickFingers.)

Now I'm older and my days of being stabbed in the arse are, pardon the pun, all behind me. It's been a good thirty years since I acted up in a queue waiting for our dinner lady, Typhoid Trina, to stop coughing long enough to slop mashed potatoes onto my plate and I grew into my nose. A bit. In no section of my life do I ever feel I'm being bullied.

A lot of people disagree with me on a lot of subjects, I'm grateful for that. What boredom awaits us in a world where all agree? Fortunately, we'll never know.

I Tweet a lot. I Tweet random snippets formed by what are obviously misfiring synapses masquerading as "thoughts", sometimes silly pictures and often cheap attempts to manipulate followers into parting with their hard earned cash to buy a book or three. I try not to get too embroiled in the more controversial and polarising topics doing the rounds, unless someone asks my opinion. Even then, more often than not, I'll politely decline their invitation to debate further and wander off to trawl Twitter for cute kittens and tits instead.

Not so very long ago someone Tweeted me out of the blue and pointed out that I have "lots" of followers that "openly" believe Maddy Mcaan was murdered by her father. It was news to me, though statistically, with thirty thousand plus followers, it was probably a knocking bet I would have and that I would have other individuals, like the lady that contacted me, who believed the opposite. A good deal more probably don't give two shits. I, as you, fall into one of these three categories, I wasn't prepared to discuss my opinion on this very emotive topic with an anonymous box of text that had appeared on my screen demanding attention and so politely declined her invitation. This led to her assumption, whether right or wrong, that I was scared of arguing against her standpoint when, for all she knew, I may have been a kindred spirit. I was "threatened" with being reported as a troll (?) and, horror of horrors, being blocked. Regarding this situation, I don't mind admitting I fell into the "two shits" category and went searching for more kittens, some more tits and a picture of Wayne Rooney being compared to a Little Britain character.

So, kids, pop quiz. Your starter for ten....

Which particular news story has led to tonight's tirade?

Well done, that's ten points on the board. It's the whole Martin Brunt/Brenda Leyland debacle.

Just in case you've missed it (To be fair, it's been given really rather meager coverage by some news agencies for whatever reason.) Brenda Leyland was, until recently, a sixty three year old lady with a Twitter account and an opinion on the whereabouts/fate of Maddy McCann. The debate on what happened to Maddy has never been satisfied. Someone knows what happened, some people think they know what happened and most of those people are wrong. But someone knows and they're keeping it to themselves.

Mrs Leyland wasn't one of those that knew, but she believed she knew and she speculated on this via some very blunt statements on Twitter under the handle "@SweepyFace". Her opinion, to which she was entitled. was that the parents of the missing child were the people that actually know and that they were vile individuals. She used language that was at best passionate and at worst offensive. The Tweets weren't sent to either Gerry or Kate McCann, they wisely steer clear of Twitter and neither have accounts. The Tweets did, however, contain the hashtag "McCann", a trend avidly followed by those on either side of the debate. Of course, someone could have told the McCanns about the Tweets Mrs Leyland posted, but from what I see on a daily basis there are far worse things, death threats etc., actually aimed at the couple and, I should imagine, it would be these that any friends or acquaintances would take the time to point out. This wasn't the case though, we have it from the horse's mouth. Gerry McCann has since said, on camera, that neither he nor his wife had been aware of the Tweets.

He had the opportunity to say this on camera because of Mrs Leyland's sudden death. As yet there is no official cause of death, and the police say there are no suspicious circumstances. She was found dead in a cheap hotel room soon after being metaphorically stabbed in the arse while dicking about in the dinner queue, the victim of a real bully.

Brandishing a dossier and with film crew in tow, a "Sky News' Crime Corespondent" by the name of Mr Martin Brunt doorstepped Mrs Leyland as she was leaving her house. She wouldn't talk to him at that point, she was going our with her friend, but on her return she invited him into her home and spoke, off camera, to him. The earlier exchange, very much on camera, showed Mr Brunt claiming that the police were investigating her over her Tweets and that she could be in serious trouble. This was not true. Although the Tweets had been reported to the police and examined, they have since said Mrs Leyland wasn't being investigated. Now, you should never, it's said, let the truth get in the way of a good story, but that assumes you know the truth and choose to ignore it. Mr Brunt didn't know the truth and took it on himself to decide what the opinion of the CPS would be. Maybe he thought, after his filler-piece to be slotted in between stories on how we're all going to die of Ebola and how we're all going to die of terrorism was aired, that the police would have no option but to investigate further but, to be clear, at this point there was no story. The man was attempting to create news where no news existed.

In a statement, albeit a brief one, Sky News said: "We were saddened to hear of the death of Brenda Leyland. It would be inappropriate to speculate or comment further at this time."

To sum up so far;

  • Mrs Leyland didn't know. Mrs Leyland decided she did know. Mrs Leyland told a load of Twitter users, the one hundred and eighty two that followed her and any others interested in the McCann hashtag, what she thought she knew.
  • Mr Brunt didn't know. Mr Brunt decided he did know. Mr Brunt produced a piece of television to be shown to millions of people, the vast majority of who fell into the two-shits category.

Mr Brunt showed the lady's house on camera, lied about the situation, misrepresented himself and brought news of the content of Mrs Leyland's messages, content they would never have been exposed to if not for him, to the missing child's parents. Mrs Leyland, on camera, came across as pleasant, middle class, polite and level headed. She seemed to have no problem with the police looking into the case, although they weren't, and responded with "That's fine" when Mr Blunt told his fib. Mrs Leyland was found dead in hotel room soon after.

Whether or not her death is related to the treatment she suffered at the hands of a vigilante with a press pass is, at this point, unknown. In this case, unlike that of Madeleine McCann, there is the possibility that no one knows, that Mrs Leyland was the only one who did know and that, now she's gone, no one will ever know. We may never know what Maddy's fate was, but there is, without a doubt, at least one person on the face of this Earth that knows exactly what happened.

If it's eventually found that Mrs Leyland was driven to take her own life we still won't know if this was as a result of Martin Brunt's lazy, self serving "journalism". No one will. Some will think yes, some will think no and, unfortunately, most won't give two shits. What I do know, and knew before this tragic series of events, is that we have a police force and judicial system dedicated to, and pretty damn good at, sorting stuff like this out, we're all entitled to our opinion no matter how offensive someone else may find it and news should be news, not speculation. We have ITV's "Loose Women" for speculation.

Finally, I feel it would be rather cowardly of me to write this piece without throwing my hat into the ring on the topics covered and so, at the risk of some merciless trolling, here it is...

  • Someone knows, but I'm not that someone so my opinion is invalid.
  • I think some of the photofits of the suspect bear a striking resemblance to Gerry McCann. 
  • I think leaving your young children in a villa while you bugger off out to eat, even if you do nip back occasionally to check on them, is, at best, a really stupid and irresponsible thing to do. Checking on them is great, except that if your child has been abducted then "checking on them" becomes "discovering their empty bed".
  • I think, however vile and obnoxious the comments made by Mrs Leyland may have been, they are just that. Comments. In the words of my Sainted Grandmother when she found me staring at my massive conk in the mirror and crying, "Fuck 'em. Fuck 'em all, except one, and fuck that bastard on Monday."
  • Being stabbed in the arse really smarts.
  • They're my opinions, I'm entitled to them. If you share them, fine. If you don't, fine. Either way, I'm still a nice bloke and you're probably pretty cool too.

Please remember, offence can only be taken, not given. If you choose to take it, maybe you need to make better choices. If you find a lot of people are taking offence at your utterances, maybe you should use the compass more for moral guidance and less for stabbing people in the arse. 


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