Friday, April 18, 2014

Bullying lasts

Research showing that bullying victims recall their feelings and sense of humiliation years after the event comes as no surprise to me. Bullied at primary school in the mid-sixties, I can still remember the sense of hurt and alienation. Even now I fear seeing the face of a tormentor in the crowd if visiting the place where I grew up. The effects, for me, are heightened when I remember the inaction of those supposed to protect me. Teachers then handled complaints of bullying by doling out the routine advice 'don't let them see it upsets you'. In other words, they expected the victim to modify their behaviour, rather than challenge or confront the tormentor.
A few years ago, I saw how things can change for the better. Now a teacher myself, I found a Yr. 8 boy crying in the cloakroom. A sensitive and intelligent child, he told me he'd been bullied by another boy. I mentioned this to a senior staff member, who asked that, as there were 'pastoral' issues surrounding both boys,  would I mind writing a short note for 'the record'? Remembering my own humiliation from decades earlier, I agreed, but asked that she take my comments onboard. Her response was swift and effective: both sets of parents called, bully confronted, and effects of his actions painstakingly explained.
We have learned something in the intervening half-century. It's not the victim that has to hide their feelings or the bully that's allowed to carry on unchecked anymore.
And Richard, if you ever get round to reading this, the kid you used as a punchbag in the cloakroom at Beckett Park Primary School in Leeds back in 1966 hopes you somehow learned to change your behaviour on the way to becoming the director of an electrical contracting business. If you didn't, you must have cost the business thousands in compensation claims by now. You see, your primary education failed to prepare you in much the same way that those charged with providing it failed to protect me. Either way, it did not allow us to grow into fully rounded people, capable of empathising with, and relating to, those around us.
But there's another face I fear glimpsing in the crowd, and that's your's, Chris. Because every victim can turn on another they perceive to be weaker or different to them, and that's what my senior colleague saw from my report: the victim had turned on a quieter boy, a victim of his own, to visit revenge of a kind, for the humiliation he'd suffered at the hands of others. Which is what I'd done to Chris - one who struggled at school, who now would have been identified as having needs to be addressed so he could make the most of the education he needed. Yet back then, he was singled out by the teachers and his fellow pupils, made to sit at the back with much easier work than the rest. They might as well have painted a target on him.
The bullied can bully too. I did, though thankfully not for long, because a deputy head intervened, but the harm I could have done shames me as much as the hurt I suffered.

Bullied children still suffer at 50

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The house at pooh corner, or why I wanted to kiss a Glaswegian drain cleaner

Confusion reigned this week. A blocked drain, and some distressing internal seepage, raised the question as to whether I or Yorkshire Water were responsible for the repair bill. On Monday, a blockage was discovered, which meant we were no longer left feeling flush after a visit to the smallest room. So, I called a company that advertises in the phone book. Assuring me they were specialists in this matter, they advised a CCTV survey. For £140.00 I got to share a viewing of the mystery of our sewers, which the technician assured me were damaged beyond repair. A pavement licence would have to be obtained from the local authority. This would allow them to dig up the path outside the house and replace the cracked and broken pipe from the fall pipe to the nearest manhole.
Fortunately, at this point someone decided to call Yorkshire Water, the 'statutory undertaker' for drainage in these parts. A visit from the aforementioned Glaswegian contractor then followed, which brought forward two pieces of very good news. First, Yorks Water were responsible for all the work because the fall pipe entered the ground on 'public' land; after the first flush, our poo became public property. Then he got his own camera out. This showed that the 'collapsed' pipe our contractor had identified was nothing of the sort, but rather a long abandoned surface (ie rainwater) drain. The poo pipe ran beneath - and was soon unblocked by a high pressure squirt from my new Caledonian best friend. Up to that point, I had been in fear of a four figure repair bill, but with that jet wash blast, my worries disappeared -- the block to happiness vanished along with the very tangible matter that he had freed. Now all that remains is the small matter of the deposit I had to shell out to the contractor for the now unnecessary street works.
Confusion as to whether the statutory undertaker or a private contractor was responsible for the work arose because of rule changes brought in two years ago, rules which neither public nor private sector drainage workers seem to fully understand - with the attendant risk that homeowners are paying for unnecessary repairs that are now the legal responsibility of the private water companies - but who seem rather shy about publicising the fact.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Chuggered on my own doorstep

A guy called from the RSPCA the other day. We don't live on a main road, in fact, you have to travel some distance up a hill to find us, but he was nothing if not persistent. He wanted me to agree to a standing order to protect animals from cruelty and he was very forceful in his delivery and batted aside my comment that, while I knew the RSPCA prosecuted those who harmed animals, I also thought that they were a tad too gung ho in some cases. This was 'political' and he didn't want to go there - all he wanted were my bank details. And I refused to give them, so he left - leaving me with the rather unpleasant feeling that I had been hectored on my own doorstep by a chugger. Meet one on the street and you can sidestep them, but when they turn up on your doorstep, all enforced bonhommie and over-the-top persuasion, they present a very different image. If one calls from a charity I do support - and there are many - I will immediately cancel my direct debit and tell them exactly why I've done it.