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Monday, 19 September 2011


For any of you who may be wondering, I am over my little funk of last post. I'm pretty convinced that my worries weren't paranoia and the problem really did exist but I'm equally certain that a)it's all blown over and b) I'm not going to dwell on it regardless.

So this week I drag the blog back on track and head once more down memory lane; to a boy named Scruff and one of my most terrifying experiences.

I spent a goodly portion of my childhood living in constant fear of Scruff, who lived just a couple of streets from me and was, during our time at Primary School, in my class. Luckily, come Comprehensive his, shall we say lack of academic aptitude, meant that we saw little overlap in our classes so I only had to worry about him after hours. At the time of this weeks tale however, we were still entrenched in the Primary years, so his presence was constant.

Now, before we go any further I should like to point out that I was not the one to coin the name 'Scruff' for him. Far from the most well dressed person in my social circle I was all to aware of the negative affect being mocked for your appearance can have on a person. He seemed perfectly happy with the name though, to the extent that I genuinely can't remember what his actual name was. I'm sure he had one; God, how awful would it be to have been christened Scruff? You'd have no chance, would you?; but to this day he is indelibly etched into my memory as simply Scruff.

Scruff and I didn't get off on the wrong foot. Quite the opposite in fact. One of my first memories of him is from, oh, it must have been a week or so after I started at that school. We were selected by random drawing to stay in at playtime and clear up the art supplies and he was pretty upset about it. Personally I wasn't that fussed, everyone got picked eventually, it was just our time, (although I was pretty unlucky to have been picked so soon) but he was really stropping. I ended up telling him to just sit down and I'd do it myself. That was it, friend for life. Or friend for a month or so anyway. Pretty much everyone tried to warn me, after that first playtime bonding session, that I should stay well clear but I liked the lad, he was a good laugh, and I didn't listen.

Until he headbutted me for tackling him in PE.

You see, Scruff was a psycho, or at least that was our expert opinion when we were kids. Truth is, looking back, he was obviously deeply troubled and his home life, from what I saw of it was about as far from perfect as you could get. And I say this a someone whose own childhood, as you'll know if you read this blog regularly, was far from rosy. These days he'd get counseling, maybe moved to a separate school where children with his issues were better catered for. Not back then though; to the teachers he was a troublemaker and to us kids he was a psycho. A psycho with a temper.

I very quickly, being the terrible physical coward that I am, began to live in fear of Scruffs mood swings, which ironically enough meant that I actually ended up spending a lot more time with him than most. You see, while others were happy to ignore him or, the brave ones, tell him to f*ck off, I was always trying to appease him. I figured if he thought of me as a proper friend (and one who posed no threat) I'd be less likely to feel his wrath. Shoddy thinking, I now know.

Anyway, I had two major run ins with Scruff that stay with me to this day. The first was one of the proudest moments of my life. The second was the moment that I realised the first had been a massive mistake.They say, don't they, that you should stand up to bullies and they'll back down. Sound advice, if you're living in Ramsay Street or going to school at Waterloo Road but here in the real world it doesn't always work that way. Or rather, in my experience, it never works that way.

It was a pretty normal day like any other and we were all quite happily sitting in class doing whatever it was we were doing. The sun was shining through the windows, people were laughing, it was pretty idyllic. Then my mate Chris and I went to get something from the side cupboard. Scruff arrived right behind us, he wanted what we had, we offered half, he wanted it all, we said no, he said he would kick our heads in. So far, still normal, if not quite so idyllic.

Then I screamed "Fuck Off" and punched him. I have no idea what the hell I was thinking but he was snarling threats at us and I was terrified so I lashed out and punched him in the stomach. Shocked myself to be honest. He doubled over and stayed doubled over, my hand still in his stomach because I was in to much shock to pull away. Everyone who saw it started laughing and cheering, Chris tried to drag me away, Scruff was puffing and wheezing, everything was in slow motion.

So teacher arrives on scene, we're both sent on our merry way to the Headmasters office, get a bit of a bollocking, apologise, are sent straight back to class. The whole way there, and the whole way back, Scruff doesn't say a word to me, just shuffling along with his hands in his pockets and staring at the floor. For my part, I was terrified; I was convinced he was going to turn and beat the crap out of me, right there in the corridor.

He did no such thing, and he did nothing at break or Lunch either. Hometime came and he went straight home, no sign of hanging around to 'get' me. It seemed that I had gotten away with it. I became something of a minor celebrity in class for all of about 3 days, and then it all blew over.

Until a few weeks later. I'm in a shop, Scruff walks in with a couple of mates, heads straight over to me and starts yelling in my face. The shopowner kicks us all out; I guess the terror in my eyes wasn't good enough for him, he just lumped us all in together as noisy kids and out we went. We were outside scant seconds when the first punch connected to the side of my head. I staggered, a couple more blows were struck and then interference from a passer-by was enough of a diversion for me to do one.

Now, I'm no athlete, but when I think there's a chance of a kicking I'm like a whippet, so it wasn't long before I was at the end of the street and round the corner. Had I kept on I would have most likely gotten home before Scruff and co could have caught me but instead, in another case of me trying to be too clever for my own good, I nipped up the back of the main street, intending to hide in one of the yards. This I do, and am soon happily ensconced in a nice little alcove, out of sight and sitting pretty.

Except, I'd failed to take into account that while Scruff had many flaws, being an idiot wasn't one of them. He must have realised that I hadn't had time to get out of sight on the main road, and that having come up the back street I wouldn't have had time to reach the end; hence, I was hiding up the back street somewhere. I was cornered within moments and bracing myself for the kicking I was sure was coming.

He pulled a knife.

I can honestly say, hand on heart and without fear of contradiction, that I was legitimately more scared in that moment than I had ever been before and I'd be hard pushed to think of many times since that matched it. I can clearly remember thinking that Scruffs friends looked nearly as terrified as I did; I don't think they were expecting that! And do you know what I did? What my big, brave, plan of action was? I cried. I cried, and I begged for him not to hurt me and then I launched into a wild attack that I'm sure had little effect other than to shock him (still crying all the time) and then I ran like fuck and didn't stop until I got home; where I cried some more, got wrong because I wouldn't say why I was crying and then went to bed and had nightmares. So, you know, a great plan all round. And Scruff...

Scruff showed up at school next day like nothing had happened and was laughing and joking with me in the playground. Best friends...until the next time.

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