Skipping rope, eggs, whoopy cushions, scratches, air ambulance.
When I was six years old I was playing with a boy at school and he thought it would be fun to put a skipping rope around my throat and squeeze the ends together until I turned blue. When I was eight years old another two boys together at school, thought it would be hilarious to swing and throw the handles of the rope at my head, collecting points for how many times they could hit my face. Bonus points when they gave me a nose bleed.
Fourteen years and being pelted with eggs as I walked home from school. Fifteen years old and the same five girls pelted me with eggs at lunch time because I was sharing a joke with a group of boys.
Years 3 to 6 (Primary school), anyone from the year group screaming ‘here comes whoopy cushion’ whenever I walked past because one teacher mis-pronounced by surname Cosham as Cushion. When that wore thin they changed it to flea bag.
Throughout school, being pinched or scratched by five girls for numerous reasons – I had a nice dress, I had a nice haircut, I got a new pair of shoes, I liked the same band as them, I gave the right answers in class, I was praised by a teacher, I had a boyfriend.
Fifteen years old I was pushed down a steep grass bank on the way to class, consequently dislocating my knee and pelvis. I had to be air lifted to hospital because land ambulance couldn’t get to the field I fell into. It was just before half term holiday so when I came back to school, several were disappointed that I was not indeed paralysed as per the rumours!
Dance, caramel doughnuts, Prom, Mark, Bubbles…
Having taken dance classes since I was three years old it was no surprise to my parents when I took dance as a GCSE option. Our Dance teacher Mr Burton was terrific, and encouraging that dance was an outlet for me to express myself when I couldn’t put into words how I felt throughout my time at school. I was a rare student given a key to the Dance Studio to use at lunch times when I needed to escape or revise for my other exams.
There was a bakery near school that made delicious caramel topped, custard filled doughnuts. These were a particular addiction acquired between Dance exam rehearsals. I still remember how good they tasted and I haven’t found anything close to resembling that recipe.
Mark was the school caretaker, he was kind and funny. My mum worked at my school and introduced us when I had to wait for her to finish work some time. It transpired that my Mum occasionally confided in him what I was facing at school, so when my Mum was not working (she was part time) Mark would let me escape to his office when I needed space to breath. He also had sweets in his pocket that I would sometimes get passed when seeing him between classes. I always appreciated having someone on my side who couldn’t be manipulated by those girls.
Bubbles was a technique I was taught by the school support officer. For a couple of years this technique worked well – whenever abuse was being shouted at me either in class or between classes, I imagined being inside a large thick bubble. It was soundproofed and anything negative would bounce off its side, everything positive would come through the thick walls with a pop. I successfully used a bubble to blank out any abuse, I still have selective hearing now because I learnt how to shut out all external noise – when I needed to. It drove those girls nuts that I could ignore them, appear like they hadn’t even spoken, out of frustration that they could no longer push my buttons they turned on my Mum – egging her car or shouting abuse at her as they passed her office. Unfortunately anybody threatening my parents immediately gets a rise out of me and my reaction tends to be out of control!
Prom, or rather our GCSE Soiree, was a good night. I didn’t have a date and I felt good about it, I went with two friends instead. I had found a nice dress – plain cut and metallic purple. When I arrived several of my male friends were impressed and finally, when those girls made a beeline for me, the boys surrounded me and told them to back off. I had someone to dance with all night and I managed to thank my teachers who were there who had supported me through my darkest days – providing me a way to express myself or some form of respite to escape bullying. I will always be grateful for what they taught me.