I'm being bullied

31st Aug 2005

Mention the term bullying and the majority of people will think of some unhappy school kid getting picked on by some other (equally unhappy) school kid, but bullying isn't just confined to the school environment; bullying is everywhere: the workplace, home, neighbours (a dog for example), family and partners, customers or clients or even complete strangers. Here's a succinct explanation lifted from the Bully Online website that encapsulates what bullying means to me:

Bullying differs from harassment and assault in that the latter can result from a single incident or small number of incidents - which everybody recognises as harassment or assault - whereas bullying tends to be an accumulation of many small incidents over a long period of time. Each incident tends to be trivial, and on its own and out of context does not constitute an offence or grounds for disciplinary or grievance action.

This describes precisely how I'm being bullied.

I was out for a run the other day, pottering along one of my usual canal-bank routes from my house. I like to run off-road if possible to avoid excessive traffic and fumes. The downside to running away from streets and basic civilisation though is where the bullying comes in; well mostly.

Along the canal-bank on any given day you'll find dog-walkers, cyclists, other runners, young adults and folk just out for a walk. A fair cross-section. So, where does the bullying come in? Yes, you guessed it the young adults; or neds by any other name. You can spot a ned very easily by their dress, age and nasal monotone.

sticks and stones may break my bones,
but names will never hurt me.

Heard that rhyme before? In some, if not most, contexts this rhyme is just nonsense. Names can hurt people; deeply. That's not my problem though. If I could run 10 seconds a mile faster everytime a shitty little ned has sung out "keep on running" as I passed by, I'd hold the World Marathon record. No, the verbal abuse, like nice legs, not! or y' fuckin' dick really don't have any profound effect on me; it's almost like a variant on Glaswegian humour: only the arsehole shouting it out finds it funny. The key moment is when these young misguided adults realise that shouting out their profanities doesn't achieve results, and they resort to bolder measures. You may notice the plural they; nb. I've never been bullied by a single ned. And never by a female of the species either. It's always courage in numbers and usually led by the thickest male. They resort to using sticks and stones.

I've been on the receiving end of some terrible abuse over the years; you wouldn't believe this kind of thing happens daily.

  • I've seen young boys (no older than ten) have the audacity to "accidentally" punch me as I pass.
  • I've seen a single ned in a much larger group note my oncoming arrival and advise his accomplices as such. It's so obvious when they then all look up and clock me. Then they form a "wall" making it extremely difficult for me get by without physical contact.
  • I've had bottles thrown at me, albeit from such a distance that the likelihood of contact being made was low; the action being more of a threat, just to let me know that next time they could easily whack that empty bottle of Buckfast off the back of my head if they so desired.
  • I've been hit with stones on more than one occasion.

The most recent stone-throwing event was just a few days ago, which is what fuelled this writing. As a cyclist and runner I often utilise the pathways and cycle-routes round Glasgow (they're supposed to be a better option to roads and probably are if you don't count the subject of this post or the broken glass strewn everywhere). So, as a well-seasoned cycle-path user I can share with you this useful tip: it's good etiquette to warn other path users of your impending approach to avoid unneccessary collisions; especially when on your bike. Applying this rule when on foot is a bit harder when you can't ring your bell though. I've run past dogs without warning, and they can get so angry when they realise they were so easily taken by surprise and frightened, they try to bite your ankles. And if the dog owner is self-righteous all hell can break loose: "You should learn to keep that bloody dog on a lead!", I've often remonstrated. A lot relies on the type of user. In most cases it's wise to provide some sort of warning although there is a single exception. When it's a bunch of neds you're dealing with, it's recommended that interaction is avoided if possible.

Watch out for the neds

Entering the domain or space of neds when on a cycle track is fraught with danger. But the danger can pass as easily as it can flare up. Once you start any type of communication, like eye-contact, it can send out the wrong signals. My advice is keep your eyes on the ground and give the trouble-makes a wide berth. Not so easy when they're all walking up the main road though.

Like the disturbing rise of urban foxes, large groups of neds are also becoming a realanti-social issue for everybody these days. As I approached a gang of neds from behind the other day, I was on the pavement of a busy road; there was lots of people about. I jumped onto the road to avoid potential conflict and promptly got run over. Sorry that was a joke! I checked the road first and it was clear, so I circled a wide arc round the gang and as I cut back in to the pavement I accidentally surprised one boy. He obviously got a fright and, like the dog, wasn't going to let me get away with it, so he threw a stone at me and it ricocheted off my lower back.

The matter could have turned nasty if the guilty individual had reciprocated to my suggestion that if he thought he was hard enough, he take me on by himself and not rely on his dozen or so comrades. Of course the sheer effrontery of my stance saw them all puff out their thin, little chests and approach me menacingly as a unit. As they clearly didn't like my idea of hospitalising one of them, I scarpered sharpishly to volleys of verbal abuse; a little bit of extra speed training I hadn't counted on.

The scary realisation now is that the neds have moved from the shadows into the public arena frightens me immensely. It's intimidating enough when two ten year old kids stand up to you, just think about a gang of juvenile delinquents.