Reflections on school days, bullying and the bad bus

seatbeltsIt’s going to be a while before either of my children (one a toddler, the other yet to be born) go to school, but given how quickly time has whizzed by since little Jack first emerged gunky and cone-headed into the world, I wouldn’t be surprised to look up to discover him bedecked in a blazer and sporting an incredibly ill-advised side-parting the second I’m finished writing this article.

The thought of sending my children to school terrifies me. For all that school is a place of forced captivity where lessons are learned and friendships forged, so is fucking prison. School’s a place where we’re bundled off to be indoctrinated into a work-a-day routine that’ll help keep the wheels of capitalism spinning, whether we’re destined to become the spinners or the spun. They’re living-flesh factories, sorting children by aptitude and ability and then spitting them along the conveyer belt – or down the garbage chute – of life. Teachers seem to be so over-worked and under-resourced that even the most inspirational of them are too busy being crushed under a ton-weight of bureaucracy to break out any Dead Poets Society-style shit. While it’s true that school has the power to teach you a lot about yourself and the wider world, that doesn’t prove that the experience is ultimately a worthwhile one. After all, even in war people still find time to play a quick game of five-asides against the foreign exchange students.

In some ways, things are even more war-like than they were in my day. Schools now have their own cops, for Christ’s sake! How did that happen? This development in community policing indicates either that schools are now fundamentally unsafe places to send our children, or else the government is conducting a grand experiment to save time and money by identifying and labelling future offenders early: a choice between The Hunger Games and Minority Report, if you like. Bullying, which has always been a constant of school-life, has now entered The Matrix thanks to the oppressive, omnipresent connectivity of social media. 2016’s bullies have the access and power of the fucking Lawnmower Man, meaning that my kids can now be bullied in the comfort of their own bedrooms, 24/7. In my day (there’s that fuddy duddy refrain again), a bedroom was a sanctuary that only homework and mothers had to power to penetrate.

media

I’m perhaps over-accentuating the doom and gloom element of school life in general and my own school days in particular. My schools were hardly the stuff of The Wire, or Dangerous Minds; they were rather pleasant places, actually, and I do have a lot of fond memories to look back upon. As I still live in the same general area I’ve no reason to expect that my sons will experience a radically different school-life from mine. Even still, whichever school they attend is going to have a ‘Lord of the Flies’ flavour that I dearly wish they didn’t have to taste: regardless of any culturally-shared notions of school ‘preparing them for the real world’ or ‘building their characters’. Simply put, my partner and I can’t afford to send them to private school.

The good news is, though, that because we can’t send them to private school, my paper-thin socialist sensibilities get to remain untested and intact. Thank God for that. (clears throat and raises fist aloft) Education for all! Down with the two-tier system! Private school kids are all snobby bastards… (checks bank balance again, just in case)

Of course, Private school wouldn’t eliminate psychopathic bullies from my children’s school life, but it would probably buy them a better breed of psychopathic bully. Instead of being stuck in a class alongside kids who listed among their hobbies eating stringy bogies, setting fire to bins and taking steaming shits in the teacher’s supply cupboard, they could be rubbing shoulders with the crème de la creme of cold-hearted monsters, the sort of rich boys who will inevitably grow up to destroy the world’s economy with one solitary sniff of Bolivian and a single thump of an ENTER key (We’ve considered home-schooling, but my partner’s worried we’d make them weird. They share fifty per cent of my DNA, love. That ship’s already sailed).

Thinking about my kids’ future school days has got me thinking about my own behaviour at high school. While – broadly speaking – I was a good, unobjectionable and unremarkable young lad: never quite top of the class; never quite on the teachers’ shit lists; liked – or at least tolerated – by a wide-ish spectrum of the school continuum – I could still be an absolute cuntbag. As all teenage boys, I’m certain, have the potential to be, a potential that most of them fulfil at one point or another.

school

My cuntbaggery always shone brightest when I was sitting up the back seats of the Wallacestone bus on the journey home from school, alongside a merry band of chanting dick-bags who – when we weren’t cruelly impersonating teachers or singing bawdy football songs (which even I joined in with, despite my hatred of football) – took great delight in providing really quite horrible intro music for the bus’s regular cast of characters. We revelled in the supreme power our size, seniority and prime seating afforded us, believing ourselves to be banter-maestros extraordinaire, when in reality we were a bunch of boorish, bullying bastards in the iron grip of mob rule.

The memories are a catalogue of shame. There was a little boy of wholly Caucasian extraction whom we decided had a curiously Mexican flavour to his heritage, and so, without fail, every time this poor unfortunate boy stepped onto the bus, we stamped our feet in unison and mimicked the vigorous strumming of guitars, belting out a Speedy Gonzales-esque Mexican ditty. You know the one: de de de-de de de-de de de-de, de de-de de de-de de de-de. We may even have shouted Ariba. We really were cunts.

There was another boy called Michael, still not sure of his surname, whose only crime was to have an ear-ring. He also bore a striking resemblance to a young Jimmy Sommerville. When he got on the bus we always chanted, “Micheal Thingmy is a poofter!”, which we repeated and repeated until he’d sat down, each line of the chant punctuated by four loud hand-claps. I don’t know what hit Michael Thingmy the hardest: the taunts about his ear-ring, or the fact that we never considered his surname all that important to the bullying process. Michael’s probably a bank manager with a wife and three kids by now, and it’s my fond hope that the Thingmy family is doing well.

fight

Another poor boy was welcomed daily with a chant of ‘You smell, and you know you do’, again and again until he disappeared up the top deck of the bus. It’s never been confirmed that he actually smelled, and it’s certainly never been confirmed that he knew that he did. He never stuck around to debate the matter with us, quite correctly ascertaining that a gang of idiots with a mixed-back of monosyllabic chants probably wasn’t the best group to engage in rational discussion.

The worst song was reserved for one of our own, a pleasant chap by the name of Craig Muir (*not his real name), and to my eternal shame I must confess to having written it. Craig was a nice, normal lad, peaceful by nature, and never went looking for trouble. He had a close friendship with his brother, and at primary school used to win fights by chewing on his own hand with a terrifying look in his eyes (the tactic being: “If I can do this to myself, think what I’ll do to you!”). From that scant biography grew a song that went a little like this:

The Muiry Song

Verse 1

He lives in a house of tar and bricks,

He’s had the same jacket since primary six,

And when in a fight one must demand,

He opens his mouth and bites his hand.

Chorus

Muiry boy,

Muiry boy,

Went to the shop for a new sex toy,

Stuck it up his bum,

Covered it in cum,

Oh Muiry boy, oh what’s your ploy?

There were a lot of other verses, possibly as many as there are to be found in our own national anthem, which have thankfully been lost to the mists of time: one of which I’m sure was about the Muir brothers fucking each other. It was a very subtle piece of work. The song became so popular that another wee guy in our circle, Karl, typed up the lyrics and handed out song sheets. Song sheets on the bus, for fuck sake. Some of these guys never did their homework, but committed themselves with great zeal to this extra-curricular musical extravaganza. Years later, in my mid-twenties, I was at a function at a hotel, and was served by Craig Muir. One of the first things he said to me, with a scowl on his face, was: ‘That fucking Muiry Boy song.’

The bad news: I was an arsehole. The good news? I’d written a hit song.

NEXT TIME: The scales are re-balanced slightly when I recount my own experiences of being bullied, and of saving someone from bullying. Plus, an introduction to the phenomenon of ‘the shaggy pole’.

(PLEASE NOTE: NEXT TIME could be a long time away. Child number 2 is imminent, and I have to be in the mood to write it. I’m sure you’re on the edges of your seats waiting, right?)

Young Jamie: Portrait of a Serial Douchebag (Part 9)

I was ahead of my time as a joke writer. At the age of seven I’d already decided that set-ups were superfluous. The real secret to comedy magic, I knew, lay in omitting integral qualifying components, spelling shit wrong and moving straight to the punch line. Hell, sometimes a free-floating punch line is all you need. ‘To get to the other side! He smells terrible! I’ve got some cream for that! I’m here all fucking week, ladies and gentlemen.‘ So why, you may ask, is the narrator baa-ing when there’s been no mention of sheep? Who cares??! This shit’s funny! Regrettably, that joke is still funnier than anything I’ve written since. Nice screwdriver joke, though, Young Me. It’s not my favourite screwdriver joke of all time, though. My favourite screwdriver joke is the one where this nun walks up to a broken-down bus, and she sees its driver mucking about with wires and panels. He’s desperately trying to repair it, and she looks him up and down and then shouts to him: ’Do you need a screwdriver?’, and he shouts back, ‘Mmmmmooooooooooo!’

I was ahead of my time as a joke writer. At the age of seven I’d already decided that set-ups were superfluous. The real secret to comedy magic, I knew, lay in omitting integral qualifying components, spelling shit wrong and moving straight to the punch line. Hell, sometimes a free-floating punch line is all you need. ‘To get to the other side! He smells terrible! I’ve got some cream for that! I’m here all fucking week, ladies and gentlemen.‘ So why, you may ask, is the narrator baa-ing when there’s been no mention of sheep? Who cares??! This shit’s funny! Regrettably, that joke is still funnier than anything I’ve written since. Nice screwdriver joke, though, Young Me. It’s not my favourite screwdriver joke of all time, though. My favourite screwdriver joke is the one where this nun walks up to a broken-down bus, and she sees its driver mucking about with wires and panels. He’s desperately trying to repair it, and she looks him up and down and then shouts to him: ’Do you need a screwdriver?’, and he shouts back, ‘Mmmmmooooooooooo!’

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Cunt of the Week (09 Jul 2012) by Jordan RA Mills

Jump on board Jordan’s Fun Bus. Final, and only, destination: Hell.

I’ve wanted to write a Cunt Of The Week piece since Jamie introduced this section of his blog, but didn’t quite get round to it. Partly this was because it would require deciding on the precise cunt I wished to afford the title, and that meant narrowing down a myriad of options. There are many cunts I have encountered, some anatomical, some abusive terms of hate, and some abstract applications of the word.

I have a couple of past bosses who are cunts, but I don’t like to write about them because it would take too long to illustrate their inherent cuntishness with innumerable examples; Edinburgh is a cunt, but I risk alienating much of the readership (and my potential comedy audience) if I pursue that. I think smokers, and the smoking ban, and cyclists, are all cunts. These are predictable, run-of-the-mill targets for the label, though. As is That Cunt Cameron, the man busily fucking up life for everybody in the UK, and I feel I would have to do some proper research to condemn him eloquently. Instead, I wrote FUCK THE TORIES across the back of a shirt, and wear it everywhere. It’s heartfelt, and something we can all agree on. Fuck them.

One American solution to the Megabus problem.

Having told you some of my considerations for the title, all of them dismissed, it is left to announce my present Cunt Of The Week. And what an utter fucking cunt I have lined up for the (dis)honour. Despite not having a TV, or even the internet (beyond the capabilities of my phone), it didn’t escape my attention that there was an incident on a Megabus the other day.

I’ve made many trips around the country in the past twelve years – up and down to London, Dundee, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham, Buxton, Birmingham, for work, holidays, or for gigs. Some of these were spent in the company of friends, many more were conducted solo. Bus and coach travel on this island is a fucking nightmare at the best of times, regardless of the operator. My first ever trip down to London took eleven hours instead of (an equally unpalatable) nine; another trip down was marred by the driver blasting music all through the night, preventing us from sleeping; this was the same trip where they started to leave the service station before the scheduled time, leaving people behind.

An overnight bus trip from London to Glasgow took an hour to board, and then the double-decker broke down as we passed the Thames. And so we sat there, the engine turning over and over, before the driver eventually announced that a second bus would be joining us and we would have to transfer over to it. Twenty minutes’ later, he finally managed to get the engine going again.

On the way up the road, with no further problems, the secondary driver came up the stairs to admonish somebody for some minor misdemeanour – drinking, I think. Despite the wayward passenger apologising, the primary driver pulled onto the hard shoulder shortly afterwards, marched up the stairs to reiterate his mate’s threats (adding one about abandoning the guy at the next services), and then returned downstairs, whereupon he singularly failed to restart the bus. So it was, therefore, that a cramped and packed double-decker sat on the side of the motorway for two hours at 3a.m., again adding hours to an already unpleasant experience.

There are further personal examples too, but my complaints have always fallen on deaf ears and I long ago decided that it was always – ALWAYS – worth the extra cash to take the train or to fly instead. I cannot remember ever taking a coach trip to any part of the UK and disembarking thinking, ‘What a wonderful journey, I enjoyed that.’ Naw. It just doesn’t happen. 

The new Hamlet ad, perhaps?

This week’s cunt, then, is whoever took it upon themselves to prolong the misery of an entire coachload of passengers by seeing something ‘suspicious’ (in the form of an electronic cigarette: witchcraft, I suspect, to some of the cretins who populate this sorry excuse for a nation). Instead of challenging the person, or quietly alerting the driver, they managed to get the bus pulled over, caused the motorway to be closed in both directions, and get responded to by – at the BBC’s estimate – 24 armed response officers, 18 fire appliances, 25 police vehicles, 4 ambulances, 2 bomb disposal units, and 2 sniffer dogs. That’s cuntery that you can quantify right there. 

Is THIS how it happened? Full, second-by-second reconstruction to follow.

Whoever you are, well done for being such a spineless cunt that you couldn’t simply ask, ‘Excuse me, what are you doing?’ and instead grassed an innocent person up to a fucking bomb squad. Everyone on the coach was made to leave it with guns trained on them, and as someone who grudges the slightest delay caused by a fuck-witted backward passenger, I can only begin to imagine the sheer hatred I would have for you had I been on that bus.

I hope you are suitably embarrassed, you time-wasting cunt.

SOURCES: 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18738402
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-stoke-staffordshire-18728246
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-stoke-staffordshire-18728303

Jordan RA Mills

THIS WEEK’S GUEST WRITER Jordan R.A. Mills writes lots, some would say too much, but he is mostly a good cunt and so people tolerate his wordy indulgence. He keeps a blog about his stand-up comedy adventures – http://jramills.wordpress.com/author/jramills/ – and recently wrote an acclaimed short satire of the medium, which was filmed and can be watched herehttp://vimeo.com/41548848

Jordan is perhaps best known for devising and producing the Children’s ITV series ‘Gangsta Troll’, which featured the aforementioned troll and his two best mates: an owl who wore gold medallions, and chain-smoked with the help of a terrified sparrow; and a labrador called ‘Big Dave’, who could scratch hip hop records. Everyone’s favourite episode was the one where Gangsta Troll had a rap battle in the street against a wise-cracking pigeon. The series was cancelled when Jordan produced the episode ‘ABC, Open Wide For Me’, in which Gangsta Troll took lots of magical meth that caused him to shit letters of the alphabet into a policeman’s mouth.

Jordan died in 1987.

FOLLOW JORDAN ON TWITTER: @JRA_Mills