i was brought up in a small coastal town in kent and was a teenager during the seventies there. it was a very violent time and place, more violent even, than my time in the army. there wasn’t a single day when someone didn’t get beaten up. sometimes i got beat up and sometimes i beat someone up. sometimes both in one day. it was how things were: the hard guys got the girls, and the weedy ones didn’t. it was a culture driven by hormones, by violence and by pussy.
the other day i was down there, when a guy called clive approached me in a pub. he recognised me after nearly 40 years, and he wanted to apologise for having bullied me at school. i remembered instantly how he had once dragged me behind some shops and kicked me to the floor and carried on kicking until i vomited with pain. i remember the pleasure he got from it. i remember how he’d made my life hell for a whole summer. he grew up with two drunken parents, and every day, at home, he witnessed and experienced violence. he saw his mum punched in the face. he saw his sisters stripped and beaten and raped, and he got beaten.
there was never any violence in my home. it was a peaceful place. once, my granddad slapped me across the face with a rolled up porn mag he had found, hidden, in my room. i was 5 inches taller than him at the time and 15. he was in his sixties. it stung for a few seconds and left a mark for a few minutes. it was nothing.
i got my own back on clive by pretending that i didn’t recall him. he’d spent serious chunks of his adult life regretting things he’d done as a child. all he wanted was a chance at redemption. it would have been so easy to forgive him but so much more rewarding to have him think that i didn’t even remember him.