Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The nightmare begins....

WARNING: There are a few swear words in this post.

This post is emotional, but battle through it gets better in the next post....

Ok, so where were we?

We were going to talk about Stanley Street and my mam and Neil and my little bro Sean. But before that we will talk about meeting Russell and Craig.  Russell and Craig were two lads that lived a few doors up from my house in Battlehill, they were two tough lads who were brought up in a tough family.  I got on well with Russell but not so well with Craig.

Although the timing is out I wanted to mention my Granda Tom (granda is a Geordie term which is missing the last D).  He was a master welder in Swan Hunters and he was a brilliant man who I can still remember.  To be honest I can only remember three main snippets of memory, one was my granda taking me to a shop in Howdon to buy me this green honeycomb mint chocolate bar type thing, it was huge about the size of a brick, but it was probably because I was so small. 

The other memory I remember is him telling me he was a Spitfire pilot in the war.  I later found out that he never flew any type of plane, he was a welder, but it sounded good....  

And the other other memory was of him giving me a Wispa bar and telling me he loved me, while he was dying in bed of Asbestosis. I am finding myself getting very emotional writing this with tears in my eye......  Asbestosis eventually won and my Granda was taken from us....  It hit everyone hard.   I miss you Granda Tom. x

Me and Johnny used to plan how we were going to protect our tree house (it wasn't really a house just a normal tree with one solemn plank nailed don so we could sit on it.   As Johnny and I were sitting talking about how we were going to take sand into the tree to throw at them, Russell and Craig come running up the black path after us, we instantly forgot about protecting our tree and we ran into the Dean.

The Shopping Centre At Battlehill

We walked for a few minutes and thought we had escaped their clutches, we were wrong.  We heard shouting and swearing, remember these were tough lads from Battlehill which was a tough area, VERY tough area!  One good thing is they were to far away to catch us if we decided to run, so Johnny in his wisdom decided to swear back at them.

Bedale Close Where I Lived In Battlehill
The next thing I knew I was on the floor completely in a daze with a sharp pain on my forehead and between my eyes.  I swear I must have blacked out.... After about 30 - 40 seconds which seemed more like an hour and a half, I pulled myself together and held my hand against my head.  Running away in some half daze, Johnny told me that a rock had hit me and he picked it up.  Once we escaped into the maze of streets all beginning with a "B" may I add, he handed me the very rock that sparked me.  It was almost as big as a tennis ball!  Good job I had a thick skull.  Maybe that is the very incident that made me a little MAD!

Battlehill Flats just over the dean from my house

One thing you be be interested in, many years later when I was about 17 Craig and I become best friends but we will get to that in a later post.....

Neil was spending more and more time with my mother and he eventually moved into our three tier house in Battlehill.  I made his life really tough as like I said earlier he was invading my home.  Neil bent over backwards to try and make friends with me but I was like a child possessed.  I would say "Is HE here again" to my Mother in front of him.  Neil was a very sensitive and gentle man who probably got very upset about how I treat him.  He did stick with me and I eventually grew to love him like a second dad and also a best friend.

Another Shot of the Lovely Shopping Centre with one shop....
People were living in it with no windows....

Neil did have his faults, he didn't like to tidy, I remember my mother nagging and nagging him to keep the house clean and under protest he did.  I do believe my mother met Neil at a camera club at the Buddle in Wallsend.  Apparently Neil was standing in the corner away from everyone with a camera around his neck and playing with a yoyo.

Neil had a big smile on his face one morning and said I have a surprise for you, he took me into the garage and presented me with a box.  I opened the box and pulled out a large air pistol.  Obviously it wasn't loaded and he was just next to me (I was about 11).  He said, if your a good lad I will teach you how to fire it.  I then realised why the garage had lots of plastic bottles balanced on chairs and benches.  Was I really going to shoot a gun?  Neil spend almost an hour teaching me that it was not a toy and was a tool and that guns don't hurt people, people hurt people and how I should respect it and only use it while he was there. One thing to remember is Neil spend a lot of his younger days living in Canada where guns are a necessity for living in the wilds.

The target pistol Neil taught me how to use.

I did listen to him and I took in every word, I think it was because he was so sincere. He showed me how to hold it properly and how to line up the sights.  Once I mastered that he let me fire one pellet.  Neil cracked the pistol in half and handed me the loaded gun, still holding onto it he told me to line up the sites and squeeze the trigger.....  BANG, I hit a bottle.  I couldn't believe it.  He then put it in the box and said if your good we will shoot again next week.  I remember my mother finding out and having a bit of a bust up with Neil.  I think Neil must have talked her around as I continued to learn how to shoot for several months and become pretty good at it.

We left Battlehill and moved into a house in Lisle grove in Howdon, all I can say about this house is it had a nasty feeling.  You know, they type of feeling that makes you uneasy, that haunting dark feeling where you think someone is watching your every move.  I didn't like Lisle Grove at all.  Although I did have a pretty cool red bedroom with black skirting board... lol   Another thing I remember about Lisle Grove apart from the eerie feeling of tension was a dog about three doors up, barking and barking and barking and barking, and on a night time barking and barking.... It was enough to drive you mad.  I hated walking down the stairs to the living room as I felt someone was behind me....

excuse the packet, it has since grown....
We moved out of Lisle Grove into an Upstairs R A Jacksons Flat in a street called Stanley Street.  Stanley Street wasn't to bad... Pretty soon my Aunty Jackie moved into the flat next door which was also upstairs.  The funny thing was is the kitchen used to face each other.  I remember my mam and Jackie sending each other messages by their own type of sign language that they seemed to have developed....  My aunty Jackie had my two cousins Emma and Michael living with her so I had plenty of friends, although I was the oldest so they tended to follow what I said.  Emma was a couple of years younger than me and Michael was much younger but we all got along fine.  My aunty Joanne also moved into a house too, I believe it was downstairs next door to Jackie.  Talk about the Waltons!

Me at Stanley Street with my Christmas Prezzie 

My mother used to protect the family, although only 4 foot 11 inches (almost registered as a dwarf) she was a formidable woman both in tongue and temper.

Once she threw me across the room so hard a table fell on me... Just kidding mam (private joke).  I must have been an amateur actor as all she done was move me away from a door and I threw myself across the room and thought it would be exciting if i pulled a table on myself.  I always wind her up saying she flung me... heheheh  cant use that wind up any more mam! 

I remember one day a fully grown neighbour called Patrick or Fat-prick as I used to call him was bullying me.  I was only 12 he was like 40 or something, I remember him picking me up by the scruff of the neck one time and growling at me....

Well my mother found out about this and started to fume, you can always tell my my mother gets angry as he lips go all pointy!  I remember my aunty Jackie shouting out of the window "Calm Down Fred!"  My mother picked up a metal shovel and marched over to his back gate.  Apparently she smashed him over the head shouting "Bully my son will ya!" , all I heard was shouting and a man screaming STOP!, she walked back and was met by my aunty Jackie who took the bent warped shovel off her and took her upstairs to calm down.  The moral of the story is, don't pick on my mothers children!

Christmas was always big at my mams house, although mam and Neil didn't have much money they would go without and get Provident loans to make sure I had everything I wanted.  They would continue paying for it for the whole year and start again the next Christmas.  My mam and Neil didnt work (correct me if i am wrong) and we didn't have much money, I remember I could only have a little bit of milk on my Weetabix, which to be honest made them taste like glue, I didn't complain though as I never went without, apart from the odd time I had to use newspaper to wipe my bum!  I found a good technique, if you scrumple it up first and then if you rolled it around in your had it wouldn't take the skin off.... lol

Burnside Getting Demolished, I was surprised how upset I got...

Around this time I had moved into High School, this is where the nightmare began.  On my first day I was excited, I had a couple of friends joining me from my middle school and I was confident things would go well, up until this point school was a breeze and I was quite popular.  I made friends quickly and everything started off good.
Me in the back lane at Stanley Street

A huge valley separated our estate from my school, this was called the Burn.  I used to get the bus from the bottom the the road outside Rosehill Social Club, it would drop me off outside the doors of the school.  The odd time I used to take my skateboard, I would sit on the board at the top of the hill and ride it all the way down, once I got to the bottom I would walk up the steps and into school.  I could beat the bus this way!

Well after a while the name calling started, I tried to give as good as I got but become a target pretty quickly.  At this time, I was not a fighter, I was struggling to try and grow up and my main role model was Neil who wasn't a fighter.  I think I grew weak.  The fatal mistake was I started to put up with it and I think I hoped it would go away...  It didn't.  I was still friends with a few lads although they done their fair share of bullying too so in retrospect they didn't really care for me as a friend.    

It started getting really bad and not only did I get picked on my the lads but the girls started joining in the abuse.  I attempted to handle it myself but struggles as they were never on their own, it was at least four onto me at all times.

I had a real keen interested in science and used to ask questions that the science teacher could not answer.  For example, in a class we were working on contraction and expansion and the teacher told us that when all things get cold they contract....  I asked politely and with real interest, "Excuse me Sir, but why does ice expand?"  he answered my question with a simple "Don't ask STUPID questions and get out of my class!"  I had to spend a full two hours standing outside the class for asking something which I really wanted answered.  I thought this was unfair.

In one class I was learning about electrolysis (splitting bonds to turn water into hydrogen and oxygen)I asked the teacher, "Could you take a battery diving with you and get the oxygen out of the water and recycle it?".  I was thrown out of the class once again.  The funny thing is, after a few years they had developed that very thing, obviously not as simple as my idea but the same basic principle.

The bullying got worse and worse, it come to a point where I would dread going to school.  I was nothing but a mental punch bag to make them feel good.  They were plain wicked to me.  I did make a couple of friends Jimmy, Christina, Rab, Samsy and Bruce, we were all in different years but we later became good friends.

I remember thinking that if I became a little shit then they might respect me.  This is when I decided to peel my eraser into little chunks and fire it off my ruler at the teacher when he wasn't looking.  Of course I was the one caught and I was thrown out of the class again.  I thought it may have given me some browny points but it didn't.  They continued with the ruthless victimisation, every day grinding me down.
now how about that for a Tshirt!

I didn't like games, I didn't like going into the communal showers because I was a small lad I was picked on, I would make every excuse not to do games and this time I said my stomach was hurting.  Me and Norman, yes the same lad from first school and middle school who I had a fight with were sat on the bench outside the basketball court (me?  Basket ball?  Were they having a laugh, I was about 4 foot tall).  At the end of the class the teacher called me and Normal into the gym and told us to stand in the middle of the court.  He then continued to tell us that some keys had gone missing and he knew it was one of us.  He instructed us to strip down to our underwear. I thought this was inappropriate and pleaded with him to believe me, I didn't take the keys.

As I was taking off my trousers I remember the faces of the girls looking through the window on the door laughing and sticking their fingers up at me.  Just as Norman was about to remove his trousers he admitted to taking the key.  We were told to put our clothes back on and go to class.

The shit continued 10 fold after that episode, I remember Neil going into school and speaking to the teacher.  That was the only time I can remember him being in a rage.

After a while the physical bulling started.  I remember the first time it started was from a girl called Tracey, I thought we were friends, we even went to the roller rink together and I really had a crush on her, I remember her trying to get me and another lad at school called Neal to fight, I wouldn't so she kicked me right on the coxix, my back was hurting for days but my mind was hurting for years.  I felt I was a nobody, a nothing, its amazing how quickly it can turn sour.... Bitter!

One lad made my life worse than anything, his name was Gavin and for years I plotted what I would do if I ever saw him again.  Being honest the thoughts were not nice, but I think it was a case of venting my anger into a manifestation of the bullying, that manifestation was the worst bully of them all.

I think now I would shake his head as he helped mould me into who I am today.  I don't take any shit any more, but we will get to that later. 

Ok, I think that's it for tonight, I'm getting a little emotional and its pretty tough being so honest with the world.....   Also my fingers are knacking!


  1. Aww Hun like you I was bullied and know where you are coming from.
    You have gone through the mill but one thing is you have a wonderful place now and a Bonnie bairn xx

  2. Oh Tom.... I feel I'm on an emotional roller caster reading this. Your words will strike a chord with many . You are writing this from the heart and I can tell. It's been a long time inside and the manner in which you are "laying yourself bare" is very special. The text reads like a good book and has me hooked already. Thanks for sharing You with US !!! xxxx

  3. son so love you and your story is funny ,sad and very honest!! im proud of the man you are .....our past shapes our future ....but we also gain the strenghts that get us through life your reminding me of wonderful times and very sad times and i cry when i read this .......but i dont regret hitting bullyboy over the head with that shovel!!!!xxxx

    1. It made me laugh thinking about it.... hehehehe

  4. I can empathise with the bullying Tom. Mine never got physical like that, but words are so much more long lasting. I still struggle today and I'm almost 44

  5. Bullying of some sort seems to go on everywhere. I was sent to a private boarding school.....I hated it and most of the girls there....and this was in the 1940/1950s. Bless you for telling your story , warts and all!

  6. Tom... this blog is like no other that I know of. I feel your pain in this post and some of it is hard to read because of it. Thanks for sharing. I'm sure lots of others have had these awful experiences as a child too and can relate to you and feel that it was not just happening to them. That they, like you, had done nothing wrong except be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with some wicked buggers. I shall carry on reading everyday but I'm getting a box of tissues handy.xx

  7. Wow! I'm so hooked on this blog I can't wait for more. Your experiences growing up will mirror many I'm sure? I think your very brave laying it bare like this!
    I had a fair few experiences of being bullied myself growing up, but none quite as bad as yours, it's an awful time and like you makes you feel in-human and lonely, sadly my experience at the hands of bullies turned me into that very same thing in my latter years at school I'm ashamed to say, nothing too serious, just the name calling and silly pranks, but it's what moulds you as a person and I think I'm a good person! I think you are too, very much so, bless you Tom, sorry for going on, I'm finding this a bit emotional myself, hope next ones a bit funnier, I need a laugh now! Lol xx

  8. How brave are you to face your demons and write this down....I take my hat off to you x Fab Blog

  9. So sad Tom you are so brave sharing with us all. Got to say I'm hooked can't wait for the next chapter in your life up most respect to you Lorraine x

  10. I am totally hooked on your blog. I hope that those bully boys know how successful you went on to become and are loved by so many people. xXx

  11. Tom

    This is an amazing account of your life, I don't know you but having seen you on tv and now reading this realise even more what a special person you are, so rare to find someone so genuine and down to earth, kind and so willing to always go the extra mile for anyone

    Jools x

  12. Tom when you have caught up to date with your story, you really should turn it in to a book. It is a terrific read and very humbling. Thank you xxx