Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Unbeatable Bully

Contains SPOILERS for the season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead. So shove off if you haven't seen it yet.

Watching the premiere of season 7 of my second favouritest TV show, The Walking Dead yesterday was NOT easy.

After having waited 6 whole months to find out exactly who it was that Negan battered to death with his barbed wire-covered baseball bat (affectionally monikored 'Lucille') the episode was emotionally draining, brilliantly acted and features THE best villain on a telly show EVER.

Negan cannot be bargained with, he shows mercy only when he wishes to and he is utterly and completely ruthless, barbaric, yet highly intelligent.

Watching him turn Rick Grimes from a defiant, equally ruthless badass into a quivering, crying wreck of a man was a masterpiece of acting from both Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan) and Andrew Lincoln (Rick).

Negan saw the defiance in Rick's eyes (not to mention the line "I'm gonna kill you. Not today, not tomorrow...but I'm gonna kill you!") after he had bashed Abraham and Glenn's skulls to offaly mush and this did not get a nod of respect. Instead Negan made it his mission to break Rick's spirit by throwing him into a herd of zombies and watching him fight his way through them and telling him to chop his own son Carl's arm off (as an alternative to Carl and all Rick's friends dying in front of him). Only when Rick broke down in tears, with the axe raised did Negan finally relent.

No pity. No remorse. No fear. No compassion.

Which brings me to this blog...

When I was growing up there were some bullies knocking about my village. The myth at the time was that if you bopped them hard on the nose then they would run away with their tails between their legs, crying and would almost certainly never bother you again. While this was USUALLY true there were exceptions. Some bullies couldn't be tamed and even if you did stand up to them, you had better do it fucking well and hard and not mess about. Schools of my era were run by lazy, cuntish, lackadaisical aresholes who believed all incidents of bullying to be "fighting" and would 99% of the time apply the maxim of "6 of 1, half a dozen of the other" rather than look for the root causes of a problem.

There was still the idea though of showing some "backbone" and being able to face your issues without resorting to violence in retaliation BUT being able to calmly deal with the shit that life hurled at you.

Most adventure stories for children, from the Narnia Chronicles through to Harry Potter and the Hunger Games and even my own work The Tales of Alegria, focus on bullies and tyrants paying for what they have done. They either die, go to the dungeons or suffer fates worse than death. Bullies, so the legends go, can always be outwitted by loyalty, bravery, a clear head and above all being the "goodies".

Utter cobblers.

Most bullies don't like retaliation at all and will come down on you twice as hard if you return fire with anything other than 100% aggression. When I was a police officer I was bullied by my immediate superior, a little cunt named Sergeant Neil Drapper. When I stood up to him by reporting his behaviour to the police federation (cop's union) and also the Superintendent (deputy borough commander) the Sergeant simply went into bullying overdrive in his determination to bin me AND pay me back for making him feel uncomfortable in front of his own line managers.

Krav Maga has, over the years I've been doing it, taught me some very fundamental lessons on pride, ego and calculating losses. A friend of mine recently told me that she got into an elevator where three guys were stood in it, and after the doors closed one of them grabbed her ass. She said she was afraid to do anything in case he hit her or later stalked her. My advice was "next time just don't get in the elevator. Or if they get in later, get out before the doors close". Better to risk offending someone than be trapped in a confined space with them out of a sense of "I have the right to exist unmolested".

In situations where you have unknown variants, or are outnumbered, or you are drunk (yet sober enough to still rationalise) or the person/ people you are facing are bigger than you...it is not going to help the situation in the slightest to be belligerent and stubborn.

In The Walking Dead last night, Negan made it quite clear before he bashed Abraham and Glenn's heads in that any and all defiance and rebelliousness over what was going to happen would result in further punishment. After killing Abraham and taunting his wailing ex girlfriend with the gore soaked bat, Daryl Dixon loses his shit, gets up off his knees and sucker punches Negan. To illustrate his point further, Negan then murders Glenn (a major character since season 1) and, unlike Abraham, lets Glenn suffer in agony before finishing him off. Then Rick promises to kill him (a threat we would have been disappointed NOT to hear from a badass, six season survivor of the zombie apocalypse like Rick Grimes), Negan simply makes him suffer a lot more, even giving him a Sophie's Choice; personally removing his own son's arm with an axe or suffering greater loss.

Bullies sometimes cannot be defeated and will thrive on watching people lose their cool. This superlative TV show made it quite clear that while Negan was aware that people felt angry, bitter or hysterical, they were absolutely NOT to act upon those emotions. He was boss and was going to prove it through inflicting pain until the resistance was gone.

A scene I cannot rewatch from the show Spartacus: Vengeance from a few years ago has, after the slave rebellion in ancient Rome, four gladiators recaptured. They are paraded at a party for local Roman elite, in shackles and on their knees. However they are still defiant, proudly glaring at their captors with contempt. This enrages one young Roman noble so badly that he asks if they can have "one now" rather than wait to watch them be publicly executed the next day. Every guest is a little drunk and the local magistrate agrees to "just one". The gladiator chosen spits out "fucking Roman dogs" as he is led away and boy does he suffer for that.

Restrained with ropes he is hung up in the centre of the room and the guests take turns cutting bits off him, while being cautioned to "not to cut too deep" in case the poor sod bleeds out and dies too early. The first person up cuts the guy's tongue out as a punishment for using foul language and insulting him. The guy dies in agony and all for his defiance in the face of capture.

In the late 1980s I worked in the DeMontfort hotel in the shit hole that is Kenilworth, a small town in Warwickshire. I usually worked as a waiter but was drafted into a Hall Porter's role one day due to staffing shortages. A vile chef named Joe Wheeler used to bully the lower downs and had an extra beef with me due to the fact that I would answer back or even physically retaliate at his childish pokes, slaps and taunts. As I stood in the kitchen in my HP's jacket (with blingy epaulettes) I heard Joe shout "Are you joking?" and ignored him. He shouted it once more and then threw a flat, steel serving tray across the kitchen at me. It missed and I just picked it up and threw it back. The rage twisted across his face and he ran around the cabinets shouting "DON'T YOU THROW A TRAY BACK!!!"

Not "don't you throw a tray" but "don't you throw a tray...BACK!"

What Krav has made me realise is that in life there are situations where you CANNOT overcome the obstacle. Not all mountains are climbable all of the time. Everest guides will always turn back if the odds mean they are in too much danger to make it to the summit, dissapointing clients and themselves yet saving lives in the process.

When faced with overwhelming odds there are times when swallowing your pride is enough to solve the situation. An Expert level 3 Krav instructor, once shared a story of queue jumping by a burly American tourist in London. When the instructor voiced objection the guy got in his face, threatening to thump him and he took the "least creative option" by looking away and appearing cowed, defusing the situation even though he could have beaten the guy down.

Sometimes nothing is more creative than something.

Occasionally bullies cannot be defeated and must only be avoided or complied with. Like taxes, no one likes them but unless you are creative or lack self preservation skills, you have to abide by the directive to pay them.

I like the fact that Krav always give you "soft options" or to put it bluntly "to do something by doing nothing".

Some situations are best left alone.

Nuff said.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

A Dream of Nanny

Last night I dreamed I met my Nanny again.

In the dream my Nanny was old, but not old like when she died. Old like she was when I was a little boy. Old the way I remembered her. Grey hair, very neat, permed. Comfortable clothes, especially jumpers and cardigans. Always with a smile and hug or a kiss (or both). Grampe wasn't in the dream but I saw Nanny. She was sitting at the table in her old house, the one she lived in for about 50 years before she was moved into sheltered housing. 

She was sat at the dining room table, next to the glass cabinet that had all the little nik naks in it (including the salt and pepper shakers with the funny faces) and she was pouring tea from that posh looking teapot they always had, into a fine china cup. 

On the sideboard was that little ceramic dish where she kept her jewellery and her Warwick Castle staff badge. She was a guide there. Started as a Lady's Maid in the employ of the Earl of Warwick, then when she retired she stayed on as a guide, showing people around the castle. She was born in 1915 so it was something she was proud of, to work for a Lord. 

She was invited to the wedding of the Earl's son and the Earl had singled her out to speak to her at the reception. My Nanny floated on air about that for years.

My Nanny was always generous. She spoiled me and my brother all the time. We would go to her house to stay the weekend and watch telly with her and Grampe. She once hid two sets of toy bows & arrows in her house and me and my brother had to hunt for them. There was a board game like pinball that we kept at Nanny & Grampe's house that we couldn't take home, it was only to play with when we were there.

After tea my Nanny would give us Opal Fruits and Ovaltine and let us stay up later than we would at home. Then she'd tuck us into our beds (me in the spare room, my brother in my father's old room) with a hug and a kiss and a hot water bottle. 

My birthday and Christmas were always a treat. Nanny made cakes and bought us chocolates and sweets and whatever we'd asked for as a present.

When my mother wanted to elevate herself above the job she was doing she went to night school to study for O levels, then A levels and finally she did a degree so she could become a teacher. My Nanny & Grampe would take me and my brother, sometimes at an hour's notice so my mother could study.

I saw my Nanny in my dream, looking like she did in the 1970s and early to mid 80s, before Grampe died and Nanny lost the will to live. Before she became sad and flatulent and old and pathetic and lonely and depressed. Before the light went out in her eyes and she tried to sleep all day. Before she met my other Nanny, my mother's mother, and told her that she didn't want to live any more, she wanted to be with my Grampe in heaven.

I sat down with her at the table and she smiled and said hello.

And then I remembered that I hadn't done anything to stop my mother from being mean to her when she lost the will to live. How I'd been too scared to even say anything (because on the two occasions that I did my mother screamed at me and cried about how hard she worked in her teaching job and wouldn't speak to me for days after).

I remembered that, in spite of all the wonderful things my Nanny had done for my family, especially my mother, I had not stopped my mother from insulting her, ignoring her and being horrible to her every chance she got.

I remembered that my mother would only allow her to visit once every TWO weeks once she became old and sad after Grampe died. It was too stressful to have her over EVERY Sunday dinnner, because my mother needed the other Sunday to recover from her stressful job. 

I remembered that when she got to our house when my father came back with her, for Sunday dinner, my mother would either ignore her or insult her. Nothing else. I remembered how, when my Nanny came to say "thank you" to my mother for being so generous as to allow my Nanny into our house to eat with us, my mother was watching telly and wouldn't even look at her as she continued to stare at the televison, while moving sideways so my Nanny could kiss her cheek.

I remembered that on birthday and Christmas, my mother wouldn't buy my Nanny a card or a present. My father bought her something and said it was from both of them and signed a card on behalf of both of them.

Most of all I remembered that when my Nanny was dying in hospital my mother never went to see her and later said "Well she didn't want me there and I didn't want to be there" and that my cunt of a mother actually believed that she'd treated my Nanny well saying as an epitaph "She was a lovely old woman and she did a hell of a lot of things for us...but we did a hell of a lot of things for her as well".

As I sat with my Nanny in my dream I looked at her and knew I was dreaming but all the things I'd never said were in my mind. She was the way I always wanted to remember her. Old but full of a love of life and full of smiles and sweetness.

I started to cry and she put down the teapot and looked at me.

"Lance, what's wrong?" she asked, looking concerned.

"I'm sorry Nanny, I'm sorry I never stopped my mother from being so horrible to you. I'm sorry I didn't come and see you more often. I was weak and I let you get treated badly. I'm so sorry."

My Nanny smiled and took a handkerchief from her pocket, wiping my tears away and the she said:

"That time is over. You know this isn't really me. It's your guilt and your dream that brought us here. I am content and at peace now. Live your life and be happy. It wasn't your fault. You were a child and conditioned not to answer back."

I smiled at her and she smiled at me and then she faded away. 

I woke up in my bed, the sun rising, 6.10 in the morning. 

I'd always hoped I'd have that dream. And finally...I did.