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Monday, 27 February 2012

What doesn't kill you...

They say truth is stranger than fiction, and trust me - it is.  I've been asked quite a few times to alter a plotline because it's not quite believable or relies too much on coincidence - and yet real life is full of them.

Take yesterday, for instance.  There I was - celebrating the end of a rugby game in Wakefield (I say 'celebrating' - my son's team were hammered!) and by the coffee bar, I spotted one of those faces you just never forget, because it's burned on your brain for all the wrong reasons.  It belongs to the guy on the left in the jeans.  To say I felt a seismic rumble inside me is a slight understatement.  The man in question was the biggest lying work bully I ever had the misfortune to meet.  He was responsible for a lot of misery for a lot of people, drove decent, talented people out of their jobs and nearly caused me to have a nervous breakdown.  In the end the company, who ignored all his hallmarks of bullying eventually got rid of him.  Alas he ended up walking away with a nice pay-off rather than an ignominious boot up the backside, but I do hear that the building breathed a sigh of relief when he left it for the last time.

I confess that I've never ever wanted to draw back my fist and thump someone as much as I did yesterday - for so many of my friends who suffered under his 'regime', for the young designers he publicly humiliated - and for my kids, because he took food out of their mouths.  I stood there, savouring the thought of seeing his jowls judder after a perfectly placed right-hook, of declaring to a room full of people just what a viper was in their midst.

And it would have been a magnificent scene in a book.  We all love those moments in  a story when justice is served out in a big fat portion.  But, for every delicious thought of revenge came twenty quite different ones.  I would know why I was striking out, but all my audience would see is a  short deranged nutter attacking a man standing chatting with a coffee.  And what if I missed and ended up hurtling past him and nutting myself on the wall?  And if I did make contact, nothing surer I'd be arrested. In a book, I would be heralded as a hero, the judge would understand, the press would laud me and the arresting policeman would fall in love with me.  In real life, I wouldn't be able to direct a thing.  There would be no 'literary license' to ensure it all ended happily.  He'd walk off the innocent in all this, smug and possibly with some injury money from my coffers.

So I had to press my nails into my hand and be satisfied with the fact that he spotted me and ran off outside as if his arse was on fire.  At least I am left with my dignity intact, no criminal record and - as nothing is ever wasted when you're a writer - I have the memory of the biggest volcanic eruption inside me to tap into the next time one of my heroines bumps into someone that makes her blood boil.

Because of him I hit rock bottom seven years ago.  But at least when you hit the bottom, you have something to either fall onto or use it to propel yourself up.  I did the latter - which is why I'm just about to launch my seventh book and books three and four have a very true picture of office bullying in them. I was determined that I wouldn't be ground down.  I read somewhere that the best revenge is success - and it is really.  And you can't get ignominiously arrested for it and carted off in front of your children.

Writing is therapy.  We are gods of our created worlds.  Alas not of the real world, but at least us writers have a brilliant ability to wring more out of our life experiences than perhaps any other profession.


  1. I so wish you had written this about 5 years ago... i wouldnt b the twit that spoke out when my daughter got bullied and would be the dyslexic tutor i should of been. However, i am also a firm believer of every thing happens for a reason and like to think that it wouldnt have worked out and i would be another teacher in a college saying i was going to go on that course, but never getting there...and my daughter knows to fight for what she wants (in the right way) so i am glad i have read that today and know about the anger, know i am the twit but also know that if my life was a book it would of been perfect long ago... and i can look back and smile, read this and have a mental picture of you jumping up and punching out, missing and falling in mud. You are truly amazing and make me smile daily. Thank you xx

  2. I did write about it when it all happened - I had a horrific time and it took my life savings to fight them - a global enterprise. They were monitoring my every move from America and threatening to sue me at every turn. I talk a lot about bullying on the radio and in lectures. And, of course, in books :)

    1. I am bubbling inside for you. Good on you for keeping it together, would have been so easy to have given in to your anger. It never goes away tho does it, that raw feeling after you've been humiliated and trampled on. It will fade eventually, but the simmmering in the stomach will never be far away. YOU will have the last laugh, he'll have nothing compared to you and a nobody like him will have nobody. WELL DONE YOU xx

  3. Milly, of course he ran away - that's what bullies do. Keep the moral high ground, honey, and yep, the best revenge is success (aka living well - which means writing your heartwarming, wonderful books, and if you're at the RNA on Monday I am SO buying you a big glass of wine). Power to your elbow and a big hug from me xxx

  4. You are completely right – the best revenge is success! I hate bullies, but I also feel slightly sad for them too; something dreadful must have happened in their life to make them so blooming miserable and vile. Sometimes I think they just enjoy sharing their pessimism by peeing on people’s happy bonfires.

    I bet he feels sick to his stomach now because you’re a successful author, and he’s just an unloved, unknown, Scrooge. Next time you see him you should smile wide and wave - bathing in well-earned smug satisfaction :) hehe

  5. I like to come back and re-read this every few years. I took a pay cut to go and suffer in that hellhole at the hands of him and his two minions.

    Still, I least I can take solace in knowing that I was the straw that broke the camel's back.