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Monday, 27 February 2012
What doesn't kill you...
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.