An autumn morning in the arse end of Manchester sometime near the arse end of the Industrial Revolution - the early 1960s. Young Gummo Trotsky is walking to school along an unpaved street of black earth and gravel. Three storeys of cotton mill to the left, a patch of waste ground - a play ground for the kids of the neighbourhood, by courtesy of the Luftwaffe's urban renewal program of the early 1940s - to his right. He sees a couple of other kids approaching and quickens his step. Too little, too late.
"Where you going."
"Don't like your hair. Don't like redheads."
That's pretty much how it started, the little game the three of us played over the following months. Two boys whose friendship was incomplete without someone to really hate, found that person in me. On that day they showed a great inventiveness when it came to finding faults - besides the colour of my hair, there was the size of my freckles (too small to be proper freckles) and the fact that I went to the recently built "posh" school with all mod cons instead of the crumbling Victorian heap they'd been sentenced to. So the vicious little buggers made it their personal crusade to rid their part of Manchester of the scourge of red-headed kids with inadequate freckles who went to posh schools and were therefore snobs.
My part in the game was to force them to find me - I found about five different routes to and from school. Sooner or later, they would always work out which route I was using and confront me. Then they'd play their part; spit out some choice taunts and insults, with the implied threat of violence always present until they were in the right mood to face the school day. It was all done in private, a humiliating little secret for me, a satisfying one for them. Foggy days in November were a mixed blessing. It might have been hard for them to spot me on my way to school when you could hardly see from the front door to the edge of the pavement but there was also the risk that I might blunder into them unawares.
The game ended after they decided to pick me in front of my friends - as a private humiliation, the game was tolerable. It had to be. I'd received the traditional parental advice about standing up to bullies because they were all cowards at heart, but it didn't seem too useful when they made damn sure that they got me on my own, when there were just me, the two of them and no-one else - especially no adults - around. But doing it when I was walking home with a couple of friends along my latest "safe" route was taking things too far. I went for one of them - not the one who was always two steps back, providing the colour commentary, the other one. I had him on the pavement pretty damn quickly. A stranger, a woman, ran out of the greengrocer's across the road and started shouting "Stop it! Stop it!" That broke up the fight. A disappointment for me, because I was on top - but it was probably a good thing that the fight got stopped before it occurred to me to start bouncing the kid's head off the pavement. I went home feeling pretty pleased with myself
The next day they caught me on my own and gave me the hiding they'd been holding over my head for weeks. Lesson two in the practical, real life art of dealing with bullies - they're vengeful bastards and they don't give up. After they left, I stood there for a minute or two, struggling with the realisation that all yesterday's triumph had got me was deeper in shit. I might have stayed there all night if another good samaritan - a woman again - hadn't come by and asked me if there was "ought up, lad", or words to that effect. She gave me a handkerchief for the tears her simple question evoked and took me to the nearby house of one of my aunts. Finally, the adult world was forced to stop ignoring the situation - as mere kid's stuff - and do something about. The bullying stopped - from my point of view, quite inexplicably.
Late summer, 2006. Two nominal adults, actually children from the neck up, take it into their heads that the pseudonym "Gummo Trotsky" is as much an affront to decency and good taste as having the wrong hair colour and undersized freckles. The result is a blogospheric shit-fight which rampages across Larvatus Prodeo, Catallaxy and The Road To Surfdom. The one blog they conspicuously avoid bringing their confected outrage to, is this one. It's time to change that.
You guys want to play for egos? Fine, we'll play for egos. Here. And if the end result is that I run away from the internet with my tail tucked between my legs for a few months, so be it.
Pick your window.
Warning: the comments on this post are rated IB - suitable for immature boys only. They contain high level coarse language, frequent macho posturing, homophobic insults and references to violence.