Thankfully, this is not part one of a series, but still this post is longer than I’d like.
Getting punched has always taken me by surprise. Whereas in a fight, I’d be ready and aware that some punching towards my face might be on the agenda, I’ve never had the chance to prepare. Having lived and learned, these days I walk around in constant readiness, no matter where I am, no matter what kindly old lady I’m talking to, for the moment when I might be punched in the face again.
I was 20 or so, and just finished Uni (for good, not for the day) and my friend Gillian had been round to visit, gossip and catch up on McCannecdotes. This was long before I thought of simply publishing my stories on the internet for anyone to see at their leisure. I did have a state-of-the-art website back in those days, but just like everyone else’s personal website it was just pictures of me, lists of things I like, and downloadable desktop wallpapers that only I would be interested in having. It was basically like a really narrowly-focussed intranet. I had things on it that were animated “just for the fucking sake of it” and many pages with “under construction” on them, with a picture (animated, of course) of a JCB and some cones. Because that’s what the internet was for back then and I needed to get my under construction pages up before other people did in case the internet ran out of space.
I had been working over the summer on a documentary film; film-making was always my passion during my Media course at Uni, and yet somehow it’s pretty much the only fucking area of the media I haven’t worked in since.
Glasgow: The Tree That Wants To Grow, was an hour-long piece about the disintegration of public and community services in Glasgow, from leisure centres to playing fields, and its impact on young people in the city. With more funding cuts planned it was intended as a wake-up call to local and central government on the dangers of leaving the youth of the community without basic amenities, aspirations and means of staying out of trouble. I worked on the film with Isabel, the project’s founder, and Clare, my co-producer, a colleague from my course.
The film had been finished and screened at Glasgow City Chambers at a special launch event recently, and I was telling Gillian all about it during her visit to my house. As it got a bit late, but not too late, I set off with her to walk her home. It was about 15 minutes away.
As we chatted and walked, a guy walked past us on the street, and just shoved his fist into my eye! I didn’t go down, I’m a total hardman and could take it of course, but I was a bit disorientated. My first thought was my GLASSES! Yes that’s right, I was wearing glasses and the cunt had punched me in the eye. He had just carried on walking. We stopped for a few minutes to assess the damage, and decided to head back home.
Much fussing was made … of Gillian as it had been such an ordeal, to the extent I was tempted to punch her just to get some attention myself, and the police were called. They did some fruitless “driving around” and “looking”. We also agreed not to tell my elder brother as he would have probably found the little fucker and literally tore his head off (even though he wasn’t living in the country).
Gillian got a taxi home and I nursed my wound. Little did I realise in the morning I would have an enormous black eye. But hey that’s OK right, because I’d just finished Uni and wasn’t working yet so it’s not like anyone would see….?
Not quite, I was due at the fucking Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh a couple of days later to show our film!
I’d managed to go 20 perfectly-punchable years without being punched, and suddenly I’ve got to go and present a film about the disadvantaged youth of Glasgow sporting a black eye. There was nothing I could do but apply some foundation to hide the colour, angle my face away from others (which also perfectly positioned me as a moody artistic documentarian type) and if questioned say I had some kind of rare disease, Bob Holness Syndrome or something.
I managed to get through it OK and wasn’t questioned. People probably empathised with the documentary more, thinking that these parts of Glasgow had become so run-down and crime-ridden that a guy couldn’t spend a day filming there without getting the shit kicked out of him.
I spent the next ten years or so managing to not be punched at all. Despite probably deserving it on a few occasions. I’d grown up having never really been physically bullied, despite my nerdy bookwormish ways and weedy form. That was the key actually. I was too puny to pick on. It was seen as out of order to push me around because I was so utterly physically pathetic. Weighing about as much as a leg of most of my childhood peers actually got me out of what should have been a school-life packed with beatings and intimidation.
I’d pretty much forgotten about the ever-present danger of being punched in the face as I turned thirty. Then one night I was at the pub with some friends. Now, for this story I’m going to have to introduce a new concept. McCannonymity™. This is used when the only way I can tell a McCannecdote is by protecting the identity of the person or people involved. Not necessarily because the person did something embarrassing, in fact a lot of people don’t even like nice things being posted about them on the internet. For example, imagine how a girl would feel if a guy set up a Facebook page full of photos of her and said lots of very nice, very affectionate, very complimentary things on there, would she necessarily be happy about it? No. Trust me, she wasn’t…
When McCannonymity is invoked, I shall name the anonymous party after screen characters played by Ashley Judd between 1991 and 2006, in the order of how chubby her cheeks were in the role.
OK, let’s see how it goes. So I was out at the pub after work with a bunch of friends; it was a summer evening, and everyone was standing outside, a circle formed around a pile of coats and bags. In the midst of hearty banter, Charlene (Heat, 1995) stepped away to go to the toilet. Alone. A strange thing for a girl to do, and a bad sign of what was to come…
When she returned it wasn’t long before she noticed something was missing from the pile in the midst of us. Somehow, at some point, probably when she was away, someone had swiped her handbag. Bizarre how this happened without any of the rest of us knowing, but I guess that’s how these things happen.
Charlene asked around, no-one had seen it. She asked the staff, nothing had been handed in, she looked around inside the pub and checked the toilets in case she’d taken it with her, though she was sure she hadn’t. Charlene’s bag was gone. With her purse, her phone, her money, her keys, the lot.
To say she started blubbing would be a gross understatement. I have never seen someone so grief-stricken. And although I know that losing your bag is terrible for anyone, as a guy, I was unprepared for quite how much of a catastrophe this was for a girl. I said I would get us a cab and take her home, as it was on the way to my place; she’d used my phone to arrange to meet someone out in a pub near home who could get her a spare set of keys, so at least she’d be able to get home.
Charlene didn’t stop crying the whole way in the cab, bless her. I was running out of things to say. I tried to tell her that it could be worse. Didn’t help. I tried to tell her maybe someone picked it up by accident and she’d get it back eventually. Didn’t help.
I sat in the cab next to her and explained that ultimately, although she might have lost so much, all these things were just material things, and could be replaced. Everything in that handbag could be replaced.
“BUT MY MAKE-UP WAS IN THERE!!!” she screamed at me. OK, I realised this was a more touchy subject than I thought – I was WAY out of my league, but it was heartbreaking seeing Charlene so upset. I continued to try to calm her down, explaining what she needed to do when she got home and then how everything would be better in the morning, and one day she’d look back at this and oh how she’d laugh. She was having none of it.
It had been a stressful evening for me also, and in a moment of weakness I snapped, “Look! You’ve lost your handbag but it’s not the end of the world. It’s only make-up!”
She punched me three times square on the nose. I think they were warning shots, as although there was some nose bleeding, nothing was broken.
I was quiet for the rest of the trip until we had her keys and she was home and I said goodnight.
She’s in prison now.
Ah, just kidding, no we’re still good friends. The guys reading might not understand this but I think I’ve come to realise that I was completely out-of-order and deserved to be punched this time. Or probably deserved to be pepper-sprayed if she hadn’t lost it with her handbag. Never again will I say something as stupid as “It’s only make-up”. In a verbal sense, I threw the first punch in this scenario – yep, I metaphorically smacked a girl right in the face the moment I insinuated that make-up and a hairbrush were frivolous, replaceable items. I guarantee, any girl reading this reacted with the same thought: “What? She only punched him three times? And didn’t even break anything? After what that insensitive bastard said about make-up?”