A few months ago, I was violently assaulted outside a pub. Many of you will probably be nodding, smiling and thinking “good”. Certainly there are a number of people on Twitter who told me they thought it was a long overdue kicking. I also wrote about the attack for the Daily Telegraph. This weekend I returned to the pub for the first time. I had a good time, but I will never go back there again.
The night was great. I was there alone again. I felt that was important. I didn’t want to go mob-handed. I write alone and sometimes I have to stand up for myself alone. I had come straight from a cancelled train – some poor soul had thrown themselves in front of it at Euston. I’ve written about that on my blog. For a writer, most experiences end up in black and white. Even the technicolour of our bruises and the claret of other people’s blood.
I will not stop writing. I can’t. I’ve been doing it since I could scratch words on paper and I’ll be doing it until I breathe my last breath.
The return of the trouble came at the end of the night after I’d met a brilliant little boy called Jack and spoken to him about Doctor Who and learned more about self-defence and martial arts from his dad. Stood at the bar, I said hello to a regular I’d known before the incident. He told me he never wanted to speak to me again. I wrote about the attack in the national press and that disgusted him. He made it clear that I was a snitch. And as the old maxim goes, snitches deserve stitches.
For the sake of the landlord’s business and my still healing jaw, I told him that I respect his decision – but I don’t. This was the same guy who told me, when my jaw was broken, my ribs were bruised and my fingers were cracked, that I shouldn’t have talked back, that I was in the wrong, that I deserved it. I tried to return to that pub in peace and reconciliation, my head full of the wise words of Nelson Mandela, so soon after his death. I found that others do not feel so amenable to those ideas.
Wet liberal types abhor violence absolutely because there are men and women of violence who are willing to make use of it to protect us all. Similarly, there are writers who are willing to speak their minds and fight for what is right and true. I will not stop writing. I can’t. I’ve been doing it since I could scratch words on paper and I’ll be doing it until I breathe my last breath, probably because I’ve annoyed the wrong person one too many times. If I die in my sleep I will truly be surprised.
There are people out there who hate me. Passionately. Irrationally. Actively. I want to protect my family and my friends, but I being punched and kicked and threatened with death had made me realise that I fear being a patsy more than I do the pain of being at the blunt end of violent actions. I can’t stand the feeling of guilt and shame that comes from mutely putting up with injustice, intolerance and just plain dickishness.
Writing about sexuality has been difficult but worthwhile. People will want to shame you for being honest about your sexual tastes and what you do behind the bedroom door – or, for some, down alleyways, in kitchens, on car bonnets, on the floor and on that shiny boardroom table. Friends of mine (and me actually) have been shamed in the past for being into dominance and submission in bed. Others have been made to feel bad about liking particular clothing or being obsessed with oral sex or certain clothing. Cross dressers are still laughed at too easily.
This week, I had a funny chat with someone about a new name for an old sex move – “The Nigella”. It’s a crass name, but that’s British humour to a tee. The Nigella is a gentle hold of the throat during intercourse. It’s an expression of dominance and adds to an already dirty thrill. But is it the same as the incident involving the real Nigella and the contemptible Charles Saatchi? Of course not. Right-thinking adults can distinguish between the give-and-take of sex play and genuine abuse. I bang this drum a lot but shame and silence are terrible things. Let’s break them down whether it’s going into a pub to face down an attacker or embracing your perfectly legal sexual activities.