Last week when we were in Greece two young "lads" from Manchester started paying attention to my daughter Hannah. The form this attention took was learing at her and making lewd comments. When she ignored them, though I wasn't aware of this at the time, they started calling her "a slag" and becoming more aggressive.
That evening, my daughters and I, along with some friends they had met on holiday, were sitting around a table having a chat. A stone suddenly landed on the table. We glanced around and there were the two lads sitting several yards away staring at us. When I looked back, trying to work out if it was them who had thrown the stone, they started posturing aggressively and asking what I was looking at!
At this point my inner 6'3" Scot kicked in and I went over and had a few words. The more aggressive boy's response was to suggest we go outside and sort it out. I said something to the effect of "you must be fucking kidding" and went back to the girls. I then had the challenge of ignoring him as he did his best to look menacing each time he saw me for the remainder of the holiday.
My initial response could easily have escalated things and I could have ended up facing charges. Should I have ignored them? Should I have been a snitch and complained to their mum and dad? Should I have invoked authority in the form of the hotel staff? I never got the opportunity to try it out but I decided that my next step would be to walk over to them and suggest that rather than throwing stones and making faces, they come and chat over coffee. Who knows where that might have led.
Why tell this story? It got me thinking hard about my options and about bullies in general. It is easy to imagine how in other circumstances they could have been carrying a knife, or even a gun. They could have been thugs representing a fascist movement, they could even have been in positions of authority.
Sadly bullies seem to be proliferating around the world. Sadly more of us will have to work out what we do about them.