What would you do if you spotted your classroom tormentor, years after you’d left school?
Turn the other cheek, exchange fierce words or buy them a drink?
One such encounter ended up in court this week when a man was prosecuted for assaulting someone who had bullied him 15 years earlier.
Kevin Blatchford punched his old foe to the ground, leaving him with a black eye, after he spotted him walking by.
But not everyone gets to confront their bully, and those encounters don’t always end in violence.
Here, six FEMAIL writers pen letters to their bullies to finally lay their ghosts to rest…
What would you do if you spotted your classroom tormentor, years after you’d left school? Below, six FEMAIL writers pen letters to their bullies to finally lay their ghosts to rest…
HOW SATISFYING IT WAS TO TURN YOU DOWN FOR A JOB
You know who you are, because you were so toxic they could have dropped you on Hiroshima.
Even today — and you must be pushing 53 — I imagine that people have to approach you wearing full PPE.
Someone who saw you recently said that your lovely blonde hair had thinned and that your face was lined. I was thrilled.
You tormented me for three and a half years.
Perhaps I was skinny, dark and a trifle beetle-browed, but was it really necessary to give me the nickname ‘Petros**t’ and then announce it at morning assembly?
Was is really so amusing to slip vodka into my glass of orange juice, so that I was so drunk at choir practice I fell off the stage?
Did you have to make fun of me because shyness caused me to enunciate words very slowly?
Petronella Wyatt: You know who you are, because you were so toxic they could have dropped you on Hiroshima
Did you have to call me a ‘greasy-haired snail’ and my eyebrows ‘black slugs’.
True, I lacked your prowess at sport, but did you have to hit me over the head with your lacrosse stick, causing me to vomit?
Ah, but then things started to go wrong for you, didn’t they?
When we left school, I won a place to study at Oxford while you remained coy on the subject of your further education and took a year off.
You ended up on a mango farm in India, from which you had to be rescued after someone stole your backpack. Then there was a long silence.
I did think of you — every time I had my eyebrows plucked.
My confidence grew and despite you having told me that I looked like a female impersonator or a pet gorilla, men seemed to find me attractive.
There were moments when your toxicity lingered, however, and it took a long time before I could consider you ‘safe’.
Then, one morning, when I was working at The Spectator, a call came through.
It was you, dear bully. You were polite. You asked me for a drink. I decided to lay you to rest once and for all, and agreed to meet you.
You were unemployed and asked if I could get you a job, or recommend you to another publication.
Oh, bully. Had you ever said a kind word to me, I might have crawled over glass to help you.
As it was, I suggested you try to find work in a charity shop.
It was a moment of exquisite satisfaction.
I’VE NEVER MET ANYONE MORE VILE
Even though it’s been 38 years since I last saw you, I can’t help but think of you far too often.
Which is annoying because you are probably the one person on the planet I would have liked to forget for ever.
Yet, here I am, a perfectly sane adult woman, still shamefully hoping that you are leading an unfulfilled, miserable life.
With three daughters of my own, I have had more than my fair share of exposure to schoolgirls and how awful they can be.
Saying that, I have yet to come across one who is quite as vile as you were to me when we were 13.
I was a new girl — having left my convent school in the UK to join my parents in their move to Sydney, Australia.
Shona Sibary: Even though it’s been 38 years since I last saw you, I can’t help but think of you far too often
It was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime for me, and I was so excited to be starting at an all girls’ private school, just a stone’s throw from one of the greatest surfing beaches in the world.
But from day one I stuck out like a sore thumb.
My mother insisted I wear my blazer buttoned up, and my school skirt skimmed my knees.
The rest of you had skirts that barely skimmed your bottoms — plus long, tanned legs and that effortless Aussie confidence.
I felt awkward, boring and a bit of a geek — something you zoomed in on like a guided missile intent on destroying its target.
You terrorised me for months. Mainly psychologically, but it also wasn’t beneath you to continuously kick me in the small of my back from your chair behind me . . . for an entire one-hour lesson.
You stole my lunch (and pocket money) every day, throwing it from an upper-floor window and smashing so many flasks I lost count.
Your favourite brand of bullying was one of humiliation — laughing at something about my appearance — my crooked teeth, my obvious squint — in front of other pupils until I would flee to the changing rooms burning with embarrassment and shame.
Today, with the maturity to step back, I wonder whether perhaps you were unhappy?
But then I feel annoyed with myself for trying to find a way to forgive you all these years later when, actually, what I should be doing is thanking you for making me stronger.
No one has, or will, ever make me feel small again.
THE LESSONS I LEARNED SET ME UP FOR LIFE
Thirty-three years have passed since we last saw one another, but I haven’t forgotten you and I imagine you’ve been reminded of me, too, at times over the years.
I’ve changed, haven’t I? I’m no longer that plump, mousey girl with the squint who was rubbish at games. Instead, I have a glitzy career in the media.
I know why I became the target of you and your toxic gang. I was good at English. Did you overhear when our teacher commended me on one of my essays?
Was that why you decided I needed to be brought down a peg or two? It’s the only answer I can think of.
Samantha Brick: Thirty-three years have passed since we last saw one another, but I haven’t forgotten you and I imagine you’ve been reminded of me, too, at times over the years
When you and your clan cornered me and told me I was being ostracised, I panicked.
When ‘Tracey’ said I’d be better off being pushed under a bus, I barely slept for weeks.
But what was truly unforgivable was when you banned anyone else in our year from speaking to me.
I invented all sorts of stomach upsets to avoid going to classes that you were in.
Things came to a head when my mum found out and pulled me out of the school.
Yes, you were suspended, but I was the one who had to start again elsewhere at 15.
Thankfully, I found a lovely set of friends with whom I’m still in contact today.
But in many ways, your actions set me up for life. Granted, it was a tough lesson, but I recognised that not everyone is going to like me — and that actually it’s OK.
During life’s twists and turns, it has stood me in good stead when my opinion pieces have gone viral or I’ve appeared on TV tackling controversial subjects.
I pay zero attention to what anyone says about me. When I’m attacked online, I know they’re like you, under all the puff and bravado — just jealous. I’ve survived it all and I have got you to thank for that.
DROPPED AS I NEEDED YOU ALL THE MOST
It may have been 30 years ago, but I can still feel the sting of the confusion and embarrassment when I realised the three of you had ‘dropped’ me.
Until then, we had gone out for lunch every day, for chips or toasted cheese sandwiches at the local cafe.
Free periods were spent in the common room, playing records, and after school we’d be in each others’ houses, trying out Goth eyeliner and red lipstick.
As a young girl, I had not played with other children easily. I wore hearing aids and found it hard to follow conversations in a large group.
So when you three found me, I was so happy finally to be accepted. We were so close — until it was over.
Jessica Fellowes: It may have been 30 years ago, but I can still feel the sting of the confusion and embarrassment when I realised the three of you had ‘dropped’ me
One day I came out of a history class to find that you had all gone for lunch already.
It happened the next day, and the next, until I learned not to look for you any more.
I didn’t have the courage to confront you, and in any case we were all soon caught in the whirlwind of revision, A-levels and the summer holidays.
It was a tough time, made tougher by the fact my parents had separated six months earlier and my mother became very ill with what turned out to be early-onset dementia.
Not having you to turn to made it very hard.
I once wrote a letter to one of you, asking for a book to be returned and took the chance to let you know my bewilderment and pain. But I only received the book in an envelope, with no note.
Bullies are only ever unhappy people, holders of inescapable anger and shame, meted out to others.
A friend of mine recently confessed his shame at having been the school bully, hitting and threatening anyone younger and smaller than him.
He had been deeply unhappy at his parents’ separation and being sent away to boarding school.
But, I should mention that I am not entirely blameless. Others were bullied at my school, too, and I didn’t have the courage to stand up for them.
There was one particular girl who, due to her weight, her German heritage or her glasses, never found favour.
She may not have been physically assaulted (so far as I know), but nor was she invited to any birthday parties or to anyone’s house — mine included.
I recall her shock when I once complimented her on her skirt, only for her to assume I was being sarcastic.
Who could blame her?
I haven’t seen that poor girl since we left school, but I did bump into one of you ten years later.
I asked why and if you were even aware of what you’d done.
Yes, you said, you knew. What was happening to me with my family had felt too huge for you all to take on. It was easier to put it all to one side.
I understand it now. I know more about the difficulties of being a teenager, of making our way in life, of the fallibilities of even the best of people.
And I know that even when you want to help someone, sometimes you feel helpless and it’s easier to vanish. I forgive all three of you, and I forgive myself.
I HOPE YOU LEARNED TO BE KIND
My goodness how we’ve all grown. Well I hope you have, since when I knew you, you were extraordinarily immature, small-minded people.
Is that mean of me to say? Should I instead say ‘I’m writing this letter to say I forgive you. It’s fine, I’m over it’? Except I’m not.
Most days, I don’t think about you, but then my children will get in a fight and say horrible things to each other, or I’ll catch sight of my bottom and I’ll remember all the nasty things you said and did to me.
You used to call me ‘Nappy Bum’, do you remember? Because my PE shorts were a bit baggy around my bottom. Did you know I had body issues for years after that?
Rebecca Wilcox: My goodness how we’ve all grown. Well I hope you have, since when I knew you, you were extraordinarily immature, small-minded people
Or perhaps I could tell the charity where some of you work that you were not always so sweet and philanthropic.
I know I should move on, but it would be so satisfying to walk into one of the charity events you’re always posting on Facebook and give a speech listing all the things you did and said, making fun of my dyslexia or my squint, for instance.
That would not go over well in today’s cancel culture. But I wouldn’t be invited to one of your events, would I?
A bit like the birthday parties the year we all turned 14. Or when you had sleepovers but only girls who had kissed a boy were invited.
Apparently, that specifically meant not me.
Do you regret your behaviour and tell your own children to be kind? It’s what I always say to mine. It was you who taught me that, so I guess I should thank you.
Because being kind and finding kindness in return is why I have achieved so much happiness in my life — my life after you, that is.
YOU’RE A NICE GUY NOW – I’M GLAD I MET YOU
It’s been more than 20 years since we were at school together, but neither of us can forget those two years. You bullied me so badly I ended up leaving the school.
With an August birthday, I was the youngest boy at our boarding school. I was also small, geeky, naive, and not particularly good at any sports. I was an easy target.
You didn’t do all the bullying, but you were the ring-leader, admired and feared by most. I was punched, shoved around and teased.
But being socially excluded was the worst. With an MSc in psychology, I can say that the parts of the brain that fire up when you’re excluded are the same as those that fire up when you’re in physical pain.
Charlie Hoare: It’s been more than 20 years since we were at school together, but neither of us can forget those two years. You bullied me so badly I ended up leaving the school
It’s traumatic and the effects can be long-lasting.
I had no friends, I felt like an outcast. I was convinced that the problem was with me, and I became shy and withdrawn.
Luckily I changed schools, but I was scarred. I struggled to trust people, to form close friendships and romantic relationships.
I wrote to you a couple of years ago, and asked you to meet up, and it was healing for both of us.
I was able to let go of all the anger I’d held against you. You were just a troubled teenager, taking out your own issues on an easy target.
You’re a nice guy now, and I respect you for helping me to process the experience.
Man Down: A Guide For Men On Mental Health by Charlie Hoare is on sale at Amazon.