Behind the bike sheds

Photo: Julie Travis

Andy Martin has asked me to contribute to his first novel, Behind The Bike Sheds. It’s not a collaboration as such, more a section written from the perspective of a 14 year old girl in 1968. There is so much material I can use from my own schooldays – although I was 14 in 1981, I don’t think schools, or children, have changed much since the late 60s – the basics of the section are easy in some respects, but I wanted to truly get myself into the headspace of my early teenage years, so I looked up the Facebook page of my old comprehensive school. It has been painful and has reopened some old wounds. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who enjoyed school; my circle of friends has always consisted of misfits and those who question authority, so school was a matter of surviving bullying teachers and ‘fellow’ pupils. I was bullied intermittently during junior school and constantly from the moment I moved up to secondary school to the moment I left, five years later. The research worked – the section’s well on track – but I was so immersed in how I felt as a schoolchild that when a friend expressed a desire to meet up with me I was in a state of confusion and distress as to why she’d want to. I managed to get out of that frame of mind but it’s frightening to realise the appalling damage done to so many children at school – and how these things are still happening.


All images and text © Julie Travis


6 thoughts on “Behind the bike sheds

  1. Like so many of my friends, you are my sister in suffering this trauma in childhood! It’s truly amazing how it scars you for so many years – but even more amazing how strong these (we) survivors are. I read some fascinating factoids about how those who are bullies in childhood are also often damaged by the experience, and grow up to suffer throughout their adult lives: ending up in jail, poverty, etc. I don’t recall if this was widespread or just more anecdotal, but it was fascinating. I’m glad this issue is getting attention; can’t imagine growing up in the Internet/social media age as it seems that much harder to overcome these types of painful incidents.

    • This is one post that I wish no one could relate to – bullying in school is horribly common and I’m so sorry if you have been through this, too. I think the damage done is frightening and often underestimated. I understand that some of the bullies are reacting to their lives outside of school, which is tragic; it may be a reason, but it’s not an excuse. Yes, this kind of trauma has a life-long effect, and I can see the things that have happened in my life since as being a direct result of those school years. The issue is getting attention in the UK, too – and I agree, to be a child now, with the possibility of social media bringing the bullies right into your home, must be dreadful – but I wonder how much is being done by teachers and parents to stop it. Of course, if a parent is a bigoted, nasty piece of work, they’re not going to discourage their child from being the same, and dealing with internet use must be a nightmare for the best of parents. Yes – all power to survivors of bullying. It’s a big deal to be able to function after this kind of trauma.

  2. Very interesting – I look forward to reading it when it comes out. Looking back on my own experience (and hearing other people’s experiences), it’s clear that the purpose of school isn’t actually education. It breaks kids down at a formative age and remolds them according to the dictates of the particular society they live in. Those who are harder to break suffer more. (Of course, as we know, later on in life it ends up breaking many of us in different ways…)

    That’s why teachers don’t intervene in bullying, and often participate in it. It’s a feature, not a bug.

    • I would absolutely agree with everything you’ve said. At the time it seemed to me that school was run on the same lines as prison in that certain, favoured pupils/bullies oppressed the rest of the institution’s population with the teachers happily watching or turning a blind eye. Or, as you say, participating.

      It’s no surprise to me that no one I know enjoyed school or got anything other than bad memories out of it.

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