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Pride Comes Before a Fall

May 12, 2012

The City of Gloucester, in England, is famously famous for two things.  One: it is the source of the first recorded case of flesh-eating virus Necrotising Fasciitus in the UK. Two: it is the home of the notorious serial & child killers, Fred and Rose West.

It’s also, for good or ill, the city where I grew up.  It’s not a terrible place, Gloucester.  But it’s not exactly Barcelona, either.  On the plus side, it has a very lovely harbour – the furthest inland harbour in the country if such facts float your boat (sorry – famous for three things then).  And it’s got a rather splendid Cathedral, where scenes from several of the Harry Potter films were filmed (OK, four. Four things).

It’s also, sadly, the kind of place where there is very little to do of a Friday night other than while away the hours in the beer soaked pubs and clubs that pack out one short street on the edge of the city centre; milling about in dark corners, shiny black shoes sticking to the floor, drinking cheap lager with such contemporary classics as ‘Come on Eileen’ and ‘Anything By Bon Jovie’ blasting away in the background.  This was the Nineties, but also the West-Country – contemporary music was generally met with the kind of suspicion usually reserved for something squidgy and spidery found in the toe of a seldom worn shoe.

It was on one such night, navigating the delights of the optimistically named King of Clubs (Shortened to KC’s, which we then hilariously re-named the ‘Kennel Club’, completely failing to see the irony in the fact that we were still going there each and every week) that I got punched to the floor for the very first time.  I did absolutely nothing wrong, and it was completely my own fault.

Stumbling and swerving my way to the bar, I was confronted with a total stranger (rare in itself in such a small town – Gloucester’s not tiny, I mean I don’t know anyone who married their own cousin or anything, but let’s just say I could probably find someone who does with an afternoon on the phone) who was standing in my path, arms folded, staring blankly at me.  I thought nothing of it and arrogantly, albeit harmlessly, placed a hand on his shoulder and went to move past him.

Without changing his expression he calmly stepped to the side, blocking my way again and pushing me back with his shoulder.  Confused, I smiled awkwardly and went to move in the other direction.  He continued to stare at me and arms still folded moved again, blocking my path a third time. I took a step back, frowned at him and asked him what he was doing.  No reply.  Stare.  Arms folded.  Blank expression. I tried to pass again, way blocked.  And again.  Move, block. And again.  Move, block.

Yes, I know, even a hamster in a cage knows not to eat the cup cake after the first electric shock but, then, I would argue with some conviction that a hamster has a greater degree of common sense and survival skills than a drunk, proud twenty year old man in a club on a Friday night fiercely protecting his fragile ego.

By this time I was thoroughly drawn in to a battle of ego with this complete and total stranger without having said more than five words.  To me, the empty bar fifteen feet away in the opposite direction was as far away as the moon.  I had to get past this man and buy myself a highly unnecessary seventh pint of beer.  It was now a matter of pride.  But I was also not a violent man, and given that I hadn’t been attacked in any way, and all I had to do was walk away to forget about the whole thing, there was no real reason for me to start a fight.  I was stuck – my ego blocking my path of escape, my non-violent disposition stopping me from escalating the situation any further and my precious bar blocked by a perfect stranger.

We would still be there today for all I know, had another perfect stranger not flanked me from the side and ask me what was wrong.  Somehow I failed to think this was strange in any way and, completely trusting this newcomer to the fray, began to tell him just how unfair this other perfect stranger was being to me as if stranger number two was some kind of teacher I was telling tales on.

No sooner had I turned my back on stranger number one than an explosion of motion hit me.  Well, in fact a fist hit me.  But all I was aware of was the room suddenly lifting up, being thrown across the street like a dice with me inside it and me ending up on the floor, leant against a combination of the bar and two people’s surprised looking legs.  By the time I had recovered my senses the men had gone, and I was left with a sense of confusion, a bit of a lump on my temple and one heck of a headache.

Marc MacYoung, self defense expert and expert witness in the US and author of many, many books on this subject was once asked what the biggest threat indicator was prior to a violent incident.  His answer?

“You being an asshole”.

Never underestimate your own role in any violent confrontation.  Even if you think you’re in the right.  Even if you aren’t being aggressive (at least from your own perspective).  Was I the asshole in this story?  You’d probably get a more honest answer by asking someone else.  But even I can tell you that I could have stopped this from escalating at any point by walking to a different bar.  Like I said – I didn’t really do anything wrong, but it was completely, entirely, my own fault.

  1. Hey Nathan just got the e mail from the book depository that your book is winging its way to me in the next couple of days. I look forward to critiquing it savagely 🙂 You are too far away to hit me.
    Good luck!!

    • LOL living on the opposite side of the world is, as it goes, one of the more effective methods of not getting hit! One who is prepared to go to such extremes has no need of my little book 😉

      I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts Joe, from one author to another! And yours too Margaret, by the way 🙂

  2. Great story — it really illustrates how hard but necessary it can be sometimes to just walk away.

    • Thanks! It’s often both the easiest and the hardest thing to do when you’ve been drawn in to something – luckily the biggest bruise was to my ego on that occasion!

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