Most days I like to walk along the sea to a nearby village to buy my groceries. The local expression for this is "goin for mah messages." So far I have not had the courage to say "Ah'm goin for mah messages," but you never know. In a recent conversation with a lady at the checkout, I found myself saying "aye" and "wee" in a completely natural way. (Wanting to blend into a local culture as much as humanly possible is very Canadian.)
The beach is a magnet for people all over the neighbourhood and beyond. In the daytime, I am most likely to see mums and dads pushing prams down the promenade or sitting in the sand with their wee bairns or "weans" (wee ones). However, packs of teenagers, Scottish and foreign (language students is my guess) occasionally turn up, too.
The teenagers--and I'm sorry to say this--make me nervous. And it's not the boys. I'm all but invisible to the boys. It's the girls. A group of local boys, without a girl to egg them on, is not going to bother an ordinary thirty-something woman with a shopping bag, except (occasionally) to inform her that she needs a haircut. Girls of a certain sort, however, have no vestiges of chivalry whatsoever. Nor do they have much respect for innocence.
On my way home along the beach with mah messages, I passed a group of 11 year old boys who were happily kicking a football (soccer ball) back and forth. They were not bothering anyone. I barely noticed them; I was enjoying the blue sky and the silver sea. But then I heard eldrich shrieking behind me, and I turned. A gang of adolescent girls, tanned, pointy-breasted and perhaps 14 years old, had begun berating the boys.
"Why aren't you paying attention to us?" shrieked one, presumably their leader. She was carrying a large wooden chair, unearthed who knows where.
The boys did not respond. They looked a bit frightened. They glanced at each other, and unhappily shoved the ball around.
The leader continued to mock them, with back-up from her pals. I'm sorry I can't reproduce all of what she said, as it sounded like a fine example of local dialect, but I did make out the threat of "and Ah'll batter yeh!"
If there's anything I hate, it's seeing children picking on smaller children. And I have no problem shouting "Hey! Cut it out!", for it sometimes works. I also have no problem telephoning head teachers of schools, if I know where the bullies and the bullied come from. But there is something I hate even more, and it is sexually aggressive people picking on the young and innocent. It drives me, in the local parlance, mental.
Something along those lines seemed to be going on here, and as I watched the unpleasant scene, I scowled darkly until I realized that the girls outnumbered me five to one and had a heavy wooden chair. They had moved on past the boys towards me, and so I turned around and walked briskly on my merry way. I had a sense that I had been noticed, for the leader's almost incomprehensible shouting seemed to indicate this.
"Yeh radge!" shouted the leader. A radge is a crazy person.
"Oh God," I prayed. "I hope she doesn't mean me."
I pondered what I would do if I were suddenly surrounded by a gang of feral girls. Teaching night school gave me insight into how to simultaneously put a class clown in his place and gain his respect. (A metaphorical lifesaver.) Girls, though, are something else entirely.
"Come on, woman," I thought. "You've got to be smarter than they are. Use your head."
I decided that I would say something to break up their unity, first by asking who the leader was, and then asking who the deputy was. If I remember correctly from my schoolyard days, the Queen Bee always has friends jockeying to be her Best Friend, to say nothing of followers who secretly fear and hate her.
Fortunately, though, the gang spotted their friends, and brandished their wooden trophy triumphantly. I arrive home unbattered but thoughtful. How does one handle a gang of aggressive girls?