Landladies offering accommodation to university students can be formidable types

By Joanna Jones

I did well enough at Grammar School and earned a place at Durham University to study French. Rather than end up in the University dorms I got some ‘digs’ (private rented accommodation) with a late-middle aged widow called Mrs Galloway.

She had a list of rules she expected the four student tenants that had different rooms in the house to follow. I did not think much about them to start with until Frances, who was in her second year, warned me that while Mrs Galloway was very nice, she had a strict streak on her rules. She had thrown a girl (and she chose only to take girls) out last year for breaches, though usually she apparently gave an alternative.

Frances did not for whatever reason tell me the alternative, but I assumed it was some unpleasant chore. However, I determined not to get into trouble as I knew my parents were stretched even with the grant I was getting, and being tossed out with the need to cover losses, such as the term’s rent in advance, would be a disaster for me financially.

In addition to Frances, the other girls were Jo (in her final year) and Laura, a first year like me, who rapidly became my best friend.

As for the rules, they basically set what time to be in for tea, no guests, notice if one would be late, curfews, and keeping one’s room tidy. There were a few household chores also that we had a rota for.

All four of us were told off for being a little late during freshers’ week, but Mrs Galloway was pretty relaxed about it. This did not stop her from making it clear that she expected us to be more scrupulous in our timekeeping once term stated.

By this point I realised she was rather acting as a surrogate mother to us young women. She was always asking after us and soon became a confidant. I saw why both Frances and Jo had not opted to move, such as into student flats where there was more freedom, but that included freedom to get involved in sixties activities that were shocking to my, to that point sheltered, sensibilities. Some of my friends were clearly motivated by that. However my motivation was then, and actually remained throughout my degree, not to let my parents down. I knew that they had sacrificed quite a bit to give me the chance and that was always a rock on which I found I could make good decisions on.

I had more or less after three weeks forgotten about the rules list, as I got in to a routine that allowed me to work with them, and also forgot the conversation with Frances. However, then Jo, inexplicably, was half an hour late for tea. (I suspect her boyfriend had led to the delay but…) We were more or less finishing when she rushed in full of apologies. However, instead of letting her sit with a mild telling off and warning, as had happened if we were a couple of minutes over, she said angrily: “Jo, what sort of time do you call this? Go to your room and I will discuss this with you shortly.”

Jo suddenly bit her lip and slipped out of the room and up the stairs. Frances had rather a knowing smile on her face, I can remember wondering why.

The three of us stayed downstairs to wash and dry as Mrs Galloway headed to Jo’s room.

Still seeing Frances’ enigmatic look I asked: “What’s going on Frances?”

However I got only a wider grin and a whispered: “Keep quiet and wait and see.”

Suddenly there was an almighty slap and Laura and I stared at each other open mouthed. It was soon followed by a barrage of slaps echoing down the stairs.

Frances looked at us and said: “Lucky girl, I reckon she is only getting the hair brush.”

“What do you mean, only?” Laura asked rather shrilly as the slaps continued, now including cries and wails from Jo.

“She has a bath brush too,” replied Frances. “If you cross her too far then a spanking us is the alternative to leaving. The hairbrush over her knee is the lesser option; though having your bare bum up in the air with your knickers around your ankles is pretty embarrassing. However, bending over the end of your bed for the bath brush with your knickers completely off is much worse.”

I am sure Frances enjoyed our looks of horrified disbelief as we listened to Jo begging and bawling upstairs.

The noise finally stopped, but it was not quite over. Jo, dressed only in her top and knickers, followed Mrs Galloway into the room and apologised profusely to us between snuffles before taking herself back to her room. Apparently late for tea meant no tea as well as a sore backside!

After, Mrs Galloway followed with a brief lecture, of the “I am sure this won’t be necessary with you but…” sort, to Laura and me. The summary of it was basically that she ran a tight ship for those wishing to lodge or remain lodging with her and that she would not accept breaches of her rules. It was clear we would be in line for the same if we ever did so, assuming we wished to remain lodging with her. Both Laura and I determined to avoid such sanctions and ensured we kept on the friendly, kindly side of our landlady.

In contrast Jo got herself a second hair-brushing, and the dreaded bath brush during the first term. The sounds of the latter brush were slower and louder, and the screams were louder still! She was brought downstairs for the apology still bare from the waist down. The livid marks on her bum were clearly going to bruise and last for some time.

Coming to the end of term I had exams, as did Laura and they finished on the Friday. Both of us told our landlady that we were going to be late as we were going to an end of term Christmas party. Mrs Galloway was fine with that, and indeed gave us an early tea to allow us to dress up in plenty of time. In fact the only thing that was not so helpful was the curfew which she, reluctantly after a bit of wheedling, extended to half past midnight. Officially the dance would go on till 1 am and neither of us were happy at leaving just after midnight, but that was her final word.

The dance was great and both Laura and I had a great time, which included meeting a couple of rather handsome lads. It was when Brian asked if he could have the last dance with me that the penny dropped, and I looked at the time; quarter to one!

I looked at Laura and held my watch up. She too bit her lip, but shrugged as she accepted the last dance with a boy whose name I cannot now remember.

Brian had of course noted my reaction, and I explained my landlady’s curfew, and that we would be in trouble with her. He promised to escort us straight back, about a fifteen minute walk, after the dance. Very chivalrous I thought warmly (yes I had had a little to drink).

The last dance was great and the walk home arm in arm with Brian made me forget about the possible reaction of Mrs Galloway until the two boys left us at the gate. As we turned to go up the short path I noticed a curtain move. Our return at twenty past one, nearly one hour late, had been noted.

Mrs Galloway was waiting with a face like thunder as we let ourselves in. There was little we could say, other than we had forgotten the time. That did not mollify her as she pushed us both into the living room and closed the door. Laura and I both froze – an object that was unmistakably a bath brush was lying on the coffee table in the middle of the room.

Both of us started to beg simultaneously, not that it did us any good! It soon became clear that we either could leave (forfeiting the rent which we had just paid for the first part of next term) or we could go home for Christmas with very sore backsides.

The financial implications equalled only one real choice; both of us reluctantly removed our party dresses and put them on the back of an arm chair. Our knickers soon followed, leaving us standing in essentially in only our bras and stockings, our hands both cupped in front of us.

I was somewhat embarrassed to be so undressed before my landlady, to say nothing of in front of Laura. We had helped each other zip up a frock before now, but never been like this.

Embarrassment was the least of my worries though as we were bent over the back of her sofa, side by side. Anticipation was rapidly taking over. A lovely night was coming to a clearly unpleasant end.

Both of us were able to see the bath brush on the coffee table, and watch it disappear when it was taken round the back as Mrs Galloway warned us to stay in position unless we wanted extra.

I gripped the cushion I had got hold of tighter and chose to bury my face in the fabric. I had been slippered at school once when fourteen, which had been mildly sore, but this promised to be something much worse than that.

Crack!

Selfish though it was I felt a relief as Laura squealed – my bottom had a few minutes more respite.

Crack!

A loud grunt from Laura indicated that must have hurt.

Crack!

“Yeeeouch!” I cried. That was not Laura’s bottom. It was most definitely mine!

Crack!

“Aaaaagh!” I screamed as the right cheek suddenly became as painful as the left.

My mind was still reeling from the unexpected shock of the first one as I desperately tried not to cry.

The next crack was on Laura again and it was then clear she was whacking the four bottom cheeks in front of her in progressive order.

The second two burned worse than the original pair, but at least expecting it I managed not to cry out.

However, the thrashing did not stop there. As she whacked our poor backsides our grimaces as we tried to control ourselves deteriorated into yelps then screams then continuous crying as I lost count of the number if times she went along our four buttocks.

As she did so, we were lectured continuously on how inconsiderate we were, and how much she worried about us. ‘Didn’t we know the dangers?’ was another question.

Of course I knew the dangers – that is why our partners for the night had escorted us home in addition to us sticking together. However, under the onslaught all we both sobbed was how sorry we were.

It was a desperately close thing between me standing and her stopping. However, stop she eventually did.

We were finally able to stand, hands going to rub and explore our sore, tender rears. It was only then we saw that Jo and Frances had heard the racket we were making and had clearly come down to witness our punishments. Through the blur of my tear stained eyes it seemed Jo looked sympathetic, whereas it seemed that Frances had enjoyed the spectacle somewhat.

Whatever the case, we both had to tearfully apologise before taking our blazing behinds off to bed.

The next day I had to work hard not to fidget sitting in the car next to my father and it took another day before I could sit without being immediately reminded of the effect. The bruising of course took longer to go.

I remained with Mrs Galloway throughout my degree and the ‘structure’ she provided was probably key to me getting a good 2.1 degree.

The two other thrashings I got in that time were both fair and certainly reminded me to keep on the straight and narrow so to speak. However, much to my regret, though Frances to this day remains a good friend, I never got the chance to hear, let alone see, her reaction to the onslaught Mrs Galloway could produce.

The End