A footballing triumph comes with consequences

By Capstan

In 1986, girl’s football was very much a minority sport, despite England having only lost to Sweden on penalties in the final of the European Competition for Women’s Football. in May 1984, a feat not bettered until 2022.

The 1984/5 year at lady Upshott’s School for Girls had, however, taken notice and some new girls, including the three Anglo-German Raeder sisters, an American girl, Mary-Beth Taft, and a few others who, like Cathy Jones the new trainee administrator, had learned to play with their brothers at home, formed the nucleus of a team. Although in the 1984/5 season the team had mixed fortunes, Lady Upshott’s had been invited to take the place of a girls school that had dropped out for the 1985/6 season, and so joined the South West Counties Ladies’ Schools Football Challenge Cup to maintain the required sixteen schools.

It was Sunday 12th May 1986, and shortly after six o’clock. In the headmaster’s study, an emergency meeting between the headmaster, Ernest Eastern-Roberts, and three of his board of governors was coming to an end. Meanwhile, Roberta (known as Bobbie) Peale, head girl and captain of the football (soccer) team for Lady Upshott’s School for Girls was sitting in the administration office outside the headmaster’s study with her father, Robert. The five-foot-six-inch-tall beauty sat with her elegant knees crossed. Her immaculate uniform, into which she had just changed from her sports kit, accentuated her 33-23-35-inch figure. Her freshly brushed dark golden shoulder-length hair was gleaming. The young lady’s hazel eyes and the expression on her pretty features betrayed her concern. Bobbie’s right hand reached out, and her father’s left hand clasped it in a gesture of support.

Robert Peale, a senior police officer, had driven for four hours to watch his daughter play in her big game. Now, despite being a longstanding friend and occasional golfing partner of the headmaster, he shared his daughter’s concern.

Roberta, a boarder at Lady Upshott’s since the age of eleven, now had only six weeks remaining at the school she loved. Providing her A-level results were as expected, she would be going to university to study law on a British Army scholarship, simultaneously taking up a reserve commission as an officer cadet in the Adjutant General’s Corps.

Needless to say, her previous conduct, both at school and normally at home, had been exemplary. As she had just led her school to an unexpected one-nil victory in the final of the Challenge Cup, this should have been one of the proudest days of her life. Yet now she was absent whilst her teammates were celebrating their victory in the sixth-form common room.

The door to the headmaster’s study was closed, and the red light adjacent was illuminated. There was one other occupant in the administration office; Faith Northcott, the young English teacher who coached the football team along with Gwenda Chase, the school’s sports mistress. Faith, who was seated on a third chair to Robert’s right, had come to support her star player while Gwenda was handing out glasses of champagne and dainty smoked salmon sandwiches to the remainder of the team before they joined their fellow students for dinner.

Behind the oak door, Ernest Eastern-Roberts, seated in his captain’s-style chair behind his matching mahogany pedestal desk, was in conversation with no fewer than three of his governors; Mrs Rosalind Marks QC JP, the Chairman of the Governors, Sir Reginald Ponsett, the Vice-Chair, and Belinda Upshott-Burke, a descendent of the school’s founder and CEO of the Lady Upshott’s Foundation, which owned the school.

The impressive gathering had finally agreed on the answers to the three questions it had asked itself.

First, Mrs Upshott-Burke in her role as trustee of the Lady Upshott’s Foundation proposed that the whole team should be awarded their school colours, in the traditional form of an enamelled lapel badge adorned with the Lady Upshott’s crest, at assembly the following morning. She further proposed that the Foundation would pay for the whole team and their two coaches to have dinner and an overnight stay at Axington Manor Country House Hotel and Spa on the weekend after A-level exams finished. This was agreed, although Mrs Marks had insisted Roberta Peale should not be awarded her colours with the rest, due to her disgraceful behaviour.

Ernest backed down and appeared to agree.

He noted down on a pad that;

Roberta Peale is not to be awarded her school colours at assembly on Monday 13th May.

Ernest had already decided on a means of circumventing the intention of this vindictive act against his exceptional student.

On the second point, it had been reluctantly agreed Lady Upshott’s would not seek to defend their title by competing in the 1986/7 season’s Challenge Cup. Their girls would never in future be subjected to the violence they had to put up with during the final against the far from ladylike girls from the much larger Highfield Comprehensive School. Highfield, once a private girls’ school itself, had been in financial difficulties until its buildings and grounds had been purchased by the local education authority. It was expanded and turned into a mixed comprehensive school, somehow retaining its place in the challenge cup.

The Lady Upshott’s decision had been made more pressing because the organisers of the Challenge Cup had decided the previous month that, for the following season, the number of teams competing would be doubled to thirty-two. Invitations to enter were to be extended to more state comprehensive and grammar schools, with no previous history as private girls-only schools. The governors agreed that football would therefore continue at Lady Upshott’s only as an inter-house five-a-side competition, and the school’s games focus would return to hockey.

The two groups on either side of the headmaster’s door had then each relived what they had witnessed during the game and, in particular, the way the game ended.

An accident to the original neutral referee, who sprained her ankle prior to kick-off, meant she could only act as the timekeeper. The games mistress for Highfield, Miss Slyde, appointed herself as referee. She proved to be somewhat less than impartial, often overruling Faith Northcott and one of the player’s fathers who were acting as assistant referees running the line. To say that Highfield’s approach was overly physical would be an understatement.

First, Lady Upshott’s had been denied a goal, incorrectly ruled out for offside. Then one of the Lady Upshott’s players had to be substituted, having been injured following a particularly vicious tackle. Three other Lady Upshott’s players also sustained minor injuries before Lady Upshott’s finally broke the deadlock just before half-time. From a corner-kick, whilst the opponents were concentrating on the three Lady Upshott’s players in the six-yard box, the left-footed Lotte Raeder swung the ball out to the edge of the penalty area where Roberta was waiting. Bobbie’s, hard, low, right-foot, shot deflected off the post and into the net. One-nil to Lady Upshott’s.

Highfields had made one change at half-time and, continuing their physical approach to the game, pressed forward themselves. On the break, a long clearance from Bobbie led to a reckless challenge on a Lady Upshott’s forward and another injury. With only five minutes of the second half gone, Lady Upshott’s had used both their outfield substitutes.

After that, there had been chances for both sides, but the strange refereeing decisions continued. Highfield was awarded a penalty following a blatant dive from their centre-forward, which was brilliantly saved by Nicola (Nicki) Hamilton-Fforbes, the stunningly beautiful blonde and only daughter of a Scottish baronet.

Two more Lady Upshott’s girls were then awarded unjustified yellow cards, whilst more serious infractions from Highfield went unpunished, the referee apparently trying to find an excuse to send off one or more Lady Upshott’s girls to turn the tide.

One minute to go and, in the left corner at Lady Upshott’s end, Faith Northcott was again over-ruled. Instead of a goal kick to Lady Upshott’s, Highfield was awarded a corner. Miss Arbuthnot, the original neutral referee and now the official timekeeper, looked at Miss Slyde and tapped her watch. Miss Slyde held up three fingers to indicate additional injury-time to be played, while Miss Arbuthnot shook her head.

When Highfield took the corner kick, the ball came in high and, as Nicola timed her jump perfectly to catch the ball with both hands, two Highfield girls jumped with her with their elbows out, playing the player and not the ball. Nicola was knocked off-balance by an elbow in the back, while another player’s elbow struck her on the temple just above her right eye. As a stunned Nicola fell to the ground, she kept her hands on the ball and tried to gather it to her. It was at that point the Highfield centre-forward rushed in and, with all her force, kicked the ball from Nicola’s hands. This caused the goalkeeper’s left wrist to be bent right back and, as the Highfield girl’s boot followed through, it struck Nicola a glancing blow to the top of her head. As Nicola’s world briefly went dark, the ball rocketed towards the top right-hand corner of the Lady Upshott’s goal.

Roberta had positioned herself to cover the goal line when Nicola went for the ball. Like everyone else, she was certain the referee should blow for a foul on the goalkeeper. As the ball rocketed goalwards, Roberta jumped to try to head it clear but, realising that she would not make it, she extended her left hand and palmed the ball away. Had she been a goalkeeper, the save would have been spectacular but, as Bobbie picked herself up, the whistle went. Needless to say, Miss Slyth was not penalising the multiple fouls on Nicola which resulted in her having to be substituted. On the contrary, she was pointing to the penalty spot whilst simultaneously reaching for her red card.

Roberta was sent off.

A disconsolate Roberta was making her way to the changing room when a wrong-footed Danielle Monfort, the substitute goalkeeper, spectacularly saved the penalty with her feet. It was the last kick of the game. Lady Upshott’s had won, albeit with three players with quite serious injuries and many more with bruises. However, a Lady Upshott’s girl had been sent off in a competitive match for the first time in more than twenty years.

Shortly afterwards, the team was heading back to Lady Upshott’s in the school’s recently purchased minibus, accompanied by their supporters in the vintage Albion school coach. Both vehicles were painted in the school colours of burgundy, gold and grey, and sported the Lady Upshott’s crest. The atmosphere in both these vehicles was euphoric. The minibus contained the team including the substitutes, all of whom had played their part. Two staff members who acted as coaches for the girls, the young English teacher, Faith Northcott, and the experienced gym teacher, the redoubtable Mrs Gwenda Chase, accompanied them. The two buses were followed by a number of cars heading for the same destination, one of which contained Roberta and her father.

Roberta had been about to board the minibus when she was told by Mrs Rosalind Marks, the chair of the governors, that she could not travel back with the team and must return with her father in his car.

“The headmaster will need to see both you and Mr Peale in his study when you get back, to discuss your totally unacceptable conduct. I warn you that I shall be pressing for the most severe sanctions.”

Mrs Marks then turned her back on the astonished father and daughter and walked off to join the remaining governors.

****

In the headmaster’s study, everyone except Mrs Marks praised Roberta’s efforts, her commitment, her captaincy, and her contribution to the game. They felt her handball and sending-off should be overlooked due to the fact that all the other officials and almost all the spectators were convinced Nicola had been fouled by three players, and that the wrong player had been sent off. Further, they wanted a formal complaint to be made, both about the Highfield school tactics and about the conduct of the replacement referee. Ernest confirmed the appointed independent referee would herself be sending in a report with the same concerns.

Mrs Marks, however, objected strongly to any such challenge to authority. She contended that Roberta Peale being sent off was a disgrace to the school and brought Lady Upshott’s into disrepute. She stressed the conduct concerned was unforgivable, especially for a pupil who was both the team captain and the head girl.

Mrs Marks, an old girl of the school herself, had actually written a history of the school, published three years before, to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the school’s founding, and she cited precedent.

“There have only been five times, in the hundred and three years of Lady Upshott’s existence, where one of our young ladies has been sent off playing for the school; 1934 lacrosse, 1949 hockey, 1965 hockey, two players in the same game, and now 1986 football. In all the previous cases the young lady concerned was caned and two pupils were also expelled, in 1934 and 1964. We can in conscience do no less or it will be seen as an abrogation of standards. I insist Roberta Peale must be caned!”

Ernest looked at Mrs Marks with disgust, and replied slowly and carefully.

“There is no binding precedent. There are certain breaches of the school rules for which the handbook states the use of the cane is compulsory, after notification of the parents, with a minimum of three strokes and a maximum of six, or eight with the permission of the board of governors.

“These are; bullying in any form. A pupil who fails to intervene or to report the bullying shall be deemed an accomplice to the bully and be treated accordingly. Theft, irrespective of how small the sum involved. Vandalism, which is an attack on the facilities which we all share and which generations of benefactors and parents have provided for the benefit of students. Conduct which brings the good name of Lady Upshott’s into disrepute. Cheating or the deliberate telling of untruths. And, finally, as a last resort where the only alternative is expulsion.

“Getting sent off whilst playing for the school is not a mandatory caning offence. In fact, it is not listed in the school rules as a specific offence at all. As I have insisted many times in the past, I will only punish a girl if I am certain she is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. If she does not confess, then I need to have evidence. The evidence that I have, including that of my own eyes and the response of the spectators from both sides, does not lead me to believe Roberta Peale’s sending-off has in any way damaged the school’s reputation with the community. I am inordinately proud of the way in which each and every one of our young ladies comported herself this afternoon in the face of violence and intimidation. I would point out that Roberta was not sent off for violent conduct, nor for dissent. I will, however, bring her in, together with her father, to discuss her conduct. I will then decide upon, and if necessary administer, any appropriate chastisement, whether in the form of a caning or an appropriate lesser punishment.”

“Very well, headmaster.” Mrs Marks was unimpressed. “But will you assure me that you will, at the very least, strip her of her role as head girl and captain of football?”

“No, Mrs. Marks I shall not. The appointment and dismissal of the head girl is entirely a matter for the head teacher. It is my intention that Roberta will remain to continue her exemplary performance in that role until she leaves us in six weeks’ time. Stripping her of the captaincy would, in any case, be nonsense; as today was the last external match of the term and she will not be with us next term.”

Ernest continued. “Right, can we now adjourn, as I have both Roberta and her father outside with Faith Northcott, and I would like to get this matter resolved?”

Mrs Upshott-Burke, another of the school’s governors, a very elegant blonde woman in her early forties, was next to speak.

“Thank you, headmaster. I think our discussions are concluded. Please ask your assistant to make the necessary arrangements at Axington Manor. I would like to join the team now, with Sir Reginald, to congratulate them and give them the good news. Perhaps Mrs Marks would accompany us?”

Rosalind Marks declined, but all three left the office together.

Ernest then invited Roberta, her father, and Faith Northcott into his study. Faith took one of the two armchairs and Robert was directed to a small chesterfield to the right of Ernest’s imposing mahogany pedestal desk.

Roberta was dressed in her immaculate sixth-form uniform. A burgundy cardigan, with the light-green trim on the pockets indicating Nightingale house, her blue and gold head girl’s badge on her left lapel, a tailored medium-length mid-grey skirt worn over white lace hold-up stockings, a white satin blouse, and a pair of patent leather low-heeled shoes. She moved towards the carpet in front of the desk.

“Roberta, take a seat next to your father. We do need to discuss what happened on the pitch today and why. In particular, we need to consider how you came to be the first girl from Lady Upshott’s to be sent off in an inter-school match for twenty years.”

As she sat, Roberta spoke quietly and sadly.

“I am so sorry, Sir. I really have no excuse. We had all done so well to control ourselves during the game, where some of the decisions were challenging and the physical tackles more robust than we had previously experienced, with Kiera and Louisa both being badly injured. Despite the yellow cards, there was no actual dissent, and we just got on with things. There was less than a minute to go when Nicki was fouled by two of their players and then had the ball kicked from her hands. She was hurt and the ball was flying towards the goal. I dived and tried to head it, but I was not going to reach it, and I could not let them score. It was so unfair! So, I reached out with my left hand and you know the rest. When I thought about it afterwards, although it turned out all right with Danni’s wonderful save, it was a stupid thing to do. If they had scored, we would have faced extra time with a player short, which may have made all the difference. I think I let the team and you down, Sir. I probably deserve to be punished and I will accept whatever sanction you think appropriate.”

“Roberta, you say you deserve to be punished, but for what? Which school rule have you broken? You were sent off, somewhat unfairly, by a less than satisfactory referee, not for violent conduct, not even for dissent, but for an instinctive, although mistaken reaction. Do you honestly think that brought the school into disrepute, or was this just an error of common sense in the heat of the moment?”

Roberta took a deep breath. “Well Sir, Disrepute? No, I think not. Having considered the matter, I do not feel that I have brought the school into disrepute by what I did, as I think most people would understand. But surely getting sent off in itself is a serious offence, and what I did was a breach of good sportsmanship as it was a breach of the rules of the game?”

Roberta’s initial reaction to his words was a sense of relief to the headmaster.

At the same time, Roberta was just a little disappointed. She had psyched herself up, expecting to receive the cane, and was determined to take her punishment bravely.

Roberta’s impeccable behaviour had meant that, throughout her time at Lady Upshott’s, she had never even experienced a teacher’s plimsoll, let alone the headmaster’s tawse or cane, neither had she been spanked or slippered at home since she was fourteen years old.

“So, Roberta, do you feel your instinctive reaction in an otherwise most impressive performance does merit some punishment?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“On the one hand, although you are eighteen years old, if your reaction was merely childish, maybe a slippering over my knee like a little girl might fit the bill?”

Roberta was silent. Slippered over his knee like a little girl? It was such a childish punishment, and it would be so embarrassing if he spanked hard and long enough with his slipper to make her cry. She felt herself blushing and looked up with concern.

Ernest recognised her expression and teasingly continued, “On the other hand, you made your save with your left hand, did you not?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“And you are right-handed?

Yes, Sir.”

“So maybe it would be apt to just apply four strokes with my tawse to your left hand?”

Roberta was horrified. She knew the headmaster did not normally approve of punishing on the hand.

“Please Sir, not on the hand.”

“Or six on your bottom, over your skirt?”

“Sir?”

“Yes, Roberta?”

“Well, Sir, If I had cheated in an exam or a test, then I would have been given the cane, even if I didn’t do it for myself; for example, by allowing someone to copy me.”

“You most certainly would. Cheating is a mandatory caning offence, with a minimum of three strokes, or an alternative of three weeks suspension, but that is hardly relevant.”

“Well Sir, it might be. I think a football game is a type of test of sporting skill, and the rules are there to make the game fair to both sides, as they are in tests and exams.”

“I suppose you could put it that way. Go on.” Ernest could see where the conversation was heading but wondered why.

“So, breaking the rules by, for example, handling the ball to prevent the other side from scoring, is sort of like cheating, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps.”

“Therefore, any girl who actually gets sent off for having deliberately broken a rule deserves the cane, even if her conduct has not brought the school into disrepute. The way I see it, Sir, you really have no choice but to give me at least three strokes of the cane.”

Ernest looked across at Faith Northcott, the young English teacher and football coach. Her burgundy, gold, and grey tracksuit failed to disguise her curvy five-foot-five-inch frame, her gold-rimmed glasses enhancing rather than detracting from her pretty features. She wore her long chestnut hair in a smart ponytail. He saw an enchantingly rare combination of studious sophistication and vulnerability. Ernest recalled when she had started as a student teacher, completing her final post-graduate teacher training at Lady Upshott’s. He pondered the huge progress she had made to become a valued and respected teacher, now nearing the end of her first year as a permanent staff member.

He realised that it was Faith, having grown up with three elder brothers who were not too proud to kick a ball around with their little sister, who had recognised that there were enough girls who might like an alternative to hockey to form a football team. It was Faith who had persuaded him to allow her to have an old lacrosse pitch converted to a football pitch. It was also Faith who had then worked tirelessly, with an initially less than enthusiastic Gwenda Chase, to build the team’s skill, belief, and spirit.

“And may I have your opinion, Miss Northcott?”

“That is absolutely ridiculous! The cheating rule was never designed to punish behaviour on the sporting field. I insist that the entirety of Roberta’s performance this afternoon be considered before you decide to punish her. Any decision must also take into account her previous outstanding academic and sporting achievements and the fact that, until today, she has an impeccable disciplinary record. She has admitted her mistake and, as her coach and teacher, I do not think she should be punished at all.”

When the attractive young teacher tossed her hair and banged her fist on the arm of the armchair in frustration, Ernest smiled. She might just as well have said, “So there!”

He then looked across at his friend, Roberta’s father.

“Robert, old chap, as you know, here at Lady Upshott’s, before a student may be caned, it is necessary that her parents are advised and given a chance to make representations. If I were to advise you that I had decided to award Roberta the minimum of three strokes of the cane across her bottom, would you give your consent to the punishment being carried out as an alternative to a three-week suspension?”

Robert looked at his daughter and then back at his friend.

“Well, she seems to have done a very good job of talking herself into this. Suspension, even for three days let alone three weeks, this close to her exams, is out of the question. As you are being as lenient as you can, you have my consent. Roberta has made her bed, so to speak, and will have to lie on it.” He chuckled. “Even if it might be on her tummy! Sorry, darling.”

Ernest nodded. He collected the smallest of the four canes, the ‘Junior’ cane, from the cupboard and the Punishment Book from the bookshelf, placing both items on the desk. He then took up his pen, opened the punishment book, and made the necessary entry in his immaculate copper-plate writing. He then stood.

“Right, young lady. Stand up, raise the back of your skirt, then bend over my desk and grasp the far side. Three strokes of the ‘Junior’ cane over your knickers.”

As Roberta stood, she looked out of the headmaster’s window which was partly opened. She saw all her teammates standing outside with Mrs Upshott-Burke and Sir Reginald. Ernest and Robert followed her gaze and, as they turned to look, the chanting broke out.

“Bobbie, Bobbie, Bobbie!” Then, softly but increasing in volume, the chanting was replaced by the clear words of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, sung beautifully, with the gentle bass of Sir Reginald blending with the ladies’ voices.

Ernest smiled. He was not in the least angry, but rather somewhat impressed. It was not, however, going to affect his decision.

Then Bobbie spoke quietly. “Daddy, you know your old rule; punished at school, if the punishment is justified, means a punishment at home.”

“Yes Darling, and yes, I am afraid it will apply in this case.”

“I know, Daddy, but, you see, it will be six weeks before I see you again. So, as you are here now and Mr Eastern-Roberts has decided that I should be given three strokes of the cane, could you also give me your punishment, here and now, so I can get it over with and not have to wait?”

Roberta then turned to the headmaster. “Sir, I don’t want anyone else getting into trouble on my account, may I speak to them please?”

Ernest smiled and replied most gently. “You may, but only after you have been punished. But don’t worry, Bobbie, none of the others are in any trouble.”

Roberta looked up at his soft expression and the use of her nickname.

Her father asked his friend, the headmaster, for the use of a slipper and then, taking his daughter by the hand, led her back to the chesterfield, placed her over his knees, and lifted her skirt.

“With the headmaster’s permission, I think I will go first.”

Outside, under the window, as the song came to an end, the assembled team heard not the swish-thwack of the cane but the ‘thwap’ of a slipper striking a soft silk-covered feminine bottom. There was a stunned pause before Sir Reginald started a reprise and was joined to an extent that the group could not hear the remaining five spanks or Bobbie’s quiet oohs and ouches in response. They were still singing at the tops of their voices when Robert let his daughter stand and she bent submissively over the headmaster’s desk.

The song was only halfway through when Ernest, having examined the delightful bottom which was showing a faint pink tinge through her ivory silk French knickers, applied his first stroke just above the mid-point of her buttocks. He did not cane anywhere near as hard as he could, but had applied two more perfectly parallel strokes of moderate intensity across the centre of the perfectly presented posterior before the singing finished. The cane had briefly indented the soft curves each time, imparting a very memorable sting to which the delightful young lady’s suppressed squeals eloquently attested. These sounds also went unheard by those assembled outside.

When Roberta was permitted to stand, her eyes were bright but she was not crying, although the cheeks of her beautiful face were blushing pink. Her hands briefly came round to rub her bottom, the bright pink of her buttocks from the slipper now also marked by three parallel scarlet stripes, before she signed the punishment book.

“Thank you, Sir. Justice has, I think, been done.”

“Not quite, Roberta.”

Bobbie looked up in alarm. It may not have been a severe caning but, having been applied after a slippering she really did not want any more.

Ernest reached into his pocket and pulled out a little enamelled broach.

“Before you go and meet your friends, I have pleasure in publicly recognising your achievements by awarding you your school colours.”

The headmaster pinned the broach just below her head girl’s badge, and then kissed her on the forehead.

“Roberta, you are a truly exceptional young lady and I am so proud of you.”

With a muttered word of thanks, she then threw herself into her father’s loving arms.

Robert added, “As am I, Roberta. I must be the proudest man in the world at the moment. I love you, my darling girl.”

“Thank you both, it means so much. Although, in the future, I think I will seek less painful ways of earning your approbation. May I go now?”

Ernest smiled. “Of course, but I would like to see you in my study immediately after breakfast to discuss your role at tomorrow’s assembly. I would like you to present every member of your team with their colours, and you will also announce the surprise reward for the whole team.”

Ernest smiled at Faith and Robert and added, “Well, I only promised Mrs Marks that Bobbie would not be awarded her school colours with the rest tomorrow; and now she won’t be!”

Roberta left, with a smile on her pretty face but ruefully rubbing her bottom. The chanting outside had restarted but became cheers when they spotted her. She was carried shoulder-high back to the refectory for dinner in a manner that protected her sore bottom. As they did so, the cheers turned into a loud rendition of the first verse of the school song.

Lady Upshott showed the way,

leading by example.

Each of us must seize our chance,

to be the best that we can be.

Nothing shall dismay us.

One for all and all for one.

Kind, compassionate, and strong.

During the following morning’s assembly, Ernest congratulated the team and the two teachers who had spent so much time coaching and encouraging them, on their achievements.

He lauded Roberta’s contribution to the game and concluded, “Roberta felt she had let you down yesterday, although in no way did her actions bring the school into disrepute. She pointed out that deliberate handball was cheating and that cheating was a mandatory caning offence. In view of the circumstances, she was given the minimum punishment of three strokes of the cane over her knickers, which you will not be surprised to hear she bore with exceptional fortitude; and more concern for the plight of those demonstrating on her behalf than for her own punishment. She was awarded her colours yesterday evening.”

There was giggling in the hall as Bobbie rubbed her bottom at the memory. Ernest merely smiled and pressed on.

“So now it gives me great pleasure to ask Miss Roberta Peale, head girl and captain of football to present their school colours to the following;”

As each girl’s name was read out, they came forward and the headmaster handed Bobbie their broach, which she pinned to the cardigans of the sixth formers and to the blazers of the two fifth formers.

A few weeks later, immediately after their exams, the team thoroughly enjoyed their twenty-four hours of luxury pampering at Axington Manor. Half the team then left to pursue higher education. Although their successors did not have the opportunity to play competitively on the football field for some fifteen years, with the school reverting to playing just hockey and tennis against other schools, the spirit of Lady Upshott’s lived on.

As for Roberta, she often thought about that fateful day. She realised that her punishment had done her no lasting harm and had also taught her a lot about herself and her needs. Having obtained the results necessary to go to her first-choice university she did not look back, making the most of her opportunities to be the best that she could be.

The End

© Capstan 2022