A girl caned at school has to face the music again at home.
by Sally Cavendish
The girl strap-hanging between Finsbury Park and Walthamstow on the Victoria Line of the London Underground was looking so miserable that her fellow passengers instinctively gave her a wide berth. She was quite pretty, with a shock of strawberry blonde hair, and her tartan school skirt, revealing several inches of bare thigh, gave her a jaunty air. But there was nothing jaunty about her face. Her eyes were blood-shot, as if she had been crying, and her mouth was set in a sullen pout of defiance. Boyfriend trouble? It was possible. But the fact that she was strap-hanging, when there were plenty of seats available, suggested the real explanation.
Scarcely an hour before, 17-year-old Sally Peters, a sixth-former at St Aloysius School for Girls, had been given what her headmistress, Dr Stephanie Parker MA, euphemistically called a ‘reminder’. This, in plain English, was a good old-fashioned dose of corporal punishment, as still widely administered in the 1970s, even in many girls’ schools.
“I think you need to be reminded that running in corridors is not permitted. Come and see me after school and I will give you a reminder of the standards I expect from sixth-formers. I hope I don’t need to remind you.”
The code was hardly subtle. The moment Dr Parker used the R-word, the poor pupil she was addressing knew exactly what was coming.
Thus it was that at exactly half-past four, having giving been a ferocious scolding for leaving the school premises without permission in the lunch break, a very nervous Sally Peters heard sentence pronounced in the headmistress’s book-lined study on the second floor.
“You have behaved very badly indeed, and you need a good reminder that such behaviour is totally unacceptable.”
‘That good sounded ominous,’ thought Sally.
“You will receive six strokes of the senior cane. They will hurt a good deal. That is the point of a caning. It is a REMINDER, both physical and mental, of what happens to naughty girls. Do I make myself clear?”
Sally nodded numbly. She had once been given three strokes of the junior cane, along with six other girls, after horsing about in class. But this sounded much, much worse.
“Take off your blazer and stand behind that chair,” the headmistress barked, walking with purpose towards the glass-fronted cupboard where she kept her canes, straps and other implements of chastisement. Eventually, she fished out one of the longer canes, nearly three feet of yellowing rattan, and gave it a couple of practise switches before addressing the girl again.
“Now bend over the back of the chair and put both hands on the seat. Come on, girl. Hurry up.”
Sally did as she was told and waited, panic mounting inside her, while Dr Parker calmly and methodically raised her tartan skirt above her waist, then did the same with her shirt-tails, so that all that was left protecting her bottom was her navy regulation knickers, stretched tight across the target area.
Dr Parker set to work with well-practised efficiency. She had been administering such beatings for nearly twenty years and liked to think, with good reason, that she knew how to use the cane in a firm, controlled way. With her feet slightly apart, to ensure balance, she lined up the cane in the middle of the proffered bottom, paused for a second, then drew the cane back, and, in a single movement, brought it lashing down.
There was a stifled yelp from Sally, which was par for the course, thought the headmistress with grim satisfaction. If you weren’t getting a reaction, it was because you weren’t caning hard enough. She lined up a second stroke, an inch or two above the first, and brought the cane down again with venomous purpose.
“Owww! Owww! OWWW!”
The girl’s curvaceous hind quarters were really starting to squirm now; another good sign as far as Dr Parker was concerned. She aimed the fourth stroke into the crease between her buttocks and her thighs, a notoriously tender spot, particularly when, as now, the knickers had ridden up a little and offered no protection. The headmistress watched impassively as an angry red welt, nearly nine inches across, rose on the exposed flesh. She knew that there would be other welts, including the two she was about to give, hidden under the knickers. A well-striped bottom indeed. Sally had indeed been ‘reminded’.
By now, both the caner and the canee were panting slightly, as if they had been engaged in some vigorous physical activity. There was a short, tense silence. Sally remained in position, bent over the chair. Her shoulders were heaving and there was a faint sobbing sound.
‘Good,’ thought the headmistress. ‘Let her sob.’
Nothing was said.
“I’m waiting, Sally,” said Dr Parker quietly.
Still silence from the girl.
“I haven’t got all day, you know.”
Finally the headmistress snapped. “I’m waiting for you to say THANK YOU!” she roared. “You know the school rules. I have had to give you a reminder and I expect you to THANK me for giving you a reminder. Let’s see if this helps.”
Without warning, she whipped down the girl’s knickers and, in a matter of seconds, had given her four extra strokes. Real stingers.
“Owww! Oww! Oww! I’m sorry, headmistress. OWWW! Thank you for my punishment, headmistress. Thank you. Thank you.”
“Good. Now tidy yourself up and stand in the corner while I write a letter to your aunt. I’m sure she will want a full report of what her niece has been up to.”
Pausing only to return the cane to its cupboard, Dr Parker strode across the study, sat down at her desk, took a fountain pen out of the drawer and started writing. And less than five minutes later, the girl had left, her bottom still stinging from its ‘reminder’, with a letter addressed to her aunt clutched in her hand.
On the Victoria Line, still strap-hanging, still sore, still fighting back tears, Sally was in a lather of indecision. It was that letter to her aunt that was playing on her mind. Aunt Harriet, who had taken over her upbringing after her mother had passed away two years before, was a kindly soul at heart, but a stickler for discipline. She took no nonsense from her niece and, on more than one occasion, had taken her across her knee to give her a good old-fashioned walloping. Sometimes she would wallop with the hand. More recently, she had favoured a leather-soled slipper which Sally had come to dread. The wallopings took place in her aunt’s bedroom and were administered, without exception, on the bare bottom. They hurt. They were meant to.
Another of Aunt Harriet’s golden rules, not uncommon among her generation, was that lessons learnt at school needed to be reinforced in the home. The maxim extended to everything from maths homework to corporal punishment, and it explains why so many head teachers of that era notified parents and guardians if their offspring had been chastised.
“Good day at school?” inquired Aunt Harriet, with a kindly smile, as her niece came through the front door.
“Fine, thanks, auntie,” Sally replied, before heading through to her room to change.
Her mind was made up. It was a risky strategy, no doubt, and the consequences of detection did not bear thinking about, but she was not, under any circumstances, going to show her aunt that letter from her headmistress.
Would she have got away with it? Who knows? But having decided on her strategy of concealment, Sally made an elementary error. Having changed out of her school uniform into jeans and T-shirt, she came downstairs half an hour later for supper and, without stopping to think, sat down on one of the hard wooden chairs at the kitchen table. The impact on her already sore bottom was immediate, and she gave an involuntary wince, whose significance was not lost on her aunt.
“Sally, what on earth! I can’t believe… Does this mean what I think it means? And you just told me you’d had a good day at school! How DARE you try and pull wool over my eyes. Come over here this minute.”
Miserably, the teenager rose and, head bowed, walked slowly across the kitchen to where her aunt was standing by the stove. Seconds later, her aunt had whipped down her jeans and knickers and was surveying her well-striped backside.
“I thought so.” Aunt Harriet paused theatrically. “And WHERE is the letter from your headmistress which I would normally expect to see in these circumstances?”
“Aunt, I’m really sorry. I forgot. It just slipped my mind. Honestly. I was going to give it to you, really I was. After supper, when I’d done my homework. I’d never lie to you. Please don’t be cross. I’ve learnt my lesson. I’m so, so sorry. Please!”
Aunt Harriet had had enough. There was a time for listening to excuses and a time for being firm.
“Upstairs,” she said quietly, almost in a whisper.
Sally opened her mouth to say something, thought better of it, then, not even bothering to pull up her jeans and underwear, made the slow, familiar climb to her aunt’s upstairs bedroom, with her aunt in close attendance.
Nothing further was said as her aunt took her slipper out of her wardrobe, pulled out the stool in front of her vanity table into the centre of the room, sat herself down and gestured to her niece to get across her lap. The stage was set for the closing scene of what Sally would later describe to friends as The Worst Day of My Life.
“If you EVER, SPLAT! try to escape the consequences, SPLAT! of your actions again, SPLAT! I will give that naughty, SPLAT! little backside of yours, SPLAT! such a walloping, SPLAT! that you won’t sit down, SPLAT! till Christmas, SPLAT! if you’re lucky, SPLAT! SPLAT! SPLAT!”
A leather-soled slipper in the hands of an angry aunt can be a formidable weapon, as Sally knew from bitter experience. It stung like hell and you could squeal and wriggle as much as you liked. It didn’t do a blind bit of a good. As for the effect of that slipper on a bottom which already bore the raised, purpling welts of a good caning, no words in Sally’s vocabulary could describe it. By the time, nearly five minutes later, her aunt had finished her ministrations, the girl had, almost literally, cried her eyes out.
“I’m very sorry, auntie,” was the best she could manage, as she hobbled to her feet.
“Good,” said Aunt Harriet, her tone finally softening. “I just hope, for your sake, that you have learnt your lesson. Now, Sally, I want you to go and stand in the corner, thinking about what you have done, for the next ten minutes. Then let’s put this whole sorry episode behind us.”
A sorry episode indeed. But by the time Sally had finally eased her jeans back over her throbbing backside, and kissed her aunt goodnight, she knew that she had only her own silly self to blame. And that lesson, however painfully instilled, was surely worth learning.
© Sally Cavendish 2020