Some pranks have a painful price

By Richard Campbell

I left St Joan’s on the 8th July. The last day at the school always meant playing pranks and having some fun. Someone wrapped a teacher’s car in brown paper. Wet sponges were thrown, and a bit of a water fight ensued. It was the usual harmless fun with the teachers turning a blind eye or occasionally getting involved. It was, however, an unwritten rule that no one was to get hurt and no damage to school property.

For my part, I decided the fountain in the school courtyard needed some attention. Pink bubble bath! After about an hour there was quite a lot of foam floating around and the water was bright pink. One of the teachers got it turned off but it caused quite a commotion.

About a week after the end of term, a formal looking letter arrived in the post addressed to Ms E Norfolk.

Dear Ms Norfolk,

As you are aware, the last day of term is traditionally a time of fun and frivolity at St Joan’s, where the formal process of learning is set aside and we celebrate another year of academic excellence.

On this occasion it appears one pupil overstepped the boundaries and caused damage to the school fountain. The jet washing and repairs cost the school £500.

My heart skipped a beat as I read further.

After an extensive investigation a number of pupils and staff have identified you as the culprit.

As you can imagine, I find it very disappointing to hear that a senior pupil has broken such a fundamental rule of our establishment; doubly so as you were involved in a previous prank which resulted in expense for the school. I would hope that you would have learnt from previous experiences, but clearly not.

Although you officially left on the 8th July, in the eyes of the school you are a member of its fraternity until the results of your exams are available.

The A level results are published and handed out at school between 9am and 11am on the 18th August.

The honourable course of action would be to own up to your actions and accept the consequences. If you choose to do so, I suggest a meeting  at 11:00 on the 18th at my house in the school grounds, where we can draw this matter to a close. 

Yours

Mr S Roberts

Headmaster

St Joan’s.

I reread the letter. My stomach churning. The options were quite clear. Ignore it? Deny it? Or own up and accept the consequences. I felt very guilty. The school had really helped me through difficult times in my life and, albeit accidentally, I had cost the school financially and damaged my reputation as a role model in the school.

I also had first-hand experience of the consequence implied. Just over a year ago I had signed a document opting into corporal punishment, and due to my own actions I got to experience it first hand. Six strokes of the cane on my bottom.  A very painful but, admittedly, well deserved lesson.

The letter effectively gave me a month to consider, so I hid the letter and got on with the holiday; a mix of seeing friends and then 2 weeks in Corfu where I had a great time.

As results day approached, I became nervous. Firstly, as I wanted the right A level grades, and secondly as I needed to make a decision about the fountain incident. My foolishness grated on me. I felt really, really guilty but, even on the morning of the 18th, I wasn’t sure if I’d go to the meeting.

My mother was out at work, so I had the rest of the day free. She wanted me to text her at work with my results. I’d already told my classmates I was unlikely to join them later in the pub. I dressed smartly. Pencil skirt and blouse, and as it was summer and I had a nice sun tan, no tights.

I arrived at at Joan’s at 10.35 am. Many had been, got their results and left. It was in the middle of the school holiday so the school was pretty empty. Only a few staff around, and the 30 upper sixth form leavers expected on site.

I collected my results and went outside to read them. I was ecstatic. I had done better than expected; 2 B’s and an A. I texted my mother and she was so pleased. I had easily achieved the grades for my university offer.

Seeing those results made me realise how much Mrs Grainger, my form tutor, had helped me. The additional lessons and extra time with her had got me those grades. I also thought back to the meetings with Mr Roberts and how he had supported me when he could have let me fail. I owed them both so much.

And now I knew what I needed to do. I plucked up courage and walked the 5 minutes to the Headmaster’s residence. A big Georgian double fronted property. Very grand.

At 10:55, I arrived at Mr Roberts’ house. I knew it well as this was where I had been given corporal punishment 18 months ago. I waited a couple of minutes and then knocked on the door. Mr Roberts came to the door, greeted me, and asked if I minded waiting for 5 minutes while he finished up some paperwork. I said no and sat down in the lounge.

True to his word he returned in five minutes and asked me to come in to his study and sit down. The meeting was unexpectedly pleasant at first as he expressed his happiness at my results.

“In some ways, it’s more satisfying to get a failing student back on track,” he stated. “Tell me about the last day and the fountain.”

“I had the idea a few weeks before,” I started. I saw little point in trying to avoid the topic. Both of us knew that being in his office was an admission of guilt. “I assumed it would just colour the water and make a little foam, but could be drained out and refilled without too much trouble. I didn’t realise how much foam. You said it needed to be jet washed?”

“Unfortunately it stained some of the stone. It was okay after being scrubbed and washed down. It could have been a lot worse, but it took time and we needed a specialist cleaning company.”

“I am so sorry, sir.”

“So, just to be clear, you admit that you caused the damage to school property, and in breach of the rules and etiquette of this establishment?”

“Yes, sir,” I confirmed.

“I really would have thought you’d learnt a lesson after the last prank.”

He referred back to an episode a few years ago when I was given triple detention, the maximum penalty other than expulsion, for a younger pupil.

“Now, in normal circumstances I would be able to give you detentions, suspend you or expel you, but clearly this is your last day at school, so none of these options are valid. In your case, we have another choice. Corporal punishment. I am sure you realised that was the most likely scenario when you came here today.”

“Yes, sir. I assumed that would be the case.”

“And you accept that as appropriate?”

“Yes, sir,” I whispered.

“That’s very brave. It can’t have been an easy decision to make.”

“No sir, but it is deserved.”

“And you assumed that the punishment would be carried out, now, at this meeting? He asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“I think that is best. It will make your last day at school memorable, to say the least.”

Mr Roberts stood.

“Shall we get on with it?”

I nodded.

“Can you stand up, please.”

Mr Roberts walked over to the cupboard I had seen before and opened it. Inside were four canes of various lengths. He chose one that was longer, and thicker than the last time I’d been caned.

“For a senior girl, and for a repeat offender, this will be most effective.” He placed it on his desk. “We need to bring that chair over. Could you place it here, facing the desk.”

It was similar to the chair I had bent over a year ago, so I understood its purpose.

“Right. Your skirt is very tight. I think you will need to remove it.”

Inwardly, I cursed myself. I should have remembered his one layer rule. All canings were on the knickers or games shorts. No point arguing. I was sure I wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last to be in this situation, and he’d already seen me in my knickers last time I was in this office. I fumbled with the clip and zip and eased the skirt down over my hips and left it fall to the floor. I picked it up and Mr Roberts suggested I place it on his desk.

“Come and stand behind the chair please.”

I stood behind the tall back. The seat pad was red velvet and quite worn. My blouse was quite long so it acted like a very short dress, but it would soon fall forward leaving my bottom very exposed. He walked to the desk and collected the cane, then flexed it in his hands.

“Norfolk. You have admitted damaging school property, and breaking the rules of this school. This is a serious matter and you will be punished accordingly. You will be getting 6 strokes of the cane.” He paused and then uttered the dreaded words. “Bend over.”

I took a deep breath and lent forward. My head approached the seat pad. I reached down and gripped the chair legs. As I expected, my blouse had fallen forward, leaving my bottom totally exposed. I felt my pants really stretched taught across my backside.

I saw the head move around to my left and felt the cane touch my pants. This time he tapped my bottom a couple of times, then I felt the cane withdraw. I gripped harder than ever and gritted my teeth. I knew this was going to hurt!

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mr Roberts draw the cane up and back, level with his shoulder. I heard a brief whistle as the cane descended and then felt and heard its impact. Thwack.

Once again, the pain was a shock. Somehow, it seemed worse this time.  I grunted and panted, trying to accept and absorb the pain.

He left about 30 seconds and then the second stroke swished in. Once again, the pain was excruciating and the residual soreness was worse. With the third stroke I cried out and stamped my feet in an effort to ease the pain. Tears were already rolling down my cheeks.

The fourth caught me low down in the crease between my bottom and my thighs. I’d read that this was a tender spot and, god, yes it was. The fifth whistled in. This time I lost my grip on the chair legs and started to rise.

I heard the Head say: “Back down, Norfolk, otherwise you will get extra.”

I knew there was only one more to go. And that was always the hardest. Despite a desire to escape, I knew I had agreed to this. I bent back over. I heard the cane swish and thwack into my bottom yet again. I screamed and sobbed and panted. My legs felt so weak that the chair was probably all that prevented me from collapsing onto the floor.

After a minute I heard Mr Roberts say I could stand up. I used the seat pad and then the back of the chair to slowly raise myself up. All dignity gone. My tears continued and he passed me a handkerchief.

“You took that very bravely. You have turned into a fine young lady. I see this matter closed and there will be no record of the misdemeanor and the punishment. Now, can I suggest you grab your skirt and go upstairs. There’s a bathroom at the top on the left. You can sort yourself out. Then come into the kitchen and we can have some tea.”

I made my way upstairs and found the bathroom. Getting my skirt back on was difficult. My bottom seemed to have swollen, and bending down was a challenge.

I stayed for about 45 minutes, chatting about my future and the head’s experiences at university, before we said our goodbyes and Mr Roberts wished me luck in the future.

Unsurprisingly, I stood for the chat, and the walk home was painful. Despite the skirt lining, the material rubbed on my sore bottom, as did the elastic on my knickers.

As before, I looked in the mirror. There were 6 parallel stripes, angry and red, which took a week to go.

Even to this day, I marvel at people who claim to enjoy being caned. I deserved it both times and it was very effective in changing my behaviour, but a formal Headmaster’s caning was definitely not enjoyable.

The End

© Richard Campbell 2019