Too much pride and a lack of self-control, and under mother’s watchful eye.
By Joanna Jones
My grandparents lived in a Victorian townhouse in the city of Durham in the north of England. The house was on three floors. On the two upstairs floors there were four bedrooms and a bathroom with the downstairs having two reception rooms and a smaller corridor, accessed through an extra door, that led down a couple of steps, though to the kitchen which was well to the back in almost an annexe, with a utility area though another door off the kitchen.
Perhaps it was that that made the house so quiet. While my grandmother bustled around her room at the back, the rest of the house was quiet. Very quiet.
Even as kids, with my two older brothers in the house too, it never seemed noisy. I never got over how peaceful the house always was.
The long main hall had very high ceilings, a feature of the downstairs reception rooms in particular, and with thick walls providing further insulation the tick-tock of a grandfather clock was the dominant, well really the only, sound. Next to it was a coat-stand. On it hung my grandfather’s hats – he always wore a hat or bonnet out, and in the bottom were his walking sticks, and I do not recall him leaving without his stick also.
Among the stiff wooden walking sticks was a short flexible stick. As a child I thought it must have been my uncle’s to use when he was little, to copy his father. The concept that my grandfather might have gone out without a stick even as a younger man seemed difficult for me to imagine as a young child and, when I was older, my curiosity about it was gone. In any case my grandfather was at the tail end of a generation where a middle aged, middle class man going out for a walk with a walking cane might not be considered that unusual.
It was not until I was eighteen that I found out differently.
My father was busy with work on the weekend in question and both my older brothers were elsewhere on summer jobs during their university vacation. I was still living at home, in Edinburgh, and had a part time job. My mother and I both had weekends free, so in early July we decided to visit her parents and spend the night there.
Mum drove down the A1 on Saturday morning in the family Ford Cortina. We left early and as a result we were there well before lunch. Being a gorgeous day it was decided that we would go out for lunch and then a walk over one of the North of England Moors.
Mum let me drive. The roads were quiet and after an enjoyable lunch we all had a very pleasant walk.
I drove again on the way back and perhaps forgot that I had my grandparents with me, as well as my mum. I was in my youth, I suppose, a bit of a ‘girl racer’ and enjoyed driving quickly. I would not say too fast but let’s say I liked to push it a bit. However, whipping the car round the quiet windy road I expect did not impress my grandparents and it was my grandfather in the front who first made a mild comment. It certainly did not impress my mother who told me to slow down.
Looking back on it, I suppose I was a bit silly and I rather ignored her. As I marginally cut the corner once too often a car came round the road quickly on the other side and I had to swerve slightly to avoid it. There was never any danger, but it certainly caused my grandfather in the front to flinch, and my mother was definitely less than impressed.
She ordered me to stop the car at the next lay-by and she would drive home. Irritated and embarrassed in front of my grandparents, I indicated rather clearly that I had had the situation under control and refused to do so.
To say things got a bit tense in the car would be an understatement. There was a very embarrassed silence from my grandparents as mother and I had our showdown. Mum was demanding I stop immediately and I was ignoring her, and still driving fairly quickly.
However, I then cut another corner slightly and it was a wider white van coming the other way, probably going a little too fast for the road also as he was clearly struggling to stay on his side of the road on for him the inside of the bend. There was no question that I was most in the wrong though as I had to brake and swerve more violently to avoid him and in the process, to exclamations from my passengers, my offside wheel ended on the verge and the wing mirror just clipped a road sign pole knocking it off. I suppose I was lucky not to have hit the pole more properly.
Having missed the van, it disappeared down the road.
Of course I had no option now but to stop. My mother got out the car to inspect the damage as I sat in a bit of shock. I knew that it had been a far too close a miss! My grandfather, sitting in the front, gave me a look that can only be described as ‘disappointed’.
It was my grandmother who said: “Jane dear, after a shock like that I think for anybody it’s best not to drive. Come and sit with me in the back.”
Silently I did as asked. I briefly wondered about speaking to my mother who was picking up the remains of the wing mirror from the ground. However, one look at her face indicated that she was still far too angry.
The remainder of the journey back to my grandparent’s home was conducted in silence.
As the car pulled up outside the house my mother suggested to her parents that they get a cup of tea in the kitchen; she wanted to have a chat with me in our bedroom – we were sharing the twin bedded room which was on the top floor of the house.
I felt rather glum as I knew mum mother was going, and I recognised now quite rightly, to tear a strip off me for my behaviour.
The grandfather clock was ticking slowly away as we entered the house. As I started to climb the stair I heard a rattle, which I thought was my grandfather putting his stick away. However, my grandmother suddenly said in a mild plea. “Rose, no…”
I turned round to see my mother holding the short stick in her hand, having clearly extracted it from the coat-stand.
My blood froze.
Glancing at my slack jawed face my mother glared at me. “Get up those stairs now!” She ordered.
As I reluctantly climbed the two fairly long flights to the top floor I heard my grandfather, say: “Go easy on her, Rose. I am sure the shock has made her learn her lesson.”
All I heard from mum in reply was: “Why don’t you get the kettle on and have that cup of tea. I won’t be too long.” She then started to follow me up the stairs.
I was beginning to panic as I entered the bedroom. My mother had not used physical punishment (her hand or her hairbrush) for years on me, but judging by the reaction of my grandparents to her picking the stick out, that was all about to change. Further in all my visits to my grandparents neither I nor my brothers had ever been spanked by my parents or grandparents, even though I am sure there are times we’d have received it at home for equivalent misbehaviour.
I only had a brief time to think before mum came in and firmly closed the door. The short crook handled stick was in her hand and it was liberally used as a pointer (at me) as she let fly with her anger. She had been clearly bottling it up as she drove us home.
I don’t think my mother ever reduced me so effectively as she did on that day, as she went on about my foolishness, disobedience and pride that had nearly got us all killed. That was to say nothing of the embarrassment that her daughter should behave like that in front of her parents, as well as of course the damage that was done to the car.
She did not stop until I was literally sobbing apologies to her.
Suddenly she took a deep breath and said: “I know what your grandmother would have done to me if I’d behaved in such a despicable manner, and that is exactly what is about to happen to you.”
With that she threw the cane on her bed and made a grab for the belt on my jeans, and ruthlessly slapped away my involuntary reaction to stop her with my hands.
“Stand still, unless you want extra!” She ordered angrily.
I dropped my mildly stinging hands to my sides and closed my eyes as she roughly undid the belt and the buckle underneath, before the fly was undone and they were yanked down to my knees. I gasped as my knickers made the same journey simultaneously.
Forcing me backwards I ended up lying on my back on the bed as she removed both items completely leaving me naked from the waist down. To say that I was mortified being stripped like that by my mother would be an understatement.
I was begging as she grabbed the two pillows on my bed and got me to roll onto my tummy with the pillows under my hips.
“Hold still, if you move I’ll start again!” My mother ordered. By this point the cane was in her right hand again.
“Oww!” I screamed, more in shock, as truth be told it was not quite as bad as I expected.
Thwip! …. Thwip!….
Each blow was not especially hard. I suppose the cane was short and quite old so she certainly was not using it as an English school headmaster might. However, the smacks kept coming, one quickly after another, and my bottom, unused to such pain, was soon strongly objecting.
After eight or so I rolled over and asked her how many as the pain was getting pretty bad.
The reply was: if you lie still you’ll find out, and that she was now starting again!
On that I begged tearfully but mum was adamant and I eventually rolled back on to my stomach. This time I took a very firm grip of the mattress edges.
The ‘thwips’ started again. I was soon sobbing and sobbing as the blows landed over and over.
I think I received somewhere around two or three dozen of those whipped blows in almost certainly less than a minute, before she finally briefly stopped, leaving my bottom stinging and sore.
She then let have me two significantly harder whacks right at the base of my bottom. Two resulting tearful screams at that, before she told me to remain in the room and think about my behaviour.
My bottom was bright red all over as I lay on my bed in a state between tears and shock.
An hour later the pain was more of an ache and the redness beginning to fade to leave some bruising, along with an uncomfortable red weal right at the lowest point of my bottom, both of which lasted a few days.
The call came to come down for dinner and, washing my face, I went rather nervously downstairs to apologise to everyone for my driving and attitude.
As I got to the hall I saw the short cane was back in the coat-stand. I felt the ache in my bottom more consciously as I looked at it with a new found respect.