My mother developed multiple sclerosis – leaving her in a wheelchair – when I was just three years old. This placed many extra burdens on my father – including that of smacking my bottom when my parents thought it necessary. These were never terribly brutal events – I was generally put over his knee and had the seat of my trousers dusted a bit with his hand.
But when I was seven, our little world was again turned upside down when my dad – a travelling sales rep – was killed in a road accident. Although I was old enough to help a little around the house now, there was so much that mother had to rely on others for – in particular our next door neighbour, Aunty Pat (people of a certain age will remember how we children were taught to call adult family friends ‘Aunty’ and ‘Uncle’).
For a while after the tragedy, discipline was probably the least of mum’s concerns and I got away with murder for many a month until the issue finally became unavoidable. Mum was clearly in no fit state to administer corporal punishment herself, yet she wholeheartedly believed that I needed it. So it was arranged that when I was a naughty boy, I would be sent round to Aunty Pat, who would give me a well-smacked bottom instead.
Some of you who were more spirited children will wonder at how I went so meekly for these smackings – but although I could be as naughty and disobedient as the next youngster, at heart I was a sensitive little boy who loved his mum. When I transgressed, I was much more upset and ashamed about having been naughty enough to deserve corporal punishment than I was about the spanking itself.
That’s not to say these encounters didn’t hurt, of course. Aunty Pat was a large, muscular woman (she worked as a cleaner, so was accustomed to manual labour) with short, very curly hair. She had three daughters of her own, all older than me.
A ‘good smacked bottom’ was the standard remedy for naughty children back in 1970s Britain and I often heard Aunty Pat disciplining the girls – the unmistakeable sound of a child crying and bare buttocks being slapped drifting through open windows.
The routine for me was always the same. When I misbehaved, mum would phone up Aunty Pat and would relay details of my latest misdemeanour. My head would be hung in shame and my face blushing as she told Aunty Pat exactly what her little boy had done naughty.
Then there would be one of two outcomes. Normally, Aunty Pat would tell mum to send me ‘straight round’ – this was awful but at least got the punishment over with. However, on some occasions, Aunty Pat would be about to go out to work, or go shopping etc. In this case, she would name a time for mum to send me round. Mum would usually send me to my room until then, and I would spend the next few hours with a knot in my stomach, anticipating what was going to happen to my bum.
Whenever the time came, I would walk (very slowly) down our driveway and up Aunty Pat’s to her back door. I would knock, and she would open the door with a stern look on her face. Generally, she would say something like: “Who’s been a naughty boy, then?” or: “I believe someone needs his bottom smacking?” and I would be ushered into the house.
The back door led straight into Aunty Pat’s kitchen, where she did all her smacking – mine at least; I think the girls were often punished in their rooms, ready for bed immediately afterwards. I, by contrast, had to face the ‘walk of shame’ back to my house, with a tear-stained face and holding my freshly-smacked bottom.
On these occasions, Aunty Pat would invariably be wearing a flowery housework apron, covering her ample breasts, or occasionally a nylon house coat in a blue check pattern. She would draw a kitchen chair out from the table, sit down on it and order me to stand next to her.
She didn’t waste words on a lecture – she knew my mum would have already said what she had to say on the subject. Instead, she quickly dropped my shorts and pants and put me over her knee in time-honoured fashion.
Aunty Pat never used an implement but she could smack bottoms for England! Her work-hardened hand stung like a wasps nest against my bare bum, and the smacking lasted a good long time, too. I was usually over her knee for at least five minutes and afterwards, it was like someone had installed central heating in my pants.
I would have a good cry afterwards and Aunty Pat would cuddle me while I stood in front of her, red bottom still on show, until I’d calmed down enough to have my pants pulled up and be sent home. The one mercy was that the girls were never present when I was smacked – I presume Aunty Pat must have ordered them to give us privacy. But they still knew whenever I had my bottom tanned, and teased me about it sometimes too.
When I got home, mum would tell me to drop my pants again so she could inspect my smacked bottom, then I would normally be sent to bed for an hour or so to think about my behaviour.
Although they hurt a great deal, Aunty Pat’s smackings did me a lot of good. I became much better behaved and a real help to my mum as she increasingly struggled with her illness. I loved Aunty Pat very much, despite her hard right hand, and was devastated when she died, quite young, from cancer.