One of my granny’s neighbours, the Innes family, were widely rumoured to be frequent smackers. On our regular visits up north, my cousins and their friends would gleefully share with us stories of being at the Innes’ house or in the local shops, even in church, and hearing Mr or Mrs Innes threatening to pull down their misbehaving children’s pants and smack them hard in front of everyone.
This particularly amused my cousin Jamie (one year my senior) and his friends, as Roddy Innes was their classmate and friend; very popular, athletic and just a little bit cocky.
The boys were thrilled by the idea of their confident friend being knocked down a peg or two by his mum or dad, and if they ever felt Roddy’s ego was getting too inflated, his friends would mockingly threaten to smack his bare bum, dissolving into fits of laughter, as poor Roddy’s face flushed with embarrassment. He would always vehemently deny the smackings actually took place, insisting that the threat was just an expression used by his parents to scare him and his little sister Heather into behaving themselves.
While I knew for a fact that Uncle Alistair and Auntie Janet smacked my cousins Jamie and Catriona at least once a month, I also knew that this was only ever four or five very hard hand smacks, delivered over clothing. For although nowhere near as taboo as it is now, by the mid-90s smacking was definitely on its way out of fashion, and I didn’t know of anyone other than myself and Charlotte who got smacked using an implement or indeed smacked on the bare bottom.
So I would listen intently to these discussions between Jamie, Roddy and their friends, watching Roddy closely for any signs that there might be some truth to the rumours, a clue that ‘pull down your pants and smack you hard’ was anything more than an empty threat.
I had never even seen a boy bare before, let alone bare and getting smacked, and I used to pray that the rumours were indeed true and that one day I would witness Roddy Innes being disciplined. I imagined various scenarios over and over in my head, alternating between his mum and his dad being the smacker, fantasising about them shouting at him to pull his pants down, imagining what his bare bum and willy might look like, the sound that the smacking would make, what his crying face would look like etc.
Although only 10 years old at the time, I had realised a few years previously that I had in fact always enjoyed all facets of smacking. In fact, I had very recently started to climax, both spontaneously – triggered by watching Charlotte over mum’s knee – as well as deliberately, by rubbing myself against pillows or soft toys while thinking about smackings, both real and imagined.
Although Mum, and to a far lesser extent Dad and Claire, had given me plenty of memories to look back on, I desperately craved being involved in a smacking that wasn’t just myself or Charlotte in the firing line. I mentally embellished every swat I had ever seen other children receive over the years, with my mind fantasising that the solitary slap I had witnessed was just a precursor to a far more serious smacking the child would be receiving once home.
I kept a detailed mental log of every single smack I had ever witnessed: the little girl in the dentist waiting room whose constant whining earned her a smack on the leg; the little boy who had got three sharp slaps for running away from his mum; my uncle pulling over at the side of the road and giving Jamie and Catriona’s bums five very hard slaps each for continually arguing in the car; the little boy on the train, arm grabbed and bum skelped for not staying in his seat.
Every detail of these encounters, and countless others, had been repeatedly revisited, my brain trying to mentally recreate the sounds and sights of what I had witnessed and how excited it had made me feel.
But still, like an addict, I craved fresh material. In public, I was often accused of daydreaming, when in reality I would be meticulously studying adult and child encounters for any hint of an impending smack, or rushing towards the sound of crying, on the off chance that a smacking was taking place nearby. Shameful though it was, and is, I was utterly obsessed.
I was never brave enough to outright ask my own friends about their parental punishments, but I would watch and listen intently if they ever spoke of being in any kind of trouble at home, obsessively looking for any indication that they had been, or soon would be, smacked.
Sometimes if one of them got sent home from school with a bad report card or a punishment exercise, I would desperately try to keep my face and voice neutral, and casually ask something like ‘what will your mum and dad say?’, watching closely for clues that their bums would soon be sore.
Unfortunately for me, however, most of my friends had very liberal, ‘modern’ parents and there was never any indication that my friends received punishments more severe than the naughty step, or maybe a couple of pats on the clothed bum in the most extreme of circumstances.
I quickly decided that the more traditionally minded parents of my dad’s rural home village were a better bet than the lax Edinburgh child-rearing crowd, and so my visits up north to stay with Granny or dad’s brother Alistair and his family became even more exciting for me.
Of course, I would be thrilled for scintillating details of any smacked bums, but my absolute ultimate goal was to be told about, hear or, best yet, actually see Roddy Innes being punished. I must admit that I, like most girls he knew, was quite smitten with Roddy, who was kind and funny, and had inherited his dad’s mischievous sparkly blue eyes.
And so I became utterly obsessed: a girl on a mission. I used to hang about Granny’s garden, pretending to play, whilst keenly keeping watch, trying to see or hear any signs of children getting into trouble in the Innes house next door.
I closely watched Roddy and Heather in church, looking to see if they were fidgeting excessively on the hard wooden pews – and if they were, I would spend the rest of the day wondering if their restlessness was caused by a sore bum.
Rather than going to theirs, I would ask for my cousins Jamie and Catriona to visit us at Granny’s house, on the off chance that they would bring me with them to visit their friends next door. I strongly encouraged a friendship between Charlotte and Roddy’s sister Heather, hoping to grill the little girl for details about her and her big brother’s punishments (although unfortunately she too was very coy about the subject, obviously having been well warned by Roddy to keep quiet about it). I often tried to casually work the Innes family into conversation with my Granny or my aunt and uncle, desperately hoping any details, even minor ones, would be revealed about their household discipline.
My obsessive efforts were met with very little reward, and I would inevitably head back to Edinburgh thoroughly disappointed that I had nothing new to keep my fantasies alive until my next visit.
I had all but given up, thinking that maybe the rumours were in fact baseless, as Roddy so strongly insisted, when I had a thrilling encounter in the local Co-Op store.
For some reason it was just myself and Uncle Alistair in the shop, and I remember languidly pushing the trolley by his side, quite bored without my sister or cousins there. Then I heard it. A little girl crying, a woman crossly saying: “No, Heather! You’ve been told!”
I immediately whipped my head up and to my delight, I saw Heather Innes being firmly led out the store by her mum. I looked around the store for Roddy, but instead was met by the sight of his dad, walking towards us, his basket of shopping hooked over his large forearm. He was warmly smiling at me and Alistair, his friend since childhood.
“Trouble?” asked my uncle, nodding his head in the direction of the door Heather and her mum had just exited through. Ewan Innes rolled his eyes and said in his broad local accent: “Oh, she’ll soon ken whaur her legs hing.” Laughing, he and Alistair said their goodbyes and parted ways, resuming their shopping.
I was confused. Achingly curious. I had to know. Was Heather’s little bum about to be skelped by her mum? I managed to contain myself until we were back in the car, where I felt my uncle was more likely to go into detail. Trying my best to sound nonchalant, I asked him what Mr Innes had meant.
“It means she’ll soon know where her legs hang from, as all her attention will soon be focused on her bottom.”
My heart stopped.
“Oh, like a smack?” I slowly replied, keeping my head turned towards the side window so that he wouldn’t see the excited expression on my face. My uncle confirmed that this was indeed the case.
Keen to keep our conversation on this topic for as long as possible, I commented that I hoped Mhairi Innes wouldn’t be borrowing Granny’s wooden spoon. Uncle Alistair laughed at this, as Granny’s wooden spoon was something of a legend amongst my dad and his siblings, having played such a big role in their childhoods.
“Oh, don’t worry – I’m fairly sure Ewan and Mhairi have one or two wooden spoons and some slippers of their own by now!”
I couldn’t believe my ears. After all my desperate efforts to obtain even meagre scraps of information about discipline in the Innes house, here was my uncle, just casually offering up all this salacious information on a plate! Wooden spoons! Slippers! I could scarcely believe my luck at having been in the right place at the right time.
Despite being something that I would normally listen to intently, I was barely paying attention as Uncle Alistair recounted a tale of Granny having made good use of her trusty smacking spoon on his young self and Ewan Innes for some childhood prank gone awry. I was too preoccupied by thoughts of Ewan’s own son and daughter, and what his wife might be doing to little Heather’s backside at that very moment.
I had a sleepover with Catriona that night, and so couldn’t even have any private time in bed to mull over this exciting new information. As much as I enjoyed my cousin’s company, I was desperate to get back to granny’s house and see her neighbours.
My wish was granted when I returned the next afternoon and saw Heather Innes out playing in her back garden. She was gracelessly wobbling around the paving stones on a pair of yellow and blue Fisher Price roller skates, and didn’t quite look her usual smiley self.
Seizing on this, I asked her if she was OK, adding that her dad had mentioned she would be going over her mum’s knee for a smacked bum the previous night. I don’t know what possessed me – I was never normally so direct – but I think I was delirious with the previous day’s revelations, and at 10 years old I was probably feeling unusually confident around a little girl of seven. Heather’s face turned scarlet when I mentioned her smacked bum, her embarrassed response instantly confirming that it had indeed occurred.
“My mum sometimes smacks me and Charlotte,” I added, in an effort to make her open up. “We hate it, especially when she pulls our pants down.” I was a different person, suddenly shameless and direct, in complete contrast with my usual slow and surreptitious information gathering. Little Heather muttered something, looking down shyly at her roller skates. “I hate getting smacked,” she repeated, slightly louder the second time.
I was about to start grilling her for all the details – did she get smacked bare, what was used on her bum, how many smacks, mum or dad, corner time afterwards, was her bum still red hot etc –but before I could begin my detailed interrogation, we were interrupted by the back door of their house bursting open
“Heather Innes!” said Mhairi, her strict tone music to my ears, “I obviously didn’t skelp you hard enough last night.”
The little girl’s face blanched as her mum marched out of the house towards her. “No, mummy, you did, you did!” her daughter desperately insisted, tears welling up in her large blue eyes.
Her mother replied: “No – a little girl with a properly smacked bum wouldn’t dare leave the mess that you did in that kitchen.” She emphasised the word ‘dare’ with a hard smack across the seat of Heather’s jeans.
Tears now spilled down the little girl’s face and she continually sniffled as her mum listed a litany of offences – crumbs on the counter top, bread not put away, plate not in the dishwasher, sticky little handprints on the fridge door; the list went on and on.
“So does that,” Mhairi asked, with another hard smack on her daughter’s bottom “sound like the actions of a girl whose bum was thoroughly skelped the night before?”
“No, mummy!” came Heather’s response, as much a plea for clemency as it was an answer to her mum’s question.
“No,” repeated Mhairi, pursing her lips in displeasure. “So let’s remedy that, shall we?” She placed a hand firmly on her daughter’s shoulder and started wheeling her little girl’s roller skate clad feet towards the house.
Heather’s crying and sniffling turned to sobbing as her mum uttered the words I was longing to hear: “I’m going to pull down your pants and smack you hard.”