My mother suffered badly with arthritis from quite an early age, when my little brother and I were still quite young, and it was this condition which led to her stop giving us smacked bottoms with her hand and switching to a wooden spoon. It was also the inspiration for another level of punishment when we were really bad boys.
In time-honoured fashion, when we were naughty, Mum would take down our trousers and underpants, put us over her knee and give us a sound whacking with that spoon.
So far, so normal – at least for the 1950s, when corporal punishment of children was a totally unremarkable part of everyday family life. But if we had been extra naughty, Mum found a way to rachet the discipline up a notch.
To help with the pain of her arthritis, she had taken to using capsaicin cream. For those not in the know, capsaicin is what makes chillis hot. Rubbed well into her wrists, the burning, tingling sensation helped keep Mum’s mind off the arthritis for a while.
Unfortunately for us, she was so impressed with the cream’s effects that she was inspired to use it on our bottoms after we had been smacked – in fact, she often referred to it as her ‘smacked bottom cream’. After a dose of the spoon, she would keep us in place, then smear our bare bums with the cream and rub it in liberally.
The effect was that the burning of a smacking stayed with the child in question for a whole lot longer than normal. After the cream had been applied and your pants pulled back up by Mum, all day long your buttocks would remain as burning and itchy as if you’d had your bottom smacked only moments before. It was absolute agony for our soft little sensitive backsides. But worst was to come before bedtime.
Mum bathed us every night before putting us to bed, and the cream reacted with the warm water, burning so intensely that being bathed was almost like being spanked all over again. We would sit there in the bath, grizzling and crying at the stinging sensation, while Mum made us sit in the water and scrubbed. If you tried to stand up to relieve the sting, Mum would smack your wet, bare, already stinging buttocks with her hand and you soon took your place again, believe me!
To add injury to insult, if we had been extra, extra naughty, Mum would take the spoon to your bare bum again just before bedtime prayers – which would then be said to an accompanying background of sobs and sniffs.
Of course, I never treated my own children anything like this. They got the odd smack, but that’s about it. But I have to admit that Mum’s ‘smacked bottom cream’ always did the trick with my brother and I!