The recent story about ’Mrs Sweets’ reminded me of another lady sweet shop owner in the next town over when I was little. The shop, the town’s cinema and a little milkshake bar were all in the same big, airy building, but I think they were all owned separately and just joined together to save on rent.
The owner of the sweet shop was Mrs Thompson (a made-up name to protect both of our identities. She was in her 40’s when this story took place. She’s still alive and is a very elderly lady indeed – she’s had several birthday cars from The Queen.
Mrs Thompson was fat at the time, with enormous breasts and a big round tummy. She had seven children, from three years younger than me to 17 years older. Henry, who was my age, was in my form at school. We were good friends so I not only bought a lot of sweets from Mrs Thompson, I also visited her home a fair amount too. She was very kind, and she would always slip me extra sweets because of the fact I was friends with Henry.
It was actually Henry’s fault that we got the smacking we did. We were going to the flicks on Saturday morning but neither of us had any pennies to buy some sweets. If we’d asked Mrs Thomas, I’m sure she’d have given us some but instead Henry suggested we take some from the display on the front of the counter. His argument was that as her son, he essentially owned them too. I agreed nervously, and we took some.
Fortunately for our moral upbringing, Mrs Thompson caught us in the act. She glowered at us and said quietly “Put those sweets back and go on home. Thomas, you can use our telephone to let your mother know you’ll be home late tonight. Henry, tell your father you’re to stay in your bedroom until I get home.”
We were disappointed to be missing the film but never once thought of disobeying the order. We went back to Henry’s house, rather shame-facedly told his father that we’d been sent home and kept in (he was a very mild man and simply nodded), and spent a boring and anxiety inducing day in Henry and his brother Malcolm’s bedroom. Malcolm was out with friends, so we had the room to ourselves.
I assumed being kept in was the punishment itself, but when I mentioned this, Henry laughed. “No, Mum’s going to give us a belting.” In this case, I knew that belting didn’t refer specifically and exclusively to a beating with an actual belt, but was a generalised term for a smacking, so I had time to stew over what sort of smacking we’d get.
Sure enough, Mrs Thompson got home at about dinner time, by which point Henry and I were ravenous! However, before we got to eat dinner (cooked by Henry’s older sister Maggie), Mrs Thompson entered Henry’s room. She closed the door, saying nothing, and sat down on Henry’s bed.
Then she gave us a severe scolding. She ran through why stealing was wrong, the harm we could have caused, all that sort of thing, and both Henry and I (we were about eight, I think) cried. Then Mrs Thompson said: “Now it’s time to pay the piper. Thomas – here!”
I walked over to her, and found myself lying comfortably across her broad lap, my legs dangling off of the bed but my torso skewed onto the bed. My shorts and underpants came down quickly, and she began to comprehensively tan my bare bottom. Her hand was very soft despite her manual work, but that didn’t stop it from hurting. It was quite tolerable at first, but it built up into a burning, stinging, throbbing mess and I couldn’t help but cry. My bottom hurt so much!
I could hear Henry crying while I lay there getting smacked, and I remember feeling quite indignant that he was crying more heavily than I was when he hadn’t even been smacked yet! I got perhaps 50 or 60 hard smacks before Mrs Thompson let me up with a final hard slap to the back of my left calf, leaving a bright red handprint which was visible below my shorts. Then she gave her son a dose of the same before taking us down to eat dinner.
When I got home, Mum and Dad were most displeased with me, and I found myself bent over the sofa for a few strokes of Dad’s belt on top of my already-tanned bottom before being sent to bed in disgrace.