When I was small, myself and the other children in my street would play a lot of games. Piggy run, hide and seek, leap frogging, footie, kickie can – all sorts. But my favourite game was rather more illicit – we called it Smacky Bums.
Us kids would typically only dare play this game in a half-broken house on the edge of town, left abandoned since the Second World War. During the night a few homeless people slept there, and had dragged in various abandoned pieces of furniture to make it more comfortable for themselves, but during the day we kids played there.
Smacky Bums involved every child except one lying down on their tummy on a big concrete slab, while the remaining cgild gave everyone else a hard smack on their bottom in turn.
Then that person would lie down, everyone would shuffle along a bit, and the person at the other end of the line would get up and take the role of ‘smacker’. I loved Smacky Bums. We mostly only played it when we were very little, up to about six or so, but when we did play it when we were older, we sometimes added an extra frisson.
Once, I was playing it with the Mackerly twins (two 10-year-old boys who lived a few streets away from me and were very funny and very poor), and a handful of girls aged around seven to 11. I think I was nine or so. One of the girls, Janet, was 11 and was considered a fast developer – she already wore a bra and would occasionally smear make-up she’d stolen from the chemist’s on to her face. Janet trailed behind us as we lay on our tummies, before stopping and resting her hand on the bottom of one of the Mackerly twins.
Then she said: “I think we should go bare bum, so we can see who’s smacking hardest.” Without waiting for a response (and frankly, as the oldest and thus the leader), Janet yanked down our shorts and underwear of us boys, and lifted girls’ skirts and lowered their knickers. Our bare bottoms all out on display, I could feel my heart thumping in my throat. I was usually smacked bare bottom at home, but this felt very different.
Janet’s smacks really hurt. I could feel my body slamming into the concrete as she walloped my bottom, the handprint stinging and burning. She didn’t stop at one smack, either – instead of getting into line for smacks herself, she just went back down it again, smacking us again.
One of the girls jumped up and stormed off, grumbling and pulling her knickers up, but the rest of us stayed where we were. Janet continued up and down, and soon a couple of us were close to tears. My bottom hurt like it did when getting a ‘proper’ smacking.
Several years later, I asked Janet out to the flicks and was gently rebuffed. She did, however, cackle and added naughtily: “If you ever want to play Smacky Bums, though, let me know!”