As I related in a previous story, my mother brought up her younger sister, my aunt, after their mother died. Naturally, from time to time, like all children back then, my aunt had been spanked by her elder sister when she was naughty, often with her wooden hairbrush. Later, as I also described in my previous account, my mother used the very same hairbrush on me as she had used on her.
I got a few spankings with that hairbrush up to the age of 10 or 11, and my aunt was present for more than one of them, but as I got older my mother obviously felt that I was too big to go over her knee any longer, and punishment at home took a different form.
At school though, it was different. I had never received any corporal punishment at my primary school, but then, when I was 11, I went to a very strict and old-fashioned secondary school where the cane was still used on a daily basis. Strangely though, even though my aunt and our shared hairbrush were no longer involved in my punishments, my aunt’s presence still loomed large.
Let me explain. This was back in the 1960s, and in most schools the cane – if it was used at all – was only brought out for the most serious offences. But my school was exceptional – you could get caned just for talking in class or similar minor infractions, and everybody was subject to it. On at least three occasions, our entire class was caned, so nobody escaped.
The cane was usually administered by the Head of Year in his study at break-time. There was always a queue of boys waiting to be caned, and I’d seen (and heard) what happened many times. The boy went in – the door was propped open, so the next few in the queue could see everything – explained why he had been sent, and then bent over to receive four or six strokes of the cane. It was a point of honour not to make a sound, but every boy came out clutching his bottom in agony, dancing down the corridor in a paroxysm of pain.
I can remember very vividly the first time it happened to me – and in quite unfair circumstances. We had been set a topic about astronomy for our science homework, and it was a subject that interested me greatly. Consequently, I had spent a long time writing a very full account of the workings of the solar system, illustrated with meticulous coloured drawings of the planets.
I was proud of the result, and had shown it to my mother, who said that she was sure my father would like to see it when he got in from work. Flushed with pride, I put the homework back in my satchel and went to bed.
Next day, in the science lesson, when the time came to hand in my homework, I opened my satchel and realised to my horror that my homework was not there. My mother had obviously taken it out after I’d gone to bed to show to my father, and had neglected to replace it. I tried to explain this to the teacher, but he was not interested in my excuses, and simply filled out a punishment slip to give to the Head of Year, condemning me to be caned.
At break, I nervously made my way upstairs to the Head of Year’s office, clutching the form, and joined the queue outside his study, with the other boys who were due to be caned.
As I said, I’d seen the process many times before, and I’d also seen the stripes on other boys’ bottoms, as we got changed for gym or games – it was something of a ritual for boys who’d been caned to show off their marks in the changing rooms. However, this time it was a bit different listening to the strokes, seeing the boys emerge with faces contorted with pain and frantically rubbing their bottoms, knowing I was about receive the same. Later on, I may have got a bit blasé about it, but the first time I was definitely scared.
Eventually it was my turn, and without being given any opportunity to explain I was told to bend over. I remember that, as an obedient and co-operative pupil, I did my best to touch my toes – not a good idea, because of course the lower you bend the more it stretches the skin over your buttocks and the more it hurts.
The teacher lifted the tail of my blazer and gave me four quick, hard strokes. At first, I hardly felt them – the impact was so quick and so shocking that I was numb at first. But soon – and I know it’s a cliché, but it’s accurate – it felt as if my bottom was on fire.
I emerged from the office clutching my burning buttocks, and ran down the stairs and into the playground. No matter how hard I rubbed my bottom, the sting continued for the rest of the break. The worst of the pain faded after 10 minutes or so, though it was still a bit uncomfortable to sit for the rest of the day.
When I got home, I rushed up to my room so that I could examine my bottom in the mirror. I could see that there were four bright red tramlines across both cheeks. I have to admit – now that I am older and more experienced in such matters – that they were accurate and well-spaced – but then the Head of Year got a lot of practice on boys’ bottoms!
I was told by boys who got caned more than once in the same week that the worst thing was when the weals crossed or fell on top of previous ones, but fortunately I never got caned that often. There was one boy who famously got caned every day for a week, and I remember seeing his bottom criss-crossed with red and purple stripes. Mine recovered fairly quickly – the red stripes faded within a week, leaving behind just a few bruises on my right cheek.
After checking the damage, I pulled my trousers and pants back up and went downstairs, where my mother was having tea with my aunt. I told them what had happened, and my mother realised that my homework was still on the coffee table next to my father’s chair, where he had put it after reading it.
My mother offered to write to my teacher and explain, but I knew that if she did that I would be branded a ‘mummy’s boy’ who couldn’t take a caning without getting his mother to complain about it. Indeed, I had heard the teacher in question use exactly such terms about other pupils, so I wouldn’t let her.
I think it may have been my aunt who asked to see the marks, but obviously my mother was concerned too. At 11, I was still fairly unselfconscious about letting female relatives see my bottom, so I slipped my trousers and pants down again and showed them. They commented on how red they were, and my mother went and got some ointment to rub on my bottom, leaving my aunt to contemplate my stripes.
After that, it seemed to become a tradition that every time I was caned at school – and it happened at least a couple of times a term – that the marks would be inspected by my mother, and by my aunt too if she was present, which she was as often as not. I thought nothing of it, and as I got used to them, even the actual canings ceased to bother me that much – but there was one occasion that still sticks in my mind.
I was about 14, and on this occasion I had received not four but six strokes and the marks were more than usually spectacular. By this age, I was starting to feel a lot more embarrassed about showing my bottom to my young aunt. So when my mother told her I’d been caned at school again and she said: “Oh really? Let’s see!’ I had demurred. “Go on,” she cajoled, ‘I’ve seen your bottom before!”
Then, to my utter shock, she added: “Tell you what – I’ll show you mine.” Before I could say anything, my aunt turned, flipped up her skirt, pulled down her knickers and presented her bare bottom to my startled teenage gaze.
She quickly pulled her knickers back up again, but not before the sight of her rather plump white bottom had burned itself onto the cortex of my brain. My mother looked slightly surprised at the manoeuvre but just laughed. Obviously, I could hardly refuse my aunt’s initial request any longer, so I dropped my trousers and let her examine the six vivid red stripes across my rear.
I have to admit, the sight of my aunt’s ample bare bottom haunted my imagination for some days to come, and I can remember thinking about it as I lay in bed that night. In fact, I might even have thought it was worth getting the caning.