Was I a typical teenager? I think so. Certainly I was no different from my friends. We couldn’t stand adults; our parents, schoolmasters, the vicar at church. We didn’t think they had much to tell us.
We spent a lot of our time just hanging around in groups “having a laugh.” There was a particular bus stop just outside of town that was our meeting place. Buses didn’t run much after about seven o’clock so we weren’t usually disturbed. We’d buy (or sometimes steal) bottles of cheap cider and get rowdy drunk. If a passer-by complained, we’d soon chase them off: law-abiding citizens are easily cowed by drunken teenagers.
I had just turned eighteen and was close to leaving school. My dad had just been promoted at work and was now a factory manager, but it meant he had to move to a town about a hundred miles away. I didn’t want to go; I’d have to leave all my mates and I hated my parents so much I was pleased to see the back of them. But, I still had a few months left at school so I couldn’t get a job and find a place of my own to live.
My Uncle Alistair and Aunt Alice stepped in and said I could stay with them until I left school. I hated them us much as my mum and dad, but I had no choice. She was such a stuck up cow who always thought she was a cut above the rest of us. Her father worked in an office, while my family were mostly factory workers. Uncle Alistair was a jobbing builder, so I don’t know she had much to crow about. They only lived a couple of streets away, so I wouldn’t lose my friends and my life wouldn’t change much: worse thing.
I went to the local grammar school, so that suited her social pretensions. I didn’t like school much, but had a knack for passing examinations without doing much work and my parents made me stay on into the sixth form. Another reason I hated them. I didn’t like being bossed around, and if you don’t like being bossed around, you should not be at grammar school.
There are so many useless, pointless, rules. I loathed wearing school uniform; you could see us coming from a mile off in our pink blazers. We even had to wear short trousers until the end of the third form: fourteen-year-old boys in short trousers, no other school in town humiliated their pupils like that. And, don’t get me started on the stupid school caps they forced us to wear.
I hated the “masters” as we had to call them. Most of them had been at the school since Adam was a lad and had never done a proper day’s work in their lives. They wouldn’t last an hour at dad’s factory. They thought they were proper Christian gentlemen and decided the boys at the school should be too. Nobody ever asked me. I skipped chapel once; I was eighteen and decided I could make my own mind up about God and Jesus and all that. There was Hell to pay.
I was found out of course, I knew I would be. We were always answering to roll calls, having our names taken, masters checking that we hadn’t absconded. It was a caning offence, but I reckoned that sixth-formers were immune from the stick, even at that school.
My headmaster soon corrected me on that idea. I didn’t get thrashed that time, but he told me if I skipped chapel again he would whop me himself. I had to write a two thousand word essay on why Jesus was important in my life. Two thousand words! Believe me I would have preferred the cane to that any day: trousers down; pants down, six strokes, twelve: anything but that essay.
One thing I did like about being in the sixth-form was the power it gave me over the younger boys. They were terrified of me. It was only a few years earlier that the headmaster had taken away the prefect’s power to spank the younger boys. I would have loved to parade around the school, gym plimsoll in hand, able to whack the arse of any boy I fancied.
In my time the best we could do was to hand out ‘punishment slips’ which the boy took to his form master. When the boy collected three slips he was beaten. It wasn’t the same as the plimsoll, but the boys knew I scattered slips like confetti so it came pretty close.
You didn’t have to be in the sixth to be a bully. One thing I loved to do when I was about fifteen or sixteen was to beat up on the sissies; those boys who were a little bit different from the rest of us. They were easy targets, scared of their own shadows most of them. They would never defend themselves. There was one lad (I forget his name now: Kevin? Keith? Karl?) who I loved to push around. You only had to touch him and he would fall to the ground and curl up into a little ball. He was crying before I ever got the first kick in. I took his lunch money most days – it helped to pay for the cider and my smokes.
With my parents out of the way I tried it on a lot with my aunt and uncle. I skimped on my homework, lazed around in my bedroom most of the day; that was when I wasn’t out with my friends hanging round the bus stop and haranguing old folk going about their business.
The final straw for pious Aunt Alice was that I stopped going to church. It’s not that I refused to go: there was no argument, no discussion even, I just stopped going and that for me was the end of the matter. Not so for my aunt and uncle. Aunt Alice in particular berated me for non-attendance and was rewarded by my most hostile indifference.
Maybe that was the point at which they decided I needed a damned good hiding, but if it was, they put it off for another week or so.
I finally found myself with a red backside one Wednesday in June. It was a school night and as had become my habit, I would return from school, get out of that horrid uniform and wait in my bedroom playing records at full volume until it was time to eat. My aunt often implored me to turn down the noise, but the more she showed her dislike, the more determined I became to annoy her.
Meal times were always strenuous times. Looking back on it I wonder if my aunt and uncle weren’t going through a difficult patch in their lives: surely, I thought at the time they must have been bored to tears with their pathetic mundane lives. They definitely found it difficult to communicate with one another and impossible to do so with me. I made no concessions to them: any question they asked me would be returned with a one word answer, or just a grunt.
When tea was over I would almost immediately disappear out the door, never telling them where I was going, who I would be with and what time I would be back.
Eventually, Aunt Alice imposed a curfew: I should be home by nine-thirty at the latest on school nights and ten at the weekend.
Yeah right, I thought. I didn’t say it out loud, there was no need to. I had no intention of sticking to her stupid new rules. To Hell with the both of them, what right did they have to order me about!
The very same night I rolled home drunk at past eleven o’clock. Nobody was up. Emboldened by this, two days later I missed curfew again.
At breakfast the morning after I skipped curfew for the third time, Uncle Alastair simply informed me that he had been keeping watch and if I was late ever again there would be “dire consequences.”
So, naturally, I took this as a challenge and even though it was a quiet night at the bus stop and most of my mates returned to their homes early, that night I walked the streets alone for another hour to make sure I wouldn’t get back home before eleven.
I could see the lights were on in the living room as I approached the house. As I turned the key in the lock I heard Uncle Alastair call.
“In here. Now!”
Sullenly, I slouched into the room, with the most disrespectful expression on my face that I could assemble. My uncle was alone, he looked very tired indeed, of course it was way past his bedtime. I can’t be sure if he had prepared a little speech for me, but if he had he muffed his lines. He was incoherent with anger but “brazen”, “audacious” “insolent”, ‘disrespectful” and “rude” were some of the words that faltered from his mouth.
He was impatient for me to respond but I said nothing. Who cared what he thought, the miserable little man.
His lecture at an end, Uncle Alistair commanded, “Go upstairs, have a wash, clean your teeth, put on your pyjamas and then come back down here, and be quick about it.”
Corporal punishment was imminent: I knew the tell-tale signs; I’d been spanked often enough at home by my father. I trudged upstairs and as I spread the Pepsodent on my toothbrush I wondered what uncle would do to me. My dad’s preferred method of torture was the razor strop. He would make me take down my trousers to my ankles and I would have to lay face down on the bed with two pillows under my stomach so my bum was high to meet the lash of the leather. I kept my hands well clear of the target while he raised the strop back over his own shoulder, took aim and whipped it down into the seat of my underpants. The pain was immense, but I soon learned not to wriggle about. If he missed my bum and hit the bare flesh at the back of my thighs I wouldn’t be able to stand for a week, let alone sit down.
“Hurry up!” It was uncle, as impatient as ever.
I rubbed a wet cloth across my face and hurried into the bedroom, quickly stripped off my clothes and stepped into my pyjamas. I was still tying up the drawstring of the bottoms as I descended the stairs.
Uncle Alistair and Aunt Alice were waiting for me in the living room. I gave her my most disrespectful stare. So the snooty mare was going to witness my spanking was she?
I quickly glanced around the room but could see no obvious implement of punishment. Uncle was wearing no belt. Did my aunt have a hairbrush in her apron pocket? Was he going to smack me with his hand?
He gave me a short sermon about manners and disobedience and even managed to bring God into it. Then he hopped on one leg, bent down and removed one of his bedroom slippers.
It was all over in a flash. He grabbed me by the left arm, quickly untied the string on my pyjama trousers and they easily fell to my knees. Then, unceremoniously he took me by the scruff of the neck and pushed me over the back of the worn-out sofa. Then there was a frenzied attack with the slipper on my bare bottom.
I was indignant. The sod didn’t believe I would present myself for a spanking. Who did he think I was? Corporal punishment was common in those days and we boys had an unspoken code of conduct. We often misbehaved and sometimes we were very bad indeed. We got away with it a lot, but when we were caught we accepted it. So we would submissively sprawl across a knee, bend over a chair or sofa or spread ourselves across the dining room table. We would be on the painful receiving end of the slipper, belt, razor strop, hairbrush, hand or cane. And we would take it like troopers.
Next day we would report back to our mates; often displaying the cuts and bruises to our admiring friends. Then, like film critics, we would award ‘stars’ for the best performances. My father always got the top five stars for the deep welts on my poor bum.
Uncle Alistair loosened his grip on my neck and I struggled to my feet. My buttocks were a little sore, but it was nothing compared to my father’s beatings. I said nothing, but I hoped my look of utter contempt told its own story.
I didn’t wait to be dismissed; I pulled up my pyjamas and went to my room. My bum wasn’t very sore, but there was a tingle that soon disappeared. There would be no marks to show the next day, not that I would tell the others. We were eighteen years old now and I doubted if their dads were still spanking their bottoms at that age.
I was counting the days until I could leave school. The examinations were a little over a month away and then I would be free. I had all but given up on my studies. I still attended school (there were many opportunities to bully the younger boys), but took no interest and did as little homework as possible.
I was idling around the sixth-form common room one day, shortly after my run-in with Uncle Alistair, when the sixth-form form master approached.
“See me in my study immediately after school,” he was a man of few words and he swept away, the tail of his tattered schoolmaster’s gown flapping, before I could ask what it was all about.
It could have been about anything. If there was a rule to break, I was likely to break it. Even as I sat pondering, I knew I had in my pocket a packet of illicit cigarettes, paid for with money I had extorted from an eleven-year-old first-former who was desperate not to get his third punishment slip and the beating that would come with it.
I had more than an hour before I had to obey the summons. I cursed; I had no lessons at this time and was intending to bunk off early. Wearily, I picked up a football magazine that one of the other boys had left behind, sat down and flicked through the pages.
I didn’t want to delay this longer than was absolute necessary. Two minutes after the bell had stopped ringing for end of school my knock on the study door received a haughty response.
It wasn’t so much a schoolmaster’s study as a functioning office. There was a desk and a large padded chair behind, where the form master was seated. A couple of low back chairs were ranged in front of the desk for visitors and apart from that there was a sideboard affair consisting of some cupboards and bookshelves.
I stood facing the desk a foot or two back from the chairs. From this position I could see that they were the ideal height for a boy to bend across. Doubtless, they had been chosen with this purpose in mind.
I still did not know why I had been summoned by the form master. I didn’t have long to wait as he got straight to the point. “slacking”, he called it: a peculiarly old fashioned word for “lazy.” I had not been working hard enough in his classes. I had not submitted homework on time. My marks were falling. He didn’t ask me to respond, but if he had I could only agree with him. I despised my form master. He taught the sixth form poetry and he was lousy at it. I couldn’t understand the point of it (and to this day still can’t). He could not, as we say these days, “motivate” me.
He was a decaying old man and I scorned him for being so old. His liver spots spread from his neck to his face and it had been many years since he stood erect and his stooped shoulders reminded me of a bird. A shock of untidy white hair stuck out from beneath his mortar board and his moustache and beard were as white as his hair. He was the image of the schoolmaster in that film Goodbye, Mr Chips.
Old though he might be, my Mr Chips could still pack a punch with his right arm as I was about to find out.
Once he had read out my crime sheet, he moved straight to sentencing. I swear I heard his bones creak as he slowly raised himself from the chair and shuffled over to the sideboard. Only then did I notice that one of the cupboards was an unusual shape: tall and thin. He opened it and even though his body obscured my view, I could see inside were a number of crook-handled rattan canes. There must have been six or seven of them in varying thicknesses and lengths. I could hear the canes rattling around the cupboard as he searched for the implement he intended to use on me.
Within seconds he had extracted his preferred model and turned to face me. He flexed the cane between his left and his right hand as he gave a little lecture about the need for me to study hard. If I did not have the self-discipline to do this on my own, then he had the perfect remedy: he would impose discipline on me.
I couldn’t take my eyes of that cane. I still don’t know why I was so transfixed by it. I had seen canes before; indeed I had felt them across my backside a few times. This one was deep yellow in colour and was as thick as one of Mr Chips’ bony fingers. It must have been three feet (maybe more) long and flexed easily in the form-master’s hands.
He swished it through the air for effect, if he intended this to intimidate me, he failed. It just made me hate him all the more. This pathetic old man, who couldn’t teach for toffee, was going to beat me because I was not doing well in his class. I was eighteen years old and in a few weeks I would be away from that goddam school forever, but here I was expected to submit myself to Mr Chips so he could whop me with his cane.
I had a choice, of course. Even as I stood watching the cane swish through the air I knew I could refuse to take a beating. I could tell him to stuff it and swagger out of the study. I could do that, but it would be a direct defiance of his authority. The headmaster would be involved and I could rest assured that he wouldn’t be on my side. There would be no two-thousand-word essay (“Why the cane is not an effective punishment for slacking schoolboys”) as an alternative. All I could look forward to was expulsion from the school and the bastards probably wouldn’t let me take my exams.
I only had five more weeks left at this school and I didn’t want to throw away the past two years of misery now.
Mr Chips pointed with his cane to a spot in the middle of the room.
“Bend over and touch your toes.”
I hesitated and he must have read the contempt I had for him in my face because he almost bellowed, “Bend over and touch your toes, this instance!”
I moved to the spot, took a deep breath and placing the palms of my hands on my knees I offered Mr Chips my backside.
“Ouch!” I yelled and stood bolt upright, squeezing my hand under my armpit. Mr Chips had lashed his cane across my knuckles.
“When I say touch your toes boy, I mean touch your toes. Now, bend right down.”
I blew on my knuckles, parted my legs a little, bent at the waist, and stretched my fingers so that the tips rested against the toe caps of my shoes. A thick stripe across the back of my left hand was turning blue.
I was quite a fit lad at the time and was able to keep in place without much effort, but there was pressure against the back of my knees.
Looking through my parted legs I saw Mr Chips approach me and then I could feel him take hold of my pink blazer and push it up my back away from the target area. Then he rolled up my jumper a little, giving him an unobscured view of the grey trousers, now stretched across my buttocks. Still not satisfied, he took hold of my shirt and pulled it so that the tail came away from the waistband, then he did the same thing with my vest. I felt a cool breeze blow across the inch or so of now bare flesh at the base of my back.
Finally, he grabbed the waistband of my trousers and tugged so that any wrinkles were smoothed from the cloth.
Then he took my arse off.
He had the strength of an ox. With no interval between cuts, he lashed down six stingers across the very centre of my buttocks each one landing very close to, and sometimes right on top of, others already delivered.
It took my breath away. Quite literally. I was gasping and stifling yells at the same time. It was all over in about twenty seconds, six whacks crashing down one after the other. I buckled a little, but just about managed to stay in position. No matter the agony I was suffering, I was not going to stand up and give him the pleasure of inflicting extra strokes.
It was over. I stayed looking at my scuffed shoes awaiting his permission to stand. My backside was throbbing. It must have been red raw and I could feel welts had formed across my bum. I had been caned before, but this beating was not like anything I had endured previously. I so much wanted to run away to the bogs, sit down on a lavatory pan and pull the flush so the cold water could soothe my aching buttocks.
Eventually he said, “Stand up, boy. Stand there.” I rose and moved to a spot in front of the form-master’s desk. I could not look him in the eyes. I had despised him when I entered the study and I hated him even more now, but my contempt was mixed with the intense pain in my arse. I did not want him to know he had hurt me.
He wrote some words in the punishment book and handed it to me to sign.
Then to add to my fury, he said, “If you fail to get at least an Alpha-minus in the essay I set the form today, you will be back here for another thrashing. Is that clear?”
It was, and I was. No number of beatings could make me good at poetry.
Other stories you might like.
More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second