Dear Uncle Algernon
Today I leave to travel to Newcastle to start my new job and new career. I will be living 200 miles away from you and I know our lives will never quite be the same again. How can I express my gratitude for all you have done for me and the love you show me?
I am shamed when I look back at how much I resented it when you took me in to your home and gave me a roof over my head when I was eighteen. I now shudder when I think how different things might have been. I would probably today be sleeping in a shop doorway or at best I’d be in some homeless men’s hostel maybe with a job sweeping floors somewhere. Now the world is my oyster. I owe it all to you.
When you persuaded me (Ha! Ha! Persuaded, let’s be honest forced me kicking and screaming) to take up that college course I resented the hell out of you. Going back to school at nineteen. I didn’t know then how much you wanted the best for me and you were prepared to make sacrifices. You were the first – and probably still the only – person ever to do such a thing. I didn’t know at the time just how much you loved me. You said you would do what it takes to get me on track: on the straight and narrow.
I didn’t believe you. I do now. I remember the first time you took your belt to me and leathered my backside. Do you remember the fight? You grabbing me by the scruff of the neck, forcing me face down over the back of the sofa and setting my rear end on fire. Nobody but you would ever have done such a thing. Such a kindness. My own parents all but abandoned me. Was it any surprise I dropped out of school and wandered through life aimlessly. I know it’s a cliché but you were my guiding light in a storm.
I spent much on the next few months appreciating the pattern on the carpet in your lounge. Me across your knee; you pounding a paddle across the seat of my underpants. Ha! Ha! I can laugh about it now; but then, not so. It took a while for me to appreciate you had my best interest at heart. That ‘contract of objectives’ we drew up was a masterstroke. I set my goals in life, we worked out how to measure my achievements and if (indeed often it was when) I fell short you were there to catch me; with that goddamn paddle, or that heavy leather taws. Where did you get that?
I owe it to you and your efforts and yes your love that I passed my examinations and won a place at the university. Me, at university! No one in our family – not even you dear uncle – had ever achieved such a distinction.
We thought I was ready for the challenge. We thought I was mature enough to set sail on my own, so I signed up at a university away from home. From your home, from the place that I call home and with your permission would like to think of my home always. I was now absent from your day-to-day influence but I carried in my heart the lessons you had taught me.
Uncle, you know what happened next. I was nearly twenty-one years old, but I regressed to being sixteen again. My studies started well, but the cheap beer in the student guild bar and the women – oh there were so many women available. How was I to know I was such a handsome chap (Ha! Ha!). Uncle, the women came to me. Of course, the inevitable happened. By the second semester I was in danger of failing my courses. Disaster. But once more you rode to my rescue.
Who but my loving Uncle would take the time and the effort to take me in hand. You explained that women were all right in their place. A young man has needs. But there has to be a balance in life. We drew up one of those contracts. Time for study, time for women. Once the assignments were written, I could allow myself a treat.
Your insistence on what you called “reinforcement” was a master stroke (or strokes, Ha! Ha!). I appreciate greatly your sensitivity. You knew I lived in the student halls of residence where the walls of the rooms were paper thin. I needed to be “dealt with” but this was a relationship best kept between us two. The rest of the student population need not know of our arrangement. The Motel With a View, on the A-287 trunk road was perfectly discreet. It was the first (but by no means the last) time I felt that intense sting that can be delivered only by a stout but whippy rattan cane used in such a determined manner. I remember you piled three pillows on the bed. I removed my shoes, socks, trousers and underwear to lie face down on the bed. I chewed the fourth pillow. My what strength you have. I have never been forced to sit on an electric fire but if I were ever made to do so it could not possible hurt less than one of your canings. That time it was twelve stripes. Ouch! Each searing into my flesh. As you know (you’ve seen it at close quarters often enough, Ha! Ha!) my bottom is really quite small. There is no meat back there to speak of so your lashes sank deep and left behind terrific welts. My bum felt like corrugated cardboard at the end. Oh how I needed that pillow.
Yes, Uncle I owe everything to you. Without you I should never have graduated university. And, now look at me, a young professional man with a future ahead of me. I don’t know however I shall be able to repay you. Thank you, thank you, thank you! But dear Uncle I have a request. Please don’t abandon me now. Newcastle is so far away and the temptations in my new life will be so great. You have taught me well, but I fear for the future, please reassure me that you will be there for me, ready to whip me in to shape when the occasion demands.
Picture credit: Laurence Fellows
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second