Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Setting One's Expectations

It was a sad fact, but as a lady teacher in an all-boys' school, one most certainly needed to make one's expectation in the classroom known. Despite some misgivings at the outset, my own experience of dealing with boys led me to the conclusion that a traditional approach is best. Indeed, one always needs to ask oneself why older, more experienced colleagues have held on to this approach for so many years; they were no fools! And I came to the conclusion that I would not betreated as a fool either and quickly adopted a firm, authorative approach towards the boys.

I worked as a teacher in an all boys’ prep school during the 60s and 70s where a great deal of attention was paid towards ensuring good behaviour at all times. The school was divided into two sections; the lower school for the 8 to 11 year olds and the upper school for the 11 to 13 year olds. In the upper school (mainly 12 to 13 year olds) a more formal atmosphere existed whereby we consciously adopted many of the features of the main independent senior school where the boys would shortly be heading for.

As a young teacher just starting out in my career, I was put in charge of the eldest class (mostly 13-year old boys) and that particular year group had been notoriously difficult and had built up a quite formidable reputation for unruliness as they had come up through the school. Within days of becoming their form mistress, they had soon sensed my inexperience and learnt just exactly how to exploit every one of my weak points as only a group of badly behaved young teenage boys know how. By the end of the first week, I wondered if teaching really was the profession for me!

The headmaster had obviously noted the tremendous problems I was facing and had said nothing all week. I think he was waiting for something to happen in me that would bring me to the same kind of conclusion as him about how to cope with ‘my’ class of boys. As I left the school on the Friday he approached me and asked me into his office. He passed onto me a skill that, unfortunately, can no longer be taught to young teachers in today’s schools, but would most certainly put them in excellent stead in regards to maintaining good discipline in their classrooms, especially in so far as boys are concerned.

For twenty minutes or so, we pretended that the leather upholstered arm of his chair was a boy’s left hand and I was given expert guidance on how to swat it with an English prep school rattan cane. I took it home and practised on one of my mother’s armchairs over the entire weekend. At that time in my life, I was a pretty good tennis player and soon taught myself to deliver quite a withering blow to a young lad’s outstretched hand. When I returned to school on the following Monday morning, I was most definitely no longer the same teacher the boys had managed to nearly reduce to tears just a couple of days before.

The first lesson up to the morning break was not good, I let them show me their worst, and they happily obliged me in this. The bell finally rang down the school corridor and the boys lined up at the door, their faces covered with those usual knowing smirks as they waited for me to stand at the door and, as usual, vainly wait for them to be silent. However, this time I didn’t hurry. I opened my desk and then strolled to the head of the nattering, disorderly line without one of them even noticing that I was there.

Finally, I raised my voice. A few boys looked my way, saw the cane in my hand and immediately fell silent, others followed suit and, within seconds, the class stood mortified in total silence. I was in charge and to guarantee that this continued I knew that I had to make sure that the job was very well done. The first boy in the line was called Mayhewwhom I summoned towards me. He took one pace forwards, held out his hand, winced as he closed his eyes and gave out a sharp yelp and thanked his teacher before leaving the classroom (this avoided a swipe to the other hand for lacking manners!!!).

Soon after, fifteen boys were quickly following Mayhew down the school corridor, groaning miserably, and then hurriedly disappearing into the toilets to find the nearest available cold water tap to douse their stinging palms. I later learnt to keep boys in the classroom after a caning to make sure that the stinging sensation stayed longer. But this was my first time. A wonderfully polite, hard working and dutiful class returned for their next lesson after break time!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A Class Transformed!

A group of prep school boys walk through town:
This is very much the kind of uniform that we enforced at the school.

One thing that the headmaster did say to me was that the reason he was a headmaster was primarily because he was a good judge of character and could see things in others that they couldn’t see themselves! I prided myself on this for a long while, and although I still think that there is some truth in his claim, it was probably more due to staffing shortages and a lack of volition on the part of the older teachers to go through the bother of revamping their lessons for another age group!

In those days, it was indeed more difficult for a woman to teach young lads of this age and I soon learnt that I had to prove myself to them. And the ‘art’ of the cane was the way that I seized back control of my class. The whole class caning that I carried out during my second week at the school was most definitely a deciding factor. A half hearted attempt or ‘token’ swat on each of the boys’ palms would not have earned me any respect whatsoever – I wasn’t yet an established figure in the boys’ eyes and any sign of mercy or compassion would have been taken as a weakness of character on my part and seized upon ruthlessly right through to the end of the school year.

In fact, it was the deciding factor as to whether I would continue at the school or leave it in utter defeat. What the boys did not realise is that, when I lined them up for their first ration of ‘gruel’, I was the one in the corner, I was the one who had to kick out with all her might and kick out I most certainly did! No amount of words spoken to these boys would ever have had the salutary effect that those fifteen well placed swats had.

I soon learnt that there was nothing that could quite match that small English prep school cane in terms of pure eloquence. It most certainly put forward a very convincing case in favour of conforming to my expectations as a teacher regarding the virtues of hard work, good behaviour, smart school uniform and respect for adult authority. When the boys returned after spending most of their break desperately nursing their sharply stinging palms, those knowing smirks were replaced by something altogether far more pleasant from their teacher’s point of view; a mixture of respectful obedience and a very strong desire to quickly learn how to avoid displeasing their new teacher.

I knew I needed to act quickly in order to maintain my new found status quo. I made the class stand whilst I spoke to them about my expectations concerning correct school uniform, how as the eldest they needed to set an example and how whenever they were in uniform they were ambassadors to the school and how I, their teacher was very disappointed and had absolutely no desire to see scruffiness in MY classroom. This was immediately followed by a very thorough and detailed uniform inspection during which pupils busied themselves straightening their ties, tucking in shirts, pulling up socks etc until I was completely satisfied with their appearance.

For the rest of the day, the boys looked wonderfully smart in their very English-looking prep school uniform with its traditional blazer and tie, short trousers and regulation socks. I felt a genuine sense of pride in them. I was their teacher, the one in charge, the one who had just won an important battle and had succeeded in transforming this group of insolent 13-year old boys into a class of smartly dressed, obedient young scholars. The boys’ appearance was now a total reflection of their new teacher’s values, standards and very high expectations as well as the resolutely traditional ethos of their school.

As the boys worked in silence, I quietly announced that they were not to worry about the time that had been lost from today’s lesson due to their uniform inspection. It would quite simply be made up for by missing their morning break time the next day!

Monday, 5 October 2009

Matron Philips

In teaching, one has the undeniable privilege of encountering from time to time those people who are prepared to go beyond their normal call of duty and offer services to the school that greatly benefit the pupils concerned. Miss Philips was one such person and her arrival in Wellington House as its new inexperienced matron turned out to be a veritable godsend indeed.

The role of the house matron was to ensure that standards of behaviour were maintained among the boarders, that they tidied, dressed themselves and made their beds properly and were ready for the day ahead. As the term ‘matron’ so strongly suggests, Miss Philips was to be a maternal figure to the boys as well as their guide in matters of hygiene, tidiness and personal appearance among many other things.

Miss Philips was a young woman who was very much the product of her own education which was imparted to her in a strictly run all girls’ private school. Her choice of dress strongly echoed the ethos of her ‘alma mater’ with her smartly pleated tartan skirt, sensible lace up black shoes and plain white blouse. And she had absolutely no qualms about passing on these beliefs and values to the boys in her charge and soon found her innate talents in matters of discipline and willingness to set the very highest of expectations for her boys to be very much appreciated by the boys’ subject masters.

Miss Philips was astute enough to see that poor old Mr Driscoll really had lost his touch with reality and was fast losing control of Wellington. The likeable, yet less than competent veteran house master no longer had the ability to set the necessary expectations within his House. Boys had stopped fearing his study well before Miss Philips’s arrival and everyone knew him as a kind old duffer who was more concerned about this afternoon nap than the behaviour of the boys who were supposedly in his charge. Some at the school even suspected he was gradually succumbing to some form of long-term dementia.

In such a way, at a mere twenty years old, Miss Philips took total command over her boys who soon learnt that life in Wellington was now set to change dramatically. Every morning, beds had to be properly made, pyjamas neatly folded on top of pillows and the boys had to stand to attention next to their beds in their school uniforms which their new matron personally inspected before dismissing them.

Miss Philips had a noble aim for her boys; her boys would be the smartest, most orderly in the whole school and, like it or not, they were to become ‘her boys’ and reflect her values and eventually be under her personal charge. For several years, Miss Philips, a young hitherto wholly inexperienced matron became the unspoken commander of Wellington House. And, to be quite frank, she proved herself as redoubtable as any house master I have ever known.

I can remember boys trembling with the most dreadful apprehension at the very thought of disappointing their matron. Miss Philips saw to it that her boys were always provided with a meaningful consequence to their actions. I shall never forget how she dealt with one boy in particular who has recently sent me his account of a meeting with Matron Philips whilst residing in Wellington House as a boarder in the second form. This is how he remembers it…

<<
She called for me when I least expected it. I was just coming to the end of lunch in the school dinning hall when Parker, her personally appointed helper stood behind me and said, “Finish now, Cooper. Matron Philips needs to see you in the dorm.” I followed Parker as he led me to the dorm. When I entered, Matron Philips was standing next to the iron railing at the end of my bed wearing her usual pleated tartan skirt, white blouse and a navy blue jacket with the school emblem from the girls’ school she attended sewn onto its right-hand breast pocket. She stared at me in silence and, as soon as I had approached, she pointed to a pack of chewing gum she had found stuffed inside the case of my pillow.

“Don’t even bother lying to me, Cooper,” she said. “You know why you’re really here!” She was holding a small slender cane in one hand which she tapped against the iron rail of the bed. I took up my position and held my breath.

At first, I was not unusually worried. Her cane was just a thin prep school cane, the sort used on younger boys of eight to eleven. But I soon learnt that her choice of cane was unusually flexible and whippier than any cane I had previously experienced. The first stroke caused me to let out a terrible shriek as the slender end of its tip whiplashed against my regulation grey shorts and left what felt like a streak of caustic fire across my bottom. She carried on relentlessly and, after a while, through the pain and endless swishing of her English prep school cane, I realised why I was there. I was there to be taught the way things were to be for the rest of my school life – like it or not, I was now under Matron Philips’s complete and utter charge and that was the way it was going to be from now on.

She finished me off with a couple of stinging blows to the palms of my hands. When it had all finally ended and I just stood there in front of Matron Philips, my head bowed in submission to her authority, a part of me desperate to learn how never to displease her again. Before dismissing me, she spoke to me softly. “I’m sure you won’t be wanting to go through that again, Cooper. Will you now?” I nodded my head very firmly and nearly felt urged to beg her to explain to me what I should do from now on to avoid her wrath or displeasure.

“Thank you, Miss Philips.” I said as Miss Philips dismissed me, not unkindly. “Good boy, Cooper,” she said smiling at me and then added, “You’re one of mine now!”>>>

Young Cooper, along with all of the other boys who found themselves under Miss Philips’s charge soon learnt that obedience and respect towards their Matron was their only option. At times, Miss Philips was forced to remind individual boys of their mistakes and they found themselves at the receiving end of her small prep school cane which she used to an overwhelmingly strong effect. Indeed, Cooper later on described his dismay at just how ‘merciless’ it was when so expertly wielded by his new Matron and how, thanks to her, its stinging whiplash tail spurred him away from idleness and sloth towards reflecting her ideas and then finally embracing her values and beliefs in later life.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Matron Philips - Making a Man of a Boy


Part I


During his first two years, Mayhew had pleased his masters with his hard work, attention to detail and automatic respect for their authority. He had been proud to be part of the school and had always worn his uniform with the utmost pride feeling a strong sense of identity with the values that it represented. In fact, it could be said that Mayhew had built up a reputation as the perfect pupil and, in his masters’ opinion, was set for higher things and some of his maters even spoke of Mayhew as possible ‘Sandhurst material’.

He was a keen member of the school cadet force and enjoyed leading his small group of 1st form boys during Friday afternoon drill practice. During weekend camp, Mayhew had demonstrated his shared sense of order with the school when directing his young ‘cadet pack’ in being first to successfully erect their tent and pass inspection with flying colours. Each boy knew his exact task and when to fulfil it under Mayhew’s expert direction.

The young boys looked up to Mayhew and two of them in particular, Chapman and Bishop enjoyed listening to his stories and, at a mere eleven years old, were clearly still na├»ve enough to readily believe much of what their pack leader said. To a great extent, it was during that weekend camping adventure that Mayhew got to know his pack and win their respect as their fearless commander-in-chief. Like any great leader, he realised the value of being able to walk the walk and, above all, talk the talk and the ‘talk’ started after dark beneath the canvas of his victory tent. The boys lay in sleeping bags, their heads meeting together over a dimly lit pocket torch; Mayhew spoke and the younger boys listened and occasionally Chapman or Bishop would ask him more, plainly astonished at the bravery of his words. And the more they asked, the more he felt brave and the more he felt admired and respected and valued. And all at Matron Philips’s expense!

“What you have to realise, Bishop,” he explained with his finger waving in the darkness above the boys’ heads, “is that everybody has their weak points.”

“Everybody!” exclaimed the younger boy.

“Yes, Bishop. Everybody!” he said resolutely. “Even Matron Philips!”

At this point, the younger boys laughed nervously and listened on as Mayhew explained his case. “Have you ever seen her cane, then?” he asked with derision in his voice. “It’s tiny, I’d say probably about the size of her boy friend’s dick. And you know why?... Because she’s not allowed anything bigger than that - and that’s a fact!”

And it was thus that Mayhew’s bravado carried on through the weekend and then on into the weeks ahead as he and his minions met up at break and lunchtimes and after prep in various places around the school. Of course, he let it be known that he wasn’t really the model pupil everyone had thought he was. Of course, he had done his fair share of stunts, dares and forfeits. Of course, he had never felt the master’s cane upon neither palm nor hide, not because he was a goody goody or pesky swat, but rather because his daddy and eldest brother were terribly important in the ‘service’ and every teacher was far too scared to even think of laying a finger upon him… even… Yes, even Matron Philips herself!

To be honest, it was the snow ball effect. The more Mayhew boasted to the crowd the more his bravado took on new layers of bluster. He had always meant to lay it to rest, but the boys wanted to know more, to admire him, to gasp at his bravery, to look up to their leader who brought them victory at camp, who led them in drill, who could take on the scariest woman on earth and have her ‘eating out of his hands’ as he now so often liked to describe his relationship with ‘dear old Matron Pee’.


Part II

One morning, something very strange happened, very strange indeed. The boys in Mayhew’s dorm awoke to the sound of music. It was Matron Philips singing to herself as she walked straight through the middle of the dormitory between the double row of beds. “Wake up, boys,” she called and then she went on to announce the most impossible phrase that could never have come from between her lips. “Leave your beds to me. Just quickly get washed and get yourselves into that breakfast hall!”

Most could hardly believe it. A few pinched themselves to check to see if they were still dreaming as she carried on singing to herself. One boy even froze in terror utterly convinced that it was all some kind of a trick or cunning ruse to smoke out any last remnants of innate insolence that still lingered within him. But it was true, nobody was dreaming and Matron Philips even smiled at the terror struck boy, “Come on, Dixon,” she called over to him, “Your porridge is getting cold!”

Poor Dixon who had experienced the matron’s ‘darker side’ and was now ever mindful to always do what he was told, immediately hurried his pace, got washed and then changed into his uniform and stood to attention next to his bed. Matron Philips walked slowly up to the boy, shook her head imperceptibly, came closer and, with both hands, set to the task of readjusting his school tie. Dixon obediently raised his chin as her fingers skilfully slid the end of the tie through its knot and aligned it perfectly against his clean white collar. Just for a few moments, the neatly ironed pleats on Matron Philips’s tartan skirt gently brushed against his legs just below his grey regulation shorts.

The young boy felt intensely elated. A few more times, he felt the edges of the pleats on her skirt delicately brushing the area just above his bare knees. All the while, her eyes were intently focussed upon creating for him the perfect knot for the day ahead. The house matron slowly shook her head and then repeated his name a few times over. “Oh Dixon, Dixon, Dixon, what are we going to do with you!” she gently laughed to herself as her fingers slid around his shirt collar to complete her work.

“There, Dixon,” she said with genuine warmth in her voice and stood back to admire the very smart-looking young schoolboy now standing before her. “You may go now.”

As he left for the breakfast hall, it felt as though the pleats of Matron’s skirt were still touching Dixon’s legs and her fingers straightening his now perfectly knotted school tie. He listened to Mayhew and, this time, took avid notice of what he said. It angered him; it was Matron Philips after all whom Mayhew was so disrespectful of. And, as the new school day began around him, Dixon suddenly felt strongly resolved, he no longer felt guilty about what he had done the evening before. He knew why it had had to be done – after all, a beautiful young lady’s honour had been at stake!


Part III

Mayhew was somewhat puzzled all through his geography lesson during the late morning. At the beginning of the lesson, Parker had arrived with a note containing instructions direct from Matron Philips for him to assemble with his cadet pack in the dorm at twelve o’clock sharp. When he arrived there, he found his pack standing in a neat line, shoulders back, chins out and what could best be described as sheer terror in their eyes. Matron Philips swivelled around as soon as their leader appeared.

“I’ve just been admiring your pack, Mayhew,” she said to the boy as he hurriedly fell into line with the rest. “I can most certainly see that you’ve done a fantastic job on them, sterling effort, Mayhew. Really, a sterling effort if I ever saw one!”

Mayhew’s face was expressionless, he jutted out his chin in true school cadet fashion and replied, “Thank you, Mam!” and lightly stamped his foot military style.

“Excellent, Mayhew!” commended the house matron. She then gestured to them to take a look around the dorm. “I have a task for you, Mayhew. Look at all those unmade beds. I want to see if you can get your pack to do as good a job on them as they did with the tent during weekend camp a few weeks ago! Do you think that they’re up to it?”

Matron Philips nodded abruptly and started to leave. Then, as she reached the door, she looked around and shouted back, “Well, Mayhew? You had better get the boys cracking then, I’m coming back soon to inspect what they’ve done!”


Part IV

Mayhew really had mobilised his pack as best he could. They had been given little time and it was more than likely down to the young boys’ twitchy nerves which had made them under perform. Matron Philips was not impressed however. She trotted from one end of the dorm to the other pulling out shoddily tucked in sheets, looked under covers to find ruffled blankets and sagging pillow cases. She then returned to the line of nervous boys and began to speak.

“Appalling,” she announced with a clipped voice, “Totally and utterly appalling!” She then turned to Mayhew, looked him in the eye, he lowered his gaze automatically as she spoke. “Well, Mayhew. There’s only one answer to this, isn’t there? We’ll have to teach them a lesson for such shoddy work.”

Matron Philips walked over to one of the beds, produced her thin prep school cane and tapped it on the iron railing. “Chapman, here.” She commanded. She then walked to the next bed and tapped the cane on its rail. “Bishop!” . . . “Walker!” . . . “Thompson!” . . . “Curtis!” . . . “Simmonds!”

The boys dutifully took up their positions in silence as their cadet leader looked on. One boy began to sob whilst others visibly trembled as a faint wave of murmuring ran through the ranks of petrified young schoolboy cadets. Bishop could no longer restrain himself from calling out in utter desperation, tears strained his still childlike voice, “Please Mam, please, please, Mam.” All the time, not daring once to leave his position.

“Mayhew,” said Matron Philips. “With leadership comes the privilege of choice and with choice comes the burden of responsibility.” The English boys’ school matron pointed her cane towards the cold iron railings at the foot of Mayhew’s dormitory bed. “You must decide, Mayhew. Which is it to be? You or them?”


Part V

Once the pack had been dismissed, Mayhew took up his position, his hands firmly grasped the top rail of the end of his bedstead. Matron Philips gently tapped the back of his legs indicating for him to shunt inwards by a few inches; as he did so, he felt the grey flannel of his regulation shorts constrict around his backside leaving him a perfectly exposed target for the full force of the slender whip-like cane that now hovered near at hand. Once boy and matron were ready, a brief pause ensued. Mayhew braced himself for his house matron’s first move. Matron Philips slowly raised her cane, a fierce swish cut the air above him immediately followed by a firm crack as the tip of her cane whiplashed against his bottom and left a sharp sting there which, seconds later, began to spread out across the whole area like a forest fire of burning agony.

Mayhew gasped in pure shock at the sheer intensity of the first stroke. In Matron Philips’s hands, the small English prep school cane left a caustic bite which, within seconds, caused the whole bottom to sting with agony. When the second stroke landed with deadly accuracy upon the first, Mayhew’s clenched both fists around the rail of the bedstead and drew in sharply the air around him. By the third stroke, his body reeled and tears welled up and a feeling of desperate panic invaded his whole being as every part of him urged his mouth to scream out for clemency from his house matron who showed absolutely no sign of allowing the agonising torment to finally end.

After a few more strokes, Mayhew lost all reserve, between each stroke he whimpered pathetically and yelped like a small puppy each time the cane scourged his increasingly raw bottom. As the stinging intensified into a crescendo of undiluted pain, he could only see one thing in his mind’s eye; Matron Philips standing before him and speaking to him. “Learning obedience is never easy, Mayhew,” she said to the boy. “You have shown much courage, young man and earned the respect of your pack”. Mayhew nodded and tearfully thanked his Matron. “Yes, Mayhew, you are now learning what it means to be a leader, to take responsibility for others’ actions, to show sacrifice, to understand what will be expected of you, to be ever mindful of your duty as a leader.”

Whether Matron Philips actually spoke these words during his caning or whether Mayhew imagined them is difficult to say. The one thing that can be said is that the image of Matron Philips that seized his mind’s eye during that caning never really let go. Her image was akin to an icon that guided him to these conclusions and helped Mayhew to fully appreciate why his parents were sending him to the school he was at. Matron Philips embodied the very essence of the traditional English school; through strict discipline, she trained her boys to show automatic obedience, respect for authority and to develop a high regard for order and, above all, a sense of duty that overrides all personal considerations. She was moulding him into the man he was to be and Mayhew learnt to both fear and love his matron’s values and adopt them as his own.

When Mayhew was finally allowed to stand up, he extended his hands towards his matron. The cruel whip-like tip of Matron Philips’s cane stung each palm twice over and left Mayhew in a wretched state. He held both hands under his armpits and winced with agony as his matron placed her cane upon the end of a bed and came toward him. She stood looking at the wretched figure before her and then walked over to him and began to tidy the knot of his tie. “There, Mayhew,” she said with genuine warmth in her voice straightening the lapels on his school blazer. “I can’t have any of my boys turning up to their masters looking scruffy, can I, Mayhew?”

Mayhew silently nodded his head, thanked Matron Philips and waited to be dismissed.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Home Canes



Most people seem to be under the impression that the cane was confined to school life. In some cases, headmasters actively encouraged parents to buy a cane for keeping good discipline at home and I for one viewed this as a very positive way that the school could actively work with parents to promote higher standards of discipline among the boys.

I remember there being a fair degree of concern about the general attitude and behaviour of some of the older day pupils at the prep school that I worked at. It was felt that more needed to be done regarding communication between school and home and this, in turn, revealed just how unaware some parents were of the goings on of their sons at school.

Most parents instantly took on a look of disbelief, then horror and finally wanted to know how their boy had been brought to account. Once it was revealed that they had paid the price through a caning, the parent’s face normally fell back into a calmer look of relief that somebody had ensured he had paid the price for his behaviour. It was during just such a meeting with a parent that the kernel of an idea occurred to me. It was a certain Mrs Dawson, a mother who quite frankly admitted that, during term time and week ends, she felt beleaguered at home, having to cope with three boisterous sons and no father there to offer support.

After hearing how her eldest had been brought to book by myself, a woman, Mrs Dawson turned to me and half jokingly said, “I don’t suppose you’d have a spare cane you could lend me?”

Both of us smiled at what she had just said and left it at that. However, Mrs Dawson had planted a kernel of an idea in my mind and it germinated and grew within me until I could hold it back no more and felt the need to make sure it was replanted in fertile ground.

The Headmaster liked the idea and, within minutes, he was reciting a letter to his secretary that would be sent out to the parents of all pupils aged ten and upwards.

Within a few days, signed order forms and cheques were arriving in the morning post and I was particularly pleased to see that five of these came from the parents of boys in my class including one signed ‘P. Dawson’. Our suppliers were pleasingly efficient and, within a week, a large bundle of rattan canes was delivered as promised and the headmaster’s secretary spent the best part of her afternoon writing boys’ names on brown labels with string and attaching them to the crooked handles of this latest consignment of school canes.

At the end of the day, I handed out the canes to each of the boys along with strict instructions that they had to bring back the labels with their parents’ signature as proof of receipt. Five very subdued-looking young lads left the classroom, each of them carrying their own cane with their name attached to its end.


An After Comment

In many cases, it was Matron who promoted the idea of the school supplying the boys' parents with canes since she was more concerned with their general upbringing and wanted to ensure that boundaries existed both at school AND home in their lives. Moreover, they wanted to make sure that it was the cane in particular that was used as the principal tool of punishment rather than the father's belt since the cane is much less likely to cause actual harm to a boy. Therefore, to a large degree it was Matron's natural concern for the boys in her charge that would lead her to making sure as far as possible that each boy's parents had a cane at their disposal for maintaining the necessary standards of discipline that we required of boys back in those days.

Matron Philips - The Netball Tournament


Part I

When Mayhew left the dorm and made his way through the corridors of the school, his mind was enveloped by the intense burning sensation in his palms and bottom. He held both hands awkwardly before him and occasionally drew them near to his mouth in a desperate attempt to placate the caustic stinging, using the moisture of his mouth to help soothe away a little of the agony. The lines of pure fire where Matron’s cane had scourged Mayhew’s bottom had exploded into a stinging symphony of pain that relentlessly chided his whole being. At one point, Mayhew could simply bare it no more. He stopped in the middle of the school corridor, leant against a wall and gave in to the terrible stinging sensation; boy after boy walked by the hunched figure, eyes closed and nursing its hands as it groaned pitiably and let the world pass it by on its way to the first of the afternoon’s lessons.

“Mayhew!” a prefect with laughter in his voice stooped over the pain ridden hunched third former and chanted his name a few more times. “Mayhew . . . Mayhew . . . Mayhew.” Still there was no response. “MAYHEW!” the prefect bellowed into the third former’s ear who, in turn, jumped to attention. “It’s time to get your pathetic stinging little arse to your next lesson, Mayhew,” said the prefect who then brought both hands up to his mouth and chuckled with glee as he mimicked the third former’s predicament by pretending to slaver his palms with his tongue. “I hear Matron Phil wasn’t too pleased with your troops, Mayhew. Never mind, I’m sure they’ll do better next time.”

“Yes, Pritchard,” was Mayhew’s only response to the 17-year old prefect whom he was obliged to respect.

Pritchard snorted down his nose, secretly disappointed at the third former’s lack of response.

“Listen here, Mayhew, you pathetic little tow rag. I’ve got a job for you to do for me. Get your puny little whipped arse over to
Marlborough senior dorm straight after prep this evening. If you’re not there, I’ll string you up by the fucking goolies; do you understand me, you little snot-nosed twerp?”

“Yes, Pritchard,” replied Mayhew with equal respect as the first time.

“Good!” stated the prefect. “Now get to your lesson, Mayhew.”

“Thank you, Pritchard.” And, at that, Mayhew made his way along the school corridor, hoping that his masters would allow him to stand throughout the lessons that afternoon.


Part II

As the afternoon lessons wore to a weary end for the day, the acute pain had turned itself into an uncomfortable warm glow that was bearable provided nothing touched his afflicted areas. After the lessons had finished, Mayhew met his young pack members who feted him as a hero, gasped with undiluted awe as he described the searing agonies of Matron Philips’s whiplash prep school cane and vowed sincerely to drill with absolute military precision during Friday afternoon cadet parade and to never ever let their captain down.

Bishop broke into song at one point, singing “For he’s a jolly good fellow” and ending what fast became a spontaneous group rendition with “Three cheers for Mayhew, hip hip hooray!”

Mayhew was genuinely touched by it all. He was now what Matron Philips had intended him to be; an officer and a gentleman, a leader of men, a man willing to sacrifice personal comfort for those who followed him. By the evening, the aftermath of the caning had lulled into a dull aching soar that now throbbed faintly in the back of his mind. Once prep was finished, Mayhew headed towards Marlborough senior dorm, he took a short cut which led around the edge of the large school playing field. As he walked towards the far end, where the old cricket pavilion stood, a gust of wind caused the end of his school tie to lift over his blazer lapels and flutter around his shoulders and dance freely in the evening air. As it furled and twisted and fluttered near to his face, Mayhew caught glimpses of the repeated school emblems and coloured stripes upon its surface. The young boy suddenly felt a deep sense of pride to be wearing it and remembered how Matron Philips had firmly secured its knot against the crisp white collar of his school shirt. As he walked on, Mayhew let his tie flutter in the wind and enjoyed the feeling it inspired in him; he felt as a knight at a jousting tournament who wears the colours of a beautiful lady.


Part III

Marlborough senior dorm had a decidedly different atmosphere to the one Mayhew was accustomed to in Wellington House. Pritchard and his band of sixth formers had no Matron Philips to watch out for and felt free to laugh, put feet on chairs and sit back as they pleased.

“Ah Mayhew!” Pritchard called out with mockery in his voice. “I thought you’d make it somehow.”

The young third former felt ill at ease within the world of the senior dorm and stood there frozen, only daring to move when a prefect ordered him to do so.

“This is Mayhew everyone!” Pritchard announced to the other older boys. “He’s come to do me a little job.”

“Good for you, Mayhew,” called out one of Pritchard’s friends who sat astride a wooden chair with his arms leaning on the top of its backrest. “Do you know what you’ve got to do?”

Mayhew returned a look of polite puzzlement. “See those shoes?” said Pritchard pointing to a long line of black school regulation shoes. “You’ll find the polish is already there along with an apron. Should be about your size, Mayhew, you are skinny little runt size, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Pritchard,” Mayhew answered without the merest sign of complaint in his voice just before removing his blazer, tying his apron and shining the first of many pairs. The older boys laughed a lot at Pritchard’s nasty joke and, as he polished his way through the older boys’ shoes, the small third former could not help but notice the way they seemed to giggle, sometimes quite uncontrollably, at what seemed to him, the merest of things. The boy astride the chair laughed the most and, after a while, Mayhew began to wonder why they found some things so hilariously funny. He listened sometimes with interest and sometimes with puzzlement as they mentioned the excellence of ‘doors’ and what seemed to be about ‘babies that come and light fires’.

Pritchard, however, was especially happy. He and a select few handpicked prefects were participating in what can only be best described as the most enviable event for any sixth form boy; travelling to Hamilton Towers Girls’ School and spectating the senior girls’ netball tournament. The scheme had been conceived a couple of years back by Mr Summers, a junior PE master who, wishing to ‘make his mark in the school’, actively sought to establish links with other schools. The link with Hamilton Towers soon became extraordinarily popular all round whereby girls travelled over to watch the boys play rugby who would later return the favour by enthusiastically cheering on their girl counterparts during their netball matches.

Of course, Pritchard crowed to the others and soon started to talk about a girl called Alison whom, from what Mayhew could gather, he sneaked off with to the back of the changing shed whilst everyone else’s attention was sharply focussed on the netball team in front.

“This time, I’m making damn sure she does it properly,” said Pritchard who raised his hand to his mouth and pretended to suck something in. “She just takes it a little bit down and nothing much happens.”

Mayhew found what he heard faintly disturbing, but carried on with his polishing uninterrupted until he had finished the very last pair. “Good work, Mayhew,” the senior boys commended him and looked genuinely pleased to see how well polished their shoes really were. “You can go, Mayhew,” said one of them. At that, Mayhew politely bid them good night and quietly left Marlborough senior dorm.


Part IV

The boys arrived early and found places to sit and relax on the newly mown grass which surrounded the netball court. Pritchard sat towards the back of the others and waited with thumping anticipation in his heart. Alison was a year older than him; she was in her last year of school and very determined to try out anything new that came her way in this life. His heart nearly skipped a beat when the first girls started to arrive in small groups, smiling and plainly happy to know the boys were there, yet mindful to not let this become too noticeable. Pritchard craned his neck to see behind them, to see around them and to see if she was amongst them; he soon grew anxious, frustrated, then bitter when she failed to show. A few minutes later, both netball teams assembled, took their positions and stood poised, motionless yet very ready, as they waited for their PE mistress’s whistle to finally blow. The whistle blew and, with it the match began; boys clapped and cheered, girls giggled and looked around. Meanwhile, Pritchard buried his face into his hands wondering why she hadn’t come.

“Pritchard!” hearing his name from behind, he instantly twisted himself around and, there above him stood Alison. The 18-year old looked pristinely feminine in a strictly girls’ school type of way in her sharply pleated grey skirt, knee length white socks and green school tie with its Hamilton Towers yellow stripes neatly worn against her clean white and very formal-looking blouse as per exact school regulation.

“Aren’t you even going to say hello to me, Pritchard!” she said with a strong hint of severity in her clear upper class English voice. “Well, Pritchard!” she said, this time placing both hands on her hips and frowning demonstrably.

“Hello, Alison,” the boy finally replied. Alison had little time for small talk and simply commanded the boy with a curt “Follow me” and led the way towards the changing shed behind which she sat down and invited Pritchard to sit beside her. “Good,” she said, “Nobody saw us. Did you bring it?”

“I might have done!” the boy said teasingly.

“Pritchard!” the girl called out with faked annoyance in her voice. She then clasped one hand behind the boy’s neck, pulled his face towards hers, “Kiss me, you rat bag!” she said to him before biting part of his lower lip and then joining her lips to his for as long as the boy could hold his breath.

“You get better every time, Pritchard!” she said after releasing him from her clutches. “Now where is it?”

Pritchard delved into the inside pocket of his schoolboy blazer and fished out a long, slender and not unskilfully made joint. He lit it and then drew in two or three long heavy dregs of blue aromatic smoke which he held in for as long as possible. “Now you must remember to always hold it in for as long as possible or else you won’t . . .”

“Good boy!” she exclaimed without letting him finish his sentence. “Now, give it to me!” Alison took the joint from out of his hand, lifted it towards her mouth, closed her lips around its end, but never drew it in. At that precise moment, the young girl slowly looked up and then focussed her eyes somewhere beyond Pritchard’s shoulder. This made the boy turn to see what it was. There standing before them was a young woman in a navy blue netball skirt and PE top. It was Miss Newman, one of Alison’s PE teachers.

“Stand up!” commanded Miss Newman who gathered the evidence from the ground and stubbed it out against the changing room shed. Both stood to attention and waited for Miss Newman to speak.

“Tuck your blouse in, girl.” Alison immediately did as she was told and quickly straightened her tie which was the automatic response of girls at
Hamilton Towers whenever confronted by a mistress’s authority. Right from her first day at school, she had been inculcated with the notion that a smart, tidy appearance equates to a smart, tidy mind and that very correct uniform would somehow placate those who held authority over her. She nudged Pritchard to do likewise; he did the same and quickly buttoned up his blazer in the same vain.

“That’s better!” remarked the PE teacher who then glared at the pair of them and literally marched them like soldiers towards the school building. “One, two . . . One, two . . . Left, right . . . Left, right,” barked Mrs Newman until they reached the school gym where they were left to stand in silence until ordered otherwise.


Part V

Matron Philips was bemused at first. Why had the headmaster chosen her, a non-teaching member of staff, a lowly house matron of just twenty years old to discuss such a profoundly serious crisis as drugs at the school? “We need someone young,” he had explained. “Someone to whom they might relate!”

Matron Philips nodded each time the headmaster spoke.

“A good school can always be rebuilt, but its good name is quite a different matter, Miss Philips.”

As he spoke, both shuddered at the alternative; sixth formers expelled, headlines in newspapers, anxious parents telephoning, benefactors withdrawing their sons along with their handsome cheques made out to princely sums.

“Precisely, Miss Philips. We must always think of what is good for our pupils and consider their needs first. The headmistress at the girls’ school agrees; both these youngsters have bright futures ahead of them; this is why silence is the word, my dear Miss Philips!”

Matron Philips was to make her way straight to Hamilton Towers and hold a ‘drugs awareness session’ with the boy and girl in question. “Make it such that neither would dare touch it again, Miss Philips,” explained the headmaster just before she left the Victorian style oak panelled study. “Aversion therapy, if you will, Miss Philips. Yes, exactly that. Aversion therapy is just what is needed here!”

Of course, Matron Philips was the ideal candidate for the job. Her presence at the school would be low key due to her position, being young herself would give her message more credibility and being a woman, she could deal with both the boy and the girl at the same time. She soon arrived at Hamilton Towers suitably dressed for the ‘drugs awareness session’. A few girls saw her walk by, but thought nothing of it. After all, everyone had seen a ‘nurse’ before.


Part VI

After marching them into the school gym, Mrs Newman saw to it that both boy and girl stood in absolute and total silence for a full hour before the door opened again. Pritchard blanched when Matron Philips walked through it. Alison could feel his horror and noted how very fearfully he surveyed the young woman in her nurse-like matron’s uniform, tightly tied back hair and sensible lace up shoes. Utter silence befell the hall. As Matron Philips walked up to them, Alison noted how Pritchard immediately stood yet more rigidly to attention and quickly lowered his eyes in total deference to the Matron who now stood before them. She walked past them, turned around and walked back again. With each step taken, her nylon stockings swished inaudibly against her impeccably well-pressed blue uniform. Finally, she walked behind the pair and, from there, began to speak to them.

“Pritchard!” she pronounced the boy’s surname with a clipped proficiency that could have cut the very finest of glassware. “Drugs kill. Did you know that, Pritchard?”

“Yes, Mam!”

“Good!” commended the house matron. “And who is this?”

“Alison Chatterton,” said the girl.

“Did I ask you to talk, girl?” snapped the boys’ school matron.

“No, Mam,” quickly replied Alison who now felt herself automatically jerk to attention every time the matron spoke.

“Then keep quiet until you’re spoken to, Chatterton.”

“Yes, Mam!” replied the schoolgirl.

Matron Philips fell silent for a moment, preferring to remain behind them for a few moments longer. For those few fleeting seconds, she was actually fazed. At eighteen, Alison was not so much younger than herself, a mere couple of years in fact; only their clothes distinguished who was what – change them over and roles would too easily be reversible. The young matron quickly banished these thoughts from her mind, feigned a sigh and started to speak.

“Chatterton,” she said with total authority in her voice. “Fetch me those two chairs and place back to back there in the middle of the gym.”

Alison snapped too it. She found two chairs in an adjacent back room and, one by one, set them as instructed. Once her job was done, she looked over to the matron and, suddenly, horror filled her eyes. Pritchard looked, silently gulped, then recoiled with the same abject horror. There, in both hands, Matron Philips was now holding her slender prep school cane which was bent into a definite arc. As she gently flexed the arc of the cane inwards and outwards, she looked at Alison and then began to speak. “Drugs kill!” she said with slow deliberation in her voice. “What do drugs do, Chatterton?”

Alison simply stared back. For a moment, she was transfixed, disbelieving; she thought of running, of begging, of fighting, of screaming. She even thought of dying there and then on the very spot in the middle of the school gym; she now suddenly realised why she had just been made to set up the chairs. “They kill, Mam!” she finally replied as a terrible trembling anguish gripped her body.

“Yes,” stated Matron Philips. “And they also ruin lives, people’s reputations and, most importantly of all, those of schools.” Alison nodded forlornly as the matron continued to speak. “Now sit down on that chair,” Matron Philips then gestured towards the chair and Alison quickly did as she was told and continued to listen. “In a few moments, young lady, you are going to hear the consequences of a rather stupid boy’s actions. He is going to be one of my boys from now on, under my command, living in my dorm and answering to me at all times until he leaves his school. You will hear him receiving his first lesson as one of my boys; you will hear him learning about consequences, you will hear him learning about the expectations and values of his new house matron. For him, it’s going to be a very hard and exacting lesson. However, you will see nothing and, most importantly of all, you will say nothing of what has happened today, not now, not tomorrow, not next year, not ever. Do you understand me, young lady?”

“Yes, Mam!” came the girl’s reply as she averted her gaze and looked outwards from her chair.

Matron Philips looked over to the boy, flexed her supple whiplash cane between her fingers and called him to take position at the other chair.

“Pritchard,” commanded his new house matron, “Trousers off!”


Part VII

These two words struck terror into the boy’s heart. They clearly stated Matron Philips intentions for him; to make the caning as painful as possible. Pritchard felt horribly vulnerable; his backside was now totally exposed (bar a pair of flimsy cotton underpants) to the full force of each burning swipe that his matron would choose to administer to him. In his mind, he searched for any way out. Yet, unsurprisingly, his search was in vain; all that he could find was utter helplessness and the hopeful notion that only through totally co-operating with the caning process might he persuade his new mistress to show at least some clemency in appreciation of this fact. With this in mind, Pritchard straightened both legs and made sure that his bottom was a perfect target for the matron. Matron Philips then locked onto her target and smited it with stinging proficiency.

Matron Philips’s first swipe created a resounding ‘crack’ that echoed throughout the gym and caused Alison to jolt in her chair. Pritchard released a tiny gasp which hugely underrated the sheer agony that he felt as it landed. Matron Philips waited a full fifteen or even twenty seconds between each swipe to allow the burning sensation to spread across the boy’s backside before compounding the pain with yet more pain. The caustic stinging raged across both buttocks and, after a couple more swipes, Pritchard was becoming conscious of two things – his new house matron and the searing agony that was her lesson to him.

During the early stages, Pritchard had held valiantly to his image of Alison. He resolved to do so no matter what, no matter how unbearable the pain was likely to become, it was always to be for her; a powerful token from boy to girl that could never be broken from within. But each of Matron’s swipes brought yet more pain than the last. Before long, Pritchard began to hear his own voice reverberating around the gym. The relentless stroke of his house matron’s thin whip-like cane brought the boy to the point where all inhibition was lost; he yelped, gasped plaintively, blubbered through tears of remorse and finally yielded to the power of his matron’s cane. He cried out for pity. At this point he had forsaken Alison’s image completely and, in his mind, he could only see the neat, primly dressed school matron who now had him completely at her command. Pritchard finally yielded. His lesson had been learnt and Matron Philips took one last well aimed swipe and stopped.

“Put your trousers on,” Matron Philips’s command was gentle compared to before and Pritchard gratefully did as he was told. He offered his hands to her which she smited with the tapered end of her cane. Its tip lashed against the surface of each palm and left a thin red line which stung atrociously. The boy hunched his back holding both hands beneath his armpits as he sobbed pitifully in front of his new house matron. In his mind, he vowed never to disappoint her again and to prove his obedience to her straight away.

“This is a boy who has learnt his lesson,” she announced, inviting Alison to turn around and behold the spectacle. “You see, Chatterton.” She continued with remarkable calm in her voice. “They all need the same thing; they need to know who is boss. In that way, they can be more easily instructed and guided in the right ways. All of my boys need to be reminded of this at one time or other.”

Then, as Alison watched on, Matron Philips went up to Pritchard and spoke to him softly, tutting and repeating his name gently, “Oh Pritchard, Pritchard, Pritchard. I’m sorry that it had to happen, but you only have yourself to blame, young man!” She then straightened his tie and attended to the lapels of his school blazer, stood back a pace and quickly admired how splendidly smart he now looked.

“Come on, Pritchard. It’s time to go.”

And, at that, Matron Philips left as her new boy followed quickly behind.

Friday, 2 October 2009

The Head Girl

Here is a little story I once received from an acquaintance. It illustrates very well the kind of power that a head boy or head girl had over juniors where the right to slipper juniors was granted to the in some schools in England.
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I know that 12-year old brothers are annoying, especially to older sisters when they invite their friends around and little brother plays up. But it was only so that he would get noticed!

My sister was in the sixth form at the same school and she was best friends with Sarah Jenkins who was incidentally the head girl. At school, she wore a little red badge in the shape of a shield on the lapel of her blazer and had the reputation of being a thoroughly responsible girl and good in nearly everything. She was tall with long blond hair as well as being well spoken and confident with it.

When she came round to see my sister, I used to lie in wait. I loved annoying them, it was good sport. Squirting water on their heads from my bedroom window as they left to see some boys, putting butter on the handle to my sister’s bedroom door are just a few of the ways I amused myself at their expense. They, on the other hand, were usually not amused at all and I should have paid much closer attention when Sarah told my sister, promised her in fact, that she would see to it that I would pay dearly when I made snow come in late June with a packet of flour which accidentally fell out of my hands and landed on Sarah’s head!

That was on a Saturday back in 1975 and by the next Monday morning, I had forgotten all about it. Unfortunately, Sarah had not. It was during lunch time when I was meandering along a small path that led to the playground that I saw her coming the other way. It meant squeezing past her and instead she blocked my way and stood over me (she was a great deal taller than I was at that time).

“Andrew!” she said with a look of seriousness in her eyes, “Do your tie up and your top button with it.”

I co-operated knowing that she was head girl after all and head girls did have some power over us juniors.

“And sort your blazer out,” she added.

I tried my best to turn back lapels, straighten my uniform out and then hopefully be able to move on. I was beginning to not like the expression on Sarah’s face, a faint glint lurked in her eye, as though something had been pre-planned.

“Here let me help you,” she said with feigned exasperation in her voice. With that, she thrust a hand into my blazer pocket and instantly removed it again, with a small packet of Embassy Number Ones in it. I looked at her with utter consternation in my eyes.

“And what’s this?” she enquired as she held the packet up to my face. “You’d better come with me, Andrew. I think we’ve got a lot that needs sorting out!”

I followed Sarah, wondering how in Heaven’s name the cigarettes had got into my pocket. It was obviously a plant, but from whom? I could only guess that it was my sister. But, apparently, I was wrong about that and shall never quite know who planted those cigarettes upon me.

Sarah led me into the school gym. It was empty and smelled faintly of old socks. “Andrew,” she said looking at me, “Get into your PE kit now!” she ordered.

I looked back at Sarah enquiringly. “But I haven’t got it with me!”

Sarah walked over to a wooden bench where there was a single large gym shoe and a PE bag sitting on top of it, my PE bag in fact!

She slung it over to me. I caught the bag clumsily in my arms and then protested.

“This isn’t fair!” I said loudly to her. The echo of my voice was immediately added to by the sound of footsteps, a teacher’s footsteps. From nowhere, Mr Malden, my PE teacher walked in to the gym. He smiled benevolently at Sarah and then scowled at me. He had never liked me and I could see that I was now in a trap.

“Hello Sir!” Sarah said to the teacher. “Just dealing with Andrew . . . I hope you don’t mind me coming into your gym, Sir.”

Sarah was all but fluttering her eyelids as she spoke. Mr Malden cleared his throat and then smiled back at Sarah, not forgetting to send me another quick scowl of disapproval as her looked round.

“No worries, Sarah – you’ve got your duties as a head girl to be getting on with.” he said as eh turned towards the door and began to leave.

“Thank you, Mr Malden,” Sarah replied.

Mr Malden stopped for a second and glanced back towards the wooden bench. “Don’t forget to put it back where you found it, will you now, Sarah,” he said as all eyes rested upon the large gym shoe sat next to where my PE bag had just been.

“And as for you, Andrew,” he added with disdain in his voice, “I’m leaving you in her charge and if there’s any trouble you’ll have me to deal with – is that clear?”

“Yes, Sir!” I replied, but he didn’t hear since he was already gone.

I finally did as I was told. I quickly changed into my PE kit and stood before Sarah.

Sarah pointed to the climbing bars on the side of the gym and showed me that I needed to bend over and place my hands on the lower rungs with my bottom pointing outwards. I got the idea. I glanced fearfully at the large gym shoe and then did as |I was told once again. Once in position, I felt exposed and anxious. Sarah picked up the show and moved towards me. She tapped it gently against my backside a couple of times and began to speak.

“Yes, Andrew,” she said half laughing, “You’ve been set up. So let’s get to why you’re really here. I’m going to give you the thrashing of a lifetime with this gym shoe and, oh yes, this is going to hurt you a lot more than it’s going to hurt me!”

With that she placed a mighty whack across my bottom and I gasped. It hurt a lot, a lot more than I had imagined it would and I looked around and exclaimed, “For God’s sake, Sarah!”

Sarah saw the look of anguish in my face and shrugged her shoulders and then smiled.

“Oh dear, Andrew,” she said as she began to remove her school blazer with the shield on its lapel. “I was just warming up. You do know that I’m a brilliant tennis player don’t you?” she said menacingly.

Sarah then rolled up the sleeve of her right arm, stepped back a good few paces and ran up like to me at full pelt placing an almighty thwack upon my backside.

A terrific yelp emanated from me and reverberated around the empty gym. Being under Sarah’s charge was proving to be a very unpleasant experience and I was panicking inside.

“God, I’m sorry, Sarah,” I pleaded back to her. “I’ve learnt my lesson, I know what you’re doing and I won’t annoy you and my sister ever again . . . I promise!”

Sarah made no reaction. She walked back up to me and laid a volley of three thwacks upon my backside in fast succession. I cried out as loudly as anyone could and the moaned pitifully as I felt the harshness of Sarah’s stinging gym shoe spread across my buttocks.

Sarah continued for a fair while. One thwack was laid upon another. I closed my eyes and took my medicine, vowing to never cross her or my sister again. Through the pain, however, I appreciated that I had gone too far in annoying the girls, that they had deserved more respect and with the kind of whacking skills Sarah was inflicting on me, I hardly had any other choice than to show her all the respect I could.

When Sarah had finally finished with me, she let me change back into my school uniform for afternoon lessons and, after checking that I looked neat and tidy, she sent me away with my hands held over a pair of burning cheeks. That next Saturday, Sarah stayed for dinner. I was very polite to her and my sister was genuinely surprised by my change in attitude towards her best friend. She hadn’t known a thing, and she never did find out.

As far as my sister is concerned, her little brother just became more respectful over night.