by Susan Thomas
I was eighteen when my parents moved to the small market town, and one week after we moved in I started as secretarial assistant at the Lady Alice Booth School for Girls. I am the dunce of my family. My father is head of a top secret research establishment and a total boffin who rarely touches earth long enough to talk to his children, especially me. My mother is Caroline Dole, MP; I expect you will have heard of her - she is currently the PM's hatchet woman but is widely tipped to be Prime Minister one day. My sister is doing her doctorate at Cambridge and my brother is reading Maths at Oxford. I did well to get seven O-Levels.
I was expected to stay for the Sixth Form to take A-Levels and at least train to be a teacher or a nurse, but I decided otherwise. I checked out a secretarial course at the local technical college and being satisfied, announced that it was what I was going to do. The family horror dashed against my rocks until it exhausted itself and I did well for the very first time. I finally qualified at the very top of my class with, among other things, the best typing speed ever recorded. The Lady Alice School was pleased to get me.
It was a school for very bright (in other words not me) and rich girls who all had ponies and went skiing in fashionable places - not that my family were poor, but they were simply not in that league. I was astonished then when I found that these rich girls could get caned by Dr Miles Croft, the male headmaster. There had been no corporal punishment at my girls' school and I was surprised to find that even the sixth formers at Lady Alice weren't immune, although it was rare.
Dr Croft’s secretary was Miss Wheelton who wrote up the punishment book every time a girl got caned. When she discovered that my handwriting was good (I won a prize for handwriting at junior school) she handed the job over to me. I had to write in the girl's name and form, the reason for punishment, how many strokes, and the date. Oh there is one more thing and it shocked me. I queried the words ‘ordinary’, ‘superior’ and ‘best’.
"It’s simple dear. If a girl gets the ‘ordinary’ she keeps her skirt down; if she gets a ‘superior’ she has to lift her skirt and gets it on her knickers; and if she gets the ‘best’ it is on the bare bottom."
"That's horrible!" I cried. "He can't go caning the girls on the bare, it's... well, it's rude."
"Nonsense." Miss Wheelton was not pleased with my response. "It is supported wholeheartedly by the parents because they want their daughters to grow up well-disciplined young ladies, and we see that they do."
After that I kept my thoughts to myself though there was actually a fairly steady stream of girls attending Dr Croft's office for the cane. His procedure was always the same. He made them disclose what they had done, lectured them on why it was wrong and got them to agree, and announced their punishment. Then they walked through a door into a small anteroom. It had very little in it - a fireplace where no fire was ever lit, a dull utilitarian cupboard and a solid wooden chair. They all bent over that chair holding on to the seat while Dr Croft beat them with the cane. I could hear it all from my desk.
I heard his command of ‘Bend over’ to which he always added their surname. So it would be ‘Bend over, Whithers’ or whatever their name was. Then there was a silence as the girl complied followed by a nasty swish as the cane flew through the air. The sound varied when it landed depending on what type of punishment it was. An ‘ordinary’ made a sort of 'thwack' as it landed on the girl's skirt, but a ‘best’ made a really nasty fleshy ‘crack’. The girls getting it on the bare tended to cry out somewhere during the punishment but the others were quite mixed. Some made no sound at all and others lots of noise. I might only have heard their canings but I saw them all leave. The girls who got it on the bare usually cried, if only a little bit. The others could really be quite stoic but a large percentage couldn't help rubbing their bottoms as they walked away.
Now all this began to have an odd effect on me. I began to find it exciting. I hung on to every swish and crack feeling little tingles running through me. I especially got the tingles when a sixth former got it. After all, some of those upper sixth girls were the same age as me more or less. I'd watch them carefully as they walked away and began to wonder what their bottoms looked like after their caning. At home in my bedroom I'd bend over my desk chair and pretend I was getting the cane and try to imagine how it felt. Then I'd stand and rub my bottom as if I had been caned. The whole business began to prey upon my mind, so caning and being caned were often in my thoughts and I longed to watch one. Dr Croft carried out the ‘ordinary’ ones by himself but Miss Wheelton witnessed whenever a ‘superior’ or ‘best’ caning was given and I wished, just for once, that I could take her place.
Miss Wheelton's mother was getting on in years and she often liked to go rather early to see to her. Once she discovered how competent I was she made a habit of going early at least twice a week. If Dr Croft was not around I took the opportunity to slip into the anteroom and get the cane from the cupboard. I swished that cane through the air and flexed it, becoming all tingly and excited. I even tried hitting my bottom with it but it was too awkward to do. I knew that a caning must hurt but at the same time I desperately wanted to try one but there was no real prospect of it as far as I could see. Still, if I could watch one that would be good.
I always get to work early to make sure I am fully organised. One morning I took a phone call from Miss Wheelton. Her mother was ill and she really couldn't leave her so she was going to stay at home for a couple of days. I was as sympathetic as could be and explained the situation to Dr Croft when he came in. He was a very nice man (though I suppose the girls being caned might not think so) and asked me to arrange for some flowers and fruit to be sent to Mrs and Miss Wheelton. It was only after I had finished that I realised the implications of her absence. If he had any ‘superior’ or 'best' canings I was going to get to watch.
It wasn't until the next morning that a caning occurred. I was typing a governors' report when Dr Croft strode into the office looking somewhat angry.
"I have three girls coming to be caned at lunchtime, I shall need you as a witness I’m afraid. Do you have any concerns about that?"
Somehow I managed to keep calm and neutral. "No, that is perfectly alright Dr Croft. What time?"
I got the punishment book out in advance and wrote in their names, working hard to keep my hands from trembling. They were three girls in the upper sixth, so much the same age as me. The silly things had gone out at lunchtime the day before, which was allowed, but they had gone to the Saintly Dragon pub which was not allowed. There they had met with some boys from the grammar school which was definitely not allowed, and one had been seen kissing and cuddling with a lad, which was off the Richter scale in offences as far as Lady Alice was concerned.
At the due time the three girls arrived. They looked as if they couldn't believe what was happening. I heard one of them whisper, "But he can't cane us we're upper sixth now. I shall be at Oxford in a few months time."
"Don't be silly Susan, this is Lady Alice. It might be the day before we left and he'd still cane us." She turned to me. "Are we getting the cane?"
"Yes Miss Caroline, I am afraid you are." That strange way of speaking to a girl the same age was how we were meant to address sixth form girls. If they were younger we just called them by their first names. The all looked very gloomy which made me feel ashamed because I was very excited.
"Do you know what we are going to get?"
"Dr Croft will discuss that with you when he calls you in."
That of course was a lie. Dr Croft would discuss nothing he would simply tell them and I already knew exactly what they were getting. Caroline Derbyshire was getting six of the ‘best’ as she was the one doing the kissing and cuddling. Susan Snape was getting six ‘superior’ and Mary Cosgrove was getting the same, but I had little sympathy with them. They were all Oxbridge and I was a dunce but there would have been no chance of me meeting boys at the pub at lunchtime while in my school uniform. After school after I had changed would be just fine, but dunce though I am I know enough to be cautious. I've noticed that about very clever people - they often can't organise their daily lives but get all muddled and do really stupid things.
Dr Croft called them all in and I went in and stood demurely in the background listening with concealed excitement. Any thought I might be cruel was banished from my mind. He ran over their crimes with them and made some good points, I thought. One that stuck in my mind was they were in school uniform and that their behaviour would be unfairly applied to all wearing that uniform by members of the public. "A school's reputation can easily be destroyed by gossip like that," he said severely.
He ordered Susan to go first and the three of us walked into the anteroom with me shutting the door behind us.
"Bend over, Snape."
Miss Susan looked nervous and I guessed she had been caned before and wasn't looking forward to it. She turned reluctantly to the chair, stood beside it and lifted her skirt before bending over.
Now it was compulsory for younger girls to wear uniform knickers in the school colour of red. Once they got to the fifth form they could wear white if they wished and nothing was actually said about sixth formers but it was encouraged that they do the same as the fifth formers. Susan, however, had the thinnest, skimpiest pair of nylon knickers I had ever seen. They were practically see-through. She had chosen a really bad day to be wearing those and I bet she was wishing she had on a pair of those ugly but thick and protective school red knickers.
Bending over caused the knickers to both ride up and stretch across her bottom. She was to all intents and purposes getting it on the bare. I was utterly fascinated by it all. Dr Croft stepped back and raised the cane. I could see immediately that this was not going to be a tap he gave her but a good hard stroke.
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