I never used to play truant at school. I enjoyed being there and I also knew what to expect if I got caught. Truancy, like smoking or fighting, was one of those offences that automatically meant a visit to the Headmistress.

The whacking my sister had received from my parents when they discovered she had been skiving off was also a factor. However, as a typical schoolgirl, I did it just the once, thinking it unlikely that I would be caught.

I thought wrong!

My friend, Sarah, had been slippered in a morning lesson for repeatedly disrupting the class. She had PE that afternoon and didn’t want the other girls to see her red bottom, so that lunchtime, she asked me and another girl, Gita, if we fancied taking the afternoon off.

Normally I would have refused, for the reasons mentioned above, but Gita said that she would go with Sarah and I felt obliged to go too.

Gita and her family had moved to the village during the summer and she had started at our school at the beginning of the third year. Her family were from Bangladesh and she was the first brown girl at the school. I had befriended her, thinking she was very exotic.

Of course, she wasn’t really a princess or anything, just an ordinary girl from an ordinary family who happened to be a different colour to all my other friends. When I first visited her house, one of her brothers ran upstairs crying when I came in and I saw her father putting a cane back into a basket in the corner of their living room. I was very excited and, when we were alone, I asked Gita if her dad caned her but she said that no, he only caned her brothers.

Because she was new and different, she tended to get picked on by some of the girls at school and I felt very protective towards her, so when she agreed to take the afternoon off with Sarah, I felt it was my duty to go with her and make sure she came to no harm.

So it was that the three of us found ourselves out of school on a Thursday afternoon.

None of us had played truant before and it didn’t take long to discover that it wasn’t much fun. We couldn’t go anywhere that we might be seen by anyone who knew us, which ruled out the park and the shops.

We ended up walking around aimlessly by the canal, wishing we hadn’t bothered until 4 o’clock when it was safe to go home. I decided that playing truant wasn’t much fun and resolved not to do it again.

While we were wandering around bored, I wasn’t aware of us seeing another living being. Someone had seen us though. Someone who recognised us.

The next morning at school, my form teacher took the register and, before the class headed off to assembly, she told me that I was to report to the Headmistress’s office.

I was shocked. I could not imagine what reason Miss Percival could have for wanting to see me unless she somehow knew I had been playing truant. But how could she know? I told myself that she couldn’t know, nobody had seen us, it must be something else, but when I rounded the corner into the corridor where Miss Percival had her office, I saw Gita standing outside her door. I joined her, noting that she looked absolutely terrified.

The Headmistress came out of her office and looked down at us. She was a tall, imposing figure, with silver hair and half moon glasses. I had only ever seen her in assembly and had never had the misfortune of making her personal acquaintance before. The effect of her icy cool gaze was to make me go weak at the knees.

She told us to stay where we were and went off to the Hall to conduct the morning assembly. Moments after she had gone, we were joined by Sarah. We tried to work out how we could possibly have been found out, but none of us could recall seeing anyone the previous afternoon. From the Hall, we could hear the rest of the girls singing the morning hymn and then it went quiet until eventually a stream of girls emerged into the corridor heading for their first lesson. We stood there, trying not to catch anyone’s eye and I saw quite a few girls looking at us and grinning, knowing what we were in for, just as I would have been grinning in their place if it had been some other girls awaiting their fate.

Miss Percival arrived and opened the office door. Although Gita had been the first to arrive, it was Sarah that she invited to join her inside. I had, on several occasions, stood by this door listening to girls receive their punishments, imagining that I was next, but this time it was no game, I really was waiting my turn.

Gita and I stood for a couple of minutes in silence before we heard the first whack. We both flinched at the sound and I took Gita’s hand in mine and clasped it tightly. Having listened outside several times before, I knew the routine. Six whacks was the normal punishment, and so it was in this case. Each whack was followed by a muffled cry from Sarah, and Gita flinched at every one. After the sixth, there was a minute or so of silence before the door opened and Sarah came out looking dishevelled and clutching her bottom.

Miss Percival then invited Gita into the office. I could see that she was terrified and didn’t want to let go of my hand, but of course she had no choice. When she had gone inside I demanded that Sarah tell me about her ordeal and how it compared with other spankings she had received. Of course, I was going to find out for myself in just a few minutes anyway, but Sarah confirmed my worst fears by pulling down her pants and showing me her bottom which was bright red and patterned with the tread of the sole of the Headmistress’s plimsoll. Meanwhile, that same pattern was being imprinted on Gita’s bottom and she was a lot more vocal in her reaction to each whack, so that by the time it was my turn I was truly dreading the experience.

Gita came out looking terrible, but I had no chance to talk to her about it because now it was my turn.

Miss Percival’s office was an imposing room full of aged furniture, including a large oak desk. The first thing that I noticed was a selection of crook handled canes hanging from hooks on the wall behind it. The thought of being punished with one of those canes made my stomach churn. However, I knew what Sarah had been punished with and Gita’s spanking had sounded the same, so I thought it safe to assume that my punishment would also be with the plimsoll that sat menacingly on top of the desk. Miss Percival addressed me.

“Do you know why you are here, Harriet?”

“Yes, Miss,” I answered, although no one had actually told me why and my assumption was entirely based on probability.

“Right, well let’s not waste any time, then. I’ve got a busy day and so have you. Bend over the desk, please.”

I did as I was told and the Headmistress picked up the slipper. She moved around to my left and lifted my skirt clear of my bottom. I stared straight ahead at the array of canes, glad at least that I was not about to get one of them across my bum.


I determined straight away that the Headmistress was something of an expert.


 My bottom was really starting to get hot now.


That one really stung. I was also noticing the difference between a slipper with a patterned tread and a well worn flat sole.


I had managed to control my response up to now, but this time I could not suppress a howl of pain.


I came to the conclusion that Miss Percival’s spankings were harder and hurt more than either Miss Woods’ or Miss Marshall’s, and possibly would hurt more than my Dad’s if they weren’t limited to six whacks.


Thank goodness that was over. I had tears rolling down my cheeks and my bum felt like it was on fire. Miss Percival dismissed me and I went out into the empty corridor, relieved that it was over but not looking forward to a whole day of school, sitting on those hard wooden chairs with my stinging backside.

I went to my first lesson and everyone was staring at me. They all knew why I was late for class. Slipperings were common at my school but visits to the Headmistress less so. I knew that I would be the subject of playground gossip and sure enough, by lunchtime everyone seemed to know about it. The only positive thing I could think of was that at least it had happened in the third year, when Rebecca was no longer a pupil here. If she had been, she would have been sure to inform my parents and remind them of their response to her truancy. 

What I didn’t know until later, and what Miss Percival chose not to tell me, was that it was the policy of the school to telephone the parents whenever a girl was punished by the Headmistress. So, when I got home that afternoon I found my mum waiting to greet me with the slipper in her hand. Because it was a Friday, and I would not have to hand in any homework in the morning, I was not given the time to do it first.

“While you can still sit down.” Those words usually preceded a spanking from my mum, but I was immediately taken upstairs  for another ten whacks on my bare bum. I found out the next day, though, that I had got off comparatively lightly.  Sarah was slippered with her pants down by her dad with 20 whacks, and Gita, who had never had a spanking before that day, got 12 strokes of the cane from her dad, also on her bare bottom. Needless to say, neither Gita nor I ever played truant again, although our parents found plenty of other reasons to punish us.