I’ve got a very good memory from my childhood, and I can remember every single detail of various memorable events. This happened in the 1960s when I was a fourteen year old boy and bullied by my older brother.
We were a family of four children; two boys and two girls. I had an older brother who was four years older than me, and two younger sisters. I got on okay with my sisters until I got to my teens, and I got on well enough with my brother. Once he turned thirteen though, he changed and bullied me whenever he thought he could get away with it. When my parents were out of sight he’d twist my arm, give me wrist burns, sit on me and so on; of course, I was only nine and couldn’t do anything about it.
A few months after his thirteenth birthday, I ended up with a bloodied nose when he threw me on the ground outside. My father wanted to know what happened and I told him. He grabbed my brother, told me to go to my room, and shut the doors of the living room. I didn’t go to my room, but hung around on the other side of the door to hear what was going to happen.
I could hear my father say, “Hurt your little brother, would you?” and I counted six very loud whacks as he slippered my brother’s bottom.
I quickly ran upstairs when he’d finished, and saw my brother emerge, rubbing his backside and looking like he was going to cry. Obviously my father had hit him hard. My brother looked upstairs and I caught his eye, he looked daggers at me but, of course, he couldn’t do anything. From then on he didn’t bully me too much, but we didn’t have much to do with each other either. Once you get to your teens, four years age difference is a lot.
Fast forward to when I was fourteen and he was eighteen. My parents decided to take a break and have a week in London. They left my sisters with a neighbour who also had children. It was decided that my brother and I would stay in the house, as they thought my brother was old enough to be responsible for me. They made it plain to me that my brother was in charge and I had to do as I was told.
I was pretty good at athletics and cross country running, and as we had an inter-school cross country race coming up the next week, I was going for a run every day after school. My mother stressed I had to take my plimsolls off before I came inside and not get the house dirty. My parents would ring up every night to make sure we were okay.
Of course, after they left, my brother let his authority go to his head. I don’t think he ever forgave me for the hiding he’d got. He bossed me around, telling me to do the washing-up which we were supposed to have shared, vacuum the floor, keep the living room and kitchen tidy. He checked my bedroom to make sure it was clean and the bed made properly. At least he kept his side of the bargain by doing the cooking, which wasn’t exactly hard as he only made beans or spaghetti on toast for tea, and cornflakes and toast for breakfast. We both went to the same grammar school. I was in fourth form and he was the final year in upper sixth. Our main meal for the day was the school lunch.
Of course, no fourteen year old boy likes being told what to do, especially by an older brother, and I argued with him several times. Usually he’d threaten that when our parents rang up that night, he’d tell them that I was playing up. I didn’t want that, as I thought that maybe they’d come home early. So I ended up quietening down and doing what he said.
On the third day, we had a big argument over the TV when he changed channels on a programme I was watching. I yelled at him, so he pulled me off the couch, threw me on the floor on my back, and sat on me. He pinned my arms with his hands and knees, just like he would do to me when I was nine and he was thirteen. That was the first time he’d got seriously physical with me since he’d got that hiding from our father. It made me realise he was a lot stronger than I was.
Next day after school, I went to my room and stripped to my underwear ready to put on my PE singlet and shorts for my run. My brother walked in without knocking and I yelled at him for not knocking on the door.
He looked around my room and said my bed wasn’t made, my clothes were on the floor, and my room was untidy. He was a bit of a cleanliness freak, the same as my mother. To be fair, I was untidy, much to my mother’s annoyance, and the agreement had been not make a mess. I put my singlet and shorts on, brushed past him and went into the lounge room. He followed me and it ended up a shouting match, and I’d sworn at him.
He abruptly disappeared, then came back into the lounge room with the same slipper that our father had used on both of us in the past. Of course it wasn’t a soft bedroom slipper like it sounds, it was about a size twelve canvas tennis shoe with a thick rubber sole and it hurt like hell if you were hit hard. I thought it had been thrown out a couple of years ago when we moved house, and to see him standing there with the slipper firmly grasped in his right hand brought me up with a start. He reminded me of my father, right before he had slippered me for stealing when I was twelve.
I was slightly built and quite a lightweight, whereas he was almost full grown and bulkier. If we were side by side, it was obvious we were brothers. As soon as we started talking it was plain that I was a lot younger, though, because my voice still hadn’t broken yet. It would have been even more obvious if they’d seen me in my PE gear like I was now. I still looked and sounded more or less like a twelve year old, whereas he was much more adult-like.
“Alright,” he said. “I’m sick of you arguing. You asked for it. You’re getting six of the best. Three for being rude to me, and three for making a mess of your room like you were told not to.”
Then he said, “If you bend over and touch your toes, I’ll just give you three.”
That’s the choice my father had given me when I was twelve and he’d caught me shoplifting. I had ended up getting six, because no way was I going to bend over for him like you did at school when you were in for a caning.
I laughed nervously and said, “You’ve got to be joking. You can’t do that.”
He replied, “Oh yes I can. I’m your guardian.”
Suddenly I knew he meant it. I thought of putting up a fight, but I knew I wouldn’t have a hope, and there was no one around to protect me. I made a dash for my bedroom, but he grabbed me under my left armpit and lifted me onto my tiptoes. It just reinforced how much stronger he was than me.
Of course, I wasn’t going to bend over for him. I hadn’t for my father and I certainly wasn’t going to for him. Anyway, I thought my brother wouldn’t go through with it. He marched me over to the dining room table, put the slipper down, and moved a chair to one side to make more room. He started bending me over the table, but by now I realised this was getting out of hand and started putting up a fight.
Every time he made a grab for my arms, I’d wriggle them out the way. I twisted and squirmed, but eventually I started to tire and he finally got both my arms behind my back. He moved me along the table so my toes were only just touching the floor, then twisted my arms right up behind my back. He put one of my wrists on to the top of the other and held onto them firmly with his left hand, pushing them down hard. It was exactly like my father had done when he had slippered me. I tied to wriggle out of it, but eventually had to admit defeat. I couldn’t believe it, I was about to get a slippering from my older brother, and there was nothing I could do about it.
I was acutely aware I was in my PE gear, and my PE shorts would hardly give me any protection. I didn’t like wearing long shorts, and when I had needed new PE gear a few months previously I had asked my mother to buy me the shortest shorts she could find, but now I was bent over the dining room table I realised just how thin they were. It felt like I was hardly wearing anything. I wished I was wearing my jeans which were much thicker, or even my school pants.
He gave me six hard whacks several seconds apart, as hard as he could and I cried out after each one. It was very painful. I was dying to get up, but he held me down firmly and I knew I just had to take it. My backside felt like it was on fire, just like when my father had given me six. He still held me down after he’d finished, and I was dying for him to let me go so I could get up and get some relief.
“Let me go you bastard!” I yelled out.
I immediately knew I’d gone too far and would be paying for it, but it was too late now.
“Oh, so you’re swearing at me now? That’s another four,” he said.
“No, don’t!” I yelled out.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to take any more, but I couldn’t move, he had such a tight grip on me. He gave me another four hard whacks, and I yelled loudly after each one.
He let go of me and I leaped up and frantically rubbed my backside to get some relief.
He stood there for quite a while, looking at me with the slipper in his hand. It seemed weird that I’d just been slippered by him and I wasn’t a little boy anymore, not to mention the fact that he was my own brother.
He said, “See? If you’d done what you were told you’d have only got three.”
He then said I’d better behave or I’d get some more, and I’d better not tell our parents when they rang up later. There was no way I was going to tell them, though, it would have been too embarrassing. I didn’t bother arguing or swearing at him because I knew I was beat and didn’t want to go through that again.
I went straight to my room and laid face down on my bed. I started sobbing, partly from the pain and partly from the shock of it all. It was one thing to be caned at school at age fourteen, that was to be expected if you’d done something wrong. It was totally different to being held down and spanked with a slipper by my brother who wasn’t that much older than me. I didn’t bother leaving my room for tea, and my brother didn’t call me either. My backside was throbbing for ages so in the end I got under the bedclothes, but all I could think of was the slippering.
It was nowhere near as bad as the six strokes of the cane I’d got off our headmaster a few months previously when I had played a silly prank on our maths teacher. The pain from the caning was much worse and had lasted for days. The pain from a slippering only lasted a few hours, but was very painful, nonetheless.
My brother had been on a school trip when I’d been caned by the headmaster, Mr G, but when he came back the next day and found out about it, he kept pestering me to get every detail. I hadn’t told him much because I was too embarrassed. I found out later he’d asked my best friend to see what he knew. My brother wanted to see the marks, but I said no, though he did see them when he walked in on me the next day when I’d just got out of the shower. I’m pretty sure my brother never got the cane and he wanted to know what it was like and what I’d been through.
I was wary of him for the rest of the week, although he did lighten up a lot after that and hardly bossed me around at all. He even tried to be friendly, but I was having none of that. When my parents came home and asked us how our week had been, neither of us mentioned anything about it.
Later it occurred to me that my brother had been looking for any excuse to use the slipper on me when our parents were away. I think he wanted revenge for my part in the hiding he’d got off our father. I think he waited until I was in my PE gear so the slippering would be more painful. He certainly got his revenge.
Maybe I was putting too much thought into it and maybe he was simply pulling his annoying younger brother into line and showing him who was boss.
I brought up the subject of the slippering at a Christmas family gathering when we were in our thirties and were by ourselves.
He said, “Well, you deserved it.”
I replied, “Well yes, I suppose I did.”
I asked him if he’d ever got the cane or the slipper at school and he said he hadn’t.
By the time I’d left school, I’d been slippered and caned several times. My brother, on the other hand, apparently only had the slippering from our father.
Years later, my mother said I was always the rebellious one and my brother had been well behaved. I almost told her my brother was so well behaved that he bent me over the dining room table and gave me ten of the best while they were away, but she probably would have said that I deserved it too.