After narrowly escaping the slipper from Miss Marshall in my first term at the school, I was always on my best behaviour in English lessons. So, by the end of my first year I had still not been spanked at school or at home. I was sure that Miss Marshall knew what I had done and would not hesitate to give me what I deserved if I gave her even the slightest excuse and so it was a great relief to me to reach the final day of summer term with my bottom unscathed.
In the second year, my English teacher was Miss Taylor, who was one of those teachers who would put up with a certain amount of misbehaviour without resorting to using the slipper. As I have said previously, I did enjoy messing around in lessons when I knew I could get away with it, but was always careful not to get on the wrong side of the stricter teachers. The incident I am about to describe came about due to a terrible miscalculation on my part, thinking that I could have some fun with a student teacher.
It was an English lesson and it was in the same classroom that I had been taught by Miss Marshall in the first year. Being attached to the store room where the English text books were kept it was used by classes from the first, second and third years. I still sat in the back row as I had since I started there.
It must have been the summer term as I was wearing the blue and white checked summer dress we were allowed to wear instead of the skirt, shirt and tie we had to wear for the rest of the year.
We came into class and Miss Taylor told us that we were to be taught that day by a student teacher, Miss McDermott. Miss McDermott was a strange looking woman. She was sturdily built, with no real feminine curves, and had long, wiry ginger hair. Her face was pink, not in a normal flesh coloured shade, but bright pink, like bubblegum or a plastic doll. The face and hair clashed horribly and she also had a lazy eye which gave the impression she was looking at the person next to the one she was talking to. As if this weren’t a weird enough sight, she was wearing a hideous maroon track suit. It turned out that she was training to be a PE teacher and that an ability to teach other subjects when necessary was a requirement, but we didn’t know that at the time.
Miss Taylor introduced us to this bizarre creature and then left us to it. I thought to myself, ‘I am going to have so much fun with this woman.’
It got even better when she opened her mouth and started talking. She had a broad Belfast accent that was just made to caricature. I was always good at accents and loved to amuse my friends with my impressions of various teachers. So, here I was, the class clown, handed the dream teacher to take the Mickey out of. And I did.
Miss McDermott tried and tried to get the class to listen to her and to get me to shut up, but I was in full flow and my classmates were in hysterics. At one point she looked as if she was about to burst into tears and I took pity on her and honestly was going to relent and stop teasing even if we had not been interrupted at that very moment.
The interruption came, not from the corridor outside, but from the store room.
Miss Marshall stepped into the classroom carrying a chair which she placed next to the teacher’s desk and sat down without a word. The class went very quiet. Miss McDermott composed herself and carried on teaching the rest of the lesson.
I never took in a word of what she said. I just stared at my desk, occasionally looking towards Miss Marshall and each time finding her eyes fixed on me, with a slight smile on her lips. The lesson dragged on for what seemed like an age until finally the bell went and we got up to go to our next class.
As I turned towards the door, Miss Marshall said: “Harriet.”
I looked around at her, standing now, and she said: “Meet me back here at 4 o’clock.”
I looked at my shoes and mumbled: “Yes Miss,” then turned towards the door again and headed off to my next lesson.
It was still only 11 o’clock. I had five hours to wait before my appointment with Miss Marshall. I couldn’t concentrate on any of my lessons, I couldn’t think of anything else. I kept having visions of girls I had seen immediately after being punished by her. I had to go through lunch break during which the whole school seemed to have heard what had happened, and seemed to know what was going to happen.
When 4 o’clock finally arrived, I walked slowly back to my English class room. I stood in the corridor, waiting, as the crowds of girls heading for the exit grew thinner until there was just me standing alone. For a few agonising minutes all I could hear was my own breathing and heartbeat, and then I heard the footsteps echoing down the corridor from the direction of the staff room.
Miss Marshall came into view, slipper in hand, walking quite slowly, taking her time, the better to savour my trepidation. Eventually she arrived at the classroom and took me inside.
I realised by now that it had been a sting operation. Miss McDermott had been the bait and Miss Marshall had been laying in wait for some unsuspecting girl to fall into her trap. The fact that it was me who had taken the bait must have made the whole thing so much sweeter for her.
Miss Marshall took me by the arm and led me to the front of the classroom where she placed a chair in front of the desk and sat down. She guided me over her knee. I was and still am quite short so that when I was in position my feet were not touching the ground. She pulled my blue and white cotton dress up over my back and I wondered for a moment if she was going to pull my pants down like my parents did, but I didn’t have to wait long to find out that the slippering would be on my pants because she wasted no time before giving me the first smack.
Wow! She was certainly not going to go easy on me. While my bum was growing hot from the first whack, she gave me a lecture about what a bad girl I had been and how I fully deserved what I was getting. The lecture continued, punctuated by hard stinging whacks, six in all, before I was allowed up and told to go home and reflect on my behaviour. I was a snivelling wretch by the end of it and I was unable to sit down for the rest of the day, but I had to admit I had thoroughly deserved it. I had been horrible to the poor young student teacher and the next day, when I saw her on playground duty, I went over and offered her my sincere apologies, without even attempting to do it in a Belfast accent.
So, Miss Marshall finally got to give me the slipper. To be honest, I was glad in a way, not just because I deserved it then, but also because I had spent the previous 18 months feeling guilty that I had gotten away with it when Coleen, Juliet and Janice hadn’t in the first year.