Twice a year we heard the dreaded words: “It’s cross country today, girls.” my heart would sink for I hated it. It was a run round the school and its perimeter, more than a cross country, and something I could easily achieve but didn’t want to. As a sixteen year old running around the school in your knickers didn’t seem cool, so I ducked into a gap where dustbins were stored, knowing the line would pass the other side on its way back.
Not only was the idea not original, I found myself with a bunch of other girls pulling the same stunt. As the gaggle passed the other side, we blended in one at a time, then ran back to the gym for a shower. As we arrived back in the changing rooms, the showers were to the right but Miss W, with a piece of paper in her hand, sent me left before ticking my name off and I found myself in a line consisting of those who had cheated. How she knew, I’ve never worked out but after the last arrived back reprisals began.
One at a time we were called into the gym to bend over the leather buck. Miss W’s thick ruler was raised and cracked hard into an offending backside. We expected her to stop at six, but no, she was making an example of us and didn’t stop till twelve. As the first distraught girl shuffled out of the gym, the rest of us stared in disbelief of what was to come. The second girl took her place and we all moved one step closer to our destiny, of which we could do nothing but wait our turn.
All too soon, I was next in the queue and I felt myself shaking at the prospect of my walk to the buck. My turn came and I trudged over to the place of punishment and bent over for my allotted twelve. My resolve to remain stoic was broken after three whacks. I swear she was venting her anger on my bottom as I kicked and screamed as the onslaught continued. At nine strokes she stopped and walked round the buck.
“Do you wish to see the headmistress?” She asked.
Six of the best or three more from her; it was my decision.
“Three more, Miss.” I mumbled through my tears. At least the break had given my rear some breathing space before the final three descended. Like all the girls before me, I shuffled back to the door to join the end of the queue before the last two were dealt with.
Once complete, Miss W lectured us on cheating before dropping the bombshell that we were to return at four to run the circuit again. Once dismissed from the punishment line, we had to shower and change before the last lesson of the day. It had to be double Geography. I was expecting a slippering for no homework handed in last lesson and at four I found myself bending over again for six whacks. Normally this wouldn’t have been too bad, especially from her as she didn’t lay the slipper on with the venom that some did, but after that whacking I got in the gym a smack with a feather would have felt painful.
Then it was back to the gym. Miss W was waiting and aware of my other meeting and, just as the last two of the others set off on their run she told us: “Last one back gets the stick again.”
And I still had to change!
I was off as quick as I could, determined to catch those others up despite my throbbing bottom, but that was the same for all of us. I watched the two of them enter the gym not far in front of me and on reaching the door was immediately ordered to bend over and received another crack with the ruler.
The other two, however much as they thought not being last was all they needed to do, were in for a shock for just about doing enough to leave me trailing in last was a big mistake and Miss W wasn’t going to let it pass. They, too, were made to bend over and, unlike me, got three apiece on top of the previous twelve for not trying.
Now it was time to face mum. Peter, my brother, had already heard on the school grapevine what had happened and told mum I had a hockey practice to attend, but that was to cost me. I had to show him my bottom and let him rub his hand around it. He didn’t really understand at the time why I didn’t dislike it and, to be fair, anything was better than mum finding out the truth.