I was born in 1969, in the era of school corporal punishment and Beano comics featuring a caning at the end of every story. However, home corporal punishment was also still very popular. I wasn’t a badly behaved girl by any measure, and I only received the odd smack now and again, never anything more. That was until I was 12, and got my one and only detention at school.

Latin was always a struggle for me. I never understood why I had to learn it, or what use it would be for me, but I did try my hardest. Trying my hardest wasn’t good enough on many occasions, however, and my marks in Latin were frequently at the very bottom of the class. It all came to a head halfway through my first year of Secondary school, when I managed to get 0/20 on an assessment. I can still remember my teacher’s exact words, though her face and name have faded from my mind.

“You are going to have detention, little miss, and I am telephoning your parents!”

Everyone in the class laughed at me, and I was made to stand outside for the rest of the lesson, blushing whenever anyone walked past and asked me why I was in disgrace. I was blinded with panic all day, and dreading the detention. In those days, teachers could give detentions for the same day, and so at the end of that day I went to the room where detentions were held, and dutifully did the assigned task; writing lines.

The walk home was torture. I lived about four miles from the school, and so the walk was about an hour or so. This time, it was much longer, as I was dragging my feet in anticipation for what would happen when I got home.

When I arrived, only my mother was in, for my father was at work and my little sister was somewhere else, probably at a friend’s house. Mother was absolutely fuming. Despite me being very infrequently in trouble, she was a very strict woman, and I’d seen my little sister smacked on many occasions. Without stopping to speak to me, I was pulled into the living room and given the worst scolding of my life, which reduced me to tears. Then, I was given my sentence; a smacking, and being gated (grounded) for three weeks.

Mother sat down and ordered me across her knee. I was so anxious that I refused, having heard horror stories of smackings on the school playground. Mother was absolutely furious, and grabbed my arm to yank me across her knee, pulling my skirt up and my knickers down and giving me a very thorough smacking, enough to make me sob my little heart out. I fled upstairs to the bathroom to check my bottom afterwards, and it was bright pink with distinct finger marks. The worst was yet to come.

That night, when my father got home and heard from Mother what I’d done (evidently, my Latin teacher had told her all about my failed assessments and tests, and my somewhat chatty attitude in class) he arrived in my bedroom holding his slipper, looking absolutely enraged. He didn’t scold me, he simply pulled me out of bed, bent me over the bed and gave me about ten hard whacks with the slipper, enough to make me howl again. I never got another spanking, for although my Latin never improved I only had to take it in First Year, but I can still remember just how much it stung and how much I hated it.