When I was about thirteen, just after going up to the second form at school, we had a minor family hiatus. My mother had to go into hospital and my father had no way of cancelling a business trip to Holland. So what to do with me?

Opposite us lived an elderly widow, or so she seemed to me. She was actually popular with us lads; for example, she always found us some tasks for Scout Bob-a-Job week. The money went to our scout troops, not to us, and there was always a lavish tray of cakes etc when the work was done. So, I was quite pleased when it was put to me that I could spend a fortnight with her.

First evening; my stuff had already been taken round to her house the night before and I went straight there from school. As soon as I arrived, Mrs Pentire asked about my homework, adding that my dad had warned her to make sure I did it properly.

“In fact,” she added. “He tells me you can be a bit of a handful.”

That was something of an exaggeration, as I was really quite well-behaved. It didn”t sound like the sort of thing Dad would say, despite him having to spank me from time to time. But not as often as my mother did, or as hard!

Then she posed a question I’d not really anticipated. What was she to do if I misbehaved? There were two options; telling my parents at the end of the fortnight, or dealing with the matter there and then, just as she used to do with her, now grown up, daughters. I knew what that meant. I’d once overheard her granddaughter being rewarded for her cheek, on her cheeks as it were. Meekly, I opted for the latter, partly because I couldn’t face the prospect of an interminable parental harangue and partly because I was more than a little excited by the thought of a smacking from this mature lady. So that part of the matter was settled.

The next question was how strict she should be. I ventured to suggest, quite strict. In everyday speech, ‘quite’ means ‘moderately’ but its real meaning is ‘totally’. Compare ‘It’s quite nice’ and ‘my mind is quite made up’. Whatever I intended, I think Mrs Pentire had the literal meaning in mind as I was soon to find out.

Looking back, I was probably testing the water, as the saying goes. Having asked for a second helping of apple pie at tea time, I left the pie crust.

“We’ll start as mean to go on, shall we, Martin? Go to your room and wait for me.”

I did as bidden. After what seemed ages, but was probably about five minutes, Mrs Pentire entered briskly, sat down on the bed and cheerfully invited me to bend over her knee. Stalling for time, cold feet getting the better of me, I remember asking if I had to take my trousers down. Silly question!

“If you’d have taken them down at home, there’s no reason not to do the same here. I’ve seen and smacked plenty of bare bottoms in my time, so don’t be bashful.”

So, down came my trousers and underpants, and I positioned myself across her ample lap. She wasn’t fat, but was certainly plumper than my mum, and lying across her lap was more comfortable than being pulled mum’s rather bony knees. When the smacking started, there was little to choose between them. Mrs Pentire smacked every bit as soundly as my mum. I lost count after the first few. Mrs Pentire was one of those spankers who didn’t announce the sentence in advance, but spanked until she decided the culprit had paid the price. I can testify that my bottom was smarting all over by the time she stopped. Miraculously, I didn’t cry but I did rub my bum vigorously as soon as Mrs Pentire was out of the room. By the way, rubbing with the backs of your hands is more soothing than with the palms.

As the first week passed, even the slightest default resulted in my being held by the shoulder and given a sharp slap or two on each bum cheek. There were occasional proper spankings, about one every second day, but on at least one occasion I was spanked twice on the same day. But, by that time, I was getting used to it and it was always done without the dreadful and seemingly interminable scolding that marked discipline at home. By today’s standards, I was probably being abused because there’s no doubt Mrs Pentire enjoyed spanking me and was looking for excuses. But I didn’t mind; it was our secret and I found the preliminaries very erotic, even at the tender age of thirteen. Even the spanking wasn’t too bad. In fact, it felt very erotic as I lay in bed with the initial pain subsiding to a warm glow.

particularly remember the middle weekend of my fortnight. It was the Saturday; I can be sure of that because shops didn’t open on Sundays in those days. I helped with the house chores in the morning, not entirely willingly but not totally unwillingly either. Don’t forget, I liked her and wanted to please her, up to a point. I did earn a smart slapping on my bottom that morning, but it was more playful than serious.

She announced that we’d go out to town after lunch. So, we duly caught the bus into Wolverhampton and had a look round the shops. Ladies’ fashion at B……s? Boring! Then, something of a surprise, we went to the station where we could catch the bus for Walsall. Not as big as Wolverhampton, but some quite nice shops. However, we first went up a side street I’d never even noticed, not that I often went to Walsall, where there was a rather suave coffee room called ‘Quo Vadis’. I don’t suppose it’s still there after all these years. Anyway, coffee and cake, I chose a Cola, and a pleasant half hour’s relax and talk about this and that; scouts, pop music, school etc.

Then, on to the other end of town. As we walked, she explained that she’d been thinking about the next week. Having settled in, she thought I might get a bit out of hand. So perhaps we’d better have something naughty boys really understand, just in case. She added that her daughters, Barbara and Shirley, would know exactly what she had in mind, and that I’d soon find out. By this time, we’d almost reached a leather goods shop. Ominous! We entered.

She and the proprietor seemed to know each other. She told me later that she’d once been his Sunday school teacher and that he and Barbara had been in the same class at school. Incidentally, Walsall was at that time a centre of the leatherwork trade, and Walsall schools favoured the strap rather than the cane specified by most English education authorities as the instrument to be used for punishment in their schools.

Anyway, she introduced me as her young guest, and explained she needed a strap in case I needed to be brought back into line. From a drawer in the sales fixture, traditional wooden fittings, not like today, he produced a small selection; light, medium and heavy, the latter in two or three fingered variants. Even though I’d spent a short time at school in Scotland, I’d never been so close to such a range of straps.

My previous experience was: “Come out of there, Martin Lee.”

I’d go out to ‘the floor’.

Miss Percival would open her desk drawer, saying: “You know what to expect.”

I’d cross my hands while she took out the strap. It had three fingers, and was dyed black. She’d stand up from her chair, raise the strap over her shoulder and swish it down, usually once, but sometimes the command would be: “Change,” and, to a gasp from the class, she’d deliver a second cut.

Mrs Pentire broke into my reminiscence with a question I never expected.

“Which one do you think, Martin?”

She clearly didn’t favour the light models, so it was really between medium and heavy, two or three fingers. I really didn’t fancy the three fingered heavy, but was somehow drawn to three rather than two, so I timidly suggested the medium three. It was a natural light brown leather, but the proprietor also had it in black which would cost an extra one shilling and sixpence using the old pre-decimal currency. Mrs Pentire seemed to like the idea of the black. I don’t know why, but perhaps that was what she’d used for Barbara and Shirley. Or maybe it was what she had at school. The purchase was duly made; twenty-one shillings and sixpence. To me, that was three weeks’ pocket money. Good job I wasn’t paying. Have you ever felt excitement and fear at the same time? I have. I did then.

A bit more shopping, mainly browsing for a new book for her, but she also bought me the week’s issue of the ‘Eagle’ comic. She was kind as well as strict.

On the bus home, I kept wondering how long it would be before the strap came out of its brown paper bag. Well, as soon as were in the house, the matter was raised. She asked what we should call ‘her’, on the assumption that a tawse (strap) was feminine. She liked ‘Matilda’, so Matilda it was. She also decided to keep Matilda in the brown paper bag from the shop, unless and until.

I hadn’t realised, until she told me, that in Admiral Nelson’s time, the ship’s cat o’ nine tails was kept in a baize bag. When a man was triced up for flogging, the bo’sun would wait in case the Captain should decide to reprieve the offender, often because his messmates had pledged their rum ration as surety for the man’s future good conduct. If there was no reprieve, the cat would come out of the baize bag, hence the expression ‘to let the cat out of the bag’.

I honestly don’t remember what I did. I think I must have answered back or something. Whatever it was, it resulted in my being sent through to the dining room and being told to move a chair out from the table. As I’d guessed, this was for me to bend over; or rather to kneel on, leaning forward over the back, and grasping the table. Trousers down, but not underpants that time; she explained she hadn’t used a strap for years and didn’t want to hurt me too much.

Not hurt me too much? I think it was nine strokes, and they all burned my backside like blow-torches. And the noise the strap makes as it comes down, not to mention the sound of the impact. I admit it; I did cry like a baby. In fact, I was sobbing when I got up. Trousers up and cuddles; I wasn’t used to that, even from my mother, after a walloping. For the next hour or so, it hurt to sit down, but extra cushions appeared as we sat and watched TV and then chatted.

God, schools must have been strict in her day, and she had more canings than I’ve had hot dinners, as the saying goes. She told about her schooldays and I spoke about my visits to the headmaster, home spankings etc, but I felt almost guilty because we in the fifties had it easy compared with being a boy or girl in the early 1900s.

As I’ve said, I was probably abused in today’s terms, but I didn’t think so. I really didn’t mind because there was no scolding, no nastiness, and no malice, and I know I’d been naughty so getting a smacked bottom was fair. So what if Mrs Pentire enjoyed giving the smacks! It was no different from us kids playing ‘school’ or ‘mums and dads’, neither of which would be any fun without spankings. And she was always so brisk and cheerful about it, and I sort of liked that.

The strap did come out of the bag on other occasions, both during that stay and on future occasions when I stayed overnight with her.

ML