Once upon a time I could pinpoint events in my life by where I was living. I can still do this with the past of course, just not with the last eight years. Every time we moved we reviewed our possessions and cleaned behind all the furniture… But that’s another story.
Because we were living in a particular house with metal framed windows that Mother used to seal up with sheets of plastic in the winter to provide crude double glazing, and I wasn’t yet at boarding school, I know that I must have been about ten. Our quarter had four bedrooms, two of them tiny, but, for the first time, we all had rooms of our own. My room contained a set of bunk beds, a small table and a single cupboard. It is this bed from which I famously leapt (I slept on the top) when, glancing up from my Puffin Post, which I was reading by the light on the landing, I saw an enormous spider dangling above me. My screams brought my parents to the rescue - though Father disappeared when he realized from what I needed rescuing!
I cannot tell you how long my parents were out, or where they had gone, but, one sunny day I produced the candles I had been given for Christmas, found the matches in the kitchen, and demonstrated lighting them in one of my younger brothers’ bedrooms. I have a sense of the awe we felt at such daring, we’d never been told not to light candles, but it had never previously occurred to us. Of course the smell of extinguished candle reached the nostrils of our parents as soon as they returned. The boys were sent to their rooms, and I, as the leader and chief culprit, was put over Father’s knee and spanked with the back of a hairbrush.
I was humiliated but not physically hurt. I have not been permanently scarred, but I certainly thought twice before leading those little boys into scrapes! I am quite certain that for my parents it wasn’t really about punishment but about just how frightened they were: the ‘what might have been’. The Consequences. I bear no grudge: he was absolutely right! The short, sharp shock of the spanking has stayed with me – though my parents claim to have forgotten the incident.
I cannot remember smacking either of my girls, but I do remember the odd slap around the nappy accompanied by a sharp ‘No!’ to warn of unacceptable behaviour –pinching or biting as I recall, usually of each other. I’d be surprised if they remember. Smacking is not something I have felt necessary, but then Eldest never showed Youngest where to find the matches and how to use them!