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Thursday, 5 April 2018

The Class of ‘95

From Blushes Supplement 8
Sidney Drewe came down the steps of the Ministry carrying an official briefcase, black with gold crest. Awaiting him was his official car, black with gold crest. A uniformed driver got out and opened a rear door and Sidney stepped in and seated himself on the comfortable upholstery. Then he leant forward and slid back the glass panel of the limousine.
‘You know the way to Royden’s, driver?’
‘Yes, sir…’
‘Carry on, then.’ Sidney slid the panel back, lit a small cheroot and opened a copy of The Daily Socialist.
This is the life, he said to himself. Privilege and power, creature comforts, authority over others. Better than waiting for a number 171 bus to take him down to the local comprehensive where he was treated like dirt. Even if he had been a Union Official of NUPE. For, in days gone by, Sidney Drewe had been a school caretaker. Now he was an Inspector of Schools. Soon, he confidently anticipated, he would be a Chief Inspector of Schools.
Yes, a remarkable change… and it had all happened in such a relatively short space of time. Little more than ten years, in fact.
Thatcherism had failed. As the 80’s proceeded, unemployment mounted inexorably over the 5,000,000 mark. There were riots in the streets, pitched battles between police and workers which made the 1984 miners’ strike seem like a tea party. A general election brought the socialists to power. Not middle-of-the-road socialists but left wing socialists. They, however, seemed as powerless as the Conservatives had been to check the trend of events. The economy was in ruins, North Sea oil was running out. Rationing had to be introduced. Before long the outer fringe of the left wing had ousted the left wing itself. These men were, in all truth, outright communists. The day they had been planning for decades had come at last.
Parliament became a rubber stamp and draconian laws were enacted by the hierarchy which made the return of democracy an impossibility. In effect, Great Britain became an Iron Curtain State. Freedom had vanished.
Throughout these upheavals, Sidney Drewe prospered. From being a minor official he progressed swiftly up to become a Local Secretary. He was just the sort of bossy, mean-minded little bureaucrat those in authority liked to advance. All the more so as Sidney had a bitter grudge against those who had once been in any position of power. Who had been happy to crush ‘the workers’; who had been able to order him about. As the years passed and Sidney acquired more and more power, his lust for it seemed to increase. Dimly, now, he realised how those who had once been in power over him had felt. He could not get enough of it. And, as power usually does, it corrupted Sidney.
When, in the early 90’s, Sidney joined the Ministry, he had asked the Director if he might be put in charge of the reorganisation of the Schools Department, and this was agreed. It was a heady moment for the ex-caretaker to be handed such an excess of power. He had to account to no-one but the Director, who had been a lowly union official like himself. They understood each other. No trouble there.
Private and public schools had vanished overnight. Everyone was clawed into the state system. The fact that the educational standards plummeted was of no concern. Pupils were at school to be indoctrinated. They had to learn to respect the state and all its works. There would be no turning back to the old days of laissez-faire. If need be, the past would be re-written.
Sidney Drewe laid down rules for what should and what should not be taught. Also rules about who should and who should not do the teaching. Anyone with a taint of public school or university was dismissed. They would be lucky to get a job as general labourers. Teachers were recruited from among known left-wing organisations and militant unionists.
Above all, Sidney concerned himself with school discipline. He decided it should be as draconian as the new laws the government had introduced. Corporal punishment was re-introduced into all schools, for girls as well as boys. It was an edict which crystallised the philosophy of this new dictatorial communist state. Young, middle-aged or old, you did as the state decreed. Or else.
Sidney Drewe paid a visit to Royden’s College every six weeks or so. It was one of the establishments which gave him the most enjoyment for, in the old days, it had been one of the leading public schools for girls. It was a boarding school, as it always used to be. This might seem strange under this new regime but the education authorities were aware that some parents, in the armed forces for example, had to spend a good deal of time abroad, so such institutions were necessary.
Beyond that, Sidney had devised a clever scheme. Though all education was basically free, he instituted a system whereby those parents who sent their children to such an establishment (one with better facilities, higher standards, a ‘cachet’ from the past, etc.) were ‘taxed’ extra. In other words, they paid for what was a doubtful privilege. Discipline in such schools, it must be said, was the same as in all other schools.
Sidney finished The Daily Socialist, stubbed out a second cheroot and contemplated the afternoon ahead. He felt the usual tingle of anticipatory pleasure as he wondered how many of those privileged young ladies would be ‘On Report’, as it was known. For him to deal with personally.
Sidney firmly believed that those who laid down laws should, from time to time, implement them. To see they were effective. Or not, as the case may be. Delegation was all very well but it could inculcate laziness in state leaders. Occasionally, one had to take an active role.
That was what, with smug satisfaction, Sidney Drewe told himself.
‘Good afternoon, Mr Drewe…’ The headmistress of Royden’s rose from behind her desk as Sidney was ushered in by her secretary.
‘Good afternoon, Mrs Granger.’ The podgy-faced, grizzle-haired woman of middle age was dressed in black. Sidney approved of that. In fact, he approved of Mrs Granger altogether for she had once been an underling like himself. A tea lady at a secondary school… and a member of NUPE, of course. That she was utterly useless as a headmistress was neither here nor there. She carried out his orders faithfully, and unimaginatively, and that was what mattered. An efficient assistant, who had studied at the LSE, saw to all the organisational details. In Sidney’s opinion, Mrs Granger was just the right sort of person to be in charge of the offspring of ‘better off’ parents. It showed that true authority lay with ‘the people’. That was democracy, was it not?
Sidney seated himself and opened his briefcase. Both of them knew there was very little to discuss but one had to go through the formalities. ‘Ten new pupils have been reported,’ he said, looking at some Ministry papers. ‘And six girls have left. How many achieved Technical College Standard, Mrs Granger?’
‘None,’ answered the headmistress with seeming satisfaction. Being dim-witted herself, she didn’t like clever people. To her, failure was a kind of success. ‘They have been allocated to factory duties.’
‘I see.’ Sidney made a note. ‘The academic achievement here does not seem to be improving. Can you think of any reason Mrs Granger?’
The headmistress spread her hands in a gesture of resignation. ‘What can you expect from the lazy, good-for-nothings they send us,’ she replied. ‘They think they’re better, but they aren’t. Pity we don’t get a few more girls from the real working class.’
Sidney nodded. ‘Your point is taken, Mrs Granger. But there are plenty of excellent schools for the real working class girls. It is government policy to maintain a few boarding establishments of this kind. A special category, you might say.’
‘I understand, sir,’ she said. She was not going to upset the comfy apple-cart in which she had found herself dumped. It was far better than standing on swollen feet handing out tea and buns to the little cows.
‘You are, of course, maintaining disciplinary standards, Mrs Granger? I mean, you’re not going soft on them? That’s not the reason for this lack of success?’
‘Certainly not,’ answered the podgy-faced creature smugly. There’s a strap and a cane in every classroom. As laid down.’
‘Good,’ said Sidney quietly. ‘Our government attaches a great importance to discipline in schools. As well as in adult life, of course.’
‘So it should,’ said Mrs Granger complacently. She revelled in the authority which had been put into her hands. Indeed, she thought it quite justifiable.
‘Right then,’ said Sidney Drewe briskly. ‘Now we come to those ‘On Report’. What is the position there, Headmistress?’
‘Rather serious, I am afraid, Inspector,’ replied Mrs Granger. Sidney experienced a little glow of pleasure.
‘How many ‘On Report’ then?’ he enquired.
‘Twelve,’ replied the Head.
‘Twelve?’ Sidney was surprised as well as delighted. ‘How does that come about?’
‘Two are on report for serious offences. But ordinary ones. One for trying to run away, the other for striking a teacher.’ Sidney clicked his tongue. ‘The other ten,’ continued Mrs Granger, ‘come into a different category. I can only class it as political offences.’
‘Indeed?’ That was something a bit different, thought Sidney.
‘They had formed some kind of Secret Society. We found all the minutes of their meetings which set out their ideas and objectives. I’ll show them to you later. They called themselves The Society for Individual Freedom… so I hardly need say more, Inspector.’
‘Disgraceful,’ said Sidney. In a way, he meant it. He ruffled his hair. ‘We can’t have this sort of thing going on. You were right, Head, this is a serious matter. I shall, of course, deal with it personally.’
‘As I expected, Inspector,’ said Mrs Granger. It was important to keep on the right side of this Ministry man and she made a point of always serving him a few delicacies. This time it was more in the way of a banquet. ‘It is no more than your duty.’
Sidney did not need anyone to tell him his duty. He felt slightly resentful. ‘I’ll see them at three o’clock then. The usual room?’
‘The usual room, Inspector. I’ll make the arrangements.’
‘I’ll deal with the two ordinary offenders first,’ said Sidney. ‘Then I’ll have the whole of this so-called Society all in at the same time.’
‘Whatever you say, Inspector…’
Yes, thought Sidney, getting up from his chair, whatever I say. That was the nicest part of his job.
Room 22 had plain white-washed walls and no windows. It contained a small desk, a swivel chair, another upright chair, a cupboard and a solidly-made wooden table. It was a room very much to Sidney Drewe’s liking. Simple, functional, nothing ritzy. It was here that those ‘On Report’ got their just desserts.
Sidney stood tapping his fingers on the desk. His heart was beating rather fast and he was sweating a little, despite the fact that he had removed his black jacket. A few minutes earlier that room had been filled with sound… anguished cries, pleas and sobs. For Sidney had just caned the two girls who were ‘On Report’ for serious but ordinary offences. He had had them in together and given the 16-year-old, who had tried to run away, eight strokes and the 17-year-old, who had attacked a teacher, ten strokes. These punishments were administered on the bare buttocks.
The procedure had been the same as ever. The girls having been brought in, their escort left. Sidney then read out the charges and stated that he was satisfied that both were guilty.
‘Remove your skirt and knickers,’ Sidney ordered. This was always done before sentence. They did so without demur, though the younger girl flushed scarlet. Then each stood waiting, side by side, hands on top of their heads, pale and tense. Sentence was pronounced and there were the usual gasps of dismay. ‘You first Jean,’ said Sidney to the 16-year-old and watched her bend across the solid wooden table. She was sobbing.
Sidney caned her unhurriedly but with vigour. After virtually every stroke the girl ended up on her knees on the floor, hands pressing to a freshly-raised weal, weeping and begging him to stop. But Sidney simply waited. He knew, in due time, when the girl could summon sufficient will-power, she would stretch across the table again. The penalty for not doing so, within a reasonable time, was to receive twice the number of allotted strokes before the whole school assembled in the Main Hall. It was a penalty which Sidney had personally dreamed up and he had found it remarkably effective in making a girl resume the correct position during her punishment!
17-year-old Barbara, though somewhat unnerved by what she had just witnessed, was considerably tougher than Jean. She took her punishment remarkably well, thought Sidney, ending up on the floor no more than two or three times, And, since her offence was one of violence, Sidney gave it to her just about as hard as he could.
Afterwards, he delivered his usual homily to the two sobbing, bottom-clasping girls. He talked of the merits of not breaking rules, of obedience, of respect for one’s betters, and so on and so on. He concluded with the following words.
‘If either of you commit a similar offence in future,’ he said. ‘You will receive twice the number of strokes I have just given you. Bear that constantly in mind. Now put on your knickers and skirts and go.’
That, he thought smugly, would more or less guarantee no repetition of such heinous crimes!
Now he was waiting for the main event of the afternoon… and that was something rather special. He considered how he was going to handle it.
Then there was a knock on the door and a forlorn-looking crocodile of girls came trooping in. So these are the ‘Revolutionaries’ for freedom, he thought with a sneer. All they were was upper-class little cows of the kind who had once been able to lord it over him.
‘Thank you, Miss Jacobs.’ The door closed. Ten girls stood in a line against the far wall. Sidney noted that two of the girls wore grey skirts indicating they were 16, three wore blue skirts, which meant they were 17, and the other five wore black skirts, which meant they were 18. Beneath each of those skirts, Sidney knew, would be a pair of regulation white cotton briefs. The rest of the uniform consisted of a white top. White brassieres were optional and were worn by the vast majority.
There was a tense silence. Some prominent breasts were rising and falling fast with emotion. Sidney tapped the sheaf of papers he carried against the palm of his left hand. ‘This political activity almost amounts to treason against the state,’ he declared solemnly. My God, that made them blanch and flinch! ‘It is a most disgraceful state of affairs,’ he went on, ‘when girls of your calibre, with all the advantages of top-level education, can behave in this fashion. You are supposed to set an example. You are the leaders of the future.’ Claptrap, of course. The state did not advance the children of the ex-bourgeoisie. Sidney paused.
‘You may not be aware of it,’ he resumed, ‘but a new Reform Centre for young offenders opens every month. They are already well-filled. I had in mind sending the lot of you to one.’ There were gasps and a clenching of fists. ‘I do not think I need to tell you that in such places, discipline is far stricter than it is here. I will mention just one facet of that. The birch is frequently employed, as well as the rod, of course. The Head is empowered to administer up to 18 strokes.’ There were more gasps. Another pause. ‘However, after some reflection, I have decided to deal with this matter myself.’ They did not look particularly relieved, thought Sidney. Well, why should they? ‘Which of you are Janice Wright and Mandy Hepworth?’ he asked.
Two of the 17- year-olds stepped out, one blonde and tall, the other dark-haired and voluptuous. ‘Me… sir…’ they said together.
‘The ringleaders,’ said Sidney. ‘Stand at the far end of the line.’ The girls moved quickly as he directed. There was no doubt they were scared out of their wits now that their clandestine activities had seen the light of day. ‘All of you, remove knickers,’ he ordered. Then he turned to fetch his cane from the cupboard. When he turned back, ten figures stood, hands on head.
Sidney strove not to gaze too intently at the various coloured triangles now exposed to him. Light and dark in different shades, and one red.
Sidney flexed the cane in an easy arc. It was hard and polished, yet supple. As a cane should be. ‘I am going to give the eight of you against that wall, 12 strokes each,’ he said.
‘O-ohh… no…’ came a whimper from somewhere.
Sidney turned to the two ring-leaders. ‘You two, however, will receive 18 strokes each.’
‘My God… no… no…’ The voluptuous, dark-haired girl’s eyes closed and two big tears were forced out from under her lids.
‘First four of you in line… to the table…’ ordered Sidney. ‘Two on each side.’ The girls moved. ‘No… no…’ snapped Sidney. ‘Not facing exactly opposite each other.’ Again the girls moved… and now all four could bend across that table, two over each side. Sidney gave the necessary order and four naked young bottoms were presented, curving for his attention. It seemed to him preferable to deal with the girls in groups rather than one at a time.
To his right, a pair of taut buttocks were quivering with dread; to his left another pair quivered similarly. Sidney decided to deal with the right pair first… and laid a full-blooded cut across the expectant flesh. The girl, blonde and blue-eyed, catapulted up off the table with a shriek, hands clasping as she danced a waltz of pain before her petrified companions. Her breathless cries echoed off the walls, but Sidney ignored her and laid a similar cut across the bottom on the left hand side of the table. Another gasping-yelping waltzer joined the first. Sidney moved on, laying strokes right and left again. Miraculously, one girl remained bending, the other slid squirming to her knees. The cacophony of sound in that small room intensified. Sidney was already pleased with his decision to administer a mass caning in this way. The fact that you could see and hear a companion alongside you, or opposite you, getting the rod hard across her bottom (and knowing it was your turn next!) was obviously most salutary.
‘Back you go… all of you,’ commanded Sidney. Slowly, reluctantly, the command was obeyed, with much twisting and flinching of hindquarters as well as clenching of buttocks in dread.
In turn, Sidney gave each girl her second stroke… with results similar but more fervent than the first. This time the girl who had remained bending twisted agonisedly off the table as well.
Need it be said that, since 48 strokes had to be laid on in all, that mass caning took quite some time to carry out. Need it be said, either, that Sidney did not mind one little bit how long it took! He was breathing heavily when, at last, his first stint was completed. Yet there were still 48 strokes to be administered plus a grand finale of 36 for the two ring-leaders. He decided to take a short breather.
‘The girls I have just caned will stand facing the wall,’ he rapped out. ‘Hands on head.’ Sobbing, gasping, they hurried to obey. With satisfaction Sidney surveyed the four bottoms, each carrying its quota of vivid encircling weals. It will be a long time before there’s any further political activity in this college, he said to himself. Then he turned, opened the door and went down to the canteen on the floor below. There was always a table set ready for him, with light refreshments. Plus a bottle of brandy and a soda syphon.
The caning of the second four girls was virtually an action-replay of the first four. Of course, the bottoms were different in shape, size and hue but the reactions Sidney’s biting rod produced were familiar. And, as far as he was concerned, most enjoyable. Perhaps the main difference was that one of the culprits, an 18-year-old, nearly got herself into serious trouble for almost being unable to resume her position towards the end of her caning. Only a dire reminder of what 24 strokes would be like, before the whole college, finally persuaded her. Yes, that was a most effective little rule of Sidney’s!
Janice and Mandy finally came to bend across the table. It had been a terrible ordeal for both of them to watch the merciless thrashings handed out… knowing they were going to get even worse!
The tall Janice showed remarkable fortitude, for the first six or seven strokes at least. Perhaps her position as leader helped her powers of will.
Mandy, however, who had probably the most ample hindquarters of all of them was in a terrible state from start to finish. Her shrieks seemed louder, her pleas more desperate, and her writhings more frantic, than any girl who had preceded her. Mandy’s, reflected Sidney later, was one of the most satisfying thrashings he had ever had to hand out. Even amidst such an orgy of caning, it was memorable indeed.
A weeping crocodile (the tears were genuine enough!) was finally led out. Sidney wiped his brow. He felt quite exhausted. Still, he had done his duty once again. Time then to return to that bottle of brandy… then a quick look in on Mrs Granger to acquaint her With the punishments he had administered… finally a comfortable ride back to the Ministry.
Yes, thought Sidney Drewe contentedly, times had certainly changed since this new government had been in power. Best of all, it seemed they were likely to remain there indefinitely.
Half dozing in the limousine on the way back to London, it occurred to Sidney that he had not yet paid a visit to one of those new Reform Centres for young offenders.
Was that not where his duty should take him next?

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