An interview with Joanna, from Janus 35
The third in our series of occasional, transcribed interviews with females on the subject of CP, this verbatim verbal admission by the model featured in the preceding photo-feature The Chair was recorded a few days before her 21st birthday, shortly after she took part in the session. Unlike Paula Meadows and Antonia du Bois, Joanna did receive corporal punishment at school, on a number of occasions. And — again unlike both of our previous interviewees — as a result of her schoolday experiences she does not like the cane one bit…
In my home life there was absolutely no discipline at all. I have only ever been hit once by my Mum, that was when I was very young and ran away from home — well, until 9.30 anyway! So she hit me and I got no supper. Mind you, she did relent and I got sandwiches at about midnight.
I still live with my Mum. At home I usually behaved myself anyway because my Mum gets so worked up if anything goes wrong. She gets in a really foul temper, it’s just not worth it. She doesn’t strike out, she just looks. She’s got a wilting glare.
My real Dad died when I was five, and my Mum remarried and he was horrible. He hit me once, he said I put a toilet roll down the loo, and he beat me absolutely black and blue. He kept hitting me, working up into almost a frenzy, he used to get carried away. I didn’t do it and when my brother came in he said he did it. My stepfather didn’t apologise, he just walked out. He used to beat my brother too, with a belt and used the buckle end to beat him. He used the belt on me too, on my hands.
Then he was gone and since then my mother has had a succession of boyfriends, who always try to boss us around. Especially me! My mother and I really get on well now — until there’s a sudden explosion!
I went to a secondary school that was later split into two, like a secondary modern and a grammar school. I was in the grammar school part. Those that were in the lower stream, if they didn’t bother to turn up, nobody took much notice, they didn’t wear school uniform or anything and nobody took much notice of them at all. It was different with us, we got away with nothing. We had to wear perfect uniform. Our uniform was a navy top, navy skirt, white shirt, black shoes, tie and blazer. Up to the second year we had to wear socks; after that, tights. I didn’t like the uniform but it was smart.
The teachers used to wait for us on the gates, if one piece of our uniform was wrong we were sent home. I quite enjoyed being in the A-stream at school although I don’t know why, because academically it wasn’t that great. The teachers used to spend half their time in the staff room playing snooker even during lessons. One of our classrooms was on the same level as the staff room and we could see our teacher playing snooker. The discipline was really sloppy — although the Headmaster expected discipline. If he was going to be away some of the staff would even turn up in jeans. It made us feel like misbehaving because even the teachers didn’t believe in the system.
There was an equal mix of male and female teachers but as you went further up the school there were more male teachers. I always got on with the teachers. There were a couple of teachers who would try to make us feel like kids but we just played them up.
The Headmaster used to try and make us feel in awe of him, frightened of him. He was about 45 although he didn’t look it, he would have looked quite youthful except that he had a very severe-looking face. He was on a power trip. I can imagine he was probably a hen-pecked husband and the only people he could get the better of would be kids. Most people bowed down to what he wanted, but there were a dozen or so of us that totally refused to give in to him. If he had even occasionally been reasonable, asking instead of ordering, we would have helped him.
Anything that happened in a lesson, any misbehaviour or anything was put into a blue book by each teacher. They had to make a report on everything that had gone wrong during the day, and at lunchtime the book would go to the Headmaster so he knew exactly what was going on all the time and anyone who had done anything wrong would be called to his office. We could be called into his office for things like not doing homework, if we were late, being rude or not having the correct colour shoes. Sometimes he used to come into a class, walk up and down the aisles and look at everybody’s feet to see what colour shoes they had on. If someone had the wrong colour shoes he would make them walk around with no shoes on or send them home to get a new pair. This just seemed ludicrous when some of us had actually reached the age we could get married with our parents’ consent. If someone was caught in the school building which was out of bounds at lunchtime without a good reason, or had been rude, then they would have to go to his office for corporal punishment.
The first time I got into real trouble at school was in the first year because of the teacher we had. We used to give him such trouble. I got the ruler across the soft of the hands, he used to love doing that I had to put my hands together and I got three strokes.
I didn’t feel it at the time, but I did afterwards when I tried to bend my fingers. After that, I was always getting the ruler.
Only the Headmaster was allowed to administer real corporal punishment — the cane. There was usually a witness, but not always. If the Headmaster caught you doing something wrong, he would deal with it. If it was in somebody’s lesson then the teacher would have to be present to say what the problem was, and then they would see the punishment.
The school was in two buildings with a busy road between them and there was a rule that we were not allowed to cross the road itself, we had to use the footbridge. If he caught you crossing the road he would make you run across the bridge 24 times. I only had to do that once. It was embarrassing in a way, but we used to make it as amusing as we could. It was our way of getting back at him by not appearing to be bothered by it.
Some of the kids were bothered by punishments. Say, if they had been caned, they thought unjustly. There were often parents up at the school or letters had been written. One of the kids had a letter saying that for medical reasons he wasn’t allowed to be caned, he made copies so everyone had one. We had things like: ‘so-and-so’s got a wooden leg and if he’s caned it’s liable to drop off’. We had a long list that we made up, good reasons why we shouldn’t be caned.
I was first caned when a group of us left the premises at lunchtime which was not allowed. There was a long fence that ran the length of the school which had a hole in it and we got out through that into the park across the road. This particular time there was a fair or something and we didn’t go back to school. The next morning we all went into school and were asked where we were. We all said we had dental appointments. It was catching. We had caught it. We tried to blame it on the school dinners but it didn’t work. We had to think of something. We all had to go into his office. 12 of us, eight boys and four girls. We all had to line up outside the office, he was going to see us one at a time but we had decided on our story and we were not really worried. Yes, we were all wearing school uniform, naturally.
Our stories were all the same: we all had to go to the dentist together, etc. I was about the middle of the queue. It didn’t really matter what our excuse was, we were caned for it. Instead of being sent out again afterwards, you had to go into the inner office. So you couldn’t forewarn anyone. No one could hear anything either. To get to the Headmaster’s room you had to go through his secretary’s office in between. He must have been really infuriated as we all stuck to our story.
I went in and had to stand in front of his desk. He made out he wasn’t particularly interested at first then his pen went down on the desk and he put on a stern expression and asked me what my story was. I told him it wasn’t a story — I had a really terrible dental problem and I had to go to the dentist to sort it out. He asked me what the problem was and I replied that if I knew that I would have to be a dentist. He used to hate it if anyone cheeked him back. You could see it building up in his face. He wasn’t interested in my excuse and he asked me what I thought my punishment should be. I made a smart comment back which really aggravated him and he said, ‘Shall we call your parents now or afterwards, because I am going to cane you, you know that don’t you?’
I had half expected it really, because we knew what he was like.
I didn’t really feel frightened so much as annoyed actually, that he couldn’t take a joke — that this stupid man had no sense of humour.
I had to put my hands on his desk and he came round and hit me straight across the back of the knees, which was his normal place. He gave me two strokes. The cane he used was quite thick like a piece of bamboo. The first one stung but the second stroke stung more, probably because he hit me harder the second time.
It had the effect of making me dislike the Headmaster even more, and also I suppose it did make me feel a little bit afraid of being caned again, whereas previously the idea had never troubled me.
The second time I got caned was because of a teacher. We had a new teacher who was incompetent and we all walked out. The next science lesson that we went to, the Headmaster was there and asked us why we had walked out of the earlier science lesson. He told us that we would have to stay after school to do the lesson in our own time. And then I got caned — again across the back of the knees, where it really does sting and smart. That was the worst punishment I ever got.
‘And then I got caned… across the backs of the knees, where it really does sting and smart. That was the worst punishment I ever got…’
Another time, we all had to put our hands on our desks, in the classroom, because he wanted to check to see how clean our hands were. He said to everyone, ‘They’re mucky,’ and hit their hands with a short cane-type thing, like a baton. That did hurt — he only hit once but it really hurt. I felt sick because it hurt so much and it left a mark and my fingers felt so painful. We were always getting it across the hands, usually one stroke but I think I had two once.
I think if I was punished now by somebody who obviously enjoyed it that would be one of the few reasons I could hate anybody. Because I can’t hurt anybody and people that hurt other people for pleasure are warped. I think if both people are enjoying it well that’s up to them, but I wouldn’t want to get involved in that. I couldn’t accept it.
I don’t agree with corporal punishment in schools, I don’t agree with it at all. I’m not the only one in the family that has had it, my brother was beaten so severely one day at school that he had cuts across his backside. I felt like smashing the Headmaster across the face, but I think my brother was too hurt to be angry actually. To a certain extent he deserved it, they blew up the chemistry bench. But to go so mad as to break a person’s flesh was really cruel.Maybe if you’ve had it as a punishment at school, then you can’t have it as a pleasure because you always relate to it as punishment The fact that the Headmaster was doing it to me and I knew he was actually enjoying it was worse than the pain itself. I didn’t mind working for Janus because I knew it would be on a completely different level.