There are times when I think the Board of Governors has taken collective leave of its senses, and this a prime example. I have been the Headmistress at Bexhill for two years now. Before that I was the Deputy Head, and before that a teacher at the school for longer than I care to remember. During that time I have smacked innumerable deserving bottoms with everything from my bare hand to a Dragon cane. I have never drawn blood, mis-hit, or allowed myself to get carried away by my emotions so that I delivered a harder punishment than was justified. The corporal punishment that I - and, indeed, my staff - dish out is always well-merited and befitting the crime.
So what on earth did those assinine fools on the Board think they were doing when they sent me a formal letter telling me that 'in their considered view' it would be preferable if all physical punishments were, in future, carried out by staff with nursing or medical qualifications? That amounted exactly two people in the whole school: Matron and the hopeless little assistant she'd taken on, temporarily thank God.
Now Mr Desmond had come to my office to report that troublesome creature Jennifer had been disrupting the class again, and needed to be punished. What was he to do, since he was no longer allowed to use the classroom paddle himself?
What indeed. I had an inspiration.
"Well, I think this time Jennifer needs to be caned. Such a shame I can't do it myself, but I'm sure little whatshername will help us out."
"You mean that new assistant? Why don't we ask Matron? She'd know how to do it properly."
"She's hurt her hand, remember? Spilt some boiling water on it. That's why she's taken on the helper. She's all bandaged up and can't hold a cane or anything else. It'll have to be Janice. Tell Jennifer to be in your classroom at two o'clock sharp."
The plan fell neatly into place. The Chairman of the Board, the intimidating Mrs Mildred Willoughby, MBE, was lunching at the school. I casually mentioned the new dictat concerning punishments.
"Indeed," Mrs W warbled, " we felt that chastisement is a matter which requires medical knowledge if it is to be inflicted without risk of physical damage to the recipient."
I pounced. "Well, Mrs Willoughby, the first girl to be caned since your instruction is due to receive her sentence after lunch. Perhaps you'd like to be present when our young medical assistant carries it out."
"I shall be glad to, then I can report to the Board on the success of this initiative."
'Or not,' I thought to myself.
Thus it was that shortly after two o'clock a strange assembly met in the maths classroom. Jennifer was there, of course, looking suitably nervous. Janice looked even more terrified than Jennifer. Mrs Willoughby looked daunting. And I tried not to look smug.
"Jennifer has been disrupting the class again," I said as I handed Janice the cane. "Please give her six strokes. On the bare."
Janice looked as though the cane might bite her. "Must I?" she squeaked nervously.
"Of course you must. It's the new rules. Jennifer, prepare yourself please." Jennifer, an old hand when it came to being whacked, lowered her knickers, clutched her bottom, and waited for the order to bend over. The order didn't come.
"I've never done this sort of thing before," wailed Janice.
"No matter. I'm sure your medical training will stand you in good stead. Now let's get on with it."
"But I don't know how to. I might miss, or I might hit her too hard or..."
"Oh, for goodness' sake, girl. Don't be so wet," boomed Mrs W. "Are you going to cane this wretched pupil or are you not?"
Janice looked at Mrs W with big eyes, dropped the cane, and burst into tears.
"Hmmpf - this obviously isn't working as we intended. Headmistress, please conduct the punishment. The previous instruction is withdrawn."
I tried not to smile as I picked up the cane, nudged the weeping Janice out of the way, and told Jennifer to bend over the desk.