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a ghost from the past

Posted at 22:47 on 22 Mar 2009 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: books, Fantasies, meta-analysis

I've spent the weekend back home for Mothering Sunday, which was entirely excellent. I gave my mum a couple of spring seedlings and we stayed up until 3am drinking single malt and setting the world to rights.

'Home' involved familiar countryside, family friends I haven't seen for fifteen years, and my parents' tiny but beautiful new house. There was a party on Saturday night at our old church hall, where I spent much time in Sunday School and as a Brownie Guide. As it happens, I have remembered that church hall many times when thinking about locations for spanking films. It's a bit grotty, but the perfect setting for those bleak, poignant school stories. I spent some time this weekend eyeing up the dusty wooden stage and old piano, mentally writing scenes. I made up an excuse about looking for music rehearsal spaces so I could ask how much it costs to hire. It's easily affordable, but I don't know if I'll use it. It's risky. And kind of sacriligious. But ... you know, that's part of the appeal.

There were lots of people there I hadn't seen since I was 9. One of them came as a bit of a shock. I remembered him vividly as soon as I saw his face, although I hadn't thought about him at all in the last 15 years. They had two sons the same sort of age as me and my brother, and we used to go round to their house on Sundays.

I was a bookish, antisocial child, and used to avoid the boys. They played with trucks in the sandpit while I curled up on the floor by the bookcase, reading until one of the adults came over and forced me to interact with other people. This house had two whole shelves of vintage Beano and Dandy annuals. I got completely hooked. Over the course of a few years I worked my way through the whole collection several times. The Dandy was funnier with better adventures, but the Beano was my guilty pleasure. I devoured the Bash Street Kids even though I didn't really like the characters, all for the looming, sinister presence of Teach's canes hanging on the front wall of the classroom, and the tantalising promise of their all-too-occasional use.

But Dennis the Menace was my absolute favourite. Page after page ended with the same beloved sequence: Dennis caught mid-prank by his enraged dad, tossed over the knee and spanked angrily with a slipper. Sometimes the strip ended there; sometimes there was a further panel, of Dennis sulkily clutching his sore behind, standing up at the dinner table while his mother makes an arch remark.

These panels are imprinted on my memory. I remember most of the stories ending that way, but I'm now unsure how true that is; maybe those strips simply stuck in my mind, and I returned to them again and again. (I haven't been able to find scans of any of the relevant strips while googling. However, the wikipedia page mentions the slipper a telling number of times. Was it really a ubiquitous feature of the strip, or is the wiki editor one of us?)

Sometimes, I would be interrupted while poring over one of these strips, and give a guilty start. I was convinced that the source of my fascination must be obvious, but I continued regardless. On our way there my mum and dad would encourage me to be more sociable this time, and sometimes I would make the effort, but my happiest visits were always the ones spent privately, nose in book.

Then something happened which changed everything.

I was playing upstairs, with the boys. I think I had been caught reading earlier in the afternoon, and told to go and play with the others. I was eight or nine. My mum, who has never spanked me in her life and is strongly opposed to the idea, found us in the bedroom; it was nearly time to go home. My little brother and I were giggling on the bed. She joined in the game. I can't remember what we'd been playing, or what I said or did to trigger it, but she joked that we had been very naughty, like Dennis the Menace, and had to be punished. She pretended to smack us, shielding our bottoms with one hand and clapping with the other.

I think I must have squirmed away, or changed the subject. I remember being taunted, all the way home, by the certainty that I had been rumbled. She had cleverly found a way of showing me what she knew, in front of everyone, and humiliating me in so subtle a way that the others didn't even notice. She had never joked about that before, never mentioned it; I would have remembered every burning syllable.

I never read those comics again. I was too ashamed. My mum knew my secret, and I couldn't indulge my guilty pleasure with her knowing what it was that I skimmed the pages in search of.

All this flashed through my head when I shook hands with our family friend on Saturday. My mum was standing next to him, smiling. And I was thinking, did he know, too? Was I right about my mum knowing, or was it just a joke, a coincidence, a chance morsel for my obsessed, guilty brain to fret over?

We made polite small talk. I made my excuses and slipped away. I'm not ashamed of my kink, these days. But I couldn't bear the idea that my strange, pre-sexual eagerness for Dennis's spankings was obvious to everyone around me. These adults would be much more able to remember the details of my behaviour then. I preferred not to take the chance of reminding them.

--

I still don't know for sure whether my mum knows I'm into spanking, or if that would mean much to her if she did. But that doesn't matter. She is an amazing woman, and I love, respect and admire her more than I can say. We don't need to share this thing to be close. I'm glad I was able to spend this weekend with her, and I hope all the mums reading this feel as loved as she is right now.

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