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running away from school

Posted at 14:48 on 26 Feb 2010 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: books, Fantasies, reviews

I've just finished reading Sarah Water's new novel The Little Stranger. Set in post-war Warwickshire, it's about the Ayres, an eccentric, old-money family living in decline in a haunted manor house. Like all her writing, it's engaging, atmospheric and spooky, although I remain disappointed that she seems to have moved away from the (slightly trashy, but utterly wonderful) Victorian lesbian stories of her early career and is now a Serious Novelist. I want more Victorian lesbians!

Anyway, historical fiction often gives me ideas for great spanking scenes, and this is proving no exception. I got particularly hot and bothered about this conversation between Roderick Ayres, the heir to the manor, and the family Doctor (who is the book's narrator):

"Did you know I ran away from school when I was a boy?"

I blinked at the change of subject. "No," I said reluctantly, "I didn't know that."

"Oh, yes. They kept it quiet, but I bolted twice. The first time I was only eight or nine; I didn't get far. The second time, though, I was older, maybe thirteen. I just walked out, no-one stopped me. I got as far as the public bar of a hotel. I telephoned Morris, my father's chauffeur, and he came and got me. He was always a pal of mine. He bought me a ham sandwich and a glass of lemonade, and we sat at a table and talked it through..."

Oh, the potential! My mind raced ahead: Morris helping the boy escape, but the two being caught by a member of the family; the chaffeur sacked and the boy whipped. I read on:

"He wanted to take me back to school, but I wouldn't let him. He didn't know what else to do with me, so he brought me back here and gave me to Cook -"

Even better! The image of a big, beefy Cook giving Morris a piece of her mind, telling him to take the boy back to school at once before the Master finds out - but first, he needs to learn he can't come and go from school as he pleases ... Morris giving Roderick a sympathetic look, but not preventing Cook from turning the struggling thirteen-year-old over her knee, and walloping him with her strong, calloused hands.

But Sarah Waters was way ahead of me:

"- and gave me to Cook, and Cook got me quietly up to my mother. They were imagining that Mother would look after me, make things easy with the old man - like mothers do in the pictures and on the stage. But, no: she just told me what a great disappointment I was, and she sent me down to Father, to explain to him for myself what I was doing here. The old man ramped like the devil, of course, and thrashed me - thrashed me right by the open window, where any outdoors servant could have seen." He laughed. "And I had only run away because a boy was thrashing me at school! A beastly boy, he was: Hugh Nash. He used to call me 'Ayres-and-Graces'. But even he had the decency to whip me in private..."

Oh, man. Can you imagine? The graceful window arches framed by willow trees, through which can be glimpsed, across the lawn, the stern figure of Lord Ayres, the tip of the cane flashing in the afternoon sunlight; the boy half-hidden, bent over the arm of a sofa, but his yells drifting out across the park. It would be a beautiful climax to a compelling M/m film, starting with the scene in the prefect's study with Nash which drove him to run away.

It's a good job it would be plagiarism, really, because I can't afford the location or the extras anyway. But my god, it would be gorgeous.


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