“In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice.”
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
My father had a hand like cast iron.
My mother only had to say ‘wait until your father comes home’ for Carole, my younger sister, and I to be models of good behaviour. We were never quite sure whether Dad’s repeated axiom that ‘every child should start each day with a spanking to keep them on the straight and narrow,’ was said in jest but we did not want to test the theory.
One holiday though, in the hills of Malaya, away from the steamy heat of Singapore, we pushed the boundaries too far. My cousin, Lorna, a fount of good ideas, had joined us and we three girls, seven and eight year olds, were enjoying the freedom and the relaxation of some of the rules which holidays bring. We all had white rubber balls, and together devised many games, involving catching, rolling, throwing and bouncing. Having been rolled and bounced through mud and gravel, they soon lost their shine and pristine whiteness. The joy, then, when we discovered a pile of white stuff to plaster them with to restore them to their former brightness. What we did not know was that this was lime left by builders and, as we bounced and rolled our balls up the polished wooden corridor of our rented house, the lime lifted the varnish.
What made Dad’s inevitable spanking more painful was the injustice of our punishment while Lorna, the instigator, came off scot-free.