Eleven-year-old David Marsh knew he was in trouble that August day in 1960 when his father caught him nicking apples from Mr Penniston's tree down the road. Ironically, David didn't even want the apples.
He'd only been nicking them to show off in front of his cousin Rosie, who'd arrived the previous day to stay with his family for a week. Rosie was the same age as David and they were quite similar in looks - both fair-haired, blue-eyed, tanned and slim.
David was reaching up to the apple tree, striped T-shirt coming untucked from the waistband of his pale-blue shorts, when he heard a voice say, 'David, why are you stealing those apples?'
He turned guiltily and his eyes widened in horror.
'Dad!' he gasped. 'I didn't know you were there.'
Mr Marsh stared. 'Answer my question.'
David licked his lips. 'I, er, I just wanted to show Rosie how easy it was.'
'And were you stealing, too, Rosie?' Mr Marsh asked.
'No - it was just me,' David said before Rosie could say anything. 'I'm the one to blame.'
'That I can well believe,' his father said. 'How many apples have you taken?'
'Five,' David said.
'You shall have the cost of them stopped from your pocket money, and you will also apologise to Mr Penniston for stealing them. But first, go indoors to your room and wait for me there. Rosie, you go with him.'
Red-faced, David hurried off with Rosie in tow, both of them silent and fearful. David felt glad that his ten-year-old brother, Gary, hadn't been home, or the younger boy would have been about to cop it too. Gary could never resist nicking applies from Mr Penniston's tree. As it was, Gary had gone off for the day with a group from school.
David led Rosie up to his bedroom and they had only been there a minute or so when Mr Marsh appeared.
'David, you've misbehaved and you know what must follow, don't you?'
'Yes, dad,' David said, hanging his head. He felt Rosie's eyes on him.
'Yes, but Rosie doesn't,' Mr Marsh said. 'Tell her, David. Tell her what follows your acts of misbehaviour.'
David glanced at his cousin. 'Dad punishes me.'
'How do I punish you, David?'
'You give me the strap or the cane, dad.'
Mr Marsh nodded. 'I do indeed. And thieving is something I will never tolerate from either of my sons. I intend to punish you severely. It's what you deserve, isn't it?'
David nodded. 'Yes, dad.'
Mr Marsh pointed. 'Stand in the corner, feet well apart and hands on your head.' As David obeyed, Mr Marsh said to Rosie, 'Do your parents punish you, dear?'
'Not with a cane or strap, Uncle Thomas,' she said. 'They sometimes send me to bed or make me miss supper.'
'Those are appropriate enough punishments for a girl such as yourself, but rowdy young boys deserve something far more substantial,' Mr Marsh said. 'Don't they, David?'
'Yes, dad,' David said.
Talking to Rosie again, Mr Marsh said, 'I'm glad you weren't involved in today's little escapade, but as you were unwittingly dragged into David's misdemeanour I think you should witness his chastisement.'
'Oh no, dad,' David wailed.
'Quiet!' his father snapped. 'Don't argue or it'll be even worse for you. Yes, Rosie, I think you should witness the chastisement. Have you ever seen a boy receive punishment before?'
'No, Uncle Thomas,' Rosie said.
'Well, you shall see the way my sons are punished when they misbehave. Now then, David, I intend to go downstairs for twenty minutes. During that time you will remain in the corner, hands on your head. I want you to think about your misbehaviour and and contemplate the punishment to come. You understand?'
'Yes, dad,' David said.
Mr Marsh said to Rosie. 'I want you to stay here during those twenty minutes. Keep a close watch on David to make sure he doesn't move. If he disobeys me you must say so when I return and he'll receive an extra three strokes of the cane or strap for every infraction.'
Mr Marsh left the room then, and when he'd gone Rosie said quietly, 'Your dad's very strict with you, isn't he?'
'Yes, always,' David said.
'Is he as strict with Gary?'
'Yeah, with both of us. But I get the worst thrashings because I'm older.'
'I think that's good,' Rosie said. 'I mean, it's right that parents are strict with their children. Especially boys. It means they love you.' She thought for a moment. 'D'you like being punished?'
David laughed hollowly. 'No, but I s'pose I deserve it.'
'Does it hurt a lot?'
'Yeah, heck of a lot.'
'And does it make you cry?'
'I try not to but sometimes I can't help it,' David said. 'I used to cry every time. Gary still does.'
'Does your mum cane and strap you both too?'
David shook his head, hands clasped obediently on his scalp. 'No. She tells dad if we've stepped out of line and he deals with us.'
Rosie sidled up to him. 'Would your dad really give you three extra strokes if you moved?'
'He certainly would. Very hard ones.'
'You'd better stand still then. I don't want to get you into more trouble but I'd have to tell the truth to Uncle Thomas.'
'Don't worry, I won't move,' David said. 'I'm already going to get a caning or a strapping. I won't make it worse for myself.'
'I think you're brave,' Rosie said. 'If I had a brother, I'd want him to be like you.'
David felt a surge of pleasure and pride at that.
Rosie giggled suddenly. 'Since you can't move, I could do anything I liked to you. You couldn't stop me or I'd have to tell your dad you'd moved.'
David frowned, puzzled.
'I could do something really rude if I wanted to,' Rosie said. 'For instance, I could look up your shorts.' David felt startled. 'You wouldn't see much.'
'Oh, I don't know.' Next thing, David saw that Rosie had got on her back and was sliding her head between his feet. He felt acutely embarrassed but daren't move. 'I can see your underpants, David,' she said happily. 'White underpants.'
This being 1960, it was the days when most boys still wore loose white underpants beneath their shorts. Briefs were a rarity. The mother of David and Gary always bought them white underpants that descended almost to the hem of their shorts.
'What's it like to wear underpants, David?' Rosie asked.
David shrugged. 'The same as wearing knickers, I suppose.'
'No, it can't be,' Rosie said judiciously. 'I always white tight white knickers and they can't feel the same as loose underpants. I've often wondered what it was like for a boy to wear underpants.'
'Well, I dunno - I've never thought about it,' David said.
'Does Gary wear white underpants too.'
'Yeah, course he does.'
Rosie was still looking upward. 'Only, there's a boy in my road, Johnny Dickinson, who doesn't ever wear underpants. I think that's disgusting.'
'My dad's told Gary and me that if ever he catches us not wearing underpants he'll give us a caning,' David said.
'But you wouldn't ever not wear underpants, would you, David?'
He shook his head. 'No. It'd be indecent.'
'That's what I think,' Rosie said. 'I think all children should wear underclothes. I believe it should be compulsory, don't you.'
'I s'pose,' David said, shrugging again. 'I've never thought about that either.'
Rosie stood up. 'When your dad comes to punish you, will he take your trousers down?'
'Yes, he always punishes Gary and me that way.'
'Does he take your underpants down too?'
'Usually. Sometimes he gives us the strap on our underpants first, then a caning on the bare bottom.' 'Well, I may see your bare bottom today, then.'
'You probably will. Dad's really annoyed with me about those apples.'
Mr Marsh returned a few minutes later carrying the thick leather strap and hefty rattan cane that his sons knew so well.
'Has David moved from his position, Rosie?' he asked.
'No, he's been very good,' Rosie assured him.
'That's good. Well, David, are you ready for your punishment?'
'Yes, dad,' David said huskily. He swallowed hard. He'd had many thrashings over the years and knew this would be a bad one. Worse, it would be delivered in front of his girl cousin. He'd never been punished in front of anyone else before, except when he and Gary sometimes received joint canings or strappings.
'Very well. You know the procedure,' his father said.
David put two upright chairs back to back in the centre of the room. He knew his father required him to kneel on one of them and bend over the two backs so that the top of his head rested on the seat of the second chair. He then had to grasp the legs of that second chair. This left his bottom sticking up for punishment.
'OK, bend over,' Mr Marsh said.
David felt Rosie's eyes on him as he swallowed again and bent contritely over the chairs. He'd been in that position dozens of times in his eleven years.
'I'll explain what happens now, Rosie,' Mr Marsh said. 'I believe in chastising my sons severely. In fact I believe all misbehaving boys should be punished this way. As you can see, David is in place for his thrashing. He knows he must remain in precisely that position throughout, until I tell him the flogging is over. If he jumps up, rubs his bottom or in any way interrupts the course of the punishment, I inflict extra strokes. That's right, isn't it, David?'
'Yes, dad,' David said.
'If you stand just over there, Rosie, you'll get a better view,' Mr Marsh said. 'One day you'll be married yourself and perhaps have sons like David. Then your husband will punish them, so it's as well that you see what's involved. In a moment I shall take down David's shorts and administer five strokes of the strap across his underpants. That always hurts greatly, doesn't it, son?'
'Yes,' David said.
'But not as much as what comes next, Rosie. I shall then take down his underpants and cane him soundly across the bare buttocks six times. You'll see welts rise with each stroke of the cane, and afterwards David won't be able to sit down very comfortably.'
David glanced sideways and saw Rosie's rapt expression. She looked slightly pale as if apprehensive but also eager. Lucky old you, he thought miserably.
He felt his father unfasten the top button of his pale-blue shorts and slide them down to his knees on the chair.
'Ready?' Mr Marsh asked.
'Yes, dad,' David said. His throat constricted in anticipation of the pain to come. He bit his lip, determined not to cry in front of his cousin. He felt so vulnerable and so silly, hunched over in his underpants. It would be even worse when they came down.
He heard the strap whistle through the air, then it exploded across the seat of his underpants. He jerked, gasping, and felt as if his backside had been seared. His fingers gripped the chair legs more firmly as strokes two, three and four followed. He couldn't help shuddering, and he yelped despite himself when the fifth smacked into the soreness that had been inflicted.
Glancing sideways again, he saw that Rosie was biting her lip too. She looked scared and sympathetic. He tried to grin. 'Don't worry,' he said hoarsely. 'I deserve all I'm getting.'
'I'm glad you appreciate that,' his father said.
David felt his father's fingers hook into the elastic of his underpants and slide them down to expose his buttocks. His backside felt already as if it were on fire and he knew from past experience that it would have turned livid and purple. Now he had to take a caning. Canings were always fearsome, but coming on top of an already chastised bottom this one would be excruciating.
No whistle this time. Just a swwwwish-crack! David yelped again and almost jumped into the air. But he clung on to the chair legs. He couldn't afford to let go because instead of giving him six lashes dad would make it eight or nine. The second one came, and the third, brutally stinging. He screamed when the fourth landed, and howled at the fifth. One more to go, he told himself. Just hang on. Don't cry now. The swwwish-crack! He jolted as if electrified and his backside felt as if it had been flayed off. He gave a long, sobbing moan but restrained his tears.
For ten seconds there was silence as Mr Marsh left his son to absorb the full effects of the thrashing he'd received. Then he said, 'Very well, David, your punishment is over. Pull up your underpants and shorts.'
David did as his father said. His face felt crimson from humiliation and pain. He looked at Rosie and saw with a flip of the heart that there were tears in her eyes. He saw pity there, too, but best of all he saw admiration - admiration for him. At that moment David could have sung, despite the awful punishment he'd received. He felt that in future he could walk on air because Rosie had seen him accept his chastisement with courage, and she respected him and admired him for it.
'Do you always punish David so severely, Uncle Thomas?' she asked.
Father and son exchanged glances. 'I do indeed, Rosie,' Mr Marsh said. 'And perhaps one day, if David or Gary do you an injustice, I ought to instruct you in the art of inflicting retribution on their bottoms.'
Rosie blinked in surprise, but David thought he'd quite like that.