Even if you’re eighteen years old, it may not be smart to say “You fucking bastard!” on your mobile when your stern grandmother can hear you. Especially not when you’re living in her house:
A couple of minutes later she came back with a large towel and, to my horror, an around fifty centimetre length of thick leather: The strap.
I was no doubt viewing for the first time the same strap which my mother had alluded to on occasion when cross and telling me off in statements such as: ‘be thankful I am only grounding you for a week, why when I was your age your grandmother would have strapped my bare bottom black and blue over the kitchen table until I was sobbing apologies; now go to your room and stay there till your tea is ready.’
Grandma also had an old toothbrush and face cloth with her. However, I had no idea what they, or for that matter the towel, were for.
Perhaps after my expletive ridden diatribe I should have realised.
“Right young lady, before I deal with your behaviour I am first going to wash that filth thoroughly out of your mouth, and you had better do exactly what you are told if your bottom knows what’s good for it!”
As she said this the towel was tied around my neck and I realised what was going to happen.
One look at my grandmother’s face told me not to go any further. Any plea was going to only make things worse.
“… I am very sorry.” I finished lamely, feeling very much like an eight year old little girl.
I watched as she brought over a small basin of warm water, rinsed out the face cloth and wrung most of the wetness out. She then seemed to lather a good chunk of the bar of soap into the damp cloth, turning the pale blue fabric almost white. I just watched in a shocked, sick horror as she prepared.
She caught me by surprise as she started, as she firmly, but still quite gently, pinched my nostrils together.
Suddenly I found my face tilted back to look up at the ceiling and the cloth inside my mouth. I started to gag and rebel as the soap assaulted my taste buds. That just led to another warning to keep still with my hands down by the chair seat if I wanted to get it over with.
To say my grandmother cleaned my mouth ‘thoroughly’ would be an understatement; for the next five minutes the soapy cloth was worked with a couple of her fingers repeatedly right around the insides of my cheeks, around my teeth, over and under my tongue and across the roof of my mouth. It was awful, and made worse by the lecture on how she was appalled that such dirty language could have been produced from a grandchild of her’s. It took quite some effort to keep my hands gripping the sides of the kitchen chair rather than trying to prevent the onslaught of that soapy cloth.
Indeed, I had begun to cry by the time the facecloth was finally withdrawn from my mouth. However, that did not cut any ice with my grandmother; she was not finished cleaning!
“Keep your mouth open young lady!” She demanded, effectively preventing me from trying to reduce the awful taste with a good dose of saliva. Then, as she made the toothbrush wet and rubbed the bristles vigorously on the surface of the soap bar, she continued. “I need to make sure there is none of that dirt left around your teeth.”
I was too scared to close my mouth, given her mood, and confined myself to some incoherent noises that were meant to be pleas.
Soon my nose was pinched again and the brush gave my teeth a far more thorough cleaning than I ever usually did with toothpaste. The taste of the soap now seemed to be permanently etched into my mouth.
As she finished I tried to sob out that I was sorry, and believe me I was already very sorry, but I got about one word out before the bar itself was placed in my mouth.
“Right, go and stand in that corner and think about how you will control your language to be more ladylike in future, and how you will not be rude to me in my house. You can also ponder, now that your mouth is clean, on the strapping you will soon be getting as punishment. You may say you are sorry, but I assure you, young lady, that you will really be sorry shortly…
From Return to A Time Gone By, by Joanna Jones.