Monday, 25 June 2012

Home time 3

“JOANNA MARGARET UNWIN,” her Mum's voiced echoed through the house. “Get down here now!”
Jo-Jo toyed with the idea of staying put and rolling herself into a protective ball. She anticipated many, many hours in the Detention Cell to come and felt that it was probably well-deserved, but she couldn't face the telling-off that would have to come first.
“JOANNA, GET DOWN HERE THIS MINUTE.” She had to face the music, but felt as though all energy had drained from her body. Slowly, painfully, she got to her feet and moved to the door.
“IF I HAVE TO COME UP THERE…” Her Mum left the threat unspoken, but Jo-Jo knew that there was no avoiding what was going to happen next.
She went out onto the landing and looked down into the hall. Her Mum was at the bottom of the stairs looking furious while Miss Hamilton stood behind her. Her expression seemed to be an attempt at stern, strict and forbidding but the slightest ghost of a smile suggested underlying amusement.
Maybe she does have a sense of humour, Jo-Jo caught herself thinking. “Miss McDuff,” she said, trying for something that sounded like surprise and pleasure.
“Don't waste my time, young lady,” her Mum said. “What have you to say for yourself?”
Good question. For a moment she struggled for a plausible excuse. 'Just a little joke' wouldn't cut much ice, but 'they made me do it' would be a breach of the Unwritten Code - never, ever tell tales.
Before she could decide one way or another her Mum spoke again. “Miss Hamilton has shown me your history homework. Or lack of history homework. What do you have to say for yourself?”
What a relief. “I find it really hard and I've tried to keep up and I do try to understand…” she began.
“Shut up and get down here,” Mrs Unwin said, and Jo-Jo trudged down the carpeted stairs until she was within arm's reach of her Mum. She was she was grabbed by the arm and shaken like a rag doll, before being marched into the Living Room and shoved into the corner next to the television.
Mrs Unwin sat on a straight-backed chair and ushered the teacher to the sofa across the room. “I'm so disappointed, Miss McDuff…”
“Annabel, please.”
“Annabel. I'm Joyce, by the way. Tea?”
“Thank you, no.”
Mrs Unwin leafed through her daughter's exercise book with an air of defeat. The girl would never learn. Finally she looked up at the younger woman and asked: “What am I to do?”
“In my day a girl of promise who did so poorly in tests would have soon had to face the music. No nonsense, just a good dose of the tawse and a warning of another if she didn't pull her socks up.”
“The punishment strap, Mrs Unwin. Very effective and as Scots as bagpipes and shortbread. It was that sort of school. Sadly, the tinkering bureaucrats have forbidden that sort of thing in this county's schools,” Miss McDuff continued. “But there's nothing to stop a concerned parent or indeed a well-meaning friend of the family…”
Joanna's mother had never made use of corporal punishment. Others did, she knew, but it wasn't for her. But as she thought about what Miss McDuff had said it dawned on her that she had been wrong - that her failure had cost her dear.
“Joanna has a great deal of aptitude - if it can be channelled in the right direction. I'd happily pop round from time to time to 'discuss' matter with her,” Miss McDuff said.
Mrs Unwin smiled, her mind made up. “That would be lovely. I could bake a cake, we could make a little occasion of it,” she said.
To be continued again (sorry, it goes on a bit, but the end is in sight...)

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