(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – January 2022)
I loved my school years. I enjoyed the social and sporting opportunities it offered me.
I suppose I was reasonably well behaved during time at Bearsden Academy. Only on a handful of occasions did I merit punishment by ‘the tawse,’ a two or three tailed leather strap slapped down on a pupil’s palm by the teacher.
No, I’d say I was probably more of a Second Division miscreant compared to some. The penalties though, for the lesser misdemeanours I would be busted for, usually involved tedious ‘punnies’ – punishment exercises.
Oh how I longed for promotion to the Premier League of Naughty on many an evening, stuck in my bedroom writing out six hundred word interpretations of a scene from a Bertolt Brecht play. Or copying the Periodic Table with all those daft wee numbers, letters and I think, colours. Had I been given a couple strokes of the tawse, teacher and I would have been quits. I may not have fancied playing wicket-keeper in a game of cricket up at the pylon, but the warm and sultry summer evening would have been mine.
Those type of punny were given by fair minded teachers with (a) not enough justification to give the belt, but (b) a degree of imagination and hope that the exercise would be an aid to learning.
The majority however were not so creative, and routinely demanded ‘x’ number of lines, repeatedly reminding me of why I was not out in the street playing kerby with my pals.
(‘x’ would ordinarily be anything from one hundred to five hundred, unless being punished by the maths teacher, when you had to work out the value of ‘x’ for yourself – with more lines to follow if you got it wrong!)
‘I must not talk in class.’
‘I must remember to bring my homework.’
‘My homework wasn’t eaten by my dog – I don’t have one.’
Mind numbing stuff, that.
I did once attempt the Beano-esque trick of binding several pens together with an elastic band and thereby writing three lines at a time. It’s not as easy as it looks! I think the expression these days would be: ‘hashtag fail.’
Instructed to write the line ‘I must write larger,’ by my English teacher, the little smart-ass in me decided to write them on a piece of paper cut to a shade bigger than a postage stamp. Fifty lines to each side.
It took me ages! Far longer than had I written such a simple line in my normal, or even slightly larger, handwriting. Miss Hunter also made this observation the following morning as she immediately scrunched up my miniscule paper and laughing, tossed it in the bin below her desk.
She’s laughing with me, not at me. She must fancy me!
(All us second year lads were not only overloaded with raging hormones, but also suffered delusional episodes.)
I’d sometimes chance my luck and submit the punny a good few lines short. It didn’t really matter that omitting ten, twenty lines, whatever, would save me only a matter of minutes – it was the challenge of getting one over the teachers. I mean, hadn’t they far more important things to do with their time than count the words / lines?
Looking back, I’m certain I didn’t dupe any of them, but as it happened, everyone was a winner: teacher had asserted authority; cocky and rebellious pupil believed they had made a fool of teacher.
Truth was, teacher just couldn’t be arsed.
I did though, and sometimes still do, wonder at the randomness of the punishment. It would certainly have helped us pupils had we known the exact tariff for certain misdemeanours. Like when did a ‘one hundred lines’ penalty blur into three hundred? Or five?
For instance, had I known I would get three of the belt from the Assistant Head for merely being caught holding a snowball, I’d have made damned sure I quickly offloaded it at the head of the dude who’d just creamed me with one moments earlier. You know – like Pass the Parcel at kids’ parties – just get rid as soon as it’s in your hands.
Yeah, maybe some teachers were a bit quick on the draw with the tawse. And maybe some did abuse it. And yeah, it probably has no place in the society we live in today.
I didn’t mind though. My mum was a teacher in a pretty rough part of Glasgow, and would show me her Lochgelly belt. She claimed not to have used it very often, but I do know she had absolutely no sympathy when I told her I’d been given a short, sharp reminder as to my behaviour in class.
(I think my ol’ man was secretly rather pleased … in the absence of National service like he had to endure, this would instil some discipline, and develop character.)
I suppose I could have just kept my head down during the six years of secondary school and come through it all with an unblemished behavioural reputation. But only five feet four inches at the height of my academic achievements, anything that could further shorten my appearance was a non-starter.
And you know what? If there’s one thing discipline at school taught me, it’s that writing sentences of up to nine words long, one hundred times over, is a dawdle.
This article, for example, amounts to only 952 words. That’s just marginally more than your average ‘punny.’ Granted, it may also be just as entertaining as one – I’ve not had much sleep over this New Year holiday.
So, anyway, it’s over to you, dear reader ….anyone like to write the equivalent of a hundred lines?
Or do I have to get the belt out??!!