Monday, May 09, 2005

Hand up, hand down, hand up, hand down!

In 1967 I was in form 2 at a 'tough' school. I use quotes because I survived though I certainly wouldn't describe myself as tough. But our school had that reputation.

In those days corporal punishment was still legal. It was not uncommon to be called out in front of the class for some infraction and recieve 'six of the best', which phrase meant that one held ones hand out and the teacher hit one, very violently, on the palm with a leather strap, six times. Hurts like hell.

Some teachers didn't want to mete the punishment out in person; they'd note your name down for the next morning and you'd turn up outside the vice sadists (principals) office before school the next day. If it was summer it was no worse than usual; if winter it was excruciating because one had cold hands that, for some reason, made it all the more painful. It was an uninspiring sight to see 30 or 40 small boys all frantically rubbing their hands in the line leading into the vice principals office to warm them up; and to see the same small boys exit frantically trying to cool them down!

So one day in 1967 as aforesaid our mathematics teacher, one Mr Michelson, decided that a friend, Peter, had stepped over the bounds and deserved the 'cuts'! Mr Michelson was maybe 5 feet tall whilst Peter was about 6 foot 3. So Mr Michelson called Peter out to the front of the class and ordered 'hand up!'. Peter obliged to the extent that his outstretched palm was above his head, maybe 7 feet above the floor. Mr Michelson could not reach! We laughed.

'Hand down' he ordered. Peter put his hand down by his side; so close that Mr Michelson could not administer the strap without risking hitting his torso and that was a no no. 'Hand up' he ordered. Up went the hand, as high as it could go! We were in hysterics by this time. Indeed, I believe that at that moment Peter would almost have submitted to capital punishment if it would keep the laughs going.

After three or four cycles of 'hand up', 'hand down', Mr Michelson gave up. But we were all punished; detention for a night or two. It was worth it!

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