Uncle John, the Video Tape, and the Broken Washing Machine

“Is there anything else to go in the washing, Uncle?” Jenny, my niece, called to me from the scullery. She is staying with me for the best part of twelve months while her parents are on a special assignment in America, and Jenny finishes her studies and exams at school before moving on to university.

“Make sure you’ve emptied your pockets!”

“Yes, Uncle, I have.”

Jenny gets a bit annoyed with me when I nag her about that, but there is a bit of a gap between the spindle and the casing of the washing machine where something could easily drop through and damage the works.

“Cup of tea, Uncle?”

Jenny brought two teas and a plate of biscuits into the lounge and sat down beside me. She was so good around the house, she was great company, and it was a real pleasure to have her here. As well as helping them out because they would not want to leave Jenny on her own in the house, my sister knew it would be a tonic for me after losing my wife, and she was so right.

“What are you looking for, Uncle?”

I was working my way through some of my old video tapes because Jenny had said that she was involved in a demonstration at school and it was covered by the local news. I had set the VHS recorder while I was away for my favourite fishing programme, and there was just a slight chance I might have caught the end of the local news.

“There you are, I thought I might have it, the last news item, protest at local girls’ school.”

“Oh, Uncle, you don’t want me to sit through this? I’d rather hide my head in shame.”

“It’ll only be a couple of minutes and you can tell me all about it. There you are, holding a protest sign as well. What does it say? ‘Say No to the Cane’.”

“And then the reporter interviewed me. I really don’t want to watch.”

“Couldn’t they have found someone more suitable? He must be a rooky reporter, he’s hardly any older than you. How inappropriate. What was the station thinking, sending him?”

Jenny cringed, pretended to hide behind a cushion, but she stayed.

“Can I ask your name, Miss?” The reporter had asked.

“Yes, it’s Jenny.”

“Tell me, Jenny, why are you protesting today?”

“We are protesting because the school is introducing the cane.”

“So, what did you have before?”

“We had the slipper with the previous headmistress, but now we have a new one and she is using the cane.”

“When you say ‘slipper’, that’s not a carpet slipper, I suppose?”

“No, it is a plimsoll.”

“And how did you get that?”

“If you broke the school rules.”

“Oh, OK, but I thought young women were all for equality these days, and the boys get the cane, don’t they?”

“Yes, but it is all about character building with the boys. Physical punishment should just be about punishment and deterrent.”

“So, you agree with corporal punishment?”

“No, not really, but if it has to be done, then the slipper is more than enough.”

“What do you think will happen after this demonstration?”

“It is pretty likely we will be punished, but if they stop using the cane, then it will be worth it.”

“Back to the slipper then?”


“Thank you, Jenny, and good luck!”

“We’ll need it.”

Jenny had stopped cringing and realised, like I did, that the interview had gone pretty well, despite the fact the rooky reporter had no idea what sort of questions to ask.

“You did really well, Jen, despite him. I loved the way you swerved the question about how you got the slipper. You knew he was coming on to you, didn’t you?”

“Give it up, Uncle. No, he wasn’t. He was just asking stupid questions. I think he wanted me to say ‘bottom’ on television. It was really embarrassing.”

“You did well, though, quite a public speaker!”

“It was better than I thought, which is not saying much.”

“So, what happened afterwards?”

“Well, next day we all got caned.”

“Was that a surprise?”

“Not at all, but I suppose I got my point across.”

“How, do you mean?”

Jenny paused; she wasn’t sure she wanted to describe the gory details. It had been a very painful experience for her, but she trusted her uncle. In a way, he was a second father to her, and always had been, and yet a confidante as well. She had told him many things over the years and knew he would never say anything to her parents. She knew as well that he would never tell her mother about the fact she had been caned a second time at school for smoking, just a couple of weeks before. He had followed that up by putting her over his knee, but that was where it would end.

“I was last in, as I was considered the ringleader. The others all had four strokes on their hands. I got read the riot act, and was told to hold my first hand out for six, three on each hand. I refused.”

“That took a lot of nerve.”

“Yes, I suppose it did. Actually, I could have been suspended, or thrown out altogether. Mrs Grotbag was absolutely furious. She started trying to grab for my hands but I pulled away from her.”

“What’s her real name?”

“Grosvenor, why?”

“Just to get the record straight, I’m an ex-copper, remember?”

We both grinned. We understood each other well.

“Go on then, Jenny, tell me the rest.”

“I asked if I could say something, and she said no. She said I had brought the school into disrepute and I was not leaving that room without a thorough caning.”

“So, what did you do?”

“I waited for her to stop talking, and then just said, ‘I play the piano, I also play the violin. If it is true that caning hands can permanently damage the tendons and the fingers, then I could suffer by not being able to play them ever again because I did one thing wrong yesterday, according to you, Miss.’”

“Jenny, I could never have done that. Where did you find that out?”

“It was actually a fairly obscure case in a medical journal. It came to light many years after the girl, or woman by then, had been caned. I had done my homework.”

“I’m impressed, but weren’t you taking an enormous risk? What would your mother have said?”

“I would not have been sitting down for a very long time, but she would have come round eventually.”

“Go on, then. What happened next?”

“She gave me a stark choice, but a choice at least. I could have six strokes on my bare hands or six strokes on my bare bottom.”

“Great choice. What did you do? Actually, I think I can guess.”

“You know me too well, Uncle.”

“And proud too!”

Jenny leaned over and kissed my cheek. I think I was her favourite uncle, in fact her only one.

“So, without saying anything, I took my skirt off as we used to do for the slipper, and then I bent over the table. I was hoping she didn’t really mean it about bare but she did. She pulled my knickers down, said something about me being in for a thrashing, and then did it, all six. She was so angry, she didn’t even bother to wait between strokes. I couldn’t believe the pain. I won’t say I didn’t cry out because I did. I walked out as best I could, looking straight ahead, not at her, with tears streaming down my face. I went to the toilet and I cried and I cried. But I had won, pyrrhic victory, but I had won.”

Jenny became tearful with the memory. I put my arm around her. I thought that was enough, but she volunteered the rest.

“So, when we were caned for smoking she caned us all on our knickers. It was still incredibly painful. The knickers didn’t make much difference, but at least it was never going to damage our hands. By the way, yes, you’ve already spanked me for that, Uncle.”

“You won, Jenny, and a bit more than a pyrrhic victory. She may not have improved your behaviour, but perhaps you have improved hers. But, don’t forget, you’re on a warning with me for smoking.”

“Yes, Uncle, you keep saying. You’re going to borrow a cane and thrash me, like old Grotty.”

Jenny grinned, she did not believe I would do that, and to be honest, I did not believe it myself.

At that point, there was an explosion, or so it seemed. There was a terrific bang and the washing machine screamed to a halt. We rushed out and, half full of water, it had stopped. The dog had run for it and dashed upstairs. I knew she would be hiding under my bed, like she often did on bonfire night.

Emergency services rushed to the scene and Jenny and I worked magnificently together to get the machine open, get the water drained, get the contents re-washed in the sink, drained and on the clothes line.

Jenny started to re-wash her last pair of jeans, when she realised what might have happened. She remembered going out to the shed, unlocking the mortice lock to take out some flower pots, and then returning the key to her jeans pocket, but not to the hook in the kitchen where it was usually kept.

Meanwhile, being an amateur fix-it, which was the best I could manage in those days, I had the back off the machine and was exploring with a torch and a screw-driver. I noticed a silver-coloured object which looked out of place, jammed in the cogs. I managed to turn them just slightly, and then as one fell away, broken in half, a mortice key clattered to the bottom of the machine. I retrieved it and stood up. Jenny, at the same time, lifted her jeans from the washing bowl, pocket-side up.

We looked at each other; Jenny’s face started to crumple. She made no attempt to excuse herself or deny it.

“I’m really sorry, Uncle.”

“Jenny, Jenny, Jenny! How many times have I told you to check your pockets. This machine is wrecked. I doubt I’ll be able to get it fixed, and even if I can it will be very expensive.”

“I’ll pay you out of my allowance. I’ll pay for it, Uncle. I’m so sorry.”

“That’s not the point, Jenny, is it? You were just careless, again. It’s so great to have you here, but you keep getting things wrong. You just don’t think, do you?”

There was a knock on the back door. Annoyed at being interrupted, I opened it. It was Vera Green from a few houses down. It was her garden that Suzie wrecked when Jenny let her escape, another act of carelessness.

“Oh dear, I seem to have come at a bad time. I’ve just brought those things you asked for, John.”

“Oh, it’s ok, Vera. Jenny and I are having a bit of a discussion about who broke the washing machine.”

“Hello, Mrs Green,” said Jenny, despite the tense atmosphere.

“I keep telling you, Jenny. It’s Vera. We’re friends now, or at least I hope we are. So, what’s the problem? My guess is you are annoyed with Jenny for doing something to cause the washing machine to break, and Jenny is annoyed with herself for being so careless, again. Am I right, Jenny?”

“Yes, Vera. I am furious with myself for being so stupid and upsetting my Uncle John here.”

“Good, well that’s settled then.”

We both looked at Vera, for that final pearl of wisdom which would close the loop and settle what was apparently settled.

“Well, it seems to me that, just like I suggested when she let Suzie trample my garden, Jenny needs a reminder to be more careful next time, and that her Uncle John needs to provide that reminder and if he won’t, then maybe I should.”

I think we would have come to the same conclusion, as Jenny was already on her way to the drawer to take the plimsoll out, the one her mother had left with me for her daughter’s continuing correction. Jenny handed it to me, realising that her correction needed to be continued right after her disastrous mistake with the key. She said she would be in her room. Before Jenny left us, Vera asked what we were planning for tea. She would cook it while we were dealing with ‘the little matter’ and, if we didn’t mind, she would join us in the meal. Jenny and I agreed almost simultaneously that she would be very welcome, and thanked her.

I gave Jenny a few minutes to prepare and busied myself collecting up the bits from the washing machine. I also managed to get through to a repairer on the phone and he said he would come around in the morning. I was so glad Vera had come at that moment and taken the heat out of the situation, and that I had time to cool down a little. I was already hating myself for shouting at Jenny.

“You better go up, John. She’s had enough time to think about things. You need to get it done and then everything can return to normal.”

“Yes, Vera, it’s time. You know, in all the eighteen years she has been coming here I never had to discipline her, and yet in the last month and a bit I have had to do it three times. How can that be?”

“John, she was the daughter you couldn’t have. You put her on a pedestal, treated her like precious porcelain, and ignored her occasional bad behaviour. If you think back hard, I bet there were many things she did which you would have pulled her up over if she had been your own daughter, and her mother would have dealt with if she had done them at home. Now she is living with you, any bad feeling caused by her carelessness or negligence won’t just go away because she is not going home after a day’s visit. She is a lovely girl and so fond of her Uncle John. Right now, you need to go up and spank her backside. Your relationship with her will be every bit as strong afterwards. She will feel better, apart from her bottom, of course, and you can put any remaining anger into your right arm, and earn the power of forgiveness.”

“It’s strange, Vera, but you seem to really like her, and yet you are keen for me to spank her?”

“I do really like her, John, very much, but I liked all the girls I had to slipper when I was teaching. They needed sore bottoms that day so I could send them on their way, all over, all forgiven.”

Vera was spot on, as always.

When I went upstairs to find Jenny, she opened her door and apologised again for the key in the washing machine. Then she went to her desk, which she had cleared, and bent over it. I was pleased that this time she made no attempt to remove her knickers after the slight embarrassment it caused us both the previous times. It was obviously something she did at home with her mother. It was not appropriate for her uncle.

My initial anger had subsided with the space of time and Vera’s arrival, but there was still some annoyance left, which found its way into my spanking arm. I delivered a baker’s dozen as before, thirteen strokes, and I delivered them firmly. By half way, I believe I was hitting her quite hard, and she responded with groans and whimpers, and gasps.

I paused, briefly, to allow my niece the full benefit of the first six before the slipper in my hand renewed the memory and built on the fire already well ignited in her buttocks. She had endured Mrs Grotbag’s thrashing bare, so the humble implement I was holding would hardly match that level of ferocity. I realised I needed to work harder to avoid disappointment. My anger was gone, my irritation remained, I had told her so many times, I really needed to do better with the remainder of her punishment. I applied myself and made the last three extra hard. Jenny cried out softly. It had hurt, and her tears were well underway.

Then there was my spanker’s remorse. Gone, all thoughts of broken washing machines. I had just really hurt the niece I loved so dearly. She took some time to get up off the desk, she was certainly hurting. Before turning around, she thrust her hands inside her knickers to attempt to soothe her burning rear. She then turned slowly towards me with tears streaming down her face and her arms came to hug me tight. I felt terrible, I had hurt her again, my lovely niece. I held her close, and kissed the top of her head, hoping for forgiveness.

“Thank you, Uncle John. I am so sorry, will you forgive me?”

“Jenny, I didn’t want to do that. I never really do, but of course you are forgiven, you always will be.”

I stopped myself before I said what I was thinking. It would be wrong for the spanker to ask for forgiveness. I turned to leave the room, and in no time, she had started her bottom inspection in the mirror. I beat a hasty retreat, leaving the slipper for her to put away.

Vera was making great progress in the kitchen.

“I reckon if she’s anything like my daughter, she will have got herself together and be down in about twenty minutes, and I’m aiming for everything to be ready just about in time. I’ve started to set the table for us. I’ve guessed where she usually likes to sit and I put a nice soft cushion on the chair for her.”

We laughed.

“Yes, I reckon she’ll be needing that, Vera.”

“Don’t kid yourself, John. You would never spank her that hard, you haven’t got it in you. You’re just a big softy when it comes to that naughty niece of yours!”

I felt slightly insulted, my prowess had been seriously questioned, but Vera was probably right.

Jenny duly arrived after the twenty minutes, put the slipper back in the drawer, gave me another hug, and Vera as well, then laughed when she saw the cushion on her chair.

“Well, at least Mrs Green, sorry Vera, knows what a girl needs, taking good care of me, unlike that uncle of mine.”

We sat down to a lovely meal, some wine, and in Jenny’s case, some more wine. Jenny was fantastic company as usual; she and Vera were developing quite a bond, and, I have to admit, Vera and I were becoming increasingly good friends. Jenny finally called a halt to the wine when offered some more, and joked that she was likely to have a sore head as well as a sore bum if she didn’t stop.

As we were clearing up, Vera noticed a local newspaper that I had put on one side to show Jenny. It had a picture of the girls involved in the demo, with Jenny holding up her sign, ‘Say No to the Cane’. The last paragraph was the response from the school stating that ‘all participants were subject to disciplinary action in accordance with the school rules. The headmistress, Mrs Grosvenor, has no further comment, and the matter is now closed.’

“She wouldn’t,” commented Vera. She was my boss until she left to become head of Jenny’s school, and I took over from her. Most of the children in our school called her Mrs Grotbag, a good many of the staff too. She was not popular. And I bet I know what happened to you girls for the protest.”

Jenny moved across to stand by Vera and read the article, which she had not seen before. Vera looked at her and she nodded. “Yes, she caned us.”

“That’s not fair,” said Vera, and as she absent-mindedly, and maybe affectionately, patted Jenny on the bottom, “A girl needs a good dose of the slipper, not the cane.”

Jenny smiled and nodded again.

It may well have been the wine, but I mused briefly on the idea of sub-contracting out Jenny’s future spankings to the former headmistress, but then I considered what they both had said about spanking, forgiveness, and reconciliation. I just hoped I would never have to do it again.

The End

© Jenny Tomlinson 2023