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  • Writer's pictureWill

the belt

Class F was not in the mood for French, which meant Mademoiselle Croissant* was having a bad day.

I could feel the tension in the classroom but I didn’t know why.

Aldo (nickname) and another boy started arguing, it took only seconds to go from words to fighting. The teacher grabs them and they stop, which was odd. Aldo was a violent mental case, he didn’t just stop because a small slightly built female teacher, grabs him. She pushes both boys outside, and then it all became clear. Accomplice number three runs up to the desk and starts going through her jacket and handbag.

She was being robbed.

Mademoiselle Croissant, however, was not stupid and knew exactly what they were up to. She was watching through the frosted glass window and stepped back into the class with the thief’s hand in her jacket. It all went very quiet.

There was an old punishment in Scottish schools, “The Belt” its proper name was tawse*. A 2ft. long strap of heavy leather. It came in different weights, light, heavy and utterly barbaric. The victim was told to hold both hands out in front and the belt was brought down, with some force, on the upturned palm. It was banned by the European Court of Human Rights in 1983, and was finally stopped in 1987.

Mademoiselle Croissant was absolutely useless at giving the belt, and the boys knew it. The last time she gave the belt, the boy victim smiled when he asked for another two. She called a girl out, gave her a message and told her to to go and deliver it straight away. She then sat down ... and waited. The boys were trying too hard to appear like they didn't care.

A few minutes later in comes the girl, followed by Mr. Rees. The faces of the boys instantly changed colour. Mr. Rees was a PE teacher, and the new boyfriend.

“Yoo three oot”, his head jerked, indicating the door.

Mr. Rees always gave the victim a choice, “The Belt” across the hands or “The Slipper” (one of his old fashioned plimsoles, about the size of a small car) across the bum. I saw him give the belt, more than once. For such a big man he was very flexible. He contorted himself into the shape of swastika, his right hand somewhere near his right ankle. Then at the speed of sound, his arm would whip in a perfect arc and deliver the whole weight of the belt exactly on the centre of the palm. It was athletic perfection.

It’s understandable why you would want to pull your hands away but God wouldn’t help you if you did it to Mr. Rees. The one time I saw a boy pull his hands away, Mr. Rees hit his own leg. Never before have I ever ever seen a teacher explode.

Mr. Rees was 99.9% pent up frustrated rage at not being used professionally by Rangers but he did have some humanity 0.1% to be precise. He administered the punishment in the changing rooms, and afterward, he would let the victim go to his office, to recover.

His office had a big thick door and a sink with cold running water.

The best advice I got was "close your eyes"*.

* I can't remember her real name

* Tawse, derived from a method of leather curing known as tawing

* I forgot my PE kit ... once

* For an example of The Belt see link to a BBC clip

#easterhouse #glasgow #scotland

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