Although I would love to live in Ireland again, there are some things that I do not have fond memories of.
Biffing, what a great word, almost like spiffing! A spiffing good biffing! Now that’s something I never heard…
Anyone who thinks a thin bamboo cane doesn’t hurt was never biffed in school as a child. I was caned in school in Ireland between the ages of seven and fourteen. It only stopped at fourteen because we moved.
A 1 cm diameter bamboo cane was the priests weapon of choice. It had a curved handle where they used to hang it from the rope around their waists, with the rosary beads and the crucifix – for fucks sake, the irony.
A cane this size is both stiff and flexible. If it is used with force it acts like a whip, the tip initially lags behind but then catches up with the rest of the cane -travelling much faster. When the cane hits your hand, instantly, at the point of contact you feel a terrible stinging, as if you had been stung 20 times by wasps on every finger (the priests usually hit you in the middle of your fingers). A second or two later the ends of your fingers go numb but also continue to hurt really badly. The point of contact of the cane remains white for some time whilst the rest of your fingers become red and inflamed. Sort of like hitting a finger with a hammer. Normally we were hit six times, three on each hand (perversly termed “six of the best”). Naturally the cane hitting you twice again in a place you had already been hit was exceedingly painful.
As younger children naturally we cried when we were hit; as we got older we would not give those fucking sadist priests the pleasure of seeing us cry. The priests would play sick psychological games on us: when you were sent to stand outside the classroom for some minor transgression (perhaps dropping a pencil more than once), the dean of discipline patrolled the hallways and he would tell you that if he passed by again and you were not back in class, you would be hit. The classroom doors had large frosted glass windows and everyone inside, including the teacher, could see and hear these exchanges. Sometimes the teacher would you let you back in at this stage if you asked, but often he would say no. Sometimes they would let you in without asking.
Although getting hit was bad, I never asked a teacher to let me back in, and I was always beaten. Fuck them. When you walk back in the classroom after being beaten, the teacher and all the other kids knew you could have begged to be let back in, but you didn’t. In some way, it seemed like a small win at the time. I suppose it was. But look how bitter they have left me; their legacy. Fuck religion.
There was an industry in Ireland, a factory or more, which made laminated leather straps for beating schoolkids. They were made with layers of leather with lead or coins sown into them so that it hurt more when they were used for beatings. These straps were specifically for beating school children. This was not during the time of Dickens, this was late 20th Century Ireland – for fucks sake…
This is what the Jesuits beat me with. Bad as it was, the cane hurt more.