It is often said that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Well, even if it's not exactly dangerous, the result can still be downright unpleasant, especially for a young boy like Freddie.
You see the trouble was that Freddie’s mum was one of life’s worriers and her latest concern was that her son, who was almost thirteen, wasn’t getting enough calcium in his diet. She'd got it into her head that what Freddie needed was a big daily bowlful of a nutritious milk pudding and had read somewhere that tapioca was an ideal choice for a growing boy like her son Freddie. The problem was that like a lot of boys Freddie simply hated milk puddings… and tapioca most of all!
When he was first introduced to this new, nourishing food, Freddie took one look at it and exclaimed: “Yuk! That’s frogs spawn! I’m not eating that… no way! That's slimy snot-puke…! It’s horrid!”
Mum rolled her eyes towards the ceiling and in her all too familiar exasperated tones told Freddie that it was good for him and that he would eat it even if she had to... well, the less said about that the better. But what Freddie failed to understand was that mum did know better than he did what was good for him. She sat down next to Freddie at the table but the naughty boy stubbornly refused to eat his milk pudding and resisted when mum picked up the spoon and tried to feed him a small amount of the tapioca. Freddie twisted his head and the milk pudding ended up spilt all down the front of his school shirt. Mum tried again and this time the tapioca ended up in Freddie's lap. Mum persisted and tried her best to spoon the freshly made tapioca into her son’s resisting mouth, but without success. It was a tall order to expect any mum to single-handedly feed a nourishing tapioca pudding to a reluctant twelve year old boy.
I’m afraid to say tantrums became the order of the day whenever it was time for Freddie’s ‘medicine’. Clearly something had to be done. Freddie created such a fuss and made such a mess that mum decided to seek the assistance of her Aunty Jean. Mum sighed, but seeking the help of her aunt was the only way she could see herself making progress with Freddie's new regime.
So mum went to see her Aunty Jean and together they had a long talk about Freddie’s behaviour. Mum told Aunty Jean that she had had quite enough of Freddie’s fuss and silly behaviour when it came time for his wholesome tapioca medicine. Aunty Jean listened carefully, asked some questions and made a few suggestions. When mum told her aunt about all the mess Freddie was making it was decided that when it was time for his nutritious pudding Freddie was to be taken to his bedroom to be changed into clothes more suitable to be worn for his teatime treat.
“Honestly Carol,” Aunty Jean said to her niece, “I sometimes wonder how you manage to put up with that naughty boy of yours… fancy making a deliberate mess of his clothes… well, you can’t be expected to wash Freddie’s clothes every time he deliberately spills tapioca over himself. What Freddie needs is something special to wear…”
Mum was only too happy to agree with her aunt’s suggestion.
It was further agreed between the two ladies that Freddie would be expected to eat a big bowlful of nourishing tapioca pudding every day from now on and afterwards he would be given an extra large spoonful of castor oil "to settle his tummy".
In no time at all the new rules were introduced and Freddie was dressed properly for his routine daily ‘medicine’. Aunty Jean made sure she was always on hand to help, as it needed two pairs of hands to help Freddie with his milk pudding…
Each day when Freddie got home from school the first thing he saw was a big fresh bowlful of steaming hot tapioca waiting for him on the table. Then he would look round and see Aunty Jean sat talking to his mum.
He knew it wouldn't be long before he heard the dreaded words:
“Would you mind taking Freddie upstairs and getting him changed, Aunty Jean…? It’s almost time for his tapioca.”
Aunty Jean took hold of Freddie’s hand and led him out of the room. It wasn’t long before they returned with Freddie dressed for his medicine. Well, ‘dressed’ probably isn’t the first word you’d think of if you saw Freddie, since Aunty had completely undressed him. Now, as she brought him into the room, Freddie wore a fancy bonnet tied with a bow underneath his chin, a small towelling bib tied around his neck (in case anyone had any doubts, Aunty had embroidered the bib with the words ‘Freddie’s Bib’), on his hands he wore special shiny, plastic-coated mittens and in his mouth was a large dummy. On his feet he wore white ankle socks and a pair of red Mary-Janes. Around his waist Aunty Jean had tied a tiny white lace-trimmed apron, such as might have been worn by a waitress in an old-fashioned tea shop. The apron didn’t quite reach Freddie’s lower abdomen and left the red-faced youngster embarrassingly exposed, but that didn’t seem to bother either mum or Aunty Jean.
In order to keep young Freddie under control, and after much deliberation, it had been decided to put Freddie into a child’s harness and reins.
“We don’t want him running off,” Aunty Jean observed, though quite where Freddie would want to run of to was open to question, dressed as he was. The last thing Freddie wanted was for anyone to see him wearing the few scanty items of clothing that he was allowed when it was time for his tapioca pudding.
The light-blue leather harness was buckled at the back and the front was decorated with tiny dancing bunny-rabbits and pretty little flowers. The reins were clipped securely to the harness at the back and enabled Aunty Jean to keep Freddie properly under control as she led him downstairs and into the dining-room where the bowl of tapioca sat waiting on the table. And when Freddie didn’t behave himself he quickly found out that Aunty Jean was extremely adept at flicking his bare bottom with the leather reins.
It hardly needs me to tell you how twelve year old Freddie felt as he was lead into the room to face his mum. He was for all intents and purposes bare-nude; he felt like a complete sissy in his bonnet… and yes, he was very self-conscious!
Of all the things that made up his feeding-time costume; the bib, the bonnet, the harness, the tiny apron, the sissy shoes; the one thing Freddie just couldn’t get used to was having the big dummy inserted firmly into his mouth. Already he had started to dribble copiously; the glistening drool was trickling down over his chin. As he stood next to Aunty Jean with a worried look on his face, a big glob of saliva swung from his chin… just as well Freddie was wearing his bib.
“Freddie’s ready for his nice tapioca pudding now, aren’t you Freddie,” Aunty Jean said as she placed her hand on the boy’s bare shoulder. Freddie nodded his head, since with the large dummy in his mouth he was unable to speak. The string of saliva swung and stuck to Freddie’s bib.
“Oh, what a messy little boy you are, Freddie,” Aunty admonished, “You’ve not even started your delicious treat and here you are already dribbling all over yourself…!”
Mum presented her son with a big bowl of tapioca. In his turn Freddie presented her with a defiant scowl, but all he could mange was a muffled, “Harrmmph… mumph!” with the big dummy in his mouth.
“Are we going to need to put you in your chair today?” mum asked as she pushed a spoon into the thick, glutinous ‘medicine’.
Freddie glanced over to the special high-chair which was reserved for days when he was particularly naughty, or ‘difficult’, as Aunty Jean called his uncooperative behaviour. The threat of humiliation in the high-chair was enough to make Freddie shake his head to signal to his mum and Aunty Jean the chair would not be needed.
More than anything Freddie hated his special high-chair. Once he had been sat in it, his harness was attached to clips on the chair making escape impossible. The chair had been constructed in such a way as to leave him feeling completely trapped once the hinged feeding tray had been lowered into position. His legs were pushed down each side of the chair-legs which meant his thighs were kept wide apart, making Freddie feel extremely vulnerable. He knew that if any of mum’s friends decided to visit at that moment, he would be completely exposed and quite unable to do anything about it!
“That’s good… I am pleased,” mum said as she continued to stir the bowl of gloop in front of a nervous Freddie. “Remember… when Aunty Jean takes out your dummy keep your mouth wide open Freddie… do you understand? And if we have anymore trouble like the other day, you’ll go straight into your special chair.”
Freddie nodded frantically, he was that afraid of being put into the chair. Another glob of drool escaped from his mouth and trickled down his chin.
“Are you going to be a good boy today and eat up all your lovely tapioca pudding, Freddie?” Aunty Jean asked.
Freddie twisted his head to look up at his aunt. It was very awkward because having to wear the stupid bonnet was like having to look at the world with a pair of blinkers stuck on his head. Freddie could only see what was directly in front of him. It was one of Aunty Jean’s ideas to make Freddie concentrate on eating his nourishing food.
“The bonnet will prevent Freddie from being troubled by any distractions…” she had explained to his mum.
Freddie saw his aunty smiling down at him. He nodded, “Harrmmph… mumph!” which this time Aunty Jean took to mean, “Yes, aunty, I’ll be a good boy and eat up all my lovely tapioca…”
“That’s a good little boy… I don’t want to see you making any mess today… You won’t make any mess for aunty will you Freddie?”
Once more Freddie replied, “Harrmmph… mumph!” and Aunty Jean took this to mean, “No, Aunty Jean… I’ll be a good boy and not make any mess.”
By now Freddie’s neck was beginning to ache and he was slightly relieved to be told by his aunt to turn and face the table: “Now hold still while I take out your dummy. I don’t want any fuss. Mummy is going to give you some nice tapioca…”
Freddie gave one final nod to indicate that he understood. Aunty Jean reached up, hooked her index finger into the ring attached to the dummy and pulled it out. The dummy was quite large; bigger than might have been expected. Freddie gasped with relief at its removal, but only for a second before mum pushed an overflowing spoonful of fresh tapioca between his lips.
“Harrmmph… mumph!” Freddie spluttered as mum pushed the plastic feeding-spoon into his open mouth. Some of the slimy tapioca stuck to Freddie’s chin, but most of the first spoonful stayed in his mouth. It was still in his mouth as mum withdrew the feeding-spoon. Freddie’s cheeks were puffed out as he held the milk pudding in his mouth. Freddie loathed tapioca and squeezed his eyes closed; steeling himself before swallowing the detested, vile milk pudding.
“Come along now Freddie,” his Aunty Jean encouraged him, “swallow the lovely tapioca… that’s it… all the way down…”
Aunty lifted up the little white apron that Freddie was wearing and began to rub the boy’s tummy as he puffed his cheeks and gulped the tapioca mixture down.
“Good boy, Freddie… that’s a good boy…” Auntie moved her hand up to Freddie’s chest and as she said encouraging words, she stroked her hand down Freddie’s front… all the way down to his abdomen. “Good boy, Freddie… there, that’s better… swallow it all down…”
Freddie had barely disposed of the first spoonful of tapioca before mum pushed the plastic feeding-spoon, laden with another portion of the pudding ‘medicine’, between Freddie’s lips. The spoon was still in his mouth when Freddie suddenly burped and almost half the milk pudding came back out of his mouth, over the spoon and dribbled down his chin, dripping onto his bib and bare chest.
“Oh, Freddie!” Aunty Jean exclaimed, “What a naughty little boy? Look at the mess! You promised me you wouldn’t make a mess… you are a very naughty boy, Freddie… What are mummy and Aunty Jean going to do with you?”
It was only the second spoonful of ‘medicine’ and Freddie was beginning to look very messy indeed. Not only was his mouth coated with cold tapioca, but some of it had splashed up onto his nose when he burped, to say nothing of what had dribbled down his chin.
Mum used the spoon to scrape some of the nourishing mixture from Freddie’s face and pushed it back into his mouth. Freddie struggled to swallow. He screwed his face up in disgust as he gulped down the pudding. His eyes watered with the effort and just as he opened his mouth again to gulp down some fresh air, he found mum was ready with the next big spoonful. Aunty Jean held the back of Freddie’s head as he lurched back in a futile effort to avoid the feeding-spoon. Stubbornly Freddie clamped his mouth shut, but Aunty Jean knew just how to deal with this sort of truculent behaviour and pinched the naughty boy’s nose. After a few seconds Freddie was forced to open his mouth again and aunty released her fingers from his nose as mum pushed the feeding-spoon straight into his mouth.
This time Aunty Jean held Freddie’s mouth closed as mum pulled the empty spoon from between her son’s messy lips. Freddie gagged and groaned, but eventually swallowed the hated tapioca pudding.
“Dear me… what a silly fuss!” Aunty Jean said as she used Freddie’s bib to wipe his chin. “What a lot of silly fuss over a delicious milk pudding. You know it’s very good for you Freddie… you want to grow up big and strong, don’t you?”
Auntie’s platitudes didn’t impress the young boy… not in the least. Freddie thought tapioca was disgusting. He hated it and didn’t understand why he had to eat so much of the revolting stuff.
One thing was clear though… anyone could see why Freddie wore so little when it was time for his tapioca. By the fourth spoonful Freddie’s face was smeared with the stuff and globs of tapioca seemed to be everywhere on his body. The little bib around his neck was caked in it where Aunty Jean had used it to wipe Freddie’s face, but there were smears of tapioca down his chest and his tummy and even a few flecks on his legs when Freddie had spluttered before swallowing yet another mouthful of the horrid milk pudding.
There was still half the bowl left. Although from the sight of Freddie it looked as though most of the milk-pudding had ended up on the boy rather than in his tummy where it belonged, to Freddie it felt as if he’d eaten more than enough. Each further spoonful became more and more of a struggle as mum and Aunty Jean did their best to make Freddie swallow the now cooling glutinous tapioca and the longer it took the messier it was. Finally a clearly exasperated Aunty Jean spoke:
“Carol, I think we both need a rest… Let's put Freddie in his chair for a few minutes then I'll make us both a nice cup of tea…”
“Oh please, mum… please, no… please, mum, don’t put me in the chair…” a distraught Freddie pleaded, “Please mum, I’ll finish… I’ll finish it all up… honest I will…”
But at that point mum picked up the dummy and before Freddie knew what was happening she had it straight into his mouth.
“Yes, Aunty Jean,” she said, “we both need a break and Freddie is getting fractious, so half-an-hour in his chair will help to calm him down…”
“I’m afraid his tapioca is going to get cold…” Aunty Jean observed.
“Well, that’s as maybe… Freddie’s only himself to blame if it does go cold. He should have eaten it up properly in the first place,” mum said, showing no sympathy.
““Harrmmph… mumph!” Freddie was distraught as aunty led him over to the dreaded high-chair with its plastic coated seat. “Harrmmph… mumph!” was all he could manage, but what he was trying to say was, “Please! I’ll be good! Please, don’t put me in the high-chair!”
“Calm down, Freddie… calm down,” Aunty Jean said, “Once we get you into your high-chair you can have a little rest while mummy and I have a nice cup of tea… and then you can finish your nice tapioca pudding.”
“Harrmmph… mumph! Harrmmph… mumph!” which roughly translated meant, “I don’t want to go in the high-chair! Don’t put me in the high-chair! I’ll be a good boy…” But it was really no use and Freddie started to cry as mummy and Aunty Jean prepared him for the high-chair.
It took the two of them to get Freddie securely seated in the chair. As mummy held Freddie tightly, Aunty Jean clipped Freddie’s harness to the rear of the chair. The hinged feeding-tray was lowered. Now there was no getting out of the high-chair and Freddie would have to stay seated in it for just as long as was needed. The half-eaten bowl of tapioca pudding, which was rapidly getting cold, along with the feeding-spoon, was placed on tray right in front of Freddie. Finally a big bottle of castor oil and a large spoon were put down on the tray as a reminder of what Freddie had to look forward to once he had finished his milk pudding. Freddie scowled and twisted his head, as much as he could under the circumstances, away from the objects on his feeding-tray.
Both mum and Aunty Jean believed the proper preparation of tea could not be rushed, so Freddie was kept in his high-chair for quite a bit longer than half-an-hour while the grown-ups had their tea. Of course all Freddie could do was sit in his chair and dribble as he sucked on the big dummy which just about filled his mouth. In his frustration he thought of all the things he could be doing. Like any healthy young boy Freddie had lots of hobbies and interests; he thought of how he could be playing outside with his football, or swimming, or sorting his stamp collection… but that just made it worse for him and he felt even more frustrated.
Mum followed Aunty Jean’s advice: “It’s best to just ignore him for a while. Boys are always attention seeking… it’s his own fault for making such a fuss. You try and do your best for them and they never cooperate…”
Mum agreed. So while they chatted of this and that, Freddie sat and dribbled. His eyes were wet with tears and his face splashed with the lumpy cold tapioca. He did look a mess. Imprisoned in his high-chair, Freddie’s legs were splayed wide apart. His thighs were splashed with flecks of milk pudding too and Freddie was very aware that anyone who saw him in his chair could see his ‘boy-bits’ fully displayed, since the little apron aunty made him wear covered nothing.
Yes, it’s fair to say that Freddie had never felt as miserable in his young life as he was at that moment sat in his high-chair watching mum and Aunty Jean as they sipped their tea. Then there was that horrible feeling of the tapioca pudding that he had managed to swallow making glooping noises in his tummy. That’s why he had to have a dose of castor oil afterwards, mum said. But why, Freddie reasoned, if he didn’t have to eat the vile milk pudding, then he wouldn’t need the horrid castor oil, would he?
Freddie was made to wait… and wait… and wait while mum and Aunty Jean took their time. As the long minutes dragged on Freddie dribbled as he sucked on his dummy. As he was wearing his mittens Freddie was unable to blow his nose, so snotty goo oozed out and glistened on his top lip before trickling over his lips to join the milky mess hanging from his chin. Every so often Freddie would attempt to wipe himself, but the plastic-coated mittens simply smeared the revolting mess across his face and made it worse.
“Stop that at once!” Aunty Jean said, reprimanding the wriggling boy, “Can’t we leave you alone for two minutes without you fidgeting?!”
“Harrmmph… mumph!” Freddie’s indignant, but wholly unintelligible reply achieved nothing save making him feel even more helpless and frustrated as he felt the pull of his harness every time he moved. And every time he moved his bare bottom made a silly squeaking noise as it rubbed on the plastic coated seat. It was very uncomfortable.
“Honestly, Carol, can’t we have five minutes peace without that naughty boy wriggling about in his chair… What a little fuss-pot…”
Eventually the ladies finished their tea and it was time to help Freddie with his delicious, but by now very cold tapioca.
“Dear me, it doesn’t look very appetising,” mum said… as if it had looked at all appetising in the first place! thought Freddie with some feeling as he braced himself for more of the horrid pudding.
“Well if he’d have eaten it all up in the first place…” Aunty Jean said as she pulled out the big dummy from Freddie’s mouth, “…such an ungrateful little boy. Mummy and Aunty Jean go through all this trouble to give you a healthy, nourishing bowl of pudding to make sure you grow up big and strong…”
“We can’t have it going to waste…” mum said and Freddie barely had time to draw breath before a big spoonful of tapioca was squeezed between his lips. “Now eat it all up… it’s your own fault it’s gone cold… I don’t want any more fuss.”
The pudding, as mummy had observed, didn’t look or taste very appetising and Freddie had real difficultly trying to swallow the mixture. The tapioca had congealed to such an extent that in his mouth it stuck to Freddie’s teeth and no matter how much he tried to wipe them with his tongue he couldn’t get rid of the ghastly stuff.
Slowly, and with a great deal of patience mummy and Aunty Jean fed the remaining cold tapioca pudding to Freddie. Freddie’s face was screwed up into a permanent grimace as he was encouraged to swallow each mouthful until finally all that was left in the bowl was a few lumps of congealed milk pudding. Even this had to been consumed it was decided and, to loud protests from the messy boy, Freddie was encouraged to lick the bowl clean. Of course even more of the lumpy mixture ended up on his face, but Freddie had at last finished his nutritious milk pudding!
Now it was time for Freddie’s dose of castor-oil. Poor Freddie threw a temper tantrum worthy of a six year old as he squirmed and wriggled in the tight confines of his high-chair.
“I don’t want it!!” he screamed as he kicked his legs about and thumped his mitten clad fists on the side of the chair. Tears streamed down his tapioca smeared face as he twisted his head this way and that. What Freddie had overlooked was that his legs, tapped as they were either side of the wooden posts which supported the arms of the chair, meant his bare thighs were supremely vulnerable, a fact that was all too obvious to mummy and Aunty Jean.
“Stop this behaviour… at once!” mummy said and without warning gave Freddie three sharp smacks on his bare left leg, high up on his inner thigh. The stinging slaps came as quite a shock to the boy and his face screwed up, just as Aunty Jean gave him another three smacks high up on the inner thigh of his exposed right leg.
There was now little excuse for Freddie’s childish howls. Four more stinging smacks on each thigh and Freddie’s legs were fire-engine red; as bright red as the Mary-Janes he was wearing on feet that swung so helplessly to-and-fro.
Aunty Jean was once more forced to hold Freddie’s head and to squeeze his nose until, gasping for air, his mouth opened and mummy quickly gave the naughty boy a big spoonful of castor-oil. They made sure Freddie swallowed all his medicine and then it was time to get him cleaned up.
Freddie was such a mess that mummy and Aunty Jean decided it would be best to deal with the boy in the kitchen. They left Freddie in his high-chair and replaced his dummy. Tears were still rolling down his face mixing with globs of tapioca, mucus from his nose and just a slight dribble of castor-oil from between his lips which were squeezed around the big dummy. His bonnet was all askew and his bib had been pushed to one side as he struggled in his high-chair. The little apron that he was wearing was stained and crumpled. Only his Mary-Janes seemed to have escaped without mishap and shone brightly on his feet.
Mummy and Aunty Jean prepared themselves to give Freddie the scrubbing he so desperately needed, so they each put on plastic aprons that crinkled as they knotted the ties behind their backs. An old tin bath was brought in and placed in front of the kitchen sink for Freddie to stand in while he was being washed. Aunty Jean placed the kitchen stool by the side of the bath so she could sit down while she attended to the boy’s lower half. Mum would wash Freddie’s face, chest, back, arms and hands. Towels, bars of soap and rough flannels were placed on the kitchen table in readiness.
“I think we’ll have Freddie straight into his pyjamas after he’s been washed,” mum remarked. It was .
“Yes, an early bedtime will do him good,” Aunty Jean agreed.
Before Freddie was let down from his chair mummy and Aunty Jean ‘undressed’ him, which of course meant nothing more than removing Freddie’s bonnet, bib, little apron, his Mary-Janes and white lacy ankle socks. He was kept in his harness and his mittens were left on for the time being so that Freddie couldn’t meddle with his dummy.
“Down you come…” mummy said in a cheerful voice quite at odds with how Freddie felt after his being fed his nutritious bowl of milk pudding. “Down you come my little man and let’s get you nice and clean for mummy and aunty…”
The two ladies led Freddie by his arms into the kitchen.
“What a messy little boy you are… still we’ll soon have you cleaned up and ready for your jimmy-jams, won’t we Aunty Jean?”
Aunty Jean agreed and together they lifted Freddie up and stood him in the tin bath. Mummy and Aunty Jean were soon hard at work with the bars of soap, working up a nice lather, ready to give Freddie a jolly good scrub. Freddie was pulled and pushed and twisted this way and that as the two women soaped him up and down, and from side to side. The mittens were at last removed so that Freddie’s hands could be washed. His face was soaped and rinsed while Freddie stood with his eyes tight shut. His dummy was drawn out of his mouth and a soapy flannel rubbed across his mouth. Then mummy pushed the flannel into Freddie’s mouth to wipe the last traces of the mess from his lips. Freddie hated that, because he always ended up with some of the soapy lather right inside his mouth and it tasted horrible… but, as Freddie knew only too well, it wasn’t nearly as bad as a proper mouth-soaping!
Finally Freddie was rinsed off and dried.
“Would you mind fetching Freddie’s clean pyjamas?” mummy asked Aunty Jean and then turned to ask Freddie who stood bare-nude in the middle of the kitchen, “Bunny rabbits or teddy-bears…?”
Freddie pouted at the thought of wearing such childish pyjamas and would rather have worn his favourite pair, the ones with the space-ships and flying saucer design… at least they were proper boy’s pyjamas. However, Freddie knew that he was only allowed to wear these pyjamas as a special treat if he had been well behaved and by no stretch of the imagination could Freddie’s behaviour that afternoon have been considered to be anything other than troublesome.
Aunty Jean looked down at Freddie waiting for an answer.
“Come along Freddie, make up you mind or do you want to be left in the bare…?” she said.
“Please may I have my teddy-bear pyjamas Aunty Jean?”
And so mummy finished drying Freddie while Aunty Jean fetched his pyjamas from the airing-cupboard. Before long a nice clean boy was dressed in his cosy winceyette jim-jams. The pyjama top was buttoned right up to the top of the jacket and it wouldn’t be long before Freddie was taken up the wooden hill to bedfordshire.