Pamela, Rachel and Oliver arrived back at the Evans’ house after their trip to the barber’s for Oliver’s haircut and visiting the chemist’s shop to buy some DryNites pyjama pants for Oliver to wear at Mrs Wilding’s.
“Oh that’s so much better, Oliver!” mum gushed when she saw her son’s ultra-short haircut, “Mr Banks has given you a really splendid haircut… I am proud of you! I hoped you thanked Mr Banks properly…”
Oliver glanced downwards and then quickly peeked at his sister to see if she was going to say anything. Pamela remained silent.
“Yes, mummy…” Oliver replied and then repeated what Pamela had told him to say to Mr Banks, “I thanked Mr Banks for my nice haircut.”
“That was good of you Oliver… Now let’s all have some lunch and then we’ll get you packed for your stay with Mrs Wilding.”
But at that moment mum noticed the red spank marks on Oliver’s thighs: “What’s this Oliver? I do hope you’ve not been naughty…” mum sighed, “I thought you were my big, grown up boy and now you’ve gone and let me down again.”
Oliver hung his head in shame with his face burning bright red as it always did when his was admonished by his mother.
“It’s nothing, mum,” Pamela explained what had happened when Oliver had pulled on her hand; that Mr Banks had to smack Oliver to stop him from wriggling in the child’s seat; and that Rachel gave Oliver a smack to buck him up when he was slow to answer a question, “It wasn’t anything serious…” she concluded.
“Well, serious or not, if Oliver’s starting to pull again we might want to sort out his harness and reins to take with him this afternoon. I don’t want him causing any trouble while he’s with Mrs Wilding…” mum said.
Oliver was horrified at the prospect. The thought of his pink leather harness with little lambs gambolling across the chest panel made him feel queasy. He would agree to just about anything to be spared the humiliation of being strapped into his harness.
“Oh please, mummy… I didn’t mean to pull on Pamela’s hand… it… it was an accident,” Oliver said, “Please… I don’t need the harness, mummy… I won’t do it again.”
“Oliver, it’s about time you understood that your excuses only make matters worse,” Vera Evans was rapidly becoming exasperated with her son, “How can you possibly expect me to believe that pulling on your sister’s arm was an accident? Pamela is younger than you are and being a girl, considerably less strong…”
Oliver had good reason to believe that at the very least Pamela’s ability dish out tear-inducing smacks proved she was strong enough.
“... you could so easily have pulled Pamela over by your irresponsible behaviour,” mum continued, “I couldn’t bear to think what might have happened. The trouble with you, Oliver is that you don’t know your own strength…”
“But… but mummy, please… I promise it won’t do it again… please don’t put me in the harness…” Oliver said as he twisted his hands together and looked for all the world as though he was going to need his DryNites pyjama pants sooner than expected.
Needless to say Rachel was enjoying watching Oliver squirming in front of his mother. She knew that shortly the seventeen year old 6th Former would be her responsibility:
“Would you like me to take Oliver over to my aunt’s, Mrs Evans?” she asked.
“That is kind of you to offer, Rachel, but I’m not sure…” Oliver’s mum answered.
“It would really be no trouble, Mrs Evans,” Rachel persisted, “I could walk him over after lunch if that would help and it would give you more time to get ready for your reunion.”
“You’re very thoughtful, Rachel, and it would help considerably to have Oliver taken off my hands... if I could only be sure he would behave himself…” Vera Evans paused as she weighed things up.
Rachel smiled sweetly and that was enough to make up Mrs Evans’ mind. There was a confidence in that smile which Mrs Evans recognised. Like Pamela, Rachel was a couple of years younger than Oliver, but that smile was the smile of maturity.
“Alright, Pamela, you can walk Oliver over to your aunt’s after lunch and I want you to know how grateful I am... but I’d be happier if Oliver was put into his harness and reins… I don’t want him pulling…”
Oliver was horrified. Being put into his harness and reins was bad enough, but to be led by Rachel was… was just too much.
“Mummy!!” he screamed quite forgetting himself, “Mummy!! It’s not fair… I… I… please… I mean… I’m sorry...” His voice petered out apologetically.
“Oliver, I think you’ve said quite enough to convince me of the necessity of putting you into your harness and reins. It’s clear you can’t control yourself and I don’t want to have to shoulder the responsibility of you having an accident when you’re being walked by Rachel. It would only make me feel worse knowing that if you did have an accident it could have been prevented by you being put in your harness…”
“Oh please, mummy… please not my harness and reins… I promise I won’t let go of Rachel’s hand and I won’t pull…”
“I’m afraid it’s too late for that, Oliver. You tugged Pamela’s hand earlier on your way to the barber’s… who’s to say what you might do when you’re walked to Mrs Wilding’s?”
Oliver opened his mouth to speak.
“That’s enough, Oliver,” mum said firmly, “My mind is made up. Pamela, please fetch Oliver’s harness and reins… I think the sooner he’s put into his harness the better.”
“Shall I fetch the crotch-strap as well, mum?” Pamela asked.
“You can bring that as well, but we won’t put that on unless we have to…”
Oliver knew only too well that if he didn’t comply with mum’s decision to put him into his harness, matters could be made much worse by the simple expedient of employing the crotch-strap. The crotch-strap was a very unpleasant modification to the standard harness and one that ensured complete compliance with whoever was controlling the attached reins. Oliver hated being harnessed with the additional crotch-strap and the thought of being walked all the way to Mrs Wilding’s with it in place made him feel sick with worry all throughout lunch.
In the end mum decided not to use the crotch-strap, but gave it to Rachel in case she found it was needed. Oliver was so grateful with mum’s decision that he made no more fuss about wearing his harness and reins to be walked over to Mrs Wilding’s. In order for Rachel to practice walking Oliver on his reins, she led him into the garden and walked him down to the summer house and back.
Vera Evans watched from the house. “If Oliver pulls, flick the back of his legs with the reins,” she called, “Yes… that it… just flick your wrist and the leather will do the rest…”
Oliver was left in no doubt who was in charge as the thin leather rein snapped around the top of his thigh and nipped him sharply on the soft flesh between his legs. Rachel soon got the hang of walking Oliver on his reins and couldn’t wait to take him out onto the pavement where everyone would be able to see a big seventeen year old schoolboy under her control.
Meanwhile over at Mrs Wilding’s Stephen was very excited about Oliver’s visit and the impending sleepover. Preparations were well underway and Stephen was told to be on his best behaviour… and he knew what it meant if he wasn’t!
Felicity Wilding had explained to Vera Evans that it was her normal practice to take Stephen to church on Sunday morning and if Oliver could bring some smart ‘Sunday Best’ clothes, or other suitable outfit, she would be glad to take him along to the Sunday service as well. It has to be said that Stephen hated being dragged out to church on Sunday. Like lots of boys of his age he would rather have stayed in bed and played with his favourite toy. Indeed playing with his favourite toy had become something of an obsession with Stephen of late and he wondered whether Oliver had discovered the fun to be had with a boy’s special toy.
Stephen mulled it over in his mind. Oliver was seventeen, he reasoned, so he must have played with his toy before. But did he still play with it? Or would Oliver think it childish? But then Oliver was perfectly happy playing with Action Man… Stephen wasn’t quite sure what this had to do with it, other than the fact that this proved Oliver wasn’t beyond playing with some toys. Stephen secretly hoped Oliver liked to play with his special toy, because he liked Oliver and was excited to think they might play with their toys together.
Stephen had been on his very best behaviour for the past few days. Like Oliver he had been made to visit the barber’s shop for a trim to ‘tidy him up a bit’, as mum put it. Stephen’s hair wasn’t cut quite so severely as Oliver’s, but nevertheless he was always to be seen with a smart schoolboy short back and sides. Stephen was so looking forward to the sleepover that even this extra trip to the barber’s didn’t bother him, nor did the visit to one of mum’s friends, who had made a little surprise for Stephen in time for Oliver’s visit. Normally these ‘little surprises’ would have worried Stephen, but feeling as he did, it didn’t even bother him that much when mum refused to tell him what her friend had made for him.
Stephen would probably have been very worried had he known mum’s friend had made a special costume for Stephen to wear. But as things were and what with all the excitement of the forthcoming sleepover, Stephen manged to forget all about the visit to mum's friend.
Mum decided to put Stephen into play-clothes on the afternoon of Oliver’s visit. Felicity Wilding knew the boys would want to play together and decided on what might be best described as a shortie romper play-suit. It had been made for him at the suggestion of one of the ladies in Mrs Wilding’s sewing circle. The lady had found the pattern and was keen to make it for Stephen and mum agreed in spite of the fact it appeared to have been designed to be worn by a much younger boy. Indeed the age group was specified as ‘suitable for boys aged 5 to 7’. Mum’s friend insisted it would easy enough to scale up the pattern for Stephen. This she did with complete success. The play-suit was an all-in-one affair that was sleeveless and without legs. Made from a stretchy synthetic fabric, it had a zip which ran all the way up its front. There were belt-loops at the waist and a thin red belt was passed through them. Once buckled up the belt kept the play-suit nice and smart. The play-suit was quite comfortable and appropriate for the purpose for which it was designed. It was light green with small red pockets each side of the zip. Outside Stephen wore play-sandals when he was put into his romper play-suit.
Normally Stephen didn’t much like wearing his romper play-suit, but as mum pulled up the zip, tightened the belt and smoothed the fabric, he was more concerned about when Oliver would be arriving and rushed bare-foot into the front-room to keep watch.
Stephen’s patience was rewarded when, shortly after two o’clock he saw Oliver in the distance walking towards the house, closely followed by his cousin Rachel.
“He’s here! Mum! Oliver’s here!” Stephen called out from the bay window where he was kneeling on a chair keeping watch for the arrival of his friend. “Mum… Oliver’s here and Rachel’s with him.”
Stephen watched as Oliver and Rachel drew closer and then he saw what Oliver was wearing.
“Mum… mum… what’s Oliver got on? It’s looks like leather shorts or something…”
Mrs Wilding entered the room and peered out through the window.
“Oh that’s nice… Oliver is wearing his lederhosen… Doesn’t he look smart!”
A few more steps and Stephen made out something else that Oliver was wearing:
“Mum… Oliver’s got a harness or something… and… mum!” Stephen was so shocked he almost fell of the chair on which he was kneeling. “Mum! Rachel’s got Oliver on a lead!”
“That’s not a lead, darling,” mum explained calmly, “they’re called ‘reins’ and they are attached to the harness Oliver is wearing so that Rachel can keep control of Oliver as he walks.”
As Oliver and Rachel drew closer to the house, Stephen could see the reins clearly… and he could also see how embarrassed Oliver was. There was no mistaking the older boy’s red face as he neared the house and leant forward to open the gate. Stephen couldn’t hear, but it was obvious by the little shake of the reins that Rachel had told Oliver what to do. A few seconds later the doorbell rang.
“Go and answer the door and let them in... remember you're on doorbell duty today, Stephen,” mum said and with a hasty “Yes mum,” Stephen rushed off out of the room and down the hall.
As Stephen opened the door his mum walked up behind.
“I offered to walk Oliver over in order to give Mrs Evans more time to get ready for her reunion party tonight,” Rachel explained, “She’s going to drop off Oliver’s things later…”
“That was thoughtful of you, Rachel… and it’ll give the boys more time to play together before teatime.” Mrs Wilding said as she thanked her niece. Then she spotted something: “Oh dear, was Oliver a bit troublesome on the way over?”
“Oh those…” Rachel replied as she looked at the marks on Olive’s legs, just below his bottom cheeks which were clearly visible below the tight leather shorts, “Those? Oliver was being silly, so I smacked him with the reins, that’s all.”
“Yes, reins can be very useful…” Mrs Wilding said somewhat wistfully.
“Mrs Evans explained how to use the reins for keeping Oliver under control when I practiced walking him in the garden before we left, aunty.”
Oliver was obviously very embarrassed to be seen wearing his childish harness by Stephen and couldn’t look him in the eyes at first. Stephen was sorry to see how self-conscious his friend was and wanted to cheer him up. He’d been so looking forward to having Oliver to stay.
“Mum, can I take Oliver outside to play?” Stephen asked.
Mum unclipped the reins from Oliver’s harness and the boys were allowed out to play in the back garden. Stephen was eager to get Oliver away from mum and Rachel for reasons of his own. Oliver soon cheered up and even though he was still kept in his childish harness, the boys enjoyed themselves outside. It was still quite chilly in the garden, but the bare-legged boys weren’t hugely bothered as they had other things on their minds.
Stephen had a swing in the garden and the boys took it in turns to push while the other sat on the swing. The swing was down towards the bottom of the garden and this afforded them some privacy as the boys talked. Stephen broached the subject that had occupied his mind on and off for most of the day. Oliver looked serious as he listened to the younger boy, then he looked sheepishly at his feet. Stephen finished talking. Oliver looked up and looked Stephen straight in the eye.
“Are you sure?” Oliver asked.
“Of course I’m sure.”
“But what if we’re caught…?”
“We won’t be…” Stephen replied confidently.
Oliver wasn’t convinced: “I… I don’t know. If we’re caught your mum’s bound to tell my mum… and you know what my mum’s like…”
Stephen didn’t need to be reminded, but he was sure it would be worth the risk.
“... and I promised mummy I wouldn’t…” Oliver added.
“But you’re not at home… it doesn’t count if you’re not at home… surely?” Stephen said with the tenacity of a barrister conducting a cross-examination.
Oliver thought for a bit then asked: “Are you… you know… allowed to…?”
But teatime was fast approaching and before Stephen could answer the boys were called in from the garden. They took it in turns to wash their hands at the kitchen sink and then stood side by side and held out their hands for inspection. To his relief Oliver’s harness was finally removed.
Once sat on stools at the kitchen table bibs were produced and were tied around the boys' necks by Rachel, much to the embarrassment of both Stephen and Oliver. Nevertheless the boys eagerly tucked into their teatime sandwiches. They were both hungry after playing outside and were looking forward to their pudding after finishing the sandwiches. But there was a surprise in store when Rachel at last brought the pudding and placed it on the table in front of the boys.
“Yuk! What’s that…!” Stephen exclaimed.
Oliver stared at the wobbling, moulded, pink pudding. He knew what it was… and he hated it. The problem was that he was a guest in Mrs Wilding’s house and he knew it would be bad manners… very bad manners not to eat it.
“I made it especially for you, Oliver,” Felicity Wilding said.
“Thank you Mrs Wilding…” Oliver said politely, as he continued to stare at the pudding.
“It looks horrible… what is it?” Stephen asked.
“It’s called a blancmange...” Rachel informed her cousin.
“... and it’s very nutritious, so I want you boys to eat it all up,” mum said.
The boys looked at the pudding nervously. Oliver had good reason to feel upset at the prospect of being made to eat the milk pudding; Stephen had a boy’s instinct about food and took an immediate dislike to anything his mum called ‘nutritious’.
“But it’s disgusting…” Stephen said.
“How do you know… you haven’t even tried it,” mum said, “And I won’t have you making a fuss in front of our guest,” she added, referring to Oliver.
Oliver knew where the idea for the blancmange had come from; it had to have been his mother. It just had to be his mother behind their teatime 'treat', so he knew he would be expected to eat however much of the hated pudding as was put in front of him.
“... and you won’t be leaving the tea-table until you eat it all up…” mum said with an air of finality that Stephen knew so well and Oliver had no trouble in recognising.
“Shall I serve it up, aunty?” Rachel asked helpfully. Mum noded and Rachel filled two big bowls with large helpings of the cold wobbly pudding. She placed them in front of the horror-struck boys.
“Come along… pick up your spoons and tuck in… there’s plenty more when that’s finished,” mum said.
Stephen looked at Oliver who had scooped up a spoonful of the pudding. Then he watched as the older boy opened his mouth and nervously pushed the spoonful of gelatinous pink goo between his lips. Stephen could see that Oliver was having difficulties in swallowing even one mouthful of the horrid milk pudding. Oliver’s cheeks were bloated with cold blancmange as he prepared to swallow. Stephen could see clearly fine beads of sweat on Oliver’s forehead. It was obvious to the younger boy that this food was the work of the devil, designed to make boys’ lives a misery.
Stephen watched as Oliver forced himself to swallow the pink pudding. Oliver wisely kept his mouth tight closed until the pudding was swallowed completely. At last he opened his mouth with a gasp. One spoonful down, but how many more to go?
“There… wasn’t that nice, Oliver?” Mrs Wilding asked.
“Yes, thank you, Mrs Wilding…” What else could Oliver say? It would have been churlish to say anything else, besides Oliver had been trained from a very early age to be particularly polite to his hosts.
“Thank you, Mrs Wilding,” he repeated and looked down at cold, pink, unappetising milk pudding.
Mum turned to her son: “Come along now, Stephen… eat your nice pudding.”
“I don’t want to… it’s horrible,” Stephen said.
“How do you know… you haven't tasted it yet… now stop making such a fuss and eat up.”
“But mum…” Stephen whined as Oliver bravely swallowed another mouthful of the disgusting pink pudding.
“Look… Oliver’s eating his pudding. He thinks it tastes nice, don’t you, Oliver?”
Oliver had another spoonful in his mouth, so with his cheeks bulging with blancmange, he nodded his head in reply to Mrs Wilding’s question and smiled as best as he could. Stephen felt betrayed by the older boy and scowled as Rachel took Stephen’s spoon and scooped up some blancmange. She lifted it towards her cousin’s face.
It was all bound to end in tears… and of course that’s exactly what happened. Mum and Rachel between them managed to persuade Stephen to try some of the delicious milk pudding, but on the third mouthful disaster struck. Without warning Stephen belched out a mouthful of half-eaten blancmange. It was like the lava flow from a pink volcano as it ran down and dripped from Stephen’s chin. It flowed down his neck and onto his bib, but before it could be stopped, Stephen coughed and some more blancmange erupted from his mouth. The pink milk pudding ran on to Stephen’s play-clothes.
“Now you’re just being wilful, Stephen… Quick, Rachel, it’s running onto his clothes! Too late…”
Mum was furious. There was nothing to be done but to get Stephen’s romper play-suit in cold water to soak as soon as possible. Rachel helped Stephen from his stool, promptly tugged the zip of the play-suit all the way down and got her cousin Stephen undressed almost before he knew what was happening. Then, while mum went off with the soiled play-suit, Rachel adjusted the bib around the neck of the now nude boy and sat him down in front of a fresh bowl of blancmange.
“Please, please don’t make me eat anymore…. it’s horrid… I don’t like it,” Stephen pleaded as the first few tears started to roll down his face.
Oliver could see that mealtimes were taken just as seriously in Mrs Wilding’s house as they were in his own.
“I don’t know why you’re making so much fuss,” Rachel said as she chided her cousin, “Milk puddings are full of goodness… just what growing boys need. Why, if you’re going to play games with Oliver all weekend, you’re going to need to eats lots of…”
“But I don’t want to!!” Stephen yelled and burst into tears. As he sobbed Oliver could just about make out the words, “It’s not fair…” the mantra of so many schoolboys over the years.
At that moment the doorbell was heard.
“Stephen!” mum called from the utility-room, “Stephen! Doorbell duty! Go and answer the front door…”
Stephen, after protesting that he was bare-nude and should therefore be excused doorbell duty, was nevertheless sent to see who was at the door. It was Mrs Evans with Oliver’s overnight things. She was a little taken aback to see Stephen bare-nude… bare-nude that is apart from his play-sandals, bib and a few splashes of pink blancmange on his face, chest and shoulders.
“Have you been crying, Stephen?” Vera Evans asked, looking at the tear-stained face.
Stephen nodded: “Yes, Mrs Evans…”
“Dear me… tears at teatime...”
Stephen pushed his lower lip out: “It wasn’t my fault,” he said trying to sound brave, “Mum and Rachel… they made me eat some horrid pudding… and... “
“I do hope Stephen’s not trying to make excuses for his wilful behaviour,” Mrs Wilding said as she greeted Oliver’s mum, “Do come in…. Let me take those things. I’ll leave them on the side-table for now. I’m afraid Stephen made a bit of a mess… It was his own fault… I don’t know why he was making such a fuss… trying to show off in front of Oliver I shouldn’t wonder…”
“I do hope Oliver has been behaving himself,” Vera Evans said.
“Oliver’s been as good as gold I’m pleased to say. He’s been playing outside with Stephen and they’ve been getting on famously…”
“I am glad… well I must be going. Now don’t forget that if Oliver gives you the slightest trouble, both you and Rachel have my blessing to deal with him in whatever manner you see fit.”
“Let’s hope he behaves himself… Have a lovely evening, Vera and don’t you worry about Oliver... Rachel and I will take good care of him.”
And with that Oliver’s mum went off to her reunion.
Stephen had been standing in the hall and was now instructed to take Oliver’s things upstairs to his bedroom which the boys would be sharing for the sleepover.
“... and straight back downstairs to finish your tea!” mum called up after her son.
Felicity Wilding returned to the kitchen to find Rachel undressing a somewhat embarrassed Oliver. While he had been anxious to be relieved of the tight-fitting lederhosen, Oliver would far rather he could have been allowed to undress in the relative privacy of Stephen’s bedroom. Oliver knew he would have to be bathed before bedtime, but it seemed to be a bit early for him to be undressed in the kitchen at tea-time.
The blancmange was still unfinished on the table. Rachel explained that she was concerned Oliver might spill food on his clothes… just like Stephen had done… so she was taking the precaution of getting Oliver undressed.
“Besides,” she added, “the boys will have to be undressed for their bathtime.”
Mum agreed: “That’s very thoughtful of you, Rachel. Here comes Stephen… will you help him finish off his blancmange while I take care of Oliver’s lederhosen?”
So both boys ended up in the bare… apart from their little bibs, of course! Sat at the tea-table until they finished their nutritious milk pudding. It has to be said that even Oliver found it a struggle to eat so much of the unappetising blancmange and by the end of the meal he had managed to spill some of the pudding onto his bib. Stephen was continually scolded by both Rachel and his mum and in the end they were forced to use more persuasive methods to ensure he ate up all his pudding. Mum pinched Stephen’s nose and when he opened his mouth and gasped for air, Rachel slid a spoonful of milk pudding between Stephen’s lips. Mum clamped her hand underneath Stephen’s chin and kept his mouth closed until she saw the pudding had been swallowed. Stephen was in tears throughout. Oliver squirmed with embarrassment and thought about what Stephen had said as they were playing in the garden earlier.