New Times,
New Thinking.

15 July 2015updated 18 Aug 2015 2:22pm

I still smart from the first time I was hit at school. All I did was say Great-Uncle Horrie’s magic words

You know when kids say “It’s so unfair”? Well. They’re right.

By Suzanne Moore

My children have often asked me if I was hit as a child. It fascinates them that even as a small child I would get hit at school. Then when I came home and told everyone what had happened, I might get another clout for being bad at school.

I truly am from another era, I know that. It’s not that I suffered much. Though having to hold out your hand and being rapped across the knuckles with a ruler did happen occasionally.

“This is a special punishment for girls only,” said the sadist who did it to us. By the time I got to secondary school somehow it all just stopped. Maybe there was an edict from on high.

Punishment then came in the form of “lines”, or writing interminable essays on things such as “The Inside of a Ping-Pong Ball”. No wonder I became a columnist.

But the first time I was hit at school, I must have been about only five or so and I still smart from it.

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You know when kids say “It’s so unfair”? Well. They’re right.

All I remember is playing happily and then . . . Bam! We were playing a game with dice. On a coloured board. Ludo, I guess. I love dice. My granddad trained me from a very young age to play poker with dice. And dominoes.

I learned to add up and subtract and multiply really quickly. He was obsessed with mental arithmetic and even when I was a grown-up he would suddenly bark, “Seven times 13” at me.

“He’s proud of his numbers,” my grandma used to say.

The old ivory dice with their fading queens and kings were charmed. We threw them in a special leather cup and while all the numbers went into my head, my grandfather would talk of his brother Horrie. I was always happy when he talked about Horrie, who had been “out in India”, though I had no idea what India was.

Later I found out that Horrie was “something to do with cotton”, according to my mum. He was spoken of with great reverence, because he had somehow left East Anglia and ended up running a factory in Madras.

“Horrie knows all about elephants. And whisky. Your throw,” my granddad would say.

Granddad had not led a very exotic life. He was a man of order and collected everything in little jars. He even had a jar of Very Short Pieces of String. He’d lived through the war; nothing was ever wasted.

So we played our games as he talked of Horrie’s adventures – and I would win! Because he told me the special thing that Horrie had taught him to say when you shook the dice. For luck.

And so there I was, a tiny girl playing ludo at a C of E school, when suddenly I got smacked around the face. All I’d said was the magic words:

“Allahu Akbar.”

Suzanne Moore appears at Latitude Festival (16-19 July)

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