It’s funny the ideas you get as a child.
We were on holiday in the British seaside resort of Scarborough, and I was four years old.
One day, as we walked along the promenade, I got it into my head to start dragging my left foot as I walked.
My parents were naturally concerned. My mother took me over to a convenient nearby bench and sat me down.
She took off my shoe and checked there wasn’t a stone in there, then experimentally, gently rotated my ankle.
I didn’t cry out in pain, so she asked: “Are you all right?” I nodded.
“Then why are you limping?”
“Well, stop it!”
She smacked the top of my leg lightly.
We resumed walking along the prom but as soon as my mother’s attention was elsewhere, I began to drag my left foot again.
I found I liked the attention I was getting from other passers-by on the promenade, who looked at me with mixed expressions of amusement, puzzlement, and pity.
Twice more my mother caught me in the act.
Twice more she sat me down and closely examined my leg and foot.
It must have been extremely frustrating for her.
I wasn’t hurt but yet offered no explanation as to why I was doing what I was doing.
Maybe I couldn’t have fully articulated my motives at that age, anyway.
We set off again, and soon afterward we passed two matronly women who were holding ice creams and generally taking in the world.
One of them said to the other in a loud voice: “Look at that poor little cripple boy there.”
My mother heard that all right, and she became incensed by the remark.
We happened to be passing a public toilet at the time, and without hesitation or another word, mother marched me by the hand into the ladies and drew me into an empty cubicle, locking the door behind her.
“I’ve had enough of your nonsense today!” she hissed.
Sitting down on the toilet seat, as I stood there she swiftly administered around half a dozen sharp smacks to my bottom.
I yelled at the first and was howling by the second.
It had been some time since I had been smacked on my bottom and I had forgotten how much that particular punishment hurt.
I finally managed to ‘perform’ and mum drew my shorts and pants.
As we came out of the cubicle, the door to another one a few down opened and a lady came out to join us in washing our hands.
She had evidently heard me being spanked because she smiled and turned to my mother, asking: “Been a naughty boy, has he?”
My mother was still grim-faced as she replied to the effect that she didn’t think she’d be having any more trouble that day.
We came out of the toilets – and my mysterious limp had disappeared.