Monthly Archives: February 2010

RIP Alex Birch: The Conversation Ended Too Soon

candle
Some of you may have heard this already, but to others it will be sad news.  Alex Birch passed away last night in his sleep.  While he had been fighting cancer much of the past year, and ill the past few months, his death was unexpected. I still can’t believe he’s gone.  Please put the fragmented nature of what follows down to that rather than any lack of caring.

This morning when I got to work there was an email telling me that the man we know as Alex Birch died last night in hospital in Birmingham.  I’ve been at a total loss as to what to write — there seems so much to say, so many things that should be said.  Alex has been a wonderful friend to both Paul and me for much of the last 13 years.  While we’d met (and on a very special day in London played one of the best scenes I will ever do) in person during our visits to the UK over the years and had talked on the phone a good bit in recent months, Alex was first and foremost someone with whom I held long conversations via email.

It was wonderful — I loved getting mail from him.  He was thoughtful and enjoyed writing, always making time for me, but also okay with times when things went silent.  “Our Conversation,” as we, with some irony, called our mails, could pick up at any time.  We talked and argued about politics, the BBC, marriage, our family and friends, life, love, stories and spanking.  It always came back to the scene eventually, never in a boring way, but always with an “isn’t this fun / interesting” tone.

I’ve been thinking all day how I’ll remember Alex.  Always, forever is my first thought.  Alex had the all-too-rare ability to argue, be unreasonable and disagree and then to forgive and let the hurt go and still be friends.  His heart was large and gentle, his mind quick and witty without ever being cruel.  He was also loyal and dependable, always looking for a way to help and work on things that mattered to him, be they politics, the SSC (over and over again for the past 10 years) or his forum, Flaming Cheeks.

Good-bye Alex.  I’ll unconsciously look for just one more mail from you, every day for the rest of my life.  “Our Conversation” brightened my life every time your name showed up in my in-box over the past 13 years.

UPDATED: Other posts remembering Alex Birch can be found on Natty’s blogSpanking Writers and All Things Spanking.  A good number (150+) of his stories are archived at Spanking Library (a free membership site).  There are also some on the soc.sexuality.spanking site and on the free membership forum Alex ran, Flaming Cheeks.

the third eye is on The Punishment Book

too-much-curveToday my blog entry “Submitting to Correction” is on the Punishment Book.  It’s a bit of an introspective ramble on how I take criticism and correction differently in different circumstances, specifically lettering class as opposed to my writing.

Excerpt:   The degree to which I’ve taken the criticism on board and am pleased and excited by it surprises me.  This is not the way I generally react to correction (especially in relation to my academic work).  My usual reaction is either defensiveness and / or anxiety, with both being most common.  The hardest thing anyone can do is try and help me by critiquing my academic writing as I will defend my text to the death as though each word was somehow a child.  Even being aware of this reaction only helps a bit.  With my advisor I feel utterly chastened when she points out the holes in my arguments and I have to struggle to hide the hurt.  With Paul, who is brave enough to do it, I feel misunderstood, angry and defensive.  This is why writing workshops, with their group criticism sessions, have always been a special sort of agony.

Read and discuss (over there)?

A Student Scribe and the Collar Challenge

i-is-for-ida [Note: This blog does have spanking content. However, it is buried in a great deal of non-spanking content. If you need a quick fix you may want to surf on by.]

After a week spent cleaning and moving, I’ve finally gotten back into practicing calligraphy (the fact my dad was staying out of town this weekend is likely connected to my returned focus as well as some spanking play). For the past couple of days I’ve both had stuff I’ve wanted to blog here (and on caligráfica) while also doing lettering practice. What’s happened is that I’ve done the calligraphy and left the blogging to now, just keeping the practice album up-to-date. Soo, here’s some thoughts.

[Something you may have noticed when looking at the most recent Tinies is the addition of rather shaky Gothic capitals. At my class last Monday, in addition to going over our recent homework, taking us down from a 5mm to 2 1/2mm nib, and discussing the coming illumination project, my teacher also introduced capitals. I’m struggling with them, but just trusting that practice will eventually make them better and all that. On the “K is for Kate” I’m experimenting with using a reddish brown ink for the “K” and “Kate” but as the ink is thinner than the black, I’m not sure how it works out. Like most of my lettering practice, it looks a lot better photographed than it does in person.]

k-is-for-kateRipple effects

Our apartment seems to be getting re-organized and cleaned room by room. It’s amazing the amount of weird stuff we were saving for reasons lost in time and space. These included included random cardboard boxes and odd bits of outmoded technology. Purging things is hard for me, but once I start it feels so good I don’t want to stop.

Here’s an odd fact though — my motivation to get the house organized seems connected to practicing calligraphy. Further, the cleaning and organizing has moved outward from my calligraphy “studio” (as a friend pleases me by calling it) into the rest of the apartment. I’ve organized and now try and keep tidy our entire bedroom (which means keeping up on laundry since otherwise it takes over the floor). My dad’s moving in prompted me/us to re-organize the guest room and bathroom. This weekend we worked on the box room / technology closet. Having things organized has me feel a bit more centered – a Good Thing).

Collars and Shopping: The Challenge Begins

collar-closeupGetting organized required a bit of shopping, meaning Saturday dawned with plans for a trip to Costco and Dick Blick’s (both for a paper storage portfolio and also supplies for the coming illumination project). We also planned to go out for breakfast (at lunch time).

The night before, Paul, who has something of a fetish in this area, told me I’d be wearing a collar and tie all day Saturday. I reminded him we would not be at home and was told that was the point. After moaning a bit about having to be “in uniform” on a Saturday, I went to sleep, excited about the next day.

The next morning, after Paul had a bit of a lie-in and I spent happy hours consuming coffee and surfing friends’ blogs in my pjs, Paul told me it was time to get dressed. He picked out the shirt (one of the ones he had custom made so while it fits perfectly everywhere else, the collar is just a tiny bit too small). I got to choose the tie based on the other things I was wearing, but Paul added a pair of knickers to the “Items to Be Worn” list. This meant I couldn’t really wear my jeans because if you’ve ever worn heavy school knickers, you’ll know they give a new meaning to the term “visible panty line.” I decided on a slightly-too-short-for-someone-my-age black pleated skirt, striped tights, black docs and a black sweater with white trim. The tie (as you can see) is a burgundy and grey striped one.

I took a while getting dressed since I was also tweeting and consulting travel websites, but finally I was dressed and the game began. The game? Yes, game. Or rather, challenge. You see, as things exist in our world, the collar on these shirts belongs to Paul, not me. I was informed that on Saturday I wasn’t to tug at, fiddle with or even touch it at all. Period. The penalty for each infraction while we were out: 12 smacks with the heavy hairbrush when we got home. (This was in addition to the base of 12 at which I was apparently starting.)

Eeek!

Those of you who know me know I have rather nasty eczema and an annoying habit of fidgeting, rubbing and scratching, though of course I shouldn’t. One of my eczema spots is my neck. Within minutes of buttoning it, the skin under the snug collar began to itch.

I complained. Paul reminded me that I could always ask him to slide his fingers under the collar to relieve the skin (or pull it tighter though he didn’t say that). But no touching for me.

Great. My collar had rarely felt snugger.

Twitter Tells the Tale

On the way to breakfast I discovered that by using my iPhone constantly I could keep my hands busy enough and away from my neck. My tweeting was sky high, with the result that I ended up logging each failure and its location.

First tweet was a picture of my collar and tie

2:58PM Damn! Made it thro breakfast but forgot &pulled on tie in cashier line. HB count now at 24 + I was scolded in parking lot. Sulking.

From breakfast we went to Dick Blick’s (art store). My focused shopping and full hands kept me safe there. (I even ended up buying my first paper tube for use holding paper.) But then we left…

3:55 PM Ack. Not thinking & fiddling w/ collar again. Must keep hands busy. HB count now at 36. =8-0

Sensing a pattern? As soon as my hands are free, they seem to head for my collar. Feh!

5:53 PM Due to Costco stress & distraction, HB total now at 48.

The Costco trip was a success. We got an amazing deal on a great set of chrome storage shelves (for the closet) at Costco for less than $28. They’re amazing because despite the low price they don’t suck and each shelf can supposedly hold 350 lbs. Nonetheless, Paul and I have not tried sitting one one together in order to test this claim. It does seem to be doing a great job holding stuff.

But that’s not so interesting, right?

Payment Made

ebony-hairbrushOkay, about the hairbrush and me. On the way home I whined that all the stress of shopping and crowds had left me feeling tired. Paul very kindly said my hairbrushing could be postponed until later. I’m always happy with spankings being “later” especially since they sometimes end up not happening. However, in this case, the count would continue to rise with each slip of my hand until after I got out of the collar. Which meant until after the hairbrushing. After an hour of stalling, I finally literally asked for it. As much as I wasn’t looking forward to 48 whacks, 60 would have been worse.

The chair was put in the empty space in our room — a space generally only used for the chair. Paul bared me, put me over his lap, told me not to put my hands back and started whacking me with the brush. The whacks weren’t super hard, I know he’s capable of much harder ones, but without a warm up they hurt. I was in no sense of the word brave. I didn’t put my hands back, but only because Paul said there’d be an extra 12 each time I did it. Instead I tightened my grip on the chair, whined, kicked and finally howled.

I lost track of the count at 12 and begged to know what it was. Paul wouldn’t tell me, but just continued to whack me. Not knowing the count heightened feeling of being out of control, of being trapped. I protested that he might just keep going forever then. Fortunately it wasn’t long before the spanking reached a climax and was over. I’m sure he didn’t give me extra and am equally sure it took less than five minutes. But felt it like an eternity.

Afterwards he put together the new shelves while I cooed over organized my new art supplies.

[This entry’s non-kinky content is cross-blogged at caligrafica. Guest modeling by Carrots and Small Bear.]

Hooray for research

quills No of course this isn’t about my dissertation (though no doubt that’s what I should be doing rather than writing to you, faithful and much neglected Reader). It’s about my first research love — which would be anything related to corporal punishment.

Last week I wrote about the startle in Marc Drogin’s book about medieval calligraphy, which included the mention of “palmers” described as “sticks with round, flattened heads with which to slap students palms.” This interested me enough that I became obsessed with finding a picture of a palmer. I knew I needed to see one to make sure my scribe fantasies were accurate.
ferule1 Sadly, googling “palmer” revealed that “Palmer” is an insanely common author last name.  Too common even when adding “medieval” or “middle ages” or “scribe.”  I’m sure you, Dear Reader, have experienced this frustration — not enough specificity and you get 1,000,000 results, add too many words and you get none at all. After several fruitless hours I had to accept my defeat.

Almost.

As Paul would no doubt tell you, I am not easily thwarted.

So I posted to soc.sexuality.spanking, both to tell about the startle and to ask if anyone knew where an image for a “palmer” might be found.  Usenet being usenet, of course someone knew.  A “palmer” is, according to the expert response, another word for “ferule” (an implement had previously only seen as a weighted leather strap (see London Tanner’s “Convent Strap for an example). The poster included a link to this image of a ferule described as the”Ferule of mason’s guild, 1721″ housed at the Vysoké Mýto Museum in the Czech Republic (thoughts for a  Lupus film now run riot).
ferule2As the newsgroup discussion progressed and after I had expressed my thrilled excitement at the picture, Tony Elka mentioned that this one “it doesn’t really look like a spanking implement.” Given the text, I think this one may have been a symbol of guild office. But armed with my new knowledge of the wooden ferule, I began searching Google afresh, this time with more success.

palmetaOn this obviously fascinating page (which I hadn’t visited before), dedicated to listing and defining instruments of flagellation, I found an image of a “palmeta” (Spanish), described as “A short flat slab of wood used for punish children by beating them in their hands” which fitted quite nicely with the image of a “palmer” I now had in my head, though the word can also be used to mean pretty much any paddle shaped object or even a flyswatter.

Do you think they’re the sort of thing the good Abelard might have used on his teenaged student Heloise? He certainly does in my version of the tale.
boy-getting-feruleThese images generally aren’t the greatest (and seem to have been passed around the web for years and years with no mention of their origins) but are the best I’ve been able to find. Their very sketchiness is evocative for me. Hope they are for some of you too. Meanwhile, back to my apprentice scribe imaginings and my “real” scribe practicing.

10 February 2010: A late addition.  The lovely Haron over at Spanking Writers wrote about the palmer only to have a reader respond with a link to a seventeenth century painting The Village School by artist Jan Steen (on display at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. According to the artist notes, in this scene Steen used his three children, Catherina, Cornelis and Johannes, as models for the little girl, the boy being punished and the boy holding a paper. I’m rather pleased to see the palmer used in the painting being smaller (perhaps because it was being used on children?) than the ones depicted in photographs.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/84299143@N00/ / CC BY 2.0