Night of the Cane

Millenial Event

This article is about Night of the Cane 2000.

I really enjoy being caned. It’s a hell of a sensation: incredibly painful with an afterburn like bitter chocolate. There is no endorphin high like it.

Ironically, it’s also had it’s share of bad press on The Scene. Mention Six of the Best, and images of grey-faced, shifty ex-civil servants with little moustaches slide into view, along with thin consumptive prostitutes calling themselves ‘genuine schoolgirl’ (and thank Dionysus they’re not!). ‘I can give or take a really hard caning’. There are Scene clubs (usually those who cling to that word ‘Fetish’ because it’s so cuddly) who shy away from serious CP, fearful of scaring away all the PVC punters from Romford. There is a counter-revolutionary running dogma hiding out under it all – the idea that ‘only seriously unsexy people get off on pain’, which is playing into the hands of the enemy if anything is. It doesn’t matter how much PVC you own, if the only sex you like is vanilla, then you’re just another civilian.

And there are spanking parties to provide somewhere for men into CP to go to. At some secret location or other, half a dozen compliant young women are engaged to play CP games with roughly three times as many men. The men are invited to pay enough money to supply each of the girls with a reasonable wedge at the end of the day (and a rather larger wedge for the promoter). While no-one involved seems unhappy with the situation, it left me irked by the inherent inequality, and convinced that the well-smacked bottom required better celebration.

In 1986, in collusion with Birch, Bottoms and Lovitt, and supported by a number of CP organisations, we produced the Angela Quinn Benefit with the intention of reclaiming the cane as the fiendishly sexy implement it is. Following the same line of skulduggery, we produced the first Night of the Cane in 1999. Each event was a resounding success, and we felt that we were genuinely on to something.

The Medevil Fate was gently winding down, that summer evening last August, the torches were lit and three very pretty girls were asking me about Night of the Cane, and they were all wearing such lovely corsets, and suddenly it all fell into place.

Let’s do the show right here!

It was perfect. The lights, the torches, the stage...We’d put NOTC on Sunday Nov 5th and have fireworks. Irresistible.

As Autumn settled in, NOTC on paper grew more and more impressive. Two of our previous teachers volunteered again, Miss Prim offered a birch-making workshop, a new DJ offered a 70s school disco, and Gizmo of Goblin Electricks started talking about really big lights. Sir Guy found us two women from Bristol who make enormous fireworks, and CP specialist Lucy Bailey agreed to teach the last class.

A note, at this point, for Americans and other foreigners: The cane is a particularly English perversion. English rather than British; the Scots have the tawse, the Welsh have the birch, the Irish Christian Brothers used the ferula, and the Manx were using the birch until really quite recently when the EU quite properly told them to stop. The cane was introduced when our empire expanded to include rattan plantations, but being an exotic import, it only really caught on in the prosperous part of this sceptr’d archipelago. That green and pleasant land where the Anglo Saxons settled about six hundred years ago, displacing the wild and wiry Celts to the geographic extremities, because they did not want to share the bit of Britain called England, which gets the best weather.

To the British, the weather is a conversational default employed when other topics are inappropriate. That the weather forms such a part of British culture is faintly remarkable as, compared to other parts of the world, British weather is mainly even and temperate. Nobody for instance goes in fear of drowning should the Solihull Wet Season cause the Trent Mersey Canal to burst its banks. When we had a hurricane back in the 80s, the trees at Nine Elms blew over, but nobody found themselves in the middle of Munchkinland saying ‘I guess we’re not in Coventry anymore’. However...

Weather in Britain has a very mean unpredictable streak that can, if so inclined, induce snow in July, hurricanes in September, and monsoons for Easter. The only White Christmases are in Bing Crosby’s dreams, and at time of writing, February is pleasantly warm. Ted Hughes, the last Poet Laureate, described November as The Month of The Dead Dog.

While this had been going on, I remained where I was to watch the boxing (the classroom had been spirited away). I’m something of a follower of the noble art myself, but I’d never imagined seeing it in an SM club.

As October 2000 began to wane, the weather took a bend apocalyptic. It rained so much that Wales was practically cut off by water, and while most English people considered this something of a benefit, I happened to be in Wales at the time! As I busied myself making Bonfire Ginger Cake, my chief anxiety was would it rain on November 4th.

It is the job of the Meteorological Office to interpret the weather, and the job of the public to interpret the Met Office in the light of how accurate they are being at the time. The torrential downpour originally scheduled for Nov 4th hurried itself up and arrived on the 3rd, but a distant storm pencilled in for the 7th was hastily brought forward to the 6th. As I realised with a growing sense of doom listening to the forecast on the night before our extravaganza, it was coming even faster than that.

As predicted by the environmental pundits, the morning of the 5th was bright and sunny. We picked up the brazier from Walthamstow, and collected lights (and Gizmo) from Bethnal Green. It must have been dry when we got to Deptford because Vince and Annette were sweeping up the leaves from the courtyard when we arrived, but at some point, I don’t recall when; a time when the boxing ring was being rigged, or when Gizmo was hanging lights, or when Freddie was saying in a worried sort of voice ‘So when is Peter the Chef turning up?’, it began to rain.

By the time we opened to the public, it was raining stair rods, raining cats and dogs, for all I knew, it could have been hailing taxis.

To make matters worse, several key personnel had not arrived. Freddie was outside, tending the barbecue, but there was no sign of the chef. The classroom looked wonderful under Gizmo’s eerie lights and smoke, but there was nobody to teach in it. Wherever the pyrotechnicians were, they weren’t in Deptford.

Such situations are not exhilarating, some books on the entertainment industry may say they are, but they are written by people far too nervelessly psychotic to have any place outside HM Forces, and they are lying.

The first class started by the skin of its teeth, but no other teachers had arrived. Ms Bossy Boots had arrived – in time to see me clinging in panic to the catastrophe curve, and once the second class and Miss Prim’s workshop was launched, I launched out into the storm to buy fireworks.

Splashing through the dark South London streets trying to find that that had long since been sold out was no fun at all. At seven twenty, I sploshed back into the Goldsmiths to start the next round of class and workshop, with not a firework to my name, and but a half-formed plan to make the best of six packets of sparklers.

The pyrotechnicians had arrived. The chef had arrived. Each with horror stories of the rain on the M4. We got the final class and the boxing workshop started, and suddenly the event was actually going very well.

Miss Prim’s birch-making workshop had been a great success, the maids had muffled up in overcoats and capes against the rain, and the food was being served, and the classroom looked great: Gizmo’s lights really did it justice – it did not just look like six desks and a blackboard in the middle of a pub floor.

Vince had found a new role as school caretaker, not only had he got the intrusive, fag-smoking grumpiness down pat, he had also discovered a valuable job in that he could enter a class in character and warn the teacher of time running out. At 8.15, he closed the final class – and the stage crew came in behind him.

Swiftly, the desks and black board were collapsed and whisked out to be locked in the van, and Gizmo brought the lights up on the ring.

Master Karl had stepped in as referee at the eleventh hour, and he held the stage for 45 minutes, hosting a highly spirited turn from Madam Zak. Once again, the ring was an improbable success.

9pm the crew struck the ring (out to the van again), and the highspot of the evening began – the Grand Caning Competition.

We were very fortunate to have secured three top class expert judges; Spencer Woodcock, former editor of Fetish Times; Miss Prim of the Muir Academy; and Madam Clare, illustrious dominatrix par excellence.

More than a dozen contenders took the stage in turn, their task to deliver 12 strokes to their partner’s bare bottom, being judged on technical skill, style and effectiveness. As the competitors stunned the audience to silence with the display, the tellers rapidly added the successive scores. The final result was a clear win for the breath-taking performance of Mistress Noir, a stunning Anglo-Caribbean dominatrix standing at over 6’ tall with a canestroke like a sabre cut.

The competition over, those of us brave enough ventured outside to watch the fireworks – and what a show it was! Whatever those things being blown up into the air were, they were enormous! I’d never seen fireworks like them outside of the big commercial displays – and here they were, at The Firm’s bonfire night party. As the final huge explosion painted the night sky, Zak ran into the centre of the courtyard and shouted ‘That’s why we’re The Firm – ’cause we rock n roll!’

Inside, the audience seating had been pulled back and Gizmo had pulled off his final trick of the evening: the 1970s school disco lighting effect – it doesn’t come much simpler than half a dozen parcans in a chase sequence, but if the effect of those discos of twenty years ago (when you really were in danger of getting the cane) is what you’re after, that’s what achieves it. Unusually for a Firm event, the dance floor was full for the rest of the night.

It was still raining at midnight when we stripped everything down and packed it all back into the van; I recall The Firm’s technical manager swathed in waterproofs and hard hat, and the chagrin of the visitors that after such an enjoyable evening, they all had to go out in the weather. But we’d done it; Night of the cane had been a success for the second year running, all that remained was to start thinking about the next one...

Read about Night of the Cane 2001.