Mig commented on how cruel it was to make my mother cycle home for such a meagre lunch, and that maybe shutting her in a dark cupboard was seen as less unkind than hitting her. In fact it’s true that my mother never mentioned that her stepmother hit her. But I think that the psychological bullying was intended to break her spirit, as they used to say, to make her give in and become malleable. Jane was more stubborn and more clever than her stepmother and wouldn’t give in. Terrified as she was of that cupboard, she never showed it at the time, though the effects lasted all her life.
My father was the same. He never gave in over anything, once he’d made a stand, although he very rarely argued. There were a few childhood stories – the most pertinent one being the tale of the pudding fork. After his parents divorced, he often spent school holidays (having been sent to boarding school at the age of six) with his godparents, who were loving but quite strict. He’d never used a spoon and fork to eat his pudding, he was only a little boy, but he was required to. He just sat there. The spoon was taken away. He was told he’d sit there until he’d eaten his pudding with a fork. He just sat there. I don’t know how long this lasted, but I suspect that they begged him to eat the damn pudding and he just sat there. I doubt he ever gave in. I don’t know the end of that story, I just know that the consequence was that he never ate pudding with a spoon and fork in his life. He’d only use a fork, however inconvenient it was.