The Price of Lying

Our story starts way back in 1984, the year after The Mary Rose (flagship of Henry VIII) was raised from the sea bed and put on display after 437 years under water. One particular Y6 class had a very strict lady teacher Miss Brush and a pupil called Vanessa; a young lady with a very strong character.
One warm summer’s day the class had been talking about the wives of Henry VIII and they were set some homework. They all knew better than to forget to do it.
The name “Catherine of Aragon” (Henry’s first wife) was written on the board and they were instructed to go home, find out everything they could about this person and write about it in their History books. This didn’t seem too bad because (unusually for Miss Brush) they had been discussing this very person throughout the lesson.
However, Vanessa took her work very seriously so off she went to the local library that evening to see what new things she could find out. Remember, there was no internet in those days!
The next day she stood in the playground feeling pretty pleased with herself. She had spent two hours at the library and found out all sorts of new things. As usual the children compared what they had done and they all agreed that when it came to Catherine of Aragon, Vanessa was now the expert.
At 09.00 they all lined up silently outside the classroom and filed in, each putting their history book open to the right page in a pile on the teacher’s desk. They sat down and listened in amazement and then growing horror as Miss Brush said, “Well, now I’ve got your books in, we will find out what you learnt. Before I mark them, who would like to start us off with the first fact about Henry VIII’s second wife Anne Boleyn?
There was a stunned silence. Surely there was some mistake. Vanessa wanted to stand up and shout, “Look!! I sweated blood for two hours in the local library last night studying Catherine of Aragon, just like you told us. What’s this about Anne Boleyn?” I suspect other children were thinking the same thing but of course nobody spoke and nobody could come up with any facts about Anne Boleyn.
What? Has the cat got your tongues?” asked the raised voice of their teacher, which they all knew could be the start of a long outburst of anger and shouting, usually aimed at one individual. There remained a stony silence.
Right, let’s pick the top book and see shall we?” Everybody took a deep breath and wondered who had put their book on top. Who had been last in the queue coming in? “OK It’s you Stuart. What have you got to say here?”
All eyes turned to poor Stuart, who seemed to be trying to slide off his seat onto the floor. He clearly wanted to be invisible and right now was regretting not pushing into the queue for class as he often did.
What?” came the loud, screeched exclamation. “Catherine of Aragon? Catherine of Aragon! Why would you waste time writing about somebody we discussed yesterday? I’ve already told you about her. Do you think I’m stupid young man? You’ll have to do better than this to pull the wool over my eyes. You’re clearly too lazy to look for something new so you’ve resorted to this trick have you? Well. Let me tell you…………….” and so it went on….and on…..and on. Among other things, Stuart discovered that he would be spending his lunch hour in the classroom with his teacher.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Miss Brush said, “Let’s look at the next book”.
The children, already feeling drained, waited for the next explosion. There was silence as the next book was perused and then the next and then the next. The children felt sure that Miss Brush would realise there had been a mistake on her part.
Then in a steady, quiet voice, that was somehow more worrying than the screaming tones, the teacher looked at Stuart and said, “I may have done you a disservice young man”. Everybody let out a sigh of relief. Her mistake was in the open! Then the voice raised to even louder levels as it screeched out, “You’re all in this together, trying to make a fool of me. Well, let me tell you…….
I will not bore you with the details of the long, loud and screaming lecture that inevitably followed. All I know is each and every child wanted to stand up and say something like, “You old cow. You made a mistake and you owe us an apology,” but of course 10 year old children are not equipped to argue against an experienced adult.
The outcome was the whole class stayed in and worked through both morning playtime and lunch hour in absolute silence.

That afternoon the atmosphere changed as Miss Brush was going to talk about her favourite subject, Henry VIII’s flagship, The Mary Rose. All the children were left wondering how a person can change from such anger and ferocity to such sweetness and joy but Miss Brush managed it. Suddenly she was talking with such enthusiasm and a gleam in her eye that clearly showed her love of this topic.
Miss Brush greatly enjoyed the teacher revealing to them that, despite what everybody said, the Mary Rose did not sink on its maiden voyage but actually fought in wars and battles for 33 years before sinking in 1545. More facts and posters were brought forth and it was revealed that the one ambition of Miss Brush was to go and visit the newly displayed ship.
By the time the children went home they knew two things. Firstly, they did not like Miss Brush and would not forget about the homework incident. Secondly, if they were ever in trouble again they would try and bring up the subject of The Mary Rose, as a possible diversion. They had never seen her so excited and enthusiastic about anything like that.

Vanessa had trouble getting to sleep that night; she was so angry. In the morning she woke up in a bad mood. She didn’t think she was a troublesome girl although her classmates knew she had a temper. She nearly always tried hard and Miss Brush seemed to be just so unfair. It just seemed to be just too much.
That morning, as she sat eating her cornflakes, she bit down on something very hard. It turned out to be one of those tough, dark brown, burnt pieces that occasionally turned up in Cornflake packets. Putting it on the table cloth in front of her, Vanessa continued her breakfast. As she ate, it seemed to her that it looked a bit like a piece of wood and wondered if it would hurt her if she swallowed it (it wouldn’t). At that point Vanessa had “a light bulb moment”, as the glimmerings of an idea started to form.
Eventually, she went upstairs into her Mum’s bedroom and, being sure she was alone, looked inside her Mum’s jewellery box. After a moment she found what she wanted. Putting, what looked like an expensive ring to one side, she took its posh looking box that had cotton wool inside. Downstairs she carefully dried the burnt cornflake and put it on top of the cotton wool and closed the box. Then it was off to school. On the way Vanessa became ever more determined to go through with this and decided that she dare not tell a soul.
On arrival in class the children (as usual) all filed into the room in silence. Instead of going to her seat, Vanessa went and stood at the teacher’s chair. The conversation went like this:
Teacher: “Well, what do you want Vanessa?”
Vanessa, with very best “well-behaved little girl” face, “Well Miss, you were talking about The Mary Rose yesterday and I went home and told my Mum. It seems that my uncle Godfrey worked on that huge barge and crane that helped to raise it up from the sea bed. When they got the wreck to dry land, however gentle they were, they knew a few tiny bits of wood were going to fall off. Each person who worked on the raising of The Mary Rose was allowed to keep one piece. This is the bit my uncle was given”.
Vanessa handed over the ring box and watched as Miss Brush opened the ring box and gazed in at the burnt cornflake.
It was like watching a cartoons. It seemed that a ray of sunshine burst forth from that little box and lit up the face of the teacher.
Oh my!” she said, “I can’t believe it, a little piece of such magnificent history in my hands”. She stood up with her mouth agape and then said, “No, I will have to sit down, I’m shaking all over. Can you believe it children our own piece of The Mary Rose here in class with us?”
Miss Brush waved her hand in front of her face like a fan, as if trying to cool herself down. Then she turned to Vanessa and said, “Do you think I can touch it dearie?”
Vanessa, shocked at being called “dearie” by this fierce teacher said, “Oh! Yes please do Miss Brush. It’s dried up and quite hard now. I think they might have sprayed something on it”.
Yes of course,” was the reply, “That’s exactly what they would do.”
Miss Brush looked up at the class who seemed transfixed and said, “Look Vanessa, the whole class is amazed at having such a wonderful piece of real history in here with us. They just don’t know what to say.”
Vanessa wanted to say, “Look Miss Brush, I can tell you now, the biggest shock to them is seeing you, for the first time ever, in a mood of sweetness and joy,” but of course that would not have been a good idea.
Having touched the burnt cornflake Miss Brush then told the whole class to line up and one by one each child was allowed to touch the cornflake with Miss Brush’s warning ringing in their ears, “Don’t press hard, just the lightest touch to be a part of history. I’ll be watching you.”
After everybody had sat back down, the register was taken with the odd hesitation, as the teacher looked up and gazed with amazement into that little box. Then she stood and walked out of the classroom. Two minutes later she came back and propped the door open saying, “Mrs Jones next door will be listening, no bad behaviour now.” She then took the little box and walked out of the room saying, “I’m off to see the headteacher.”
As the other kids started to whisper questions to Vanessa, she was starting to worry. This all seemed to be going a bit too far but there was nothing she could do now.
10 minutes later Miss Brush returned and gave instructions to the children to pick up various charts and posters that all had something to do with The Mary Rose and then proudly announced, “Children we are going to have a special all-school assembly and our class, especially Vanessa, will be taking it. Don’t worry children I will tell you what pictures to hold up at different times.”
Vanessa’s stomach took a turn and a rumble. She knew there was no going back.
30 minutes later the whole school was in the hall with the headteacher and then Miss Brush both talking at length about the Mary Rose and what an amazing thing it was to have a piece of that wonderful ship here with them in the hall. Vanessa sat with the teachers and different children were told to stand at different times to show charts and posters.
Finally, after what seemed like an age and the whole school had clapped as Vanessa was made to stand up, everyone returned to their classrooms. On the way out of the hall every child in the school was allowed to touch the burnt cornflake under the careful gaze of Miss Brush.
Back in class, the little box and its contents were placed on the teacher’s desk. Throughout the rest of the morning Miss Brush would open it every so often and smile. Never had the class seen her in such a good mood.

Later on, during morning playtime Vanessa noticed that Terry, a boy from the class next door, had one of those very hard rubber, bouncy balls. It was the first one to be brought to school and was called a “Super Ball”. Today, everybody has them but not then. The children were fascinated and held a competition to see how high it could be made to bounce. The problem was that when it landed it would bounce off at all sorts of directions high into the air with a hoard of whooping children chasing after it. Vanessa was fascinated. She had never seen anything like it.
At lunch time, after a boring lesson watching Miss Brush frequently lose her place in the English lesson, as she had yet another look at the burnt cornflake, Vanessa noticed Terry sitting on a bench in the playground. This was unusual because he was usually running around like a mad thing.
Vanessa went and sat next to him and asked if she could look at the Super Ball. “Yeah,” he said in a grumpy manner and handed it over.
What’s wrong with you?” she asked.
Feel sick,” was the short reply.
I really like this ball. I wish I had one,” she said.
I’ll swap it for that bit of ship”, he said.
After a moment’s thought Vanessa said, “Wait here.”
Vanessa had really taken a liking to that ball and it seemed to her it was well worth a burnt cornflake. Without thinking too much, Vanessa went back to the classroom. Children weren’t meant to be there at lunch time but nobody was looking. She went in the door and took the little box off the teacher’s desk and then carefully made her way back to Terry. She showed him the box. He opened it, looked inside and gave Vanessa the Super Ball. He then said, “I bet this is worth a lot of money”. He stood up, walked over to his friend Colin, showed him and put it in his pocket. He walked two more steps and was promptly sick all over the playground. It gushed out and there were lots of screams of horror.
Within seconds the dinner ladies had taken him inside and Vanessa smiled to herself thinking how she had only just managed the swap in the nick of time.
At the end of lunch time the class went back to their class and it was only a few seconds before Miss Brush screamed, “Where is the box? Where is the piece of the Mary Rose? I left it on my desk.” She turned to Vanessa and asked, “Have you got it?”
No Miss Brush”, was the reply.
Do you know where it is Vanessa?” asked Miss Brush.
Vanessa opened her mouth and hesitated, unsure as to what she must say when Colin saved the day by putting his hand up and saying, “Please miss, I saw Terry with it in the playground just before he was sick.”
What was that you say Colin? I can hardly believe it. Terry has come in here and stolen a piece of history and off my desk too! We’ll see about that,” and she marched out of the room into the next class. A minute later she was back. ”Well children it seems that Terry has gone home. Don’t worry he won’t get away with this. His parents are going to find out about this outrageous behaviour”. Once again Miss Brush marched off.
Everybody in the class was talking about it except Vanessa who was very quiet.
Five minutes later Miss Brush was back. “Out headteacher is on the way to Terry’s house right now. His parents are in for a shock when they discover they have a thief for a son. Who would have thought it?
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you the exact words that took place at Terry’s house. I do know that his parents were very strict and alongside the headteacher could not believe that any child would swap such a family treasure for a “stupid toy”. The little box was recovered and Terry was excluded from school for a week.
On the headteacher’s return the whole class was told what had happened. Then the box and its contents were kept safely with Miss Brush until the end of the day when, with many thanks and lots of smiles, they were returned to, “..dear Vanessa”.
On arriving home, the first thing Vanessa did was to put the posh little box back with her Mother’s jewellery.

I’m sure I do not have to explain to you the atmosphere that existed or the looks that were exchanged with Vanessa when Terry returned a week later. Whilst Vanessa had been smart enough to say nothing about the cornflake, by then Colin knew the truth about the playground swap and the two boys joined forces to get revenge. I should also mention the truth quickly got round the playground and that Vanessa found herself with even less friends than normal.
Now both Terry and Colin knew that Mike, who was a year younger, lived in the house behind Vanessa and that their gardens backed onto each other. They asked him to join their little group and Mike, who had found Vanessa to be cruel to him when playing outside was very keen to be a member. In fact he was able to supply some vital information.
Mike knew that, on these warm summer evenings, Vanessa would walk home with a neighbour’s parent to her own empty house, as her Mother was at work. She would then open the patio doors to the garden and, after making a cup of tea and a snack in the kitchen, would disappear up to her bedroom and play loud music with the window open. Over the next few days and after a visit to the local joke shop, they came up with a plan.
Terry had bought a packet of “Bang Snaps”. These used to be called “Crack Its” or “Snap Its” long ago. They are little bits of white, twisted paper with powder inside. If you drop them on the ground they make a “bang”. It’s loud enough to scare somebody not expecting it and this was the main part of their plan.
They waited for a hot day and after school ran back to Mike’s house. They went up to his bedroom where, out of the window, there was a good view of Vanessa’s house. Terry had brought four tiny bits of Blu-Tac from class (nobody would miss that) and the Bang Snaps.
They watched Vanessa come home, open the patio door to the garden, make herself a cup of tea with something to eat and go upstairs to the bedroom. Loud music started up very quickly.
The boys were shaking with excitement. This was where Terry had to do his part. He had said all the risk should be his, as it was his plan.
The two boys helped him up so he could climb over the fence and onto the rockery in Vanessa’s posh garden. They then ran back up to Mike’s room to watch. They saw Terry creep into the house through the patio window. They knew what he was doing next.
Terry sneaked ever so quietly up to the bathroom where he lifted the toilet seat.
I don’t know if you have looked underneath one of these but if you do, you will notice there are four round rubber “bumps” that are stuck there. They make sure the toilet seat does not bang in a hard way on the porcelain toilet.
Very carefully Terry put a tiny bit of Blu-Tac on each nodule. Then, even more carefully, he stuck a Bang Snap to each one. As gently as he possibly could, he lowered the toilet seat. He knew that any sudden pressure could set them off.
When that was done he crept out of the house, climbed up the garden rockery, onto the fence and was pleased to see his two friends had run out to help him down on the other side. Laughing together, they ran up to Mike’s room to watch and wait.
They couldn’t see into the house but they were sure they would hear the results, as the windows were open. Their plan all rested on the idea that, if Vanessa drank a cup of tea on getting home, then it wouldn’t be long before she went to the toilet. They waited with bated breath. It was 4.29 in the afternoon. They hadn’t expected to wait too long but nothing happened as minute after minute ticked by. Eventually it was 5.00, 5.15 and then 5.30. They were now starting to worry that the Snap Bangs had not worked.
At 5.42 the unexpected happened. A car backed into the driveway and Mike announced, “That’s Vanessa’s Mum coming home from work”. The three boys looked at each other with alarm.
The Mother walked into the house and, of course, the inevitable happened. She made straight for the bathroom. They heard her shout, “Turn that music down!” to Vanessa and then a door locking shut and the bathroom window opening. Seconds later it happened, Bang! Bang! Bang! Almost together, followed by screams and then, for good measure, one more final BANG! Another scream followed. This was clearly not part of the plan and the boys nervously waited.
They heard Vanessa’s name being screamed, then lots of shouting in her bedroom and what sounded like a slap. A door was slammed shut, and there was no other sound than sobbing. Obviously the music had been turned off for the evening.
Terry looked at the other two boys and said, “My parents didn’t listen to me when I was in trouble. I think that was kind of fair.” With one final listen to the sobbing and moaning Terry and Colin went home.
The next day at school the boys all gave Vanessa extra big smiles, which will have told her they knew something but they swore never to tell her anything. Perhaps the worst thing for Vanessa was she remained a rather unpopular girl because of what she had done.
Years later Terry saw a poster, which he bought and posted to Vanessa. It said: