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Nuns devise a kneecap torture

A tale of near-medieval cruelty comes to us from an assistant headteacher recalling her schooldays. Yes, it's those Catholic nuns again. "Whoever claims to be the 'evil inventor' of the punishment - oops, behaviour management strategy - of gum scraping (see Diary of March 17) is an imposter and a plagiarist," she writes. "Long ago, in the 1960s, it was a favourite 'strategy' employed by the nuns in my Catholic grammar school.

Normally reserved for those of us caught smoking in the toilets, it involved scraping gum from the floor with a rusty penknife and depositing it in a shared receptacle, thus requiring us to shuffle about a lot on our knees. I still have the scars. I still haven't managed to stop smoking, either, but have an enduring horror of chewing gum."

She doesn't say how this activity affected her attitude to prayer.

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