"A few weeks ago almost nobody had heard of Miss Marianne Martindale. Now she is everywhere, holding press conferences, appearing on radio phone-ins, being interviewed and photographed by the classier Sunday supplements, It can only be a matter of time before she is given her own T.V. chat show. One can see why. Miss Martindale has just published a book on `the arts of spanking and caning, the use of the strap and other disciplinary
implements'. . ."
Francis Wheen in The Guardian
MISS MARIANNE MARTINDALE is an elegant lady who dresses in the style of the 1930s, not just for special occasions, but all the time. Fox-furs and cigarette-holders are her everyday accessories. Real, non-stretch 1950s nylons that crinkle their exquisite fineness at the ankle and behind the knee. "Nobody makes them exactly right in the Pit." So Miss Martindale and her Aristasian girls have started another company to supply traditional stockings.
You may think she is rather unusual, but she does not.
"Every one I know dresses like this. How else would one dress?" She smiles engagingly. Miss Martindale belongs to an all-female group which believes that things went very wrong in the 1960s. Her friends do not necessarily dress in a glamorous1930s style. They may choose more modest 1950s attire. They may affect pencil-skirts or wide, circular skirts held out by a dozen petticoats, or just a plain skirt and cardigan which could almost pass as rather conservative late-20th-century dress.
But the point is that these ladies do not belong to the late 20th century. Their hearts and souls are otherwhere engaged.
The Independent writes:
"Miss Martindale walks into the room, swinging a long cigarette holder containing a pink Sobranie. She is wearing a fur coat and a Forties black hat with a pheasant feather perched perkily on the brim. She has wing-tipped glasses from which dangle a gold chain.
"'Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,' she begins in a voice characterised by high-pitched, perfect vowels circa 1950. 'I wish to introduce to you something new. It is one of those things so obvious, so natural, so fundamental
. . .one is surprised that it has not been done over and over again.' She pauses for effect. 'The subject of discipline--corporal punishment, spanking, caning and so forth--is one of perennial interest . . .this book examines,' continues Miss Martindale, 'the different types of cane and how they should be used. The many and varied methods of spanking in the detail they so richly deserve. There are clear and precise instructions on the use of the strap . . .it also has a large section on the subtler and more unusual forms of non-physical discipline.' A girl from The Evening Standard giggles into her press release. Miss Martindale continues in her cut-glass voice. She is completely serious."
Rosie Millard in The Independent
I read this quotation to Miss Martindale. "I adored that article," she says. "Miss Millard just hated me, and so she said all the nicest things. Later on she keeps talking about my 'silvery laugh'. Isn't that delightful? I don't know if I've a silvery laugh, but I should love to think so. The thing about bongos like Miss Millard is that we are so diametrically opposed we cannot insult one another. If I wrote about her I should say that she was vulgar, brash and unladylike, but she would not be insulted because that is just what she wants to be. When she writes about me she says that I have perfect vowels and a silvery laugh and that I am an "elitist". And that is exactly what I want to be.
The article blazons a splash quotation from Miss Martindale: "I have always beaten my maids and I always will." Does she?
"Of course. Discipline is a part of our life. My maidservants accept that before I engage them. It gives them a feeling of warmth and security."
Then that cane we have seen her pose with; is it in use as a real implement? It might be laid across the bottom of one of her crisp, uniformed maids at any time?
"Of course; what did you think it was for?"
Miss Martindale is intelligent as well as attractive. She works hard at promoting the books of the Wildfire Club. There is a whole philosophy behind them.
"Discipline literature up to now has been a seedy, hole-and-corner business. These books are something quite different. Intelligent, sensitive, warm and profound. They are real literature. You might argue that they are the only real literature being written today -- and it isn't only we who say so. A lady producer at the B.B.C. said that The Feminine Régime is the best woman's novel since Vita Sackville-West in the 1930s. She wasn't a bit interested in discipline. She was regarding it purely as a piece of first-rate English literature, which it is.
The Observer writes:
'This is not a book by armchair disciplinarians, said Miss M. in her speech. 'Everything has been practised, in all earnestness and usually on many occasions, by those who have written it.
Rather them than me, you think, when you have winced through the Manual's lascivious portraits of a good strapping ('the aim is to produce a uniform lividness from the backs of the knees to the top of the thighs' and a well-administered spanking ('let the implement strike home with a loud. satisfying slap and feel its force vibrate through the girl's body next to your own'). Still, I suppose you get used to it. Miss Martindale herself has been administering and receiving regular, frighteningly full-blooded rump castigation for the past 20 years. And she looks very well on it.
Her press conference contained some thrilling and appealingly photogenic moments of rumbustious cane- flexing but it became rapidly apparent that the most interesting thing about The Female Disciplinary Manual was that it represents a small part of a larger whole. Miss Martindale and the authoresses are members of an all-woman empire of punishment known as Aristasia.
A few facts emerged. Aristasia exists. as far as it can, without contact with the modern outside world, which it calls The Pit.The Empire was formed in the 1970s by students of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University. There are various fundamental principles: the practice of discipline, both actual and non-corporal; the conviction that a matriarchal society is better than a patriarchal one, the belief that the I960s ('The Eclipse') signaled the end of the influence of femininity and the beginning of chaos.
This last concept is so central that Aristasians refuse to acknowledge anything that has occurred post-Eclipse. That's why Miss M dresses in clothes that are 40 years old; that's why the Manual describes a regime which makes the reader think ot Enid Blyton's Mallory Towers books; that's why no television, radio or contemporary magazines or papers are allowed in Aristasian households - I950s magazines like Housewife and The Essex Countryside are favoured instead. Efforts are made so they correspond with the correct month.
A week after the press conference. Miss Martindale and I chat in the formal comfort of her home. Coffee is served, with a great deal of fuss. 'Now. Lafois,' trills her mistress, looking straight into her maid's panda eyes, 'I want you to offer Miss Sawyer the sugar and cream, and then I want you to go to the hall and select me my longest clgarette holder and the clgarettes in the brown leather case.' Lafois is being trained as a maidservant. 'If you want to ask anything, just say, please madam,' reassures Miss M, kindly.
We settle back into our armchairs. 'Do you notice a difference in me at home, rather than at the launch, in The Pit?' asks my hostess. 'Can you feel that it's as though I've got little strings going from me to the rest of the house? It's a hierarchy, the golden chain, a traditional
concept. . .
We discuss fundamental principles. As far as I can make out, the Aristasians draw on ancient philosophies as well as modern-day ones. As an Aristasian, you are given a role, which may change, and you must intuit and live your position as fully and as perfectly as you can.
'I train a servant to lay the table almost as though it's a dance, sparkles Miss Martindale. 'Not just to lay everything in its set place that is acquired through convention but to sense the harmony. And as a mistress, you try to be a perfect mistress. To fulfil an archetype rather than a stereotype.'
Miranda Sawyer in The Observer
It sounds a fascinating way of life with much more to it than one might think at first. How can one find out more?
"Read Children of the Void", says Miss Martindale. "It is fiction and some of it is quite fanciful. Nevertheless, it gives a very good picture of how we live and think. Miss Snow is writing another novel which will give a much more exact picture of how we live -- and many people may find it even more fantastical than this book. Nevertheless, if you want to know about Aristasian life and discipline, you cannot do better than read Children of the Void.
And girls who are seriously interested may wish to correspond with the Aristasian Embassy.