'The Chokey,' Hortensia went on, 'is a very tall but very narrow cupboard. The floor is only ten inches square so you can't sit down or squat in it. You have to stand.'
Hortensia is the battle-hardened ten-year-old who teaches Matilda Wormwood and her friend Lavender what their headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, is really about. "Welcome to borstal," she says to them in the Crunchem Hall playground.
Hortensia is well versed in the art of Trunchbull-baiting - or at least, that's what she tells Matilda and Lavender. After explaining what The Chokey is, she goes on to tell them about the many times she's found herself imprisoned inside it. Like after the time she poured Golden Syrup onto the Trunchbull's chair. Or the time she put itching powder in her gym knickers.
Matilda and Lavender are "enthralled" by Hortensia. "It's like a war," Matilda says, after hearing her tales of life at Crunchem.
From 'Throwing the Hammer'
If you survive your first year you may just manage to live through the rest of your time here. But many don't survive. They get carried out on stretchers screaming. I've seen it often.
The Trunchbull has a nasty habit of guessing. When she doesn't know who the culprit is, she makes a guess at it, and the trouble is she's often right.
We are the crusaders, the gallant army fighting for our lives with hardly any weapons at all and the Trunchbull is the Prince of Darkness, the Foul Serpent, the Fiery Dragon with all the weapons at her command.