I do not think I was an evil child but there were times in my early days when I quite deliberately chose to tread the primrose path rather than keep to the straight and narrow.

Rather than scandalise some minister of religion I will reveal my wickedness to you all and make the following, my full confession.

The first quite deliberate sin I remember committing concerned the Nasturtium flowers that were growing in the front garden of my home the UK. I was particularly fond of these plants, not only because of the bright yellow and gold colour of the flowers but I was also fascinated by the green caterpillars they seemed to attract. I would watch them munch the leaves with interest, but a bigger thrill was seeing them move from one plant to another by humping their backs and then straightening out again. They managed to pick up quite some speed, especially if they were encouraged by a little gentle prodding with a pin at their rear end.

Towards the end of their flowering, seeds developed, and so it occurred to my fiveyear-old mind that if these seeds were planted, we could have nasturtiums in both the front and back garden. I surreptitiously gathered as many seeds as would fit into the pocket of my dress and made my way to the back garden. Where to plant them? I had to think. It seemed to me that the cold-frame in which my father grew cucumbers might be the ideal spot. The soil was fertilised and regularly watered and the glass “roof” would keep my seeds warm and cosy and encourage growth. During the next few days, I kept a keen eye on them but nothing seemed to happen and so I lost interest in my horticultural experiment.

However, be sure your sins will find you out. The next spring little green shoots sprung up where there should have only been cucumber plants. Surprisingly, when the nasturtiums began to flower, my Father immediately suspected who might be to blame. I have no idea why he suspected his innocent young daughter but I was called in to explain. “No Elaine, I do not believe the seeds simply flew over the house from the front garden to the back and buried themselves in the coldframe.” Fortunately for me, my father had a lively sense of humour and after I had made a somewhat damp apology, all was forgiven.

A few years later a deliberate piece of unscrupulousness concerned my mother. She asked me to go into the pantry and retrieve a tin of evaporated milk, open it, and we would have it with the tinned fruit we were having for Sunday tea. I looked on the pantry shelf and saw two tins of Carnation milk, one evaporated and one condensed. A dilemma! I perfectly well knew which tin I was supposed to open, but I also knew which tasted like the nectar of the gods. How much trouble would I get into if I made a “mistake” and opened the condensed milk? I decided to risk it. Yes, I did get into trouble for my carelessness, but every time I sneaked into the pantry and helped myself to a spoonful of that nectar I knew it had been worth it.

Ah yes, the final act of deliberate devilry I am ready to confess, but one I cannot find it in my heart to this day to feel the slightest remorse for committing. Hence no forgiveness is expected, nor I suspect, will ever be received. Again it concerned my father who would always take particular pleasure in teasing me. How to get my own back and teach him a salutary lesson? It required some thought and careful planning. My father was an ardent Freemason, Worshipful Master of Loyalty Lodge No 4971 at the time I committed this heinous crime. I felt that Masonry was definitely his Achilles Heel. I observed him closely the next time he returned from Lodge, noting where he hid the key to the small suitcase where-in he hid his apron, cuffs and other regalia including his little black book of Ritual. When no-one was about, I opened the case, removed the black book, locked it again, and went into my bedroom where I knew I would have an hour or so to study the contents undisturbed. I was good at committing poetry to memory and felt this would be no different. Two hours later, I had learned several pages off by heart, which meant it was time to return the book and the key to their original resting places. Timing is everything, and I felt I could afford to wait until he thought he could take advantage of his daughter. I positioned myself a safe distance away and began to spout his ritual. As soon as he heard the familiar words, he began to chase me, but I was ready and as I ran, I recited more and more. He chased me all over the house and it finished with us both laughing in between his threats to murder me if ever I should repeat my performance in front of his “Brothers”.

I never did, but he knew if his teasing became too much for me, I could, and as he had no wish to be impaled by a masonic sword, his behaviour was much moderated.