I was never a spectacularly naughty child, I swear. I went through a shouty period when I was about 5. When I was 6, I was often in trouble for pulling truly horrific faces on photographs (there is an absolute beaut of my grandparents' Ruby Wedding Anniversary. Really, the focus should be on them and their flowers and cake, but there is some dratted small child gurning in the foreground...). When I was 7, I pushed my friend Richard with all of my might, strictly on an experimental basis you understand, and was impressed to see him literally flying across the playground before he collapsed into a tangled, wailing heap. Of course I did bad things, but usually, once I had been reprimanded, only then did I begin to see the error of my ways.
The archetypal naughty thing of my early childhood happened when I was 2 going on 3 and occured at my grandparent's house, scene of naughty things such as the time I made a drink for myself out of white pepper and yelled because it was hot and the time I nicked some butter because I thought it was a Milky Bar. This involved a quilt and may have been the turning point for my folks in just letting me play quietly at that age.
The adults were downstairs, chatting and drinking tea and I went upstairs to play. In front of my grandparents' bed was a large mirror and I used to like to watch myself in it, vain young hussy that I was. On the bed was a large feather quilt with a cover of green satin. This made a nice and squishy play surface as well as a delightfully shiny one. I was sort of allowed in there if I didn't touch anything and I was generally as good as my word. That's when I noticed it.
There was a feather sticking out of the corner of the quilt. I pulled it out and it in turn pulled out another feather. I pulled that one out and out came another feather. Then another and another and another. I was very absorbed in doing my grandma a favour by getting rid of these offending protruding feathers and I went on for quite some time.
Cue the adults. They looked at the clock and remarked that I had been jolly quiet for quite some time. Suspiciously so, in fact. No sounds of a small child falling or jumping off a bed. No sounds of a small child playing trampolines or ransacking wardrobes etc. My father was sent up to see if everything was okay. And came into a room where it was literally snowing with feathers and where drifts of them lay on every surface. I had been extremely efficient and had managed to unstuff most of the quilt all by myself. He was shocked and I had no idea that I had done anything wrong.
"What were you doing?" he asked me.
I looked around and remarked upon the devastation for the first time. I wasn't sure, but he wanted some kind of answer, so I picked up a double handful of feathers and said, "I was making a seagull".
The next hours involved vaccuum cleaners, my sitting under armed guard downstairs and a trip to the shops to replace the quilt which I had gutted. Somehow I never really got into trouble for this, past being told that I absolutely never must do this again and having it explained to me about the mess and the expense. So that was an early thing to check off on my list - don't unstuff quilts; it is not an approved activity.
Ah - but years later I can still recall the satisfaction of the deed as I pulled out one feather and then another and another!