I’ve never been any good at flouting authority, bending or breaking the rules. My moral backbone must be very straight, because while common-sense tells me that towing the line isn’t the only way, something transfixes me with a Paddington Cold Stare every time I consider ‘behaving badly’.

Goody two-shoes

I am aware that some of my friends find it amusing that, in many respects I’m a little goody two-shoes. Those are the ones that smoked behind the bike sheds at school, bike shedsstarting drinking age 12, wore the shortest skirts they could without being arrested, and those that were expelled. I worship their naughtiness. My worst crimes at school were once wearing a brown skirt rather than the standard navy, and going ‘on strike’ in the school hall to protest that girls should be able to wear trousers. At primary school one lunchtime I stayed inside with Vicky Manley – against the rules – to sew up costumes for the school play. Headmaster Mr Blatchford discovered us, called us guttersnipes and told us to go home. I still think that was rather over the top for two 10-year olds making bee outfits.

Tax dodgers

I have always been horrified by tales of tax avoidance schemes; the many, clever ways that big businesses and wealthy individuals find to wriggle out of paying tax through bright accountants who get paid a nice little earner to find loopholes. I wonder how it is they don’t have a conscience. Hey, I’ve declared just about every penny I’ve earned in my life. Even the £1 a day I earned as a decorator (after paying the child minder, that was all I had left). However, there’s a bit of me that now thinks differently about those cash-in-hand tax dodgers that I used to scorn. Now I’m more likely to think, why not? If a pop star skips pay tax on millions of pounds, why should the chap earning a couple of hundred quid painting some walls pay any either?  I’d dodge if I could. But then again, I probably wouldn’t.

On holiday

On a month-long trip to China it was a total surprise to me that we had to ‘follow the flag’. I’d never done anything like that before. I duly followed it to the best of my ability, until I was late back to a meeting point because my mate Julia had desperately needed the loo. We were made to feel like criminals, and almost frog-marched to catch up with the rest of the group. Publicly humiliated amongst the Terracotta Army in China, I felt cracks appear in my goody-two shoes persona.

In truth, the older I get, the more likely I am to transgress. This year I was asked to followFollow a flag in Sienna. I ran off up an alley, it was a moment when free will conquered. Hey, who knows, perhaps one day soon I’ll try and sneak on the train to Exeter without paying for a ticket. Or park in a disabled parking space and limp away from the car.

But I tell you, however hard I try, always at the back of my mind there will be the sense that I am the person holding together the tower of morality that keeps society from falling apart. It’s all down to me, for sure. So I won’t be sticking two fingers up at the taxman anytime soon. More’s the pity.

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