Memory is a strange thing; some things remain clear in vivid detail for decades while others disappear into the haze of history surprisingly quickly. This story is a case in point: between us, my sister and I can remember the incidents that I describe here really very well after all the years that have passed. There were some things that only one of us remembered and we had only minor disagreements on points of detail in some we both remembered. However, when it came to fitting the individual incidents into a narrative, we had trouble working out in what order they had happened and how they related to each other. After a good deal of discussion and scribbling of notes, we established a reasonably coherent story into which all the individual memories fitted quite well. I'm not sure that the narrative we ended up with is actually a 100% correct reconstruction of the days that I describe here, but 45 or so years after the event, it's about as close as anyone will ever get it.
Once again, dating is surprisingly difficult. These events took place during the summer holidays when I was in my early teens. It could have been in 1963, when I was 13, or possibly a year or two later. My sister Karen (a little over a year older than me), our brother Timothy (three years younger than me) and I were staying with our grandparents as we did for a while during the summer holidays most years at that time.
My grandfather was a Church of England minister, rector of a rural parish in the southern English county of Sussex. He and my grandmother lived together in a big, square Georgian Rectory, which had been intended for an incumbent with a huge family and an army of servants. Usually when we visited without our parents there were just the three of us and our grandparents in the house, but on this occasion, there were also other guests. My mother's sister, my Aunt Lizzie, married a Canadian, my Uncle Alf, and the other guests on this occasion were Uncle Alf's brother and his family. Uncle Alf's brother, whom I addressed as 'Uncle John' (even though he wasn't strictly a relative at all, even by marriage) was a minister in the Anglican Church of Canada. Uncle John, properly the Reverend John MacDonald, had been sent across to England to attend a conference in London and had taken the opportunity to bring his family on a holiday at the same time. In return for the hospitality extended to him, Uncle John helped my grandfather out by taking some of the Sunday services while he was there.
In addition to Uncle John, his wife (Aunt Megan to us) and four children were staying at the Rectory. The children were broadly similar in age to us, which was one reason we had been invited to stay at the same time. The oldest was Fred (probably short for Alfred, like his uncle) who would have been about 15, a bit older than my sister. Next came Mary and Martha, twin girls a little younger than me, maybe 12. The youngest was Suzie, a tiny firecracker of a girl aged about 9. The Canadian visitors all seemed to be friendly, cheerful and outgoing and we got on with them as soon as we met; it would have been difficult not to.
The daily routine at the Rectory was familiar to my siblings and me. Breakfast was an informal affair taken at the long dining table in the kitchen. Grandma kept supplies of bacon, eggs and sausages going as long as people were hungry and we all just helped ourselves and each other to everything else. Guests tended to arrive at the table in ones and twos and stay drinking tea after they had finished eating until everyone else had finished.
After breakfast came the morning's cleaning and tidying chores. With the services of nine visitors to call on, Grandma and the 'daily' who came to help each morning organised the housework like a military operation. We were generally finished in 45 minutes or so and after that our time was our own.
Some days, Uncle John and Aunt Megan organised trips out, sometimes to the seaside at Hastings, sometimes to visit castles and once to London. (These trips involved trooping all seven children down to the local railway station as the only car available would have been my grandfather's tiny Austin Seven.) On other days, we children were left to amuse ourselves.
With seven of us there, there was greater scope for outdoor games together than my siblings and I usually enjoyed. Hide and seek, while being a simple game, was nevertheless very enjoyable played in the Rectory's extensive grounds. We rapidly discovered that Fred was a champion hider, just seeming to vanish amongst the trees. Rounders (a children's game that probably shares a common origin with baseball) was possible on the huge area of grass between the back of the Rectory and the churchyard wall. There were too few of us for proper teams, so we took it in turn to bat while the others fielded and competed as individuals that way.
I can't remember who suggested that 'Capture the Flag' would be a good game. Certainly Karen and I both knew it from Girl Guides and I'm sure that our Canadian cousins knew it as well. Again, the Rectory's grounds provided a superb setting for a game like this. We decided that the old stable block adjacent to the house (by then used as car garaging and as a workshop) would be one headquarters, while a disused gardener's store at the far end of the garden, against the churchyard wall, would be the other.
(Understanding the geography of the Rectory grounds is key to understanding how the game unfolds, so rather than try to do everything as word pictures, I have drawn a little map. I've simplified it to include just the features critical to the story, but it should do the job.)
With so few players over a fairly large and very varied playing area, we decided to work out our own set of rules. I can't now remember who contributed what in the discussion over rules, but I think we reached a consensus fairly quickly. Instead of having two territories and a neutral zone in between, there would be no boundaries: everywhere would be potentially hostile territory for everyone. (Actually, the house was exempt so that anyone needing the toilet could do so safely.) Enemy players would be captured by 'tagging' as usual, with the immortal word "Gotcha!" Given that no-one 'owned' any area, anyone could tag anyone else anywhere. I think we agreed that successful tagging could only follow pursuit or a successful surprise attack; anything else must have been some kind of standoff for fairness. With no neutral area, there was nowhere to use as a jail (and no-one available to act as a neutral supervisor), so we agreed that anyone who was tagged would be tied up. (Release by another member of one's own side was permissible as was escaping.) The idea of tying up prisoners was something that had immediate appeal to my brother and sister and me; it seemed to be equally appealing to our cousins (we already knew from our cousin Annie that her Canadian cousins sometimes engaged in games similar to our own).
The Rectory attic was a wonderful treasure-house of junk, probably representative of the whole of the two centuries the building had been standing. A rummage there yielded actual flags for us to capture. We found a Union Jack which the British team naturally claimed as their own. It would have been too much to expect a Canadian flag, but we did find a British Red Ensign (a plain red flag with the Union Jack occupying the upper left-hand quarter, used on Britsh shipping), which was similar to the Canadian flag then in use (this was a year or two before the current Maple Leaf flag was adopted). The flags were designed for use on a proper flagpole with toggle at the top and a loop at the bottom to engage with the halyard. We intended to use a couple of window-opening poles that we scavenged from the attic as flagpoles. They were an inch or so in diameter with a brass hook at one end that made a nice finial as a flagpole. It was necessary to tie the flags to their poles with string, but they still looked good.
With flags flying over the two headquarters and a start time agreed, my siblings and I worked out a strategy to follow. We decided that, as the two most experienced in outdoor games of this kind, Karen and I would form the attack arm of our team while Timothy would be the defence. We advised our brother not to stay inside the headquarters, but to mount an unobtrusive guard a short distance away hidden by shrubbery. That way, he would be able to see anyone on the other team as they approached and a good chance of catching them by surprise and tagging them while not running the risk of being trapped inside our own headquarters.
As the start time passed, Karen and I set out. We went around the front of the Rectory, so that we could enter the cover of the woods without being seen to do so. As soon as we were amongst the trees, we split up to reduce the risk of both being captured together. There were a few distinct paths through the woods but as far as possible we avoided them. The woods had many years before been managed by coppicing (that's where the trees are cut off at ground level every few years then regrow as a cluster of stems rather than a single trunk) but was now wild and overgrown. A few trees, mostly ash, had been allowed to grow normally, but the rest, a mix of chestnut and sycamore, were stunted, untidy multi-trunked affairs from the coppicing growing out. In addition, there was an understorey of mixed scrub, mostly hazel, but also various other species that had grown naturally from seed.
Karen and I knew the woods very well from the many previous times we had stayed with our grandparents. We were also both quite proud of the skills we had acquired in the Girl Guides which enabled us to advance steadily and unobtrusively through the trees while keeping a lookout all around. I was surprised not to have heard or seen anything of the other team as I made my way towards their headquarters. I became more and more cautious as I proceeded, making sure that I looked behind each possible hiding place as I passed it. I was confident that my precautions ensured that there couldn't possibly be anyone within at least fifteen feet of me. I therefore had a terrible fright when a hand was clapped across my mouth and I heard Fred's voice whisper "Gotcha!" right next to my ear. Clearly I knew a lot less about woodcraft than I thought I did.
The rules were that once tagged, no resistance was offered (that made it fairer for the smaller players), so I stood patiently while Fred tied my wrists behind my back with rope then gagged me with a knotted scarf. He tied another scarf across my eyes then led me off through the woods. Given that I had a good idea he was taking me to the Canadian headquarters, the blindfold was a little unnecessary in that respect, but it curbed any temptation I might have had to try to run away.
A few minutes later, I sensed that I was in an enclosed space. I recognised the old gardener's store from the slightly musty smell of old wood. I was turned around and then dumped down on a chair to which I was quickly lashed with lots of rope wound around my arms and body. My ankles were tied together next then I was surprised by my blindfold being removed.
Fred grinned at me. "Two down, one to go."
I followed his gaze to another chair where my sister sat bound and gagged just as I was.
Gloomily, I watched Fred depart and latch the door behind him. I could just hear voices outside, but couldn't make out any words. I concluded that one of the Canadian girls had been left on guard.
A quick assessment of my situation suggested that I was probably stuck. My hands had been tied before I sat down so that now my arms were uselessly trapped between my back and the backrest of the chair.
A grunt from Karen drew my attention. She was trying to speak through her gag. It was completely unintelligible, especially as she was trying to keep her voice low. Karen seemed to be gesturing with her head towards her bound hands. I stared at them for some time before it dawned on me that, unlike mine, her wrists were tied behind the back of her chair. I studied my own bonds and realised that the rope securing me to the chair had been fastened off to the wooden fretwork that made up the seat back. If I could get close enough to Karen, there was a good chance that she could reach a knot.
I began the long laborious task of propelling my chair backwards towards Karen, while she turned her chair so that her back was towards me. I was glad that Fred had simply tied my ankles together rather than tying them to the chair legs. After some time I was within reach. Everything progressed as I hoped it would. Karen was able to undo the final knot on the rope around my arms and chest and the chair and after a good deal of wriggling, I was eventually able to slide myself down under the rope and onto the floor. I shuffled myself around on my knees until I was positioned so that Karen could reach my wrist binding. As soon as that was undone, it took only a few minutes for me to untie my ankles then free my sister.
Karen gently tried the door to our prison. Not unexpectedly, it wouldn't open. There was no lock as such, but the door opened outwards and there was a simple block of wood screwed to the doorframe; with the block rotated through 90 degrees, it was as effective as a bolt.
We discussed the situation and hatched a simple plan. In addition to the two battered old chairs we had been tied to, there was a galvanised steel bucket and some rather rusty gardening tools. Karen re-gagged herself and produced the loudest yell of simulated anguish she could manage while I made as much noise as I could crashing the tools into the bucket and across the floor.
As we had guessed, a sentry had been posted nearby and came to investigate. The door opened and Suzie entered. She stared in puzzlement at the two empty chairs in the middle of the floor, not seeing my sister and me, by then hiding behind the door, until it was too late.
"Gotcha!" we chorused as we grabbed Suzie and were rewarded with a little squeal of alarm.
Suzie seemed to have been left in sole charge of the Canadian headquarters, so Karen and I set about immobilising her, a fate she accepted quite cheerfully. Her arms were too short to reach comfortably around the back of either of the chairs so we decided to tie her up in the same way I had been, with her arms between the chair and her back. We began by tying her wrists behind her back, proceeding cautiously in case we hurt her.
"Tighter," Suzie instructed, clearly used to much more robust treatment than we were meting out.
We adjusted her wrist binding then sat her on a chair and lashed her securely to it. We tied her ankles together then discovered that her legs were too short for her to sit comfortably on the chair with them hanging over the front of the seat: there would be too much pressure on the back of her knees. We had experienced this difficulty with our brother when he was very small and we knew several solutions. We settled for bending Suzie's legs so that her heels were on the front edge of the chair seat and her knees almost up to her chin then hitched her ankle binding to the rope lashing her body back to the chair then put another few turn of rope around the whole bundle.
Suzie assured us that she was quite comfortable trussed up like that, so we finished off by gagging her, apologising that she had to endure a damp gag that one of us had already worn.
"Should we blindfold her too?" Karen asked me.
I was just about to say that I thought it was unnecessary when Suzie made her own opinion by nodding her head vigorously. We pressed the second gag into service as a blindfold then locked our captive inside her prison.
With the Red Ensign unguarded, there was nothing to stop us helping ourselves to it. Now that the enemy flag was ours, victory was within sight, but we wouldn't have won the game until we had taken it back to our own headquarters. Until we had done so, there was still a risk of being captured by the Canadian team, so Karen and I decided to split up and return by different routes. I took charge of the flag and planned to go down through the woods, avoiding the paths as I did so, then to cross the Rectory driveway and to make my way through the trees keeping roughly parallel to the road. Karen would go over the boundary wall into the churchyard and, keeping her head down so as not to be seen, would follow the edge of the churchyard then join a public footpath which followed the edge of a neighbouring field. She would be screened from view by the hedge which separated the field from the Rectory grounds. There were several places where it was quite easy to get through the hedge and over the iron fence that formed the boundary to the Rectory grounds, so the plan was that Karen would meet me in the woods next to the road. From there, we would dash across the open ground to the trees and shrubs growing next to the old stable block and hopefully regain our headquarters without being intercepted.
I exercised all the woodcraft skills at my disposal as I made my way through the trees. I avoided paths; I watched carefully to make sure I didn't step on anything that would snap noisily; I stopped every couple of minutes, looked around me carefully and kept still, listening for any movement, anxious not to be captured as easily as I had been earlier.
None of this helped me in the slightest. I think I had reached a point about in line with the end of the house when a hand patted me on the shoulder and Fred's voice whispered "Gotcha!" exactly as he had done previously.
I was startled of course, but mainly annoyed. I really couldn't understand how Fred had appeared from nowhere like that. Our rules implied that captives should co-operate with their captors so that it was equally fair for all sizes of player, but I was in no mood to be helpful to anyone. I sat down on the ground, crossed my legs, folded my arms and refused to move.
Fred's response to my defiance was to cup one hand around his mouth and emit a low owl hoot. (I was impressed: I could only do that two-handed and it rarely worked at the first attempt.) After a few moments, Mary, one of the twins, joined us. (I only knew it was Mary by remembering the clothes she was wearing. After I got to know the twins better, I learned to tell them apart, but only if they were together so I could do a direct visual comparison. I never could tell which was which if I met one on her own.)
Fred and Mary had a brief whispered conversation then set to work on their recalcitrant prisoner. With two of them on the job, it wasn't difficult for them to unfold my arms and uncross my legs. A few minutes later, I found myself still sitting on the ground but now my wrists were tied together in front of me and my legs were bound at the ankles and knees. I was also gagged with a knotted scarf once more. The captured flag which I had been carrying was still lying where I had dropped it. Fred picked it up and rolled the flag tightly around the pole. He and Mary then pushed the pole between my thighs and then threaded it through the loop formed by my bound arms so that I could be lifted off the ground suspended by my wrist and knee bonds. My captors each took one end each of the flagpole and supported it on their shoulders as they carried me off.
I had seen cartoon drawings showing jungle explorers carried off in this fashion by hostile natives. I now knew how it felt. I was carried head first, so I had an upside-down view of where I was being taken (partly obscured by Fred's back). There didn't seem to be any attempt at stealth in carrying me, which gave me a sinking feeling that I might well be the last of my team to be caught.
My fear was confirmed when I was brought around to the terrace at the back of the Rectory and set down on the stone paving.
Aunt Megan was sitting on one of the wooden park-bench-style seats on the terrace and was busy with her knitting. (Aunt Megan was the prolific knitter that I have alluded to in previous stories. Her knitting bag accompanied her wherever she went and whenever she had a free moment, it would be brought out and she would carry on with her current project. She seemed to be capable of simultaneously watching television, carrying on an intelligent conversation and knitting a complex pattern without any activity apparently suffering from lack of attention.)
Karen and Timothy were sitting on the ground at either end of the bench where Aunt Megan was knitting. They both had their hands tied behind their backs and their legs tied at the ankles and knees. They were also secured to the bench by ropes around their waists and were gagged but not blindfolded. Aunt Megan seemed to be quite unperturbed that her bench was also being used as an impromptu prison.
Fred retrieved the Canadian team's flag now that its role in prisoner transport was over and set it up against the wall of the Rectory. As he was doing so, Martha and Suzie came into view as they emerged from the trees. I surmised that Martha had been on a rescue mission to locate and rescue her little sister. Mary went to meet them and, with no-one watching me, I took the opportunity to reach up to my gag. Aunt Martha spotted what I was doing; she said nothing but winked at me.
My bid for freedom was short-lived. I hadn't quite got my gag loose when Fred saw what I was up to and remedied the situation by using a short length of rope to fasten my wrist binding to my ankles so that I was sitting helplessly hugging my legs.
Our flag had not yet been captured, but with the three of us all tied up, that was a mere technicality; victory unquestionably lay with the Canadians. They freed us after a few minutes of token taunting. We all trooped into the Rectory kitchen after that to find a snack and something to drink. Reviewing the game, my siblings and I realised that we had been quite comprehensively outclassed. Martha and Mary had formed a forward attack unit and had captured Timothy within a few minutes of the game starting. (In consequence, our brother had spent almost the entire duration of the game bound and gagged.) Suzie, as we knew, had been their rearguard to supervise their headquarters. Fred's job had been to intercept any attempt to attack their headquarters before it got too close. He had succeeded admirably at that, picking Karen and me off quite easily. The escape that my sister and I staged was the only element of success that we enjoyed at any point. I have already described my recapture; Karen's was equally ignominious: Martha had spotted her scaling the churchyard wall and had simply waited at the gate between the Rectory grounds and the churchyard and ambushed her as she passed.
I can't remember what day of the week that game took place, but it was still fresh in our minds when our cousin Annie came to join us on the Friday evening to spend the weekend at the Rectory. (By this time, Annie had finished her college education and had a proper job, so she wasn't able to enjoy the long school holidays that the rest of us still had.) It was while we were all telling her about what we had been doing together that we admitted our ignominious defeat. Annie immediately challenged her Canadian cousins to a return match and appointed herself leader of our team. My siblings and I were astonished at Annie's apparent confidence in her ability to turn our fortunes around but happy to have her as leader if she could deliver on her promise of victory.
Later on, in our shared bedroom (the Rectory's old nursery, the room we usually used when we visited), Annie debriefed us on our performance in 'Capture the Flag'. She began by sketching out a rough map of the Rectory's grounds and we explained our intended strategy and where we had been captured. Annie's first question was a surprise to all of us:
"What were you wearing?"
Karen answered first, explaining that she had been wearing her pink floral dress and an old yellow cardigan on top of it that she didn't mind getting dirty. After prompting, she added that she had been wearing white socks and brown leather sandals.
None of us could see where this was leading until Annie spelled it out for us: "So you were trying to hide in a dark wood wearing a pink dress a yellow cardigan and white socks? And you have light brown hair and pale skin?"
I didn't fare much better; I had been wearing khaki-coloured shorts but had worn a bright blue t-shirt as my top half and also had white socks. Timothy had been wearing grey shorts and had been wearing fairly inconspicuous grey socks; but was rather let down by his red shirt.
None of us could remember exactly what our Canadian cousins had been wearing, but on reflection we thought they had all been in fairly subdued colours.
Now it was pointed out to us, it was obvious why our ability to hide had been so severely compromised. Annie's first decision as leader was that less conspicuous clothes would be the order of the day. She went on to describe a possible strategy which we developed as we each contributed ideas.
Saturday was to be the day of the return match and scheduled to begin as soon as we had finished the day's domestic chores after breakfast. We had already agreed over tea the previous evening that for fairness, we would swap headquarters for this match, so, carrying our Union Jack on its improvised flagpole, the four of us marched off to the old gardener's store.
This was not the first time we had visited our headquarters that day. About 5:30 that morning, Annie and Karen had sneaked out of the Rectory and had deposited a bundle of clothes for us to change into for the game. The fairly bright and conspicuous outfits we had worn to breakfast were merely a ruse to misdirect our opponents.
Annie's camouflage plan was twofold: to wear subdued colours and to cover as much skin as possible. Although it was the middle of summer, Karen and I had still brought sweaters and warm tights with us. (Alas, even in the best English summers, there can be cool days and, on occasion, downright cold ones, so, like most Brits, we packed for all eventualities.) I wore a pair of brown tights under my khaki shorts and a dark green sweater. Karen tended to wear more pastel colours than I did, but a grey sweater and tights were suitably inconspicuous for her in combination with her own khaki shorts. When we had discussed this the previous night, Timothy could see where the argument was leading and, even before it had been mooted, he protested vehemently that there was no way he was going to be coerced into wearing girls' tights. He relented when we reminded him of how little fun it had been to be captured almost at the outset of the game and to sit out the rest of it bound and gagged. He borrowed a pair of Karen's grey tights (mine would have been far too long) and wore them under his own grey shorts and sweater. Annie put on a pair of black stretch pants and a black sweater. She pointed out that black was possibly too dark a colour to be properly inconspicuous, but it was the best that she had with her; she hadn't packed for the weekend with camouflage in mind.
The finishing touch was to cover all remaining exposed skin. Annie had acquired two pairs of worn-out black winter stockings from our grandmother. They had been destined for use as polishing cloths and had been stored with the other cleaning materials in the scullery. Although they had not yet been used for their intended new purpose, they had nevertheless picked up a distinct odour of furniture polish. We pulled the stockings over our heads and Annie carefully snipped eye-holes in them with a pair of nail scissors. Karen returned the favour by cutting eye-holes in Annie's stocking. With the lightness of our skin covered and Karen's near-blonde hair hidden, we would be far harder to pick out from the shadows under the trees than would otherwise have been the case. Being well prepared for the potential rigours of an English summer, Timothy, Karen and I had brought gloves with us which we put on so that we were all covered completely. Annie had none with her but decided risk leaving her hands bare.
Discussing the game together the previous night, we concluded that the gardener's store was a naturally well-defended position. There were only three possible approaches to it: along the path through the woods, directly through the narrowest part of the woods from the lawn, and coming over the churchyard wall. Our best strategy therefore seemed to be to stay close to our headquarters and to allow the enemy to come to us.
Annie assigned Karen and Timothy to act as a pair providing close-in defence of our headquarters, each looking out for the other's safety, while Annie and I mounted a defence slightly further away in the woods, but still in sight of the gardener's store, and also looking out for each other.
Next to our headquarters there were some odds and ends of garden equipment stacked up against the churchyard wall: an upturned wheelbarrow, a compost bin, a stack of paving stones and other bits and pieces. Karen decided that she would be suitably inconspicuous if she squatted down amid the clutter so that she could keep a lookout for anyone approaching along the Rectory side of the wall or coming over the top from the churchyard. Her judgement was excellent; the first sight we had of any of the Canadians was of Mary peering over the top of the wall. She must have been looking almost straight down on Karen, but failed to pick my sister's camouflaged form out from the surrounding garden paraphernalia. She swung herself over the wall, dropping lightly on our side and was shocked to be grabbed immediately by Karen. There was a squeal of alarm before my sister silenced Mary with a hand over her mouth.
Once she had recovered from the shock of being seized by a menacing hooded figure, Mary gave in with good grace and allowed Karen to tie her up. Annie had pointed out how potentially vulnerable we were while preoccupied with tying prisoners up; we therefore decided to keep tying to the minimum consistent with security. Accordingly, Karen tied Mary's wrists behind her back with a short piece of rope then gagged and blindfolded her with pieces of cloth. Karen escorted Mary into our headquarters, made her sit on the floor and tied her ankles with another short length of rope before resuming her position at the foot of the churchyard wall.
Martha was the next to make an appearance. She approached through the woods, following the path, presumably to limit the possibility of someone leaping out on her from behind a bush. I stood stock still against a tree trunk and watched as she passed within a few feet of me. She kept looking around her, a slightly puzzled frown on her face. At one point, Martha looked right at me but failed to see me. I don't think our camouflage was necessarily all that effective, but both the twins were looking for children in comparatively brightly-coloured clothes and they didn't see us simply because we didn't look like what they were looking for.
Once Martha was well past us and almost up to the gardener's store, Annie and I moved together, grabbing her simultaneously and announcing "Gotcha!" As with Mary, the response was a terrified squeal. We quickly dealt with Martha in the same way that Karen had with Mary; we left her sitting on the floor inside our headquarters with her wrists tied behind her back, her ankles tied together, gagged and blindfolded.
We all realised that Fred was likely to be the next on the scene, so when we resumed our positions, we were more than a little nervous of his formidable skills in woodcraft. Our anxiety proved to be justified. Just as in the previous game, I had no warning whatever of his approach, just a pair of hands seemingly appearing from nowhere and grabbing me and a voice announcing "Gotcha!" with quiet assurance.
Fred lost no time immobilising me. He pushed me to the ground, where he tied my wrists behind my back then crossed my ankles and tied them together. A third short length of rope converted my predicament into a compact hog-tie. Fred didn't bother to remove my stocking mask before gagging me, instead allowing the cloth cleave-gag to pull the fabric of the stocking back into my mouth. (I discovered that the stocking not only smelled of furniture polish but that was how it tasted too.)
As soon as Fred finished gagging me, I heard a sound of breaking foliage followed by a triumphant yell of "Gotcha!" in Annie's voice echoed by the same from Karen. Various scuffling noises followed but I couldn't tell what was going on as Fred had displaced my mask when he gagged me so that the holes in the stocking no longer lined up with my eyes.
The noises went on for several minutes then died down. The next thing I heard was Annie's voice quite close to me. "Let's get you out of that, Becca."
It took just a couple of minutes for Annie and Karen to untie me and remove my gag. I adjusted my mask so that I could find out what was going on. I was pleased to see that Fred had been effectively neutralised. He was sitting on the ground with his back against a tree. His hands were out of sight behind hid back, but I assumed that they had been bound with suitable care. His ankles were also tied and there were about half a dozen turns of rope around him and the tree trunk. It was hard to tell what he thought of this turn of events as most of his face was obscured by a gag and a blindfold.
Annie, Karen and I made our way over to where Timothy was mounting guard on the entrance to our headquarters. We had a brief discussion about what to do next. We concluded that Suzie, the only remaining Canadian still at large, was probably guarding their headquarters in the old stables and that we would have to go there to capture her.
We decided that it would be prudent to check on the twins before we did anything else. They were still tied up, but might not have remained so had we left them any longer. Despite being hampered by blindfolds and gags, they had managed to co-ordinate themselves well enough that they were now lying on their sides on the floor, back-to-back and trying to loosen each other's bonds.
We rectified the situation by carrying the twins outside, sitting each of them against a tree and tying them in place just as their brother was. We were sufficiently confident of our ropework that we took the prisoners' blindfolds off so that they could see how thoroughly defeated their team was.
Annie suggested that we should aim to capture Suzie by converging on her from all sides at once. I was the fastest runner, so I took the longest route, following the entire length of the woodland path to the driveway at the front of the Rectory and then following the vehicle route round to the stable block. Annie accompanied me as far as the junction in the paths and then made her way to the terrace at the back of the Rectory. Karen and Timothy crossed the lawn to the steps up to the terrace. Karen mounted guard at the bottom of the steps to cut off that possible line of escape, while Timothy cut up through the bushes adjacent to the stables.
As I had furthest to go, I was the one to give the 'go' signal to the others. I pulled the front of my stocking mask up, put my thumb and forefinger into my mouth and emitted a piercing whistle (a skill I was very proud of at the time, and, if I'm honest, am still very proud of today). It was inevitable that Suzie would also hear the whistle, but that didn't matter as she wouldn't know what it signified.
I repositioned my mask and advanced towards the old stable block at a steady walking pace. As I did so, Suzie emerged from the stablea, saw me and fled in the opposite direction. I saw her disappear round the corner of the Rectory onto the terrace, then heard Annie yell "Gotcha!"
I ran to catch up with Suzie and discovered that she had run straight into Annie's arms as soon as she rounded the corner of the Rectory. Karen and Timothy arrived on the scene almost immediately after me. Suzie seemed to be seriously spooked by the masked figures that had surrounded her and was struggling furiously in Annie's grip.
"It's just us," Karen reassured her, removing the stocking from over her head.
Suzie calmed down and allowed Annie to tie her wrists behind her back. We frogmarched her to one of the wooden benches on the terrace and sat her down on it. A few turns of rope around her arms and body and a few more over her lap, all threaded through the slats of the bench, held her in place. We tied Suzie's legs together at the ankles and knees for good measure. Finally, we gagged her, more as a matter of principle than for any practical reason.
While all this was going on, Aunt Megan, Suzie's mother, was sitting on an adjacent bench knitting. She made no comment about what was going on, but smiled and waved in acknowledgement when we glanced in her direction.
With all of the Canadians now out of action, we were able to help ourselves to their flag. We stood its flagpole upright and lashed it to the end of the bench where Suzie was sitting.
Just to make the point that we had trounced them thoroughly, we decided that all our prisoners should be together. We all trooped back down through the woods to begin moving them. We were pleased to see that Fred and the twins were still as securely tied up as we had left them. We decided to move the twins first. We replaced their blindfolds, then carefully untied them from the trees to which we had bound them and freed their ankles. We guided them back up through the woods, two of us keeping a firm grip on each girl, and onto the terrace. We secured them to the bench alongside their little sister.
We were more cautious with Fred, keeping his ankles loosely tied with a short length of rope between them and with Annie, Karen and me all keeping a firm grip on him. (Timothy carried our Union Jack back to the terrace.)
There was no more room on the bench where we had tied Suzie and the twins, so we made Fred sit on the ground at one end of the bench and tied him to one of its legs.
The last thing to do was to strip off our improvised camouflage clothing, which was getting uncomfortably hot for vigourous activity on a warm summer day. We returned to our erstwhile headquarters, the gardener's store, and resumed the clothes we had been wearing earlier.
On returning to the terrace, we found that Aunt Megan had been to the kitchen and brought out a large jug of lemonade and a tray of glasses. We took the hint and freed our prisoners so that they could enjoy the lemonade with us.
Our Canadian cousins graciously congratulated us on our victory. In turn, Karen, Timothy and I modestly acknowledged that without Annie's formidable leadership, we might well not have done any better than the last time.
As I explained at the beginning, this tale is a reconstruction rather than a coherently-remembered sequence of events. A pair of questions that may have been bothering you as you read it were, "Where did all the rope come from?" and "How did you carry it during the game?" I can give a partial answer that the supplies we used were from a stash amassed by my siblings and me for playing tie-up games when we visited our grandparents. It consisted of a large cardboard carton full of pieces of rope together with old scarves and scraps of cloth that could be used as blindfolds and gags. The question of how we deployed the tying-up material during the game eludes us. It may have been that we were each carrying a generous supply, so that we could tie up several people without running out. Alternatively, it may have been that we relied on using the supplies carried by each captive to tie them up. We may have left dumps of supplies in strategic places where they could be used. It may even have been a combination of those strategies, but whatever we did is now lost in the mists of time.