The knack How to confess,

"When you're young, you don't have any sins to confess, so the thing to do is to make them up. I remember confessing to adultery when I was eight - I thought it was something to do with not liking adults. Your sins come with age, and when you're in your teens it's what you least want to talk about in case it gets round. This shouldn't worry you, however, as those waiting outside the box can only hear a muffled voice and can't actually hear what you've been up to - I know, I used to try to listen in at that age. Besides, you realise quite early on that the people who go to confession most are not usually the ones who sin the most frequently, hence the number of dear old ladies there.

The misconception about confession, that `it's all right for Catholics, you commit a sin, confess and then carry on', is not how it works. When you go, you should be thinking, `well, that wasn't very good, I'm not very pleased with myself, why did I have to be cruel, why didn't I do the right thing ... ?' You should have the idea that you don't want to do it again, you really want to be a better person. You don't go to confession so that you can continue on in the same way. Use it for self-examination and as a force for change - think, `tries hard, must do better'.

If you don't feel comfortable with a priest who knows you, go somewhere else. I often go to confession when I'm travelling round the country, or even when I'm out of the country, a cowardly thing to do, I know. Sometimes you may feel you're getting told off, like a child being guided. But that, in a sense, is what you ought to feel." Interview by Fiona McClymont

Roger McGough's most recent books are `The Spotted Unicorn' (Penguin) and `Ring of Words' (Faber), an anthology of poetry for children.