Sunday, 22 May 2011

Be Prepared.........

My last post dealt with my early childhood, (and some of you were even kind enough to read it)! We're going to jump forward a few years now, so prepare yourselves for a startling revelation.......




I was a Scout! Yes indeed gentle reader, during most of the seventies, I was a member of that much-maligned brotherhood. The Scouts were not fashionable even then, so to admit this was to invite a certain amount of mockery from the (ahem) 'cooler' members of my peer group. I have a lot of stories from that time, some of which would make your hair curl, but before we start, let's get a few things out of the way.

I never said "Dyb, dyb, dyb". Never. Not once. Or "Dob, dob, dob" for that matter. I never had to wear a wide-brimmed hat. I didn't own a penknife with a thing for taking stones out of horses' hooves. And bob-a-job ceased to exist many, many years ago. Oh, and I never, ever sang "Ging Gang Goolie". So there.

We did a lot of interesting stuff, some of which is still relevant today. I remember learning a lot of first aid, some of which I've had to use in my adult life. We learnt a lot of general safety information, such as what to do in case of fire. And even the knots have been useful!


                             This is a reef knot. Believe me, I know this stuff..........


We also had a lot of fun, who could forget the wide games on Seaford Head? For those non-scouts amongst you, a wide game is an outdoor exercise usually involving two teams. First team to capture the other teams flag, you know the sort of thing. Believe me, in the dark, they're a lot of fun when you're twelve or thirteen years old.

Then there were the summer camps. Oh yes. A whole week away from your parents, living in a field with your friends, and not being able to wash properly! What's not to like about that?


                                  Our tents were about as old as these.........


My first camp (aged eleven), was notable for an incident involving a trenching tool, a friend of mine (David) and myself. I happened to be digging a ditch (using the trenching tool), and managed to connect the sharp end with David's head! In my defence, it wasn't my fault, David had approached from the rear; I didn't even know he was there! Obviously I felt terrible, David had to be carted off to hospital to have his head stitched up. However, he returned later that day, calmly announced that it was his own stupid fault, and no more was said! 


                    This is a trenching tool. Ouch, I bet you can feel his pain.......


I was also present when our group managed to set fire to a camp site! To give us something to do, we'd attempted to put up an aerial runway. Unfortunately, we were unable to tie the rope tight enough, the first poor sap to use it landed in the brambles at the end. What could be easier, we thought, than to clear the brambles? And the easiest way to do this, was to set fire to them. Dear reader, this is how thirteen year old boys think!

Yep, you guessed it. The fire quickly got out of control, and we had to ask some nice firemen for help. I may have forgotten to mention that there were no adults present at the time; the Chief Scouts Award required a scout to plan and run a weekend camp. So the lad 'in charge' would have been fifteen or sixteen years old!

It wasn't all international incidents though, we used to camp at a farm where the drinking water tap, was the opposite side of the farmyard to the camp site. Unfortunately, the poor sap sent to fill the water bottles had to negotiate a flock of geese to get to the tap. If the geese saw you, you dropped the water and ran! I've heard it said that a few geese are better than a guard dog, and I had the marks on my legs to prove the truth of this!

Reading this, it will come as no surprise to you to learn that things have changed beyond recognition. I have an old friend who was a leader until a few years ago; he left because he was having to fill in more and more risk assessment forms. Apparently, he needed a Mountain Leadership Certificate to take his group over 500m above sea level. If he were to come out of his front gate and walk a short distance up his lane, then he would be higher than that! Another victim for Elf and Safety........

None of this would have been possible without the adults who were prepared to give their time. I discovered a couple of months ago, that my old Scout Leader passed away in 2008. He was just a normal family man, who gave several hours a week to a group of ungrateful kids. He did this for approximately thirty-five years; it's not until you become a parent yourself that you appreciate the effort and commitment involved.

So, rest in peace Geoff, wherever you are. And thanks for the memories.....




10 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Try again.

    Great memories, Martin. I enjoyed this.

    I was a Wolf Cub, but never made it to 'Scout' status. Lots of British Bulldog, and all that. I wrote a poem about the hall where we all met, once a week. You can read it HERE.

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  3. Oh how disappointing that you never said those infamous words Martin! My whole image of the scouts is destroyed!!

    I was never tempted to join the Brownies.Not my style - all those badges for cooking and stuff. Ugh. Besides the uniforms were gross:))

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  4. One of my boys was enjoying scouting, but when his troop let girls in he left...... his main complaint was that they never did anything helpful on a camp, as they had to do their hair and generally " tart" themselves up before they did any wood collecting or cooking etc. It was the one thing that was for the lads, and they had to come along and spoil it!

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  5. My nephews are just beginning Scouting, but they desperately need a Scoutmaster Geoff! As you said, we don't truly appreciate how important their commitment was until we're adults.

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  6. Martin H. - Glad you enjoyed it Martin. I'd forgotten all about British Bulldog! I was a bit of a lump (still am), so I was usually the last one standing! Happy days.

    Jane Turley - I dread to think what your image of the Scouts is then Jane! Don't tell me, khaki shorts, wide brimmed hat and woggles I bet!

    Frances - I expect he'd have enjoyed having girls around if he'd waited a year or two. I recall we had our share of slackers; you don't have to be a girl to skive.....

    I'm Crayon - I hope your nephews find another Geoff. There weren't too many around, even thirty-five years ago! It's a big commitment, and people these days either don't want to put in the effort, or don't have the time to do so.

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  7. Some scouts ran up to me once. I thought they said: 'Where's our kala?'
    'What does it look like?' I said helpfully.
    Of course they were looking for their Arkela

    I was thrown out of the Brownies for not singing and not having a uniform. Apparently they give Orienteering badges to anyone who can find their way out of Ikea these days (true story)

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  8. broken biro - They obviously hadn't got their Speaking Plain English badge.....

    Fancy you being thrown out of the Brownies! I thought you looked the subversive type!

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  9. You didn't have a tool to scrape stones out of horses hooves? And you call yourself a scout?! Great post Martin - very humorous!

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  10. Annie (Lady M) - It's just as well I didn't have a stone removal tool - look at the damage I caused with a trenching tool! Glad you enjoyed it!

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