Wednesday, 16 June 2010


My Admin and Financial Manager recently told me a sorry tale of a bloke who for years had run the local scout troop. He delighted in teaching his boys the “backwoods” skills that scouts were taught in the days when they used to wear those lovely broad brimmed hats and khaki “shorts” that ended just below the knees.

Over the years however, PC and the dreaded “Health and Safety” have taken their toll. Scouts were always proud to wear their sheath knife on the belt; after all, they were very useful for separating sausages before confining them to the camp fire frying pan. But sorry chaps – knifes not allowed any more.

Camp fires? Sorry, they are dangerous as well; something/someone may get burnt! And so it went on!

This chap had enjoyed years of passing on skills to his young charges but eventually he decided that onerous rules and regulations were spoiling the big plan so he jacked it all in. How sad and what a loss society has suffered from losing the likes of him and others like him.

So here I am in my mid sixties reflecting on my time in the cubs. I never made the scouts. Scouts? Big hard boys they seemed then.

Once a week us nine year olds would dress in cub uniform (make sure the woggle was adjusted correctly) and assemble at the wooden hut down by the gas works. We learnt essential skills – tying knots, singing songs, first aid and respect for Akala,

The end of the session was always a game of some sort. Far and away the favourite was “British Bulldog”. To play this game the entire troop minus one gathered at one end of the hut. "Minus 1"  remained in the middle of the hut and on the command of “British Bulldog 123” the troop would run to reach the opposite end of the hut. It was the job of the bloke in the middle - Minus 1 - to “bring down” someone, anyone, any way. It often involved pain but nobody cried. So now there were two in the middle and “British Bulldog 123” led to another charge ending with perhaps three or four in the middle.

Eventually, most of the troop would end up in the middle and the final charge would be of a suicidal nature with the runner/s ending up beneath a pile of bodies. We got bruised and bloodied but we thought it the most enormous fun. How sad it is that today’s kids cannot experience the rough and tumble of life as we knew it in the fifties because the powers that be consider it dangerous.

And while we are on the subject, Wednesday afternoons at my school was sports afternoon. If it was wet the rugby match was cancelled and we had boxing in the school gym. We all took turns at wearing the communal boxing gloves and knocking seven bells out of each other. Bullies often had their covers blown at these sessions and suffered the humiliation they deserved.

By present standards this sort of upbringing would be deemed barbaric but it hardened us kids for what life had in store and gave us an edge that seems sadly lacking in today’s kids.

I would love to bash on about the decline in educational standards since those days and compare the requirements of university entrances then to those of now but no………….I must leave a little gristle to chew on for later.