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Tony Grist

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Scouting [Aug. 2nd, 2007|10:01 am]
Tony Grist
Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the Scouting movement and scouts from all round the world assembled at Brownsea Island (wherever that is) and did whatever it is scouts do.

I was a Wolfcub for a few months back in the late 50s and hated it. But then I'm not a team player. 

We met in the overwhelmingly brown hall of the local Presbyterian Church and all the other kids knew one another from school- but I went to another posher school and was the odd one out. I never got the hang of climbing ropes or tying knots or- what else did we do? I forget.

I remember marching round the streets in a church parade once and feeling noble.

That's a memory I'd suppressed. I don't suppose I've visited it in fifty years. The Wolfcub uniform was green and one wore a dinky little "Just William" cap- which wasn't such a terrible imposition because I wore a similar cap- a red one- for school. And then there was the woggle- a leather band that fastened with a press stud and kept your scarf in place. Ian Hislop had a programme about scouting a few weeks back in which he explained how every item of the scout uniform has a secondary practical application. The scarf doubles as a bandage or sling  and the woggle- no- I can't remember what the woggle is for.

Scouting is so much about the Empire and the healthy, outdoor, homoerotic ethos of the early 1900s you'd have thought it would have died out by now but, no- quite the reverse- numbers are growing and I even get the impression it's becoming cool.

And apparently- to judge from the crowds at Brownsea- they're now admitting girls. In my day you had the boy scouts and the girl guides and never the twain shall meet. They interviewed a Dutch Girl Scout who rmade me think of Luna Lovegood. She was saying the organisers had asked her to remove her traditional wide-brimmed pointy hat because it's no longer official uniform in Britain and she'd told them to swivel. They should bring the traditional pointy hats back, they really should. 

Like I said I hated the whole thing, but that's because I'm a duffer. Now that I'm no longer threatened with having to dress up in silly clothes and walk in church parades and mess about with knots I'm ready to concede it's rather a good idea. Baden Powell was a bit of a visionary really. (And a wonderfully full-blooded great British eccentric who used to sleep on the balcony even when it was snowing). He wanted to teach kids to be healthy and useful and self-reliant- like the Lunalike in the pointy hat.  And though he'd been a soldier of the Empire, he wasn't a militarist or a war junkie or a little Englander. He once said that if the children of the world got together to run things there'd be an end to war. I don't think he and I would have found much to talk about, but I like the cut of his jib.

My former headmaster- who was very like the headmaster in the movie If  (who deservedly receives a bullet between the eyes)- served a term as UK Chief Scout. The current Chief Scout is the former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan. There was a clip of him on Brownsea Island summoning the tribes with a ram's horn. Now that is definitely cool.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-02 11:42 am (UTC)
That sounds like a lot of fun. I clearly missed out.

And I like it that they gave you points for hitching a ride through the enemy roadblocks. All's fair in love and war.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-02 07:02 pm (UTC)
Nice.

Is that the Scouting coat of arms?

Do the Scouts have a coat of arms?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-03 09:31 am (UTC)
What did British Summer Time have to do with it?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-03 03:33 pm (UTC)
I see from your post over yonder that those funny things with their mouths open wide are Talbots hounds. I just love anything mediaeval.
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[User Picture]From: huskyteer
2007-08-02 11:07 am (UTC)
Brownsea Island is in Poole Harbour, Dorset, and is my favourite place in the world. It's what I imagine Heaven is like, though I'd want some more animals besides the red squirrels and peacocks.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-02 11:43 am (UTC)
You see, I don't know that part of the world at all. Such a small island, so many places I haven't visited!
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[User Picture]From: momof2girls
2007-08-02 01:22 pm (UTC)
Interesting post. I think if I had boys, I'd be reluctant to have them join the Boy Scouts here, but Cub Scouts would probably be okay. It seems to have devolved into a Christian, homophobic organization (IMHO), but the Girl Scouts have not. Also, it seems like everyone becomes an Eagle Scout; I thought that was the pinnacle and supposed to be very difficult to reach.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-02 02:15 pm (UTC)
I suppose it's inevitable that scout troops get sponsored by churches. They can provide the willing youth workers, they can provide the premises.

It seems likely that Baden Powell was himself homosexual- though very, very deeply in the closet.
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[User Picture]From: momof2girls
2007-08-02 02:19 pm (UTC)
Hunh! I'd never heard that!

It just seems that the whole organization, with its requirement that the boys believe in God, is becoming right-wing Christian, no matter where the meetings are held.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-02 02:39 pm (UTC)
I think it's always been Theist. I remember taking an official oath in the 50s "to do my duty to God and the Queen" - but I don't think it's specifically Christian. It's an international organisation with branches in countries where Christianity is NOT the main religion.

Baden Powell was a man's man who married very late in life. I believe he's on record as having written- probably in private correspondence- that he found girls yukky.

I don't for a moment believe he was actively homosexual. I think he sublimated whatever sexual feelings he may have had in good, clean, manly activities.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-02 04:22 pm (UTC)
There used to be an organisation called The Woodcraft Folk- which was like the Scouts only apapted to the beliefs (or lack of beliefs) of lefty intellectuals. I wonder if its still going?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-02 07:00 pm (UTC)
That's good to know.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2007-08-02 01:35 pm (UTC)
I was at the national Scout jamboree here in the US in 1977 and met one of Baden-Powell's original scouts from Brownsea Island, at that time just a jolly little old man in a colorful uniform. My memory says he was the last surviving member, but then thirty years plays havoc with memories.

It rained for four days running and the mud - the consistancy of pancake batter - sloshed higher than my ankles everywhere we went. That much I remember all to well.

I started in Scouting at the age of eight and remained very active for thirteen years. I still have mixed feelings about it.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-02 02:19 pm (UTC)
Your old chap must have been in his 80s in 1977- so I suppose he could well have been the last survivor.

According to Ian Hislop a great number of those Brownsea pioneers were killed in the First World War.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2007-08-02 03:09 pm (UTC)
That seems about right. I was told how old the fellow was at the time. To a fourteen-year-old, he was as old as God, if not older.

Not surprising that many were killed in the Great War. Makes sense.
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2007-08-03 05:47 am (UTC)
Wow, over the edge. I can't picture you in a dinky cap to save my life, though!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-03 09:32 am (UTC)
I had a little round face and very fair hair.
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2007-08-03 08:17 pm (UTC)
How charming!!!! <3
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2007-08-03 08:17 pm (UTC)
I can totally picture you now. Hee hee hee.
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From: manfalling
2007-08-03 12:33 pm (UTC)
Me and Joe were in the Children of the Woodcraft Folk for a while. It was a pretty soft endeavour, really. We hung around indoors and did crafts. There was nothing competitive, ie- fun, cos competitive stuff I guess was considered to be 'bad'.

The highlight as I recall it was- they laid out blue mats in a circle on the floor at the start, and me and Joe used to run around them leaping from one to the next, pretending to be Indiana Jones and that to touch the wooden floor would mean being eaten by aligators.

I actually had a whip too, I think, made out of bits of string tied together. As I recall, I could even make it make a cracking sound! That was exhilaratingly fun. But I think it was just mine and Joe's idea, and not particularly condoned.

After that they settled us down to making masks or pottery. Yawn.

Scouting- a friend of mine told us one about a Dragnet thing he was going to do- over 3-4 days, a massive manhunt on the moors or somewhere, camping, sleeping rough, on your own recognizance. Sounds like the thing you describe. He told us scout masters would be hunting them on quad bikes.

Quad bikes!

I was way jealous.

We didn't go to the Woodcraft folk for long, I think.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-08-03 03:31 pm (UTC)
That will have been your mother's doing not mine- the Woodcraft Folk, I mean.

I was in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme- which involved lots of tough guy stuff, like camping out and orienteering. After a year they kicked me out for having achieved exactly nul points.

What a slacker!

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