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.