Keeping the Woggle Clean and the Primus Primed

24th World scout Jamboree (22 July – 2 August 2019)

Back in the day, I was a scout (actually, the ‘day’ being what it was, I was a Boy Scout – but it wasn’t my fault. There were no Girl scouts: girls were Guides. Boy Scouts and Girl Guides seldom met – except if they happened to be on a weekend camp close to one another, in which case the results could be very unpredictable) and I loved every dib-dib-dib of it.

I was a good Scout. I am by nature polite. I kept my woggle clean. I rose through the ranks from standard pack member to Seconder and, eventually, to fully fledged Sixer. It was a proud day when I attached the Sixer badge to my sleeve. I collected Scout badges like other kids collected nits. They were neatly sewn to my sleeves (the badges, not the nits) with a precision that earned me my sewing badge. My knife was always safely sheathed in my belt and withdrawn only for a bit of authorised whittling. I always helped the elderly cross the road – whether they wanted to or not. I baked bread in an improvised clay oven (it was inedible); I fried semi-gutted fish of some sort on a primus stove (it was inedible); I toasted marshmallows on the campfire (they were inedible and the molten sugar removed most of the hard palate). My ging-gang-gooley was the envy of every campfire encirclement for miles around.

Times were different back then. I remember trudging off from home on a Friday night carrying a tent and a rucksack loaded with food, a meth’s-filled primus stove and a sleeping bag, to hike around the surrounding countryside for 48 hours (remember, no mobile phones back then – I think perhaps my parents had something they should have told me) finding suitable places to camp on the two evenings before returning home only to find my family had moved*. I was fortunate to spend my first night camped on some grass outside a farmhouse. The lady of the house (having met me when I asked permission to camp on her lawn – Be polite: Boy Scout law) brought me hot chocolate to drink and a bacon sandwich to save me from the meth’s-sodden sausages I had planned. She could not, unfortunately, save me from a night in a meth’s-sodden sleeping bag, although she did lend me a torch so that I didn’t try to light my candle lamp. It was a warm night and the meth’s soon evaporated. I slept like a baby, but awoke the next morning with an unexplained headache. I spent the second night, I recall, in an orchard about two hundred yards from home. I attempted to boil sausages because I wasn’t allowed a campfire and I had no oil to fry them in. The results were not pleasant. I ate a couple of unripe apples and slept fitfully.

Anyway, the point is, I did all this to earn a badge (I can’t remember what badge it was – Lunacy, probably) to sew on my sleeve and the memory started me thinking: why can’t we have badges now for doing something that we have never done before. How thrilled I would be to receive my ‘Not putting my foot in it’ badge. I would award myself a badge for the first time I ate Spaghetti Bolognese without pebble-dashing my shirt; the first time I visited a friend’s house without wrecking something priceless; the first time I turned down something sweet because I’d just eaten already; for making an entire journey without shouting at the SatNav; for avoiding the attentions of over-eager scouts when waiting to cross the road; for being prepared with a dob-dob-dob at the drop of a hat. I could be a sixty-sixer in no time…

*That last bit is not true – obviously.

I originally wrote a different piece yesterday evening for publication tonight, but then today I saw a news item about the Scout Jamboree, so I wrote this today instead. 

Below is a photo taken from my window as I typed last night.  It’s not really relevant, but it just seems a shame to waste it…



15 thoughts on “Keeping the Woggle Clean and the Primus Primed

  1. The view from your window… I agree… The view from Broadmoor is exceptionally pleasant on a barmy summer evening…


  2. I always wanted to join the scouts, that sounded more fun. The girl alternatives looked very dull. I’m not sure I could have kept my woggle clean though. But please don’t suggest badges for adult life, people are already too competitive for me, if they start sneering at my lack of badges for being polite to my boss or watching a documentary then I’ll go nuts! Thinking about it, is that kind of what Facebook is? The declaration to everyone that you’ve done a thing?


    1. You may be right. I rescind my suggestion. The thought of thousands of ‘friends’ terrifies me. I struggle with the few I actually have (although not, probably, as much as they struggle with me)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe if they were hidden badges, kept in an album, like a collection. so that YOU know, but nobody else does.


      1. Joking aside, that is absolutely how I see it too. I like my immediate boss, I think she’s good at the job and a nice person, so I’ll always do my best to support her. *Her* boss though, is a bit of a tool, and I find it difficult to humour him.


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