….for some startling news, reported in today’s Independent. The UK Scout movement is, apparently, more popular than ever with total members nearing half a million with over 16,000 youngsters having joined in the last year, the 5th consecutive annual rise in membership. Even more staggering is the news that some 33,500 youngsters remain on the waiting list to join due to the need to recruit more adult volunteers even though the number of volunteers is currently higher than the combined workforce of Mc Donald’s (67,000) and the BBC (24,000).
Doesn’t that amaze you? I’d imagined that the scout movement was on the wane. I rarely see any youngsters knocking around in their distinctive (strange) uniforms – does it all happen behind closed doors these days? I just figured that parents were becoming more wary of letting their kids attend because of the suspicion that it was a breeding ground for paedophiles (after all Baden-Powell’s original tome was called ‘Scouting for Boys’), the rather unfortunate militaristic premise on which it was founded and still run, and perhaps the feeling that health and safety concerns were rendering the various outdoor activities (lighting fires and the like) inappropriate.
But ironically it seems that this final point has been the making of the scouts. This is because schools are increasingly turning away from adventure activities because of health and safety issues and the threat of litigation whilst the scouts offer youngsters the opportunities to try canooing, abseiling, rock climbing etc. In my days in the Cubs it all seemed a little more mundane but I guess that Bear Grylls as Head Scout has jazzed up the activities a bit.
I’m still not sure it’s something I’d encourage my grandsons to sign up to, to be honest. I seem to remember hours and hours of Bob-a-Jobbing. I’m not kidding; I would get asked to clear a large garden for a bloody shilling – that’s a whole 10p at current exchange rates. And what happened to all that money we collected? It was probably invested so they could end up paying a fabulous salary to Bear Grylls (who actually sleeps in expensive hotels on his ‘man against nature’ adventures). The nearest it got to being spent on our crappy scout hut was the two weeks Arkela spent in Lloret de Mar shortly after all that hard-earned money was handed over.
But never let it be said that I bear grudges to Bear’s munchkins. I’d rather kids DYBbed and DOBbed than got ASBOed any day.