The Parish Magazine that sold out
I'm enjoying Scout and Scouting magazine immensely and am so glad that you are producing a printed version. I cannot abide sitting reading from a screen and I know that I am not alone. I love having the magazine in the sitting room where it sits on the coffee table for me to dip into as and when I have a spare minute. I felt that I had to write after reading Eddie Langdown's article in Issue 2 entitled "The Great Chessington Wicker Basket Badge Scam." The story that came to mind was not of a scam but an unfortunate sequence of events that led to the wrong scout gaining an activity badge and frosty relations with the local church for several months.
When I was a scout leader there used to be a public relations badge. The last component was for scouts to write a good news story about a scouting activity and get it published in a scouting newsletter or website, or "the local press." My scout group was affiliated with the local church. This meant that we were obliged to parade to a church service every couple of months. This was no real hardship and with a lively young vicar the scouts mostly enjoyed the experience. We had use of the church hall for a nominal sum; the church and grounds were very useful for several badge requirements including My Faith and Smallholder with various camping components also in the hall.
I was always on the lookout for ways to make the scouts' badge journeys a little easier. Getting items in the local press was not as easy as some in head office may have assumed. After all they would probably have had access to a professional media team. It was the vicar who suggested that I might write the occasional article for the parish magazine. I in turn said that I would mostly hand that job over to the scouts which I did. I would write about general scout stuff now and then but mostly I would give the scouts a topic of the vicar's choice and I would pick the best one or two to go in the magazine. Mostly they were written at home during the holidays, brought to scout meetings for me to read and then to pick the best of the bunch and pass them onto the vicar.
At one parade service, that happened to be the church's birthday, the scouts were very taken by a visiting bishop who, as part of his talk, showed them and talked about his vestments and what each item was called. After the talk one boy, whom I shall call Harry, whispered to me that he needed a pee so I told him to get up and go by himself. He knew his way around the building and so I was content in the knowledge that he wouldn't get lost. That said, he did take some time to return to his pew and when he did almost immediately another boy needed a pee. As he was a newcomer I told Harry to take him. Again they were gone for far longer than a pee takes. After the service there were refreshments and cake and I didn't take much notice of the fact that Harry and his companion were both flushed and excitable until they both disappeared thus causing a major panic when their parents arrived to take them home.
It wasn't until the vicar had suggested that the scouts write one side of lined A4 on "My Favourite Church Service" that I found out what had been going on. Most of the scouts wrote about the bishop's visit. Harry was a no-nonsense sort of boy who could certainly look after himself. His report began, "Freddie and I got slaughtered when the bishop visited." He went on to write about how they had found glass upon glass of unguarded wine when they had been to the toilet and had decided to help themselves. Even during the reception they had managed to get their hands on some more as no one seemed to be taking much notice. He wrote about where they had fallen asleep, somewhere I am not going to repeat, and how and where they had both been sick - several times. I put his piece to one side intending to speak to him at the next meeting and on the way out told the vicar that I had selected an article by Vivienne who had written a very thoughtful précis of the bishop's talk and what it meant to her. She had even drawn some pictures of the bishop's bits and labelled them. I never saw Harry's article again as it mysteriously disappeared.
It was coming towards Easter and it was this particular church's tradition to not only sell through local outlets but also deliver free a copy of the March issue of the magazine to every home in the parish. When mine popped through the letterbox I eagerly flicked through to find Vivienne's contribution plus drawings. To say that the blood drained from my face is something of an understatement. I, all of a sudden, felt very, very faint for there, in the middle of the magazine, for the whole of the parish and beyond to see, was Harry's article with "Freddie and I got slaughtered when the bishop visited" in red block capitals across both centre pages. I very quickly learned that the vicar didn't bother himself with reading what was going to be put in the magazine, nor proof-reading, nor checking. It was all in the hands of an elderly parishioner, Miss James, who had looked after the magazine's preparation for years. If the vicar said, "Put this in" then she put it in. No matter that he had picked up the wrong sheet of paper and had handed Miss James Harry's odious offering.
The March issue was a sell out.
A note of apology appeared in the next edition for an "unfortunate error" and Vivienne's piece was finally included but by then the parish magazine, the scouts and Harry were the talk of the village and this little episode even made it onto the regional news. How could I refuse Harry his badge?
Harry is now a priest and he has the article and the PR badge framed on his study wall. I think he gained the My Faith badge also, but not for the same article. Scouting is certainly an adventure! Please continue to keep up the good work everyone.
The Great Chessington Wicker Basket Badge Scam
As a Senior Scout in 1960s I abandoned my Scouting chums and tumbled headlong into becoming a Scout Leader, attaining wood badge hardly out of my teens and have spent just about every Friday night of my life and a lot of weekends passing on scouting skills to local kids.
My first great challenge was to come face to face with the rough and tumble of the 2nd Chessington Scout Troop, and quite quickly learned of the effect of living under the enormous shadow of the all mighty 1st Hook Group just up the road, who had their own massive HQ and dozens of well badged kids hanging out of every one of their many windows. Our scouts even kept their own top buttons undone, "Because 1st Hook do it." And so was born a cunning plan!
1st Hook had perhaps four times our number of scouts, they won every District competition and gained more badges, as regularly published in the District Newsletter, but I devised a way of beating them, just to show we could! The scheme required all of our scouts gaining a dozen badges over a six month period in the run-up to the next District total so lists and requirements of all the badges were distributed and pressure was applied! First the low fruit; Cyclist, Artist, Sport, Music, Swimming etc. with notes brought from schools, piano teachers, football team managers and so on. Then we needed to make the pips squeak and kids who had never cooked started wrecking their kitchens, bedroom painting wrecked carpets all over Surrey. Notes came from harassed teachers saying the kids had, "Tried hard."
And still we needed more! One scout came up with the Rope Spinning Badge, (which existed) and his fraught-looking mother told us of her son's frantic attempts to lasso the cat with the clothes-line, of near strangling himself in his bedroom and wrecking the living room lamp shade. As luck would have it my dad told me that his brother had been a scout in Portsmouth giving rope-spinning demonstrations at campfires - jumping in and out of the swirling rope and lassoing the DC. My uncle showed us where to buy a specially woven 'spinning rope' which had a brass loop at one end. My scout actually managed a few twirls, enough to please an ADC and reduce pressure on the family's home insurance policy with another badge!
This is where the Great Wicker Basket Scam was finally revealed; we discovered that for some years the older scouts were boosting their patrol points' totals by forcing young scouts to obtain the Basket Maker Badge quite fraudulently! There existed some ex jumble sale wicker baskets, the scout was told to take a couple to a near-blind elderly lady in Tolworth who was the Basket Maker Badge expert. The kid was primed with what she would ask: The basket took a month to make, the reeds needed soaking, they bought the base from a hobbies shop. Always be polite, eat her biscuits and say thank you. She must have been our busiest badge examiner.
To both my pride, and with a little shame, we beat 1st Hook. Only once. But it was enough, 2nd Chessington had come of age.
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