Happy Christmas

I’d like to wish everyone who visits my site, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Many thanks to those of you who have taken the time and effort to comment on my posts, I really appreciate it,  and I hope to see you all in 2013.

Alternatively, please have a Merry Non-Denominational Winter Festive Period 😉

The Promise

Can of worms – check.

Tin opener – check.

Apply opener to can and stand well back……

Ok, I am being a little facetious as this is an important subject. Today the Scout Association has announced that it is considering an alternative oath (promise) so that atheists can become full members. I am inclined to think that they should now be able as this is currently the only belief  (or lack of!) or lifestyle choice (for want of a better phrase) that stops people joining the Scouts (except for the obvious illegal, sick and/or dangerous ones). Now despite what side of the argument you may sit upon, and there is going to be some argument with hissy fits thrown, the main thing is that a unilateral decision has not been made and the Scout Association is asking its members what they think through a survey. And even better, once the survey is closed, the results will be examined by an independent organisation who will then report back to the SA what their members want it to do.

This consultation was announced today and it is appearing all over the media and it seems that we are getting some very positive coverage.

Interestingly all this is not specifically about faith, but about the fundamentals of Scouting, however they do make on point particularly clear –

No matter what the outcome of the consultation, the existing Scout Promise and its alternatives will continue to be used. Scouting remains a values-based Movement and our programme with young people will continue to enable them to explore their faiths, beliefs and attitudes as well as share in spiritual reflection.

Let’s just hope that this will now end the silly press stories along the lines of “little Johnny couldn’t join Scouts because he’s a disciple of the Flying Spaghetti Monster”!

Interestingly the Guides have announced a review of their promise today as well.

It Was 20 Years Ago Today…

Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play… No, hold on, that’s not right. It 20 years ago I became a Scout Leader. Er no, it was 21 years and 7 months. Hmm, let’s start again.
The other day I logged on to the Scout Association’s website to look up a few things and I thought I’d check my details while I was there. I was slightly surprised to read I’d now done 20 years as a Leader.
On my 20th birthday in 1991, I became an Assistant Beaver Scout Leader. Back then you had to be 20 to be an Assistant Leader and 21 to be a Section Leader. These days it’s 18 for both. My Group had just started its Beaver Colony and I became a Leader to complete part of my Queen’s Scout Award (which I subsequently got).
I think I did it for about a year, but then had to stop because I couldn’t get to the meetings on time, due to a change of job.
I didn’t do a great deal of Scouting in the next 18 months until I was asked if I wanted to be an Assistant Scout Leader. I said yes and after being Scout Leader and now Group Scout Leader, here I still am.
The missing 18 months hasn’t counted towards my service, but never mind.
In those years, the Sections have changed along with the programme and uniform, my Group had changed Districts and the Group has gone through its share of ups and downs, but we’re still here!
Obviously a lot has changed in that time, but we’re still giving young people the opportunity to enjoy varying and exciting activities.
However long 20 years sounds, it’s still not as impressive as one of the Leaders in my District who was given her 40 years service award this weekend!

2012 Remembrance Day Parade

Following on from our previous two Remembrance Day parades (2011 & 2010), we decided to get a little more adventurous!

Instead of just parading around the streets near our hall and on to Church and the Memorial, we started at one of our other local Churches (St. Barnabas Bradwell for those who know the area!) and then on to our War Memorial. It took around 15 minutes from start to finish! We had excellent support from the police who made sure the route was clear and we didn’t get run over!

The Scouts etc. were joined by members of the congregation of St. Barnabas Church, parish priest Fr. Andrew Knight and by a number of local Borough Councillors.

The parade was watched by many people along the route, including as it passed Regent Court, Frank Simpson, the Group’s oldest ex member who had served in the army in the Second World War and had friends in the Scouts who had been killed in action.

The Beavers carried poppies with the names of the 22 Porthill Scouts who had been killed while serving in the First and Second World Wars.

At Porthill’s War Memorial, a wreath was laid by a Scout and Guide in memory of all those killed and our youngest Beavers laid a wreath from Frank Simpson, in memory of the Scouts he knew who had been killed. Also, a wreath from Staffordshire County Council was laid on the Memorial.

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The parade was very well attended and we think over 150 people walked from Bradwell to Porthill with us!

The Drum Corps were excellent and did us all proud!

More photos are in Group’s the Gallery.

Another Scout Hall Burgled

It’s sad to read that another of our local Scout halls has been burgled and around £5000 of equipment has been stolen. Hopefully the thieves will be caught and our friends from Werrington will get their stuff back.

Full story here.

Remember 11-11-12

DULCE ET DECORUM EST

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

by WILFRED OWEN 1917

Porthill Scouts Killed in World War 1 and World War 2

We will remember them

My Week

Phew, it’s been a busy week for this Group Scout Leader.

On Tuesday, I went to Scouts to see LOADS of badges awarded and to invest a new Scout and an Assistant Scout Leader.

On Friday, I saw all the Beavers give presentations to the whole Colony about their hobbies – very impressive for 6 – 8 year olds to stand in from of 28 people !

Then at Cubs  I saw a display of Morris Dancing, gave out loads of proficiency badges and then 8 Chief Scout Silver Awards (it should have been 10 but 2 Cubs weren’t there that night. Silver is the highest award a Cub can achieve!).

This is not to mention the work I’ve been doing for our Remembrance Day parade and that I’ve heard today that our Beaver Leader has been nominated and shortlisted for two community awards! To be honest, I knew she’d been nominated, because I nominated her – very well deserved!

With more things coming over the horizon, it looks like November and December could be quite busy!

Once a Scout..

Last Friday, I had the privilege to meet with one of our old Scouts. Frank is 90 year old and first joined, as a Cub, in 1930! He and his friend Bill stated out at Longport Cubs and Scouts, but when they were Scouts, the Troop closed and the came ‘up the bank’ to my Troop.

He stayed with us until he was called up to serve in the army in World War 2. However once war had broken out, he and his fellow Scouts helped out as messengers with the ARP and then latterly served in the Home Guard, before serving in the regular army. Sadly, his pal Bill was killed while serving in the Navy and he told me the names of two other Scouts who were also, sadly, killed. I’m just in the process of researching them.

He told me what activities they got up to and they basically did the same as we do now! Hiking, swimming and camping etc.

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The Scouts with Porthill Guides in 1940

He was very pleased to chat about his time in the Scouts and greeted me by shaking my left hand! He said he really enjoyed his time in the Scouts, but it was a shame his Scouting was interrupted by the War.

The other interesting thing about chatting to him was that he can remember the grocer’s shop that my Grandma ran. He told me that Mrs. Wellings (my Great Grandmother) was a nice lady and that he could remember Miss Wellings (Grandma) serving behind the counter! Nice to know they are remembered after all that time.

Interlectual Property

Back in 2008 I wrote about the importance of taking care of any Scouting related internet domains. This has been brought home to me recently as I have been trying to get a website closed!

The three Districts in my area come together to run a Gang Show called ‘Screamline’. This was the first Scout Gang Show to be produced outside of London in 1934. Although it was last produced in 2007 for the Scouting Centenary, it is hoped to be staged again in 2014 for its 80th birthday. When it was announced that it was going to be staged, I thought I’d have a quick look at the website that was set up for it in 2007. It was still running, but on closer inspection, it didn’t look right.

Digging a lot deeper it turned out that the domain expired early last year and wasn’t renewed by the person who had originally registered it as he had, by this time, left Scouting. A few months later, someone else bought the domain, copied the content from the original site, presumably from the Internet Achive, and set it up again but to be used for advertising and spamming on Twitter!

The domain was up for renewal last month and I’d hoped that I would be able to buy it. Sadly, about an hour before it expired, it was renewed.

Basically, the good name of the Gang Show was being potentially damaged by some unknown spammer! I tried to find out who they were, but they’d hidden their identity via an anonymity company in London. However after a phone call to them, they put me in touch with the domain registrar in Canada. I also found out who the hosting company was in America and emailed them both to ask them to take the site down because of the damage to the Show’s reputation and (this is the bit that they take notice of!) the copyright infringement (they’d nicked the old site effectively).

The hosting company totally ignored me, but the company that registered the domain did take the site offline (after about 4 weeks of nagging). Unhappily, a few days later the site came back online with the same advertising stuff, but without any reference to Screamline or any of the actual Gang Show site.

At least the connection between the site and the Gang Show is now broken and the Show’s reputation won’t be associated with spam. It was just a shame I wasn’t able to get the domain back!

This does show that letting domain registrations slip can result in unscrupulous people getting hold of them and using them for dodgy ends and potentially damaging the good name of Scouting.So the message is clear, make sure you keep hold of any domains you register, if you don’t you may not know what they may end up showing!

I haven’t put a link to the site as I don’t think they should get any more traffic to their site. But if you do a search it isn’t hard to find it!

The Olympics and Scouts

To be honest, when it comes to sport, I am not interested (unless it’s an Ashes Test!).

However, I have been very impressed with the Olympic games that have just finished. The performances by some of the athletes have been truly impressive, be it Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Sir Chris Hoy or Hamadou Djibo Issaka, the rower from Niger who had not even rowed a boat until three months before the games! They all took part and gave it there best, some won medals and some didn’t. The winners all came across as genuinely happy to have won and all (the ones I saw at least) gave well spoken and intelligent interviews afterwards (I do hope the overpaid and over self opinionated ‘professional’ footballers are taking note!).

Both the opening and closing ceremonies were really impressive and the whole thing showed what the country can do if it puts its mind to it. A positive experience in a lot of recent negatives.

A lot of praise was, rightly, lavished on the 70,000 volunteers who helped to run the games. Without them, I understand, it wouldn’t have been possible to stage the games.

Naturally a lot of these volunteers had Scouting connections. In fact a lot of Scouts ran with the Olympic torch as it was going round the country. Bear Glrylls even carried it down a zip wire in the North East!

This, of course, is not the first time Scouts have helped with the Olympics in this country (as I’ sure they have wherever the Olympics have been held, with a possible few notable exceptions – 1936 & 2008 for example), they were very involved in the 1948 London games.

In 1948 they carried countries flags and –

..the Boy Scouts’ services were offered to the BOC, who readily took on this squadron of volunteers. They were particularly useful during the opening and closing ceremonies where they performed a variety of conspicuous tasks, were used as distance markers on the marathon and 50km walk as well as running errands and conveying messages, and their skills and presence were made use of wherever possible during the Olympiad.
Scouts were required to sit at the edges of the stadium in front of the crowd during the opening ceremony, and at 4pm release a flock of 7,000 pigeons from 350 large wicker picnic baskets. Taxing as this may have been in the blazing heat it allowed them a prime view of the spectacle, and they were kept busy on tea-reconnaissance missions by the athletes seated behind them. Senior Scouts marched before each competing country holding the designation boards, placards with the each nation’s name on it, but all were a prominent part of the ceremony.
Perhaps most prominent to the overall organisation of the Games was the contribution of the Sea Scouts. These operated separately from the other scouting divisions, and were drafted in to ensure the sailing events ran efficiently. Arriving from all over the country, the boys were installed in the Torquay Scouts’ Headquarters at a cost of 3/6d per day, and were instructed to bring only their basic personal possessions and full uniform. A crew of 200 Senior Sea Scouts were maintained throughout the sailing events, consisting of 50 local scouts from the Torbay area and 150 from further afield. Duties included ferrying competitors and their gear between the shore and yachts, the repairs and adjustments to the rigging of the larger craft that were needed at the end of every day, issuing weather communiqués, and providing spectators with a running commentary.
The Scouts were praised for their efficient and capable contribution to the Games by officials and competitors alike. One admirer described them as the oil of the Olympic wheels.

As can be seen the Sea Scouts were also invaluable!

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Photo and quote from Winning Endeavours

Hopefully now, some of the 70,000 who may have not been volunteering previously will carry on doing so in some other capacities. Hopefully it will be Scouting, but if not in sport or for young people or their local museum, the list goes on. A lot of good things are done by volunteers and the Olympics have proved that.

It would be nice to get, maybe, 10% of the Olympic volunteers as new leaders!

Roll on the Paralympics!

UPDATE 15/08/2012 It’s been announced today that Scouts will “strike flint against steel on Scafell Pike, Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Slieve Donard on 22 August” to light the Paralympic flames! See more here.

A Soldier Writes

I got this message sent to me the other day –

Hello,
I’ll always remember my time with the Cubs and the Scouts because I reckon that it set the foundation for the man I am today.
You may not know it but the time and effort you, (and the other Leaders) put into the Scouts when I was in the Group have definitely played a part in me being the man I am today.
The last time I saw you or had any affiliation with the Scouts is at (my brother’s) wedding in 2008 and I’ve still got the badge that you gave me.
I’m getting out of the Army next year and going to New Zealand with my almost wife. (We get married on the 8th of August).
Before I do bugger off to NZ though, I’d like to give something back to 1st Porthill Scout Group.
I’m a Lance Corporal of the Corps of Royal Engineers and I’ve still got the majority of the kit I use when we go on exercise.
I’ve got two 24 hour ration boxes that the lads use in Afghanistan that I could talk to the Scouts / Cubs through and explain the need for so much food!
Even just turning up in my uniform and being rubbish at football would probably make a lot of kids day, so I’m up for anything.
I know that the Scouts is a dying breed and its a real shame, so anything I can do to inspire more young people to go to scout meetings I will do.
Kind regards

Wow. I’m not posting this as an ego thing, but to show the appreciation of an ex Scout. And one that has served his country in the Army. I guess we must have done something right, especially as after some nights you do feel you don’t do anything right (well I did at least!).

I’ve put him right about Scouting not being a dying breed and I’ve taken him up on his offer. So watch out for a post about his visit.

In the Newspaper

Earlier this month, my local newspaper, the Sentinel, in its Way We Were section, carried an article about my Group’s Scouts who had been in the Troop and had been killed in the First and Second World Wars.

I’d originally written to the paper thinking they put something in the letters section and the result would be some extra info on those Scouts. However, they decided to run it as an actual article, which ended up with me being interviewed and photographed (and they chose the worst photo of me looking particularly gormless!).  The article isn’t available online, but you can read it below.

As a result of the article, someone got in touch to let us know of another ex Scout who killed in WW2 – see here, so he is now added to our Roll of Honour.

I’m now seriously giving consideration to getting our Memorial updated with an extension as we have six more names to go on it! There is potentially a seventh, but I’m having a bit of difficulty confirming the man I have info on is one of our Scouts. Time will tell one this one!

Been a Bit Quiet Recently…….

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Sorry about the lack of updates, but I’ve been a bit busy with other things (mainly 2 small girls!).

However, Scouting hasn’t gone all quiet, in fact I have been quite busy. Two recent highlights have been the Beaver camp that I went on and the Group’s Annual  General Meeting / BBQ / Olympics event.

The Beaver’s camp was a really good weekend and had the theme of Space Camp! Yes, they did dress up as astronauts and even went into space in their own shuttle! It was a brilliant weekend and we had fun too.

Capture

This year for our Annual General Meeting, we decided to do something different.

To mark this year’s Olympics, we thought that we would stage our own games! After having a BBQ lunch the games began. All the Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and parents(!) were split up into 5 teams representing a country from each continent. They competed in track and field events and even completed some swimming events. On dry land. Without a pool! The synchronised swimming event was particularly impressive!

After the games we all went inside for the AGM. Each section made their annual reports to let everyone know what has been going on in the Colony, Pack, Troop and Drum Corps.

As last year’s video report was such a success (so I was told), my Group Scout Leader’s report was again partially a collection of pictures of the activities that members of the Group have taken part in during the last 12 months. This is done so that I don’t repeat what has already been said and I don’t bore people to death!

So here it is –

 

Pi and Scouts

Yesterday, I managed to place my order for a Raspberry Pi. For those of you who don’t know what that it is, it’s –

… a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.

– from their website.

They want kids to get back into using computers to make their own programmes like many of today’s software engineers did when they were kids on the Spectrum or the BBC B. In fact it can be seen as a kind of successor to the Beeb, as the company that produced them, Acorn, were responsible for the ARM architecture the chip on the Pi uses!

When I was looking on their site the other day, I came across this article about Boreatton Scouts who had managed to get hold of one early on and were using it for a robotics competition. They seem to be a very techy Troop and have had a fun time using it.

I’m very impressed with what the Troop are doing with the Pi, not to mention the more ‘normal’ Scouting activities. I think it will be worth keeping an eye on how they get on and maybe this could be something we can do as well.

I wonder if any other Troops are looking at using a Pi in their programmes?

Raspberry Pi is a trademark of the Raspberry Pi Foundation