Gone Home

I’ve not written anything for a while. Not that there hasn’t been any Scouting in my life, just nothing out of the ordinary or exciting / interesting to report.

I was thinking of putting down a few lines today about the death of our ex Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and about some of the nasty, spiteful things people have written online and linking into the Scout law that says “A Scout is Friendly and Considerate”.

However, I’ve changed my mind due to a death a lot closer to home. Ken Johnson, who I have known since I was about 8 or 9 years old, passed away this morning. He’d been in hospital as he’d been receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer and he’d had an operation two weeks ago. Sadly, despite initial good progress, his organs started shutting down and he died today.

Ken had been a Cub in our Pack in the 1950s when his father Amos, was Akela. Incidentally, I’d been scanning some old photos this afternoon and had a couple of Amos and was intending to email them to Ken.

When in 1983, our Scout Troop was restarted, Ken was Assistant Scout Leader, becoming Scout Leader in 1986 when Stephen Padin left us to work for Caltech in California (the commute back for Scout meetings was too much apparently!), Ken became Scout Leader and stayed in this role until about 1990. He remained a supporter of the Group until his death.

There are few of my Scouting memories from this time that do not have Ken in them. From camping and sampling Ken’s home brewed brown ‘pop’, to him driving the minibus and getting us blown off a camp by the tail end of a hurricane(!), him ‘repairing’ me when I tried to saw off my fingers with a bow saw or when I put my hand through a glass window. Then there was his ever present pipe, his deafness and his Renault car that didn’t so much go ‘vroom’, but ‘click, click click’.

He was a kind man, but had a bloody minded streak which meant if he believed he was right, he was!

I last saw him at the Mothering Day service at Church a couple of weeks before Easter, and despite the fact he was due back in to hospital, seemed to be in good spirits. We had a quick chat and I wished him well for his hospital stay (apparently he was please I’d wished him well) and that was it. He was supposed to be out and about by this week and I’m sure I would have seen him soon. Sadly that’s not to be.

Hopefully I’ll be able to go to his funeral to represent the Group (and my Mum & Dad, who’ve known him for years, and are away).

RIP Ken, you’ll be missed.


Goodbye to an Old Friend

I was reading one of Scoutmaster Jerry’s recent posts the other day and it contains the news that PTC Media is closing its doors.

PTC hosted a number podcasts made by Scouters in the USA and was run by Cubmaster Chris. His show went out live on a Sunday night for a number of years.

I think I first came across PTC early in 2008 and the podcasts and the people who stopped by the forums gave me an insight how Scouting works in the US. One upshot of listening to the PTC shows was that in late 2008, I started my own podcasts which I did for 20 episodes over the course of a year. Sadly having a baby meant that I didn’t really have the time to produce any more.

And I guess that’s the reason Chris is calling it a day, other things in life take priority and it’s time to move on. Jerry says that the shows will be staying online so they can still be accessed. I guess some shows will keep going (Jerry’s), others won’t.

I always enjoyed the shows and did participate in a couple. I was featured in one of Jerry’s shows where he recorded a chat we had about the differences between Scouting in the UK and US and I actually won a competition run on the Leader’s Campfire show. I got a prize for that, but did feel somewhat guilty because of the extra postage they had to spend just to send it to me!

On a couple of occasions when I didn’t have work the next day, or I’d just fed a baby, I would listen live to Cubmaster Chris’ show ‘An Hour a Week’. It went out live at 9.00pm Texas time, which works out at 3.00am the following morning here. I think people thought I was mad!

So thanks to PTC and the friends I made through it – Chris, Jerry, Shawn, Steve, Jeff, the Misses and Buttons to name a few!

PTC Media is dead, long live PTC Media!

The BSA Discusses

This week it has been announced by the Boy Scouts of America that they are discussing the removal of their restriction on homosexuals becoming Leaders.

As with our own consultation on allowing atheists to become Leaders here in the UK, it’s a very contentious issue and there will be a lot of arguments on both sides of the discussion.

But hopefully, in MY opinion, it will lead to adults being able to do Scouting in the US no matter what their sexual orientation.

However, I’m not a member of the BSA, so take a look at what Clarke Green has to say. As usual, he makes his point in a very eloquent and sensible way.

What do you think?

Climbing Everest

In 1988 I climbed Everest. Well part of it. On a scaffolding tower. In Stoke.

I think I’d better explain.

1988 was the year Venture Scouting celebrated its 21st birthday. If I remember correctly, throughout the year there were a series challenges, 1 per month for each Unit to do. October’s was the Everest Challenge which was for the Ventures to climb the height of Everest. My Unit, as part of the District did this by climbing a scaffolding tower that had been set up at Trentham Gardens for this event. We did in shifts of 4 people climbing (and descending and climbing again) and 4 on the safety ropes.

Everest is just over 29,000 feet high and I believe we completed the challenge. I think we might have done the challenge as a sponsored event.


What brought this to mind was that the family and I went to Trentham this morning and wandering round triggered the memory. So this evening I went to my photo albums to find the photos I took. However, for some reason, I didn’t actually take any – one of the few Scouting events I’ve been involved in where I never took a photo.

If anyone has any memories of the 21st birthday celebrations, please add a comment.

The Cubs Cook for Me!

One of the perks of being a Group Scout Leader is that as well as all the dull stuff (paperwork etc.), I get to do some nice things as well.

Last night, the Cub’s prepared a meal for invited guests to gain their Chef’s badge. The specially invited guests, me – Group Scout Leader, John – Assistant Scout Leader & Lisa – John’s wife, were treated to a starter of pate or soup, a main course of Cumberland sausages, potatoes, carrots and broccoli and a sweet of home made apple pie (actually made at the hall that night!) and custard. As well as cooking, the Cubs served the meal and provided tea to drink.


We agreed that we’d had a very enjoyable meal and it was very well cooked and presented.

Congratulations to the Cubs who earned their badges.

It was also very noticeable that the weather had turned for the worse and we were having a very heavy snowfall, but yet most of the Cubs turned up!

I have to admit that despite the heavy snow, the walk home was very pleasant!

2013 Census

Each year, every Scout Group, District and County has to collate various bits of information (mainly numbers of people in each Group etc.) so that the Scout Association knows how many Scouts there are in the UK and so they know how much to charge us for capitation fees.

Our Census for this year has now been completed and we have 88 members of the Group this year, which is 1 more than last! Through the past year there has probably been more people in the Group, but a lot of Scouts have recently left for Explorers! Of course with a lot of Scouts come a high capitation cost. If I’ve got my sums right(!), its going to cost the Group an eye watering £2464 this year! However, Scouting is very cheap to parents when compared with, say, football clubs or dancing schools!

It’s great that we have so many in the Group (the most ever I think) and this is testament to the great programmes run by all the Leaders for the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts!

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.


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


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.


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.


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!