Kandersteg – 1986

The running since the marathon has been sporadic (at best). I am listening to my body and drinking plenty of wine and watching the world cup.

With the world cup I find myself gravitating towards either the English or the Germans – not that I am a great follower of team sports but Le Tour doesn’t kick off for another few weeks. I find the gymnastics of the southern Europeans footballers all a bit too much – what would they look like in an aid queue for food?

Anyway, in less than 3 weeks I’ll be driving through Switzerland with a brutal hangover and a car full of children and a long suffering wife on my way to the little village of Brisighella in Italy for my summer holidays.

The last time I was in Switzerland with a hangover was in 1986 – I was 15 years old and on a 2 week scout camp in the lovely village of Kandersteg. I look back on my time as a scout and wonder how an organisation that was so dedicated to my moral and physical corruption could now evoke such warm memories, and more that that, could pass itself off to my parents as an organisation that would build my character.

To put Scout Camp ’86 in context you must first understand what Scouting in 1980’s Ireland meant to people.

To some it was a proto-facist right wing Catholic organisation for boys where they learned how to live in little military packs and cook and fend for themselves and live under canvas.  This was generally implied and might have been understood by our parents. Still, there was plenty of junior facists in my past.

For others it was a one way ticket to hell. I was in this (scout) camp.

Back then the scouting motto was ‘be prepared’ – the sort of thing you’d say to someone as you handed out the rubber johnnies.

Now the motto is ‘Scouting – living the adventure’. I like to think I embodied this motto!

In 1980’s Ireland all you had to do was to join the scouts, go to mass once a week, and hey-presto! you were given a free pass to smoke, drink, shoplift and read porn (read is the wrong verb, I know) to your heart’s content. You also got to to play with knives, chop down trees and do things that would be considered child abuse these days.

Kandersteg ’86 was to be my last scout camp so I was one of the more senior scouts on the trip (At 15? these days kids can’t cross the road at 15). We left Ireland on a Funtrek Bus (the better way to get away) and made it to Rosslare Port. From here we sailed to Le Harve on the St. Kilian (my only memory of the boat is that it had no stabilisers so it bobbed about like a cork in the sea – this lead to the classic ferry smell – diesel, chip fat, alcohol and vomit) and from there onto a tented village outside Paris.

Back then a tented village outside Paris was the equivalent to the Ritz for us. The place had beds in the tents and we didn’t have to put the tents up.

This was where the fun started.

We stocked up on stubbies of beer and all the Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes we could afford. The plus to being on the continent was that if you were caught with beer/fags/porn you couldn’t be sent home. As we were finishing up after this trip they couldn’t do much to us anyway.

the next day we hit the road again and rocked up in Kandersteg late in the evening.

The following 2 weeks consisted of buying Rambo knives, drinking beer, listening to Rum, Sodomy and the Lash by the Pogues, smoking cigars (the Stuyvesants were getting too expensive), shoplifting gifts for the parents and sitting in a bus like a bunch of Saga-louts been shown the heritage of Switzerland (a waste of everybody’s time if the truth be known).

Christ, when I think about it now it sounds like a dream holiday. You even got to shit outside.

We came home from our 2 weeks in the Alps ready for a life as paid up members of the human race.

I think my mother still has the fridge magnet cuckoo clock.


2 responses to “Kandersteg – 1986

  1. Rum, Sodomy and the Lash!! The greatest album of all time. Did I tell you about when I saw the Pogues in Sheffield in December???? Feckin’ magnifique. Shane was so good he was god-like.

  2. Being an ex-scout from the 80’s myself you brought back many memories….but as well as being in packs/patrols doing drills, badges etc we also played lots of soccer at our meetings. Soccer is a loose term…. More correctly described as…’who can kick the shins off our leader first is the winner’ – great for team building not so great for the troop leader!!!!

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