When I was 12

Now it is 1982 and I’m 11 1/2.

I’m back in Mr. Deegan’s class at school and as I’m generally outgoing I’m getting on great.

In the summer of 1982 the first real adult event of my young life happened.

It wasn’t a girlfriend (another 7 year wait there)

It wasn’t a big set of balls (still waiting for that one)

It wasn’t finding a giant stash of porn (only 2 more years to go on this one).

No, it was much more important than any of these.

It was 2 weeks of scout camp in a wet field in Ireland in the summer of 1982.

I was out for a run today and I was trying to come up with a simple explanation of what it was like. I thought it was a bit like a boarding school except there was no matron to go running to. I thought it was a bit like a prison camp but in a prison camp you had visitation rights from the outside (and you had a roof over your head).

Here are some anecdotes to give you an indication of how it worked.

We went away as two scout troops – the 6th and the 47th Cork. Think of the 6th as a group of mummy’s boys who had hankies in their pockets and combed their hair.  I was in the 47th. We wore parkas and had mullets. We wore loafers with quarter irons.

We were broken down into 4 patrols. Each patrol had between 5 – 8 scouts. The two most senior scouts (a 15 & 16 year old) were the Patrol Leader and the Assistant Patrol Leader. The next most senior scout was called the senior bum (about 14 years old). Everybody else was a bum.

I was 11. I was a bum.

Guess which one of these was our emblem?

 

Radical Youth Organisation of the 20th C

Radical Youth Organisation of the 20th C

 

We slept in an Icelandic tent.

So named because of the temperature inside them at all times.

 

Notice the warm groundsheet? exactly

We got to our field in Co. Clare and spent the first two days recreating civilisation with sisal, timber from the local forest and a bit of mud. Think Ray Mears but making wash handbasins, clothes hangars, dressers, elevated tripod dining tables and even little gates to our versions of suburbia.

The ink blot test would have nothing on this.

After that we had to spend two weeks in a middle world somewhere between living like a crusty and a reject from the Hitler Youth. It was all marching around in uniforms or wearing the same pair of jeans for two weeks.  All the while trying to dodge the random violence metered out by teenage boys to each other.

At 11 there was no one left to pass the thump onto.

The only day-release we got from this ‘camping holiday’ was to go on scheduled day hikes to one of the adjoining towns or villages.

Hands up when the following seems like a bad idea:

We’ll send a group of 11-16 year old chain smoking boys out on a random walk to a town 5 or 6 miles away that they’d never been to before. There, they will sit in a pub for the afternoon and then walk home. to a tent. In a wet field.

But they’re smart enough not to walk. they’ll hitch a lift off a complete stranger.

And we’ll make sure there are no mobile phones.

We loved it. (escaping, that is)

Our usual plan was to make it to whatever little town we had to get to. Find a shop and get some real food (generally a packet of raspberry creams) and then find an open pub and sit there drinking lemonade, eating crisps and smoking fags while we played free games of space invaders by un-plugging and plugging-in the machine for free games.

Looking back it almost seems enjoyable.

But it wasn’t. It was shite and I’d never send one of my kids there.

At 11.

By the time you’re 13 it’s a great laugh and I’d definitely send them on a scout camp then.

The only thing about an intense experience like this is you get to remember all the songs from the summer of 1982.

Remember these anyone?

 

And all of this was taking place while Mrs. T was sailing south to ‘give it to the Argies’

 

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