Cub Club (Part 1)

I was a cub scout. Twice.

The first time, I was walking back from some errand with my father, when we passed a half-derelict community hall - a single-room building, maybe 5x5x20 meters, a relic from a time when the upper middle class went to church in the morning, then chess societies, knitting circles and local choirs in the evening.

Outside was a short, thin man of about 60, in a beige uniform decorated with scattered sewn-on badges. He smiled cheerfully through a greying moustache, and affected an avuncular, Kris Kringle-like manner, which I thought at the time must be calculated to put young children at their ease.

It had always puzzled me that adults lied so transparently to children.

Somehow, he and my father got talking, and it turned out he ran the local cub scout troupe - which met every Thursday evening in the very building behind us.

He said I should join, my father thought it was an excellent idea, and I tried to be diplomatic about my complete antipathy to the idea.

He said no I really really should join, because...something something something, it would be fun and jolly good for my character or something somehow. My father said yes I'd definitely be at the next meeting. I stared off into the middle distance, waiting for them to stop.

And so, after a few days of Mother dragging me round the clothes shops to spend far to much money on a uniform I had no interest in wearing, there came Thursday evening.

This consisted of:

  • Inspection: I think eight boys standing in a row while Mr Moustache pretended to check our uniforms for creases or stains

  • Pledging: The oldest cub haltingly reciting an archaic promise to serve queen and country, while we all performed an occult-looking three fingered salute.

  • Sport of some kind: Most likely four-a-side soccer, which involved me standing around for half an hour, making sure I was never anywhere near the ball.

  • Break: Orange squash and biscuits, and the only time when the boys showed any sign of animation, chatting about TV shows and the then-new phenomenon of home computer games.

  • No idea: Maybe more sport, or an improvised lecture from an adult. I've a vague feeling there was prayer involved at some point.

  • Some kind of finishing ceremony, then going home.

  • I went a few more times. I don't recall learning the names of anyone there, though I remember a slightly overweight woman who did all the physical work - setting up for soccer or table tennis, making and serving the orange squash drinks...

    ...and on one occasion treating me for an inexplicable nosebleed. She taught me that it was a myth that one should tilt one's head back to stop a nosebleed, and that actually one should tilt forward. I later learned that both are myths.

    I always had the impression that she was constantly telling herself that her duties weren't the boring, demeaning waste of time they seemed, and that she was keeping up a noble tradition of...something something something.

    After six weeks or so, my parents finally realised I was never going to develop an enthusiasm for the scouts - or indeed stop loathing every moment of it. So they stopped trying to persuade me I already loved it.

    But, as with bad marriages and profitable movies, the end wasn't quite the end.

    1 comment:

    1. No camping trips? No helping old ladies across the street? My brothers were in the Scouts. I refused to give up my free time on the weekends. School was all ready taking up most of the week, & I'll be damned before I sign up for more rules & regulations from authority figures!