I LIKE to think my early career in uniform set me up pretty well for later life.
I'm prepared, I'm pretty sure my anchor will hold, and I'm ready for take-off.
When I was growing up - a task I hope to complete shortly - I was signed up by my parents for tours of duty in several branches of the unarmed forces. I was, in chronological order, a Cub Scout, a Life Boy, in the BB and - I still shake my head at this - a member of the Air Training Corps.
My abiding memories of my spell in the Cubs are a) practising tying knots in your shoelaces brought nothing but trouble; and b) throwing bean bags wasn't half the fun the grown-ups made it out to be.
When it came to fun with throwing things, that's when the Life Boys came into their own. Part of the standard-issue kit was a round, Navy-style cap. To a six-year-old besotted with the carnage wrought by Bond villain Oddjob and his skimming, sharpened, steel-brimmed bowler hat, this was just asking for trouble. My parents could never understand how I managed to come home with my hat soaking wet on the inside.
Uniform-wise, the BB was an unmitigated disaster; there were bits of that kit (haversack and strap) that had to be kept white, for heaven's sake. You might as well tell a duck to keep its feet dry.
There was a similar problem with the Air Training Corps, or ATC, as we regulars called it; in this case it was tackety boots that were supposed to be kept black and gleaming. That would have been fine, if you hadn't also been expected to wear the blasted things. A 13-year-old boy, the outside elements and a clean pair of boots are guaranteed to have the most transient of relationships.
I never made it to the Scouts, which is a shame. I might have enjoyed going for all those badges; there's one that looks like it's for consuming a poke of chips. (Update: I've just been told the symbol is actually an Olympic-style flaming torch, and it's the Sports Enthusiast Activity Badge.)
The Scout Association, bless them, have just widened the scope by announcing a new set of badges. Youngsters will soon be able to get badges in such disparate activities as gardening, air and sea navigation, fundraising and, believe it or not, media relations.
Oh, to be a kid again. It seems you can get a Communicator badge if you can spell your name in semaphore or Morse code, and can send an email or text message. That's got to be easier than trying to keep your boots clean.
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