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Monday, 17th December 2007

mazing how quickly a mood can change, and on what small detail. Actually I might be giving away more than I expect too in this introduction as I am fairly well known for my sudden bouts of depression. Not the glamorous movie star kind, not even the tortured genius kind, more the can't be bothered to lift your arms kind. Everyone gets like that, usually not in the space of a thirty second commercial but it is all a matter of degree. The up-side (and there always is) is the fact the mood can disperse just as quickly and whatever I failed to achieve during the can't lift the arm stage is done in a tenth of the time it would normally take, keeping still long enough to do anything is the trick then.

Either way I am probably a real pain to actually know, although I have the most loyal friends in the world, which is hardly surprising given I must have tempered them like fine steel over the years.

So what has brought all this on?

Well I have changed the room around, I am looking at a different part of the sea (I think it is a better bit) and the fact I have finally looked up the word cynic.

I am not sure how politically correct the Marksman badge is in the UK

I have been called a cynic more times than I care to imagine. I once thought it was pretty cool to be a cynic and then I grew older. By then I was more of a cynic than any teenager could imagine but my cool days were behind me and the days of grumpy old fool were stretching ahead of me.

Well I never really believed I was a cynic and I was right. Turns out a cynic was a member of a Greek philosophy (is there a non-Greek one?) which basically decried all the worldly ambitions of everyone else. Well that is not me, worldly ambition and its temptations is what I live for. The greatest exponent of the bunch spent all his time in the tub, which actually sounds darn pleasant but I am usually out of the tub before the water has finished running into it. In fact by the time it is full I know it is time to get out, life is lived at a furious pace once I do get out of my chair.

Turns out I am more antisocial than cynic so it is a great relief to discover my lifestyle is a matter of choice rather than some slavish compliance to an ancient Greek philosophy.

So next time someone tells you a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. Tell them, 'No, that's a well informed person, a cynic is a member of an ancient Greek philosophical doctrine.' They'll love you for it, either that or try, 'There is only one thing worse than someone quoting Wilde and that is someone misquoting Wilde.' I didn't say I had a lot of friends remember, just loyal ones.

Please nobody write in to tell me about 'cynical', which is a term for an attitude of mind I'm in a good mood, my arms are moving and everything and I don't want it ruined.

So what this all about then. Well when I was younger I never went to Boy Scouts, couldn't see the point. Even then I knew most of my life was going to be spent sitting in a chair, working or watching the television with carpet beneath my feet and a roof over my head. I live close to a port and pretty close to a nuclear power station, two good reasons why nuclear war was going to see me evaporated pretty quickly. There seemed little point in learning how to rub two sticks together to make a fire, pitch a tent in freezing weather conditions or be able to tie two bits of string together in a myriad different ways.

More swimmers drown than non-swimmers. I imagine more people who know how to pitch a tent must freeze to death in one than those that don't.

At the time this was probably thought of as prime cynic behaviour but no, I would rather be enjoying the comforts of the modern world, let the cynics play with their string under a canopy of stars, I was just being anti-social. What did I care when they were all sewing knot-tying badges onto their tunics, probably earning a 'sewing badges on the tunic' badge in the process.

Now, years later, the error of my ways has been brought home to me in the most decisive of manners.

My education begins (and lets face it) ends with cigarette cards.

A goodly number of cigarette card sets have been dedicated to the Boy Scout movement and often the popularity of the subject is reflected in the price.

However I am going to concentrate on the lesser known manufacturer of cigarette cards (or cigarettes for that matter) Co-Operative Wholesale Services. On the reverse of the card they are advertising their Mahogany cigarettes. If that brand doesn't make you want to take up the evil weed I don't know what would.

The card starts off with the founder of the movement; Chief Scout, Lord Baden-Powell. It also mentions there are some 3 million scouts worldwide. It all began with an experimental camp at Brownsea Island 1907 and in 1910 he retired from the army to devoted his time to the emerging organisation.

This card does not follow the format of the other 49 of the series. These shows the badge in question on the top half of the card and the boy scout engaging in whatever activity it represents below. They are mighty colourful and clear cards, very nice actually.

It is not enough to claim to be good at something to get a badge it has to be proven and the reverse of the cards gives you an idea of what has to happen before you can sew that badge on.

Details from Card
Card 3: Debater
Amongst the qualifications for wearing this badge the Debator is required to:-
Know the ordinary rules of debate and the duties and powers of the chairman.
Speak for at least five minutes in course of a debate on subject under discussion.
Have prepared the subject and submitted clear and orderly notes for his speech.
Propose at least two motions, and oppose at least two others in properly conducted debate.

Goodness knows how popular the folk Dancer badge was. For this the person handing out the badge has to be approved by the nearest branch of the recognised Folk Dancing society or give proof that he is qualified.

Card Nine is fun, Interpreter. Where the Scout has to be able to translate in either Esperanto or any language not his native tongue. Esperanto was going to be the language of the future for Europe. Last I heard more people could speak Klingon, perhaps not a success then.

I am not sure how politically correct the Marksman badge is in the UK given our Olympic shooting team in some cases had to hand their guns in because of the latest gun laws in the country. Unlikely a boy scout is going to be shooting rifles then.

One badge that would have got significantly easier with the passage of time is the World Friendship badge. The scout must have an elementary knowledge of geography and the history of the British Empire together with at least 3 foreign countries.

Scout with the most smelly feet left to fend for himself.

Make friends then, but not with too many foreigners. The badge must have got easier now the British Empire has shrunk to Rockall and who knows perhaps Scotland could be studied as one of the foreign countries soon.

It is not all hard work though (although mostly by the look of it) card 30 the Naturalist (not naturist as I first read it thankfully) the idea is you have to keep a daily journal for two of the four seasons. Clever scouts would choose spring and summer in the UK, a matter of a few weeks work at most.

That would be a badge for the less physical of the Scouts and the Bookbinder badge would be another one designed for the likes of me in mind, so to card 39, 'Reader.' 18 books have to read within a 12 month period, those books presented to the examiner who will examine by viva voce (see card 9). The reverse of the card does not mention exactly what the books should be on.

Just as this page was going to press (Sept 1998) the death of John Wilkinson was reported, having attained the age of 101. He was one of the first boy scouts. Also in Sept 1919 he took part in the first ever Scoutmasters training course (having set up the 1st Blackpool Scout Troop in 1908) held at Gilwell Park, Essex. At the end of his course he was presented with the first ever Wood Badge by Baden-Powell. (I bet that was tricky to sew on)
His love for the scouts continued and in 1992 attained the highest award for good service when he got the Silver Wolf.
Naturally this is my tribute to the fellow.

Card 37, Plumber, repairing pipes (lead) and understanding the hot and cold water system are requirements for this one. No mention of the 'Sorry can't come out for at least three days.' or the head shake, hands on hips pose followed by 'This is a major job this is.' Obviously skills attained latter at a higher level of plumbing ability. Demand to see your plumbers qualification before letting him through the door, if he has not got his badge sewn to his jacket he just is not good enough. Of course if your plumber is a woman due to the fact boy scouts were for boys they are unlikely to have the badge. Ask to see her 'brushing her hair' badge she got from the Girl Guides, it is a similar qualification. Now girls are allowed into the Scouts but they still have separate toilet blocks. Good Lord are things still sacred.

Card 44 is the Stalker which seems nothing to do with having wild staring eyes and unkempt hair, a desire to wear ex-army surplus with a peculiar urge to follow Jodie Foster which is a bit of a shame as I had a chance for that badge, would have looked good on my battle jacket.

Card 47, Tailor, sewing is needed for this so obviously a badge you get after a number of other badges have remained on your clothing for a suitable period of time.

All these badges and no sign of a badge for doing knots. My world is in tatters.

Hang on whats this my dictionary has more to say on the subject of cynic. Oh dear this is a blow, I am anti-social and a cynic afterall. My arms they are feeling heavy, dif..e..cult to typ....