Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The darker side of the Cub Scout movement

When I was eight, a great-uncle offered me the princely sum of 50p to join the local Cub Scouts. I'd never had that much money before and was sorely tempted, but I couldn't bear the idea of having to wear a silly uniform and take part in team activities. I had enough of that at school.

I politely declined and never heard from him again.

The following year my best friend joined and, although I still had no urge to be a Cub, I was rather jealous of his badges. We spent rainy afternoons in his attic bedroom, poring over the Cub Scout handbook and I secretly yearned to have a Scientist badge. I owned a chemistry set and had performed several life-threatening experiments. Surely I would qualify?

In the end I resisted temptation. The Cub Scout movement seemed far too goody-goody to be any fun.

However, I was unaware of these badges, as featured in the Ladybird Book of Cub Scouts:

1. The Obscene Telephone Call badge:

Normal heavy breathing achieves the standard bronze award. Extra marks are given for reversing the charges and asking questions about the colour of underwear.

2. The Narcotics Cultivation badge:

This highly prestigious badge takes the Cub Scout through the whole process, from successfully cultivating a plant in secret, to refining it in the laboratory and selling the finished product to members of the public.

3. The Urban Degeneration Badge:

To qualify for this award, candidates are required to distribute litter around residential areas without being detected. Later, they will offer to remove the rubbish as part of a lucrative bob-a-job exercise.

4. The Pornography badge:

This badge is awarded to Scouts who can find disgarded pornographic material in parks and woodlands. Since the advent of the internet, this once common skill is increasingly rare.

5. The Abduction badge:

This badge requires the abduction of at least five children and one adult for a minimum of two hours.

6. The Church Desecration badge:

Armed with nothing more than the Ladybird book What To Look For Inside a Church, these young cubs can steal valuable medieval artefacts without arousing suspicion. Their theft of a Tudor silver chalice raised enough money to pay for plane tickets to the 97th International Scout Jamboree in Oregon.

I apologise to Ladybird books and the artist John Berry, but I can't look at their idyllic illustrations without thinking of a darker alternative, particularly when they depict a fine, upstanding organisation like the Boy Scout movement.

As for the Girl Guides...


JRSM said...

There's a money-spinning book/blog deal in this, surely, for the Big Book of Remixed Ladybirds or some such. The Friday Project needs to come calling.

Brett said...

I was a Cub, and thrilled to be let in at the age of 7½. I was crazy about the uniform, (ours were blue).

But I was indifferent to the badge thing. The American Cubs had, like the Scouts, an American Indian flavor, so you got "arrow head" patches for doing things. The ranks were Wolf, Bear, Lion (?), and Webelos. I managed Bear.

I moved on to the Boy Scouts, but I didn't last long. I think the deal-breaker was having to earn the privilege of carrying a pocket knife. There was a card you had to earn, and corners would be snipped off if you abused your knife. If all four corners were snipped, you would lose your knife.

This was an outrage. For a Southern boy, a pocket knife was a birthright. You didn't ask for permission, Boy Scouts be damned!

Scriptor Senex said...

After your posts I'll never look at a Ladybird book the same again. Wonderful!

Tim Atkinson said...

For more Ladybird 'Joe Orton-isms' you should take a look at Jenny Smith's 'Cigarette Diaries'!

Anonymous said...

Do a poster/print of some of these - it'd be great, and am sure would sell here. Made in Hastings in particular..
And it does remind me of snogging the Scouts all night at the ill thought out village night hike combining Guides and Scouts.

Jim Murdoch said...

Not that I was in any way keen to join - me being the antisocial bugger that I am - but one thing I knew all too well was that if I did join the Scouts I'd be slagged to death by the kids at school.

Steerforth said...

I'd love to do a remixed Ladybird book, but I suppose there'd be copyright issues. What a shame.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Well hey, if they can do 'cover versions' of records...

A most enjoyable romp in the woods Steerforth! Thanks.

Unknown said...

so funny - brightened my day - thank you