Thursday, October 04, 2007


Dan, over at All That Comes With It started me thinking when he mentioned the Venture Scouts.

You see, I was never in the Scouts, or the Cubs {sniff}, I wanted to be in the Cubs but my dad complained that he'd have to buy me a uniform and it would be a bloody waste of time as I'd only go twice and then pack it in, and he may have had a point because that does sound like something I'd do, still do in fact for I have an aversion to anything organised where someone wants to tell me to behave in a particular way, its why I thank my guardian angel that I have been self employed these last 23 years.

I nearly did join the Cubs one night, our local Cub pack were recruiting and all of my friends were members and had persuaded me to join on the appointed night, but it rained that night and they didn't go, so I never was introduced to the grand poo-bar cub or whatever they call the men who dress like boys to impress.

But I did know some Venture Scouts.

Some years later when I was of late teens and booze sodden, back in the days when a good night was not had unless you had thrown up in the pub car park at least once during the night and then gone back for more beer, back in the days when if you could read the route number on your bus home then you hadn't drunk enough beer and being turfed off the wrong bus miles away from your house was a common occurance, back in those days two of my drinking friends were also Venture Scouts, and they liked adventuring.

So much so that one New Years Eve they suggested that it would be jolly good fun if we went and stayed in a barn way up in the Pennines somewhere, a place called Blake Dean, I shall never forget that placename for in my museum of recollections it also serves as a warning post to never, ever listen to anyone who suggests sleeping out of doors in the depths of winter, ever again, never, ever do it, it is not funny.

I and another poor sucker followed the two venture scouts way up into the Pennines on the afternoon of Dec 30th with promises of pubs in villages that never closed and warm as toast sleeping bags in cosy barn conversions.

They lied.

We arrived at the place called Blake Dean just as the mid winter sun dropped out of the sky, it had been a long time since we had passed another dwelling place and the barn known as Blake Dean stood all on its own on top of the highest hill for miles around, sat on a frozen landscape bereft of any shelter from a wind that arrived to torment us all the way from the arctic without stopping, or slowing down. or warming up, at all.

Blake Dean was just a barn, not a cosy barn conversion, just a barn, and it had no windows to speak of, and no electricity, in fact the only thing that it had was two iron bunk beds.

Without mattresses.
With just boards to lay on.
It was around this time that I started feeling homesick.
And cold.

Later that night after we had hiked across the moors to find a pub and after finding said pub had drunk several firkins of the landlords finest ale, we retunred to Blake Dean as thick heavy snow fell on our unprotected heads for the two venture scouts had not thought to tell us to bring winter clothes, although they had managed to remember to bring their own.

Without undressing I climbed into my meagre sleeping bag and wondered if I would ever wake again without the assistance of one of those Walt Disney Cryogenic machines and as I lay there tugging the top of the sleeping bag around my face so that only my nose would be exposed to the snow that was now drifting in through the hole in the wall where a window had once been I was treated to one of our Venture Scout chums arrive at his bunk stark naked having had a stand-up wash over a bucket of water that he'd had to break the ice off, he was a nut and this confirmed my suspicions.

He glanced at the lack of any clothes around my bunk and asked where they were, "I'm wearing the fekking things" I replied, he called me a soft arse and then went to some lengths to fold his jeans so that they were perfectly straight and creaseless, then laid them on top of the boards that passed for a mattress on his bunk.

"This is an old trick our scout leader taught us" he explained as he lay his sleeping bag over the top of his jeans, "You lay on your jeans all night and it irons them lovely, I'll have lovely ironed jeans in the morning"

"Fook off" I told him as I disappeared totally within my sleeping bag to endure a sleepless night of sub zero temperatures in a barn that may as well not have bothered to provide walls and a roof around and above us.

I didn't sleep all night except for short bursts of exhaustion which lasted a few minutes before the shivering woke me up again, this was by far the worst idea ever, the worst way to spend a New Year celebration that any half wit could have thunk up and I resolved to pack my bag and walk home just as soon as it became light enough.

It soon became light enough and as I battled with the ice around the zip of my sleeping bag I noticed my naked Venture Scouting friend rise from his bunk to go and take a dip in a frozen stream somewhere but before he did he pulled back his sleeping bag with a flourish and a "ta-da" to show me the perfectly ironed jeans underneath.

Except that they weren't perfectly ironed at all, they were screwed up into a ball at the bottom of his bunk, screwed up so tight and now frozen solid so that the four of us tugging on any loose bit that we could find could not re-form them back into anything that looked like it should have originally been a pair of jeans.

Venture Scouts - a crap idea producing idiots who think sleeping in snow is terrific fun and the very best way to spend a New Year, I was best leaving them well alone.


Anonymous said...

Lightweight ;>

Learnt about lots of things in the Venture Scouts (women, drink...) so no complaints on that front.

As for Blake Dean last time I was there it had windows with glass in - though it was cold and isolated.

Gary said...

Windows with glass ?

Its obviously undergone a miraculous transformation since I was there, you'll be telling me it had electricity next.