Shortly after we had moved house after the war my brother and I were encouraged to join the Boys Brigade. Curiously this youth activity preceded Baden Powell’s Scouts and was perhaps his inspiration. The Boys Brigade did all the usual useful activities in learning to tie knots, signalling to each other with flags by the semaphore system, cooking over a campfire and most important being in a band that played discordant music to the dismay of local residents when we marched around the streets on a Sunday morning. Both my brother and I played the side drums or snare drums because that involved little but keeping in time with the bass drum and not dropping our sticks when marching!
Our group met once a week in a Congregational Church hall and unlike the later Scouts were encouraged to attend the occasional services there when the congregation saw fit to recognise our existence.
The highlight of the year for the group was of course to go camping. Now this filled me with no great pleasure as for some time my brother had wanted a tent to camp out in the back garden and he got his wish. An Army surplus two man tent was acquired and unlike tents of today had no bottom, you were expected to provide your own waterproof ground sheet; the tent flaps were tied up with cords rather than zips and the dimensions generally were minimum and probably designed for hobbits.
My brother quickly arranged a sleep out and I was encouraged to accompany him. The ground was hard even on our lawn in the back garden. I was cold and miserable and my brother seemed to have no intention of going to sleep being satisfied to flick the torch we had on and off in my face. The snacks we took in with us were soon eaten and after a sleepless night I welcomed the predawn light to slink back into the house and return to my own bed for an hour or two.
My camping experience didn’t end there as a camping weekend was organised by the Boys Brigade properly supervised by the Captain and other minor officers who clearly knew what they were doing. I went along this time because my brother couldn’t make it and I thought there might be a good side to camping after all. We trekked a few miles out of town and camped in a clearing in a wood at a site prearranged with a local farmer. It started quite well with the pitching of tents, the campfire and the meal of sausages with everybody singing and laughing. It went downhill very quickly after that. It started to rain. By the time we retreated to the tents we were already soaked and in that humid atmosphere boys being boys we transferred that wet to everything in the tent as well. Sleep came no easier for me this time even though James Wilkins my tent mate was in the arms of Morpheus while I was still crawling into my damp pyjamas.
Once again I was up before dawn and in the drizzle outside helped to make an ineffectual camp fire with other sleepy heads. My whole being felt as though it had been smoked like a kipper. The fun and games planned for the day were not curtailed on account of the continuing rain. I did everything by rote or perhaps it was by order along with my other flagging friends. That evening’s meal was less jolly; everyone was tired, dirty, wet and miserable and we had yet another day to endure. This was supposed to be a fun prequel to a whole week away later that summer with lots of other troupes of happy Boys Brigade campers. I never went.
When the Lioness and I first got married the subject of holidays often had the words camping and caravan come up but never ever was I persuaded to let that interfere with my intention to only to go on holiday in accommodation which was infinitely better than that experienced at home.