Sunday, May 30 at 5.45 I roused my eleven-year old son and keen Sea Scout for an important rendezvous. His unit, 12th Halifax, had been invited to put on a kayaking and canoing display for the Chief Scout, Bear Grylls (actually, he’s called Michael) at Reva Reservoir, near Bingley, West Yorkshire.
As the scouts had to be on the water by 8.00, and we also had to pick another scout up en route – also my son is not a morning person, I prepared him the night before by telling him how his grandfather had paraded in front of Robert Baden-Powell at Pontefract Racecourse when he was 12 in 1933. Granddad died last year and he was very close to my sons, so I thought this would head-off any early morning protests.
In the event, he got up without a protest, dressed quickly and we left the house with sailing gear, vacuum flasks and jam sandwiches by 6.10. Collecting his friend on the way, I dropped them at Reva at 7.15. Parents couldn’t stay on site and a rather officious scout leader told me to return at 9.30. Strange, as the reason for Bear’s visit was to drum up adult volunteers. That aside, I went to Bingley where I attended the 8.00 Communion service and wandered empty streets before setting off back to Reva.
Bear, who was on a tour of Northern England, arrived by helicopter and spoke to scouts and leaders, including my son who was kayaking. Bear reached down to shake his hand, whereupon my son told him: “my granddad marched in front of Lord Baden-Powell at Pontefract Racecourse”. “That’s great” Bear replied.
It certainly was – my son isn’t lost for words and speaks easily with adults; I know dad would’ve been so proud of him. After all, he would’ve just been a face in the crowd on that parade, but his grandson spoke to the Chief Scout in person.
Scouting was vitally important for my dad and scouts of his generation. He grew up during the Great Depression. Money was tight in many families and scouting allowed them to get out of the city and explore the countryside. If Bear's tour drums up more volunteers, at a time when we're seeing public sector funding cuts, then the early morning will have been worth it.