Monday, 17 August 2009

The Curse Of The Ging-Gang-Goolies

OK – so I urgently need your help. After the success of my first-ever speech at Toastmasters I have just found out that I have secured a space on the Humorous Speech Competition next week. So I’ve come up with a list of ideas and jokes to include and I need feedback on any that you think are too flabby or could be improved. Some of the really bad taste or daft jokes WILL remain in regardless, coz I’m stupid like that. Please bear in mind that much visual and audible bits will be added.

I may add translations here and there for the inter-continental audience and will refer back to any bits at the end:

“I suppose that every British boy wants to help his country in some way or other. There is a way, by which he can do so easily, and that is by becoming a Scout”

Master Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters, most welcome guests: tonight I would like to talk to you about my time as a member of the Cub Scout movement and what that experience taught me, however you will be glad to know that there will be absolutely no jokes whatsoever about going out at night and scouting for boys (1) (pause) apart from that one obviously

As you may already know the Scout movement was started by Robert Baden-Powell after he was impressed by the actions of local boys in the battle of Mafeking. Baden-Powell was a bit of a strange person though and, in his book on scouting, said “Every boy aught to learn how to shoot and obey orders, else he is no more good when war breaks out than an old woman” – clearly he hadn’t met any of the handbag-wielding grannies round our way.

Baden-Powell was a very severe man who believed in the equality of all men: he believed this to the extent that it was rumoured that he wore underpants in the bath to stop him looking down on the unemployed (2)

But so it was that late one evening over cigars and sherry that Baden-Powell cleared his throat and announced his idea to his friends:

(CLEARS THROAT) “I say old chaps: I’ve had this rather spiffing idea!” (3)

Now his friends had long ago realised that Baden was a loonie, but decided to humour him and ask what the idea was:

“Well we take groups of young boys out into the middle of nowhere and teach them to tie each other up: the best one gets a badge”
“Err…I’m not sure that IS a good idea Baden…Social Services might have something to say about it”
“No no, it’s all perfectly legitimate: look – I’ve even got a song, it goes “Ging gang goolie goolie goolie wotcha…” (4)

Now: I joined the Cubs in Nineteen Mumble-mumble and the first thing you get is a uniform. You get grey socks and green garters that look like a snake’s tongue. Presumably the idea is to ward off anacondas – but it does mean you get nibbled to death by mongoose. Then you have grey shorts, a green jumper and finally, and most importantly, a neckerchief and woggle. (pause) ooh the hours I spent trying to lasso my rabbit! (mimes lassoing the rabbit and rabbit being caught) MEEP! MIP! MIP! (sound of Rabbit) No wonder it used to wee over my hand.

Once you had your uniform you were introduced to the leaders of the group – but we were never allowed to use their real names, because each of the adults took on the name of a character from the Jungle Book like Akaela and Baloo. Now, I don’t know what this was like in other groups – but our leaders took this so seriously that if they saw you down the local shops they would start using these names so as not to shatter the illusion:

“Hello Bagheera”
“Hello Shere-Khan, how the devil are you?”
“Not bad, not bad (PAUSE) I say, have you seen Mowgli recently?”
“Yes: she’s over there buying tampons”

Now every meeting would start the same way: you’d form a circle around Akaela, drop to your haunches (demonstrates) and shout: “Akaela: we’ll do our best!”

Akaela would then look around at us with a gaze that could melt plastic and demand: “Cubs: do your best”

…but we just said we would…

Now Akaela was probably younger than I am now, but back then we thought she was ancient and probably deaf, so we would dutifully reply “We will do our best”

Of course: when Baden-Powell started the cub-scout meeting he had high ideals of teaching boys army skills – but all we were interested in was collecting badges. Every time you achieved something in Cubs you got a badge to sew onto the side of your sleeve and when both sleeves were full you were supposed to transfer the old ones to your sleeping bag…(pause) only no one bothered to explain this to my mum and instead she sewed endless extensions onto the sleeves of my jumper…(pause) I ended up looking like a monster from Doctor Who or something.

We were very keen on collecting badges – couldn’t get enough of it and it became a competition to outdo every other scout group…in fact I believe that I’m correct in saying that we were the only cub scout group in the country to get the badge for Botchelism (pause). You should have seen the picture on that one.

Once you started getting badges you also had to progress in rank, and the group was divided into smaller groups of six with a Seconder and Sixer in command. The role of Sixer came with absolutely no responsibilities and no authority and was designed so that even the most inept boy could get the role if he stayed with the group long enough. I was 27 when I got mine.

So aside from collecting badges we would also go camping to Difficult Hill. Now Difficult Hill was a patch of land that our scout group co-owned…I say land, but what it actually was was four wooden huts, a rusty climbing frame and a swamp.
During the day we would arrive, set up our tents in the area where we were least likely to drown in the night and then play games like British Bulldog (5) – where the aim of the game was to kill the other team in the shortest time possible

Then at night we would get around the camp fire and sing songs until the early hours like “You’ll never get to heaven in Akaela’s Van” – well, not according to Miss Jones the Scout mistress anyway…

Mostly though we were involved in church activities and in fundraising to build a road to Difficult Hill and for other charities, such as Feed The World. This meant doing sponsored walks, helping at bring and buy sales and taking part in Bob A Job week (6)

Bob A Job week was when all the cubs would go around to their neighbour’s houses and offer to do small tasks for 10p: which was considered great value, because if you haggled you could get your whole house re-plastered for 10p.
(mimics someone who has hired a bob-a-jobber) “Get a move on with that grouting boy!” (7) My mum’s kitchen extension would never have been built without Bob-a-Job week.

We did so well at fundraising that our cub scout group earned a Blue Peter badge (8). Literally. One (pause) Blue Peter Badge (pause) between sixty of us: I saw it once from a distance of forty yards – and that was it.

So what did I gain from my time in cubs? What skills do I take with me through life? When foreign powers invade will the authorities remember my Chess players badge and call for my assistance? When Aliens land in a secret location will I be chosen as part of the delegation on the basis of my Orienteering, stage one?

Frankly no…but have no fear, for when the bombs start flying I will be there, ready and waiting, to start a good old fashioned sing-song as the mushroom cloud goes up!

Master Toastmaster – thank you.

(1) “scouting for boys” can now be suggestive in the UK as to looking to pick up young boys for sex.
(2) Underpants in bath – not my joke
(3) Spiffing – old style slang for excellent
(4) Again this whole conversation is shamelessly ripped off from an old Jasper Carrott (Birmingham comedian)
(5) British Bulldog – a particularly violent team game where opposing teams would link arms and attempt to stop “spies” getting through the line via any means possible (IE bashing them to the floor with all your weight). Health and Safety regulations would never allow it now.
(6) Bob a job – a “bob” is out-of-date slang for 10 pence in British money, but the term was still used in relation to Bob A Job week.
(7) Grouting – term to do with tiling. Don’t ask me what.
(8) Blue Peter – legendary children’s TV series which was big on fundraising – it should probably be mentioned here that former BP presenter Peter Duncan is the current Chief Scout of the Scouting movement.

NB: if anyone has a better title than “The Curse Of The Ging-Gang-Goolies” please do let me know! Comments, as always, appreciated.


English Rider said...

Can you talk about scouting without saying "Be Prepared" or "Scouts' Honor" once?
Baden Powell was knighted or Lorded or something and he had those fabulous, enormous hats.
Great subject and a fun read. I am really impressed to be in the presence of one who achieved Blue Peter recognition. Valerie Singletons' double sided sticky back plastic brought many a craft project to life.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

English - thanks. I read this to my cats last night and a) it ran to just under 7 minutes (the maximum time) - but to allow time for the (surely) inevitable laughs i may have to cut it a bit, b) the cats weren't impressed and ran off!

I also did a bit of research and found that Peter Duncan's tenure ended in 2009 and he was replaced by Bear Grylis - the survival TV chap who was famously reported to have cheated on his programmes by staying in hotels. What sort of message does that send to our kids?

Just out of interest - where did you actually buy sticky back plastic? I never could find any.

Argent said...

Plenty of laughs here/ Not convinced about the tampon joke though, might be a bit strong for the audience. Sticky-backed plastic is great stuff my mum used a wood-grain effect one for covering an old table, looked great!

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

it's funny - i looked at that joke again and surplanted Viagra and it seemed perfectly acceptable.

How come one is acceptable and not the other? Rampant sexism - that's how!

the watercats said...

lol... difficult hill!... lol!
Some good gags in there mush.. my mum used to be an Akela, and I joined the brownies once for about, two sessions, I was in imps.. and spookily two of my best friends a while back had been in imps too... makes you wonder about the deeper cultish inclinations of these things... chanting round campfires, wearing ritualistic clothing, naming of leaders in heathen ways, the swearing of oaths.. ooooooohhhhhhhwwwwwwww.... *shudders..