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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Return visit to the first place I ever cooked a meal: on a pile of rocks in Derbyshire!

Nostalgia is like learning to reverse a car: it is all about looking back. On Monday last I went back to my teenage years favourite haunt. No, not a derelict Yoof Centre in the middle of Chaddesden (a big housing estate near Derby) but rather a beautiful Scout camp site in the Derbyshire Hills. In fact Drum Hill Scout Camp site near Little Eaton.

I am currently writing a book about my days in the Wolf Cubs and the Boy Scouts. The book will be a funny and poignant account of me being a wimpy kid and wimpy teenager who never visited a Wimpy Bar but regularly lost his woggle. This is not a euphemism. I wouldn't have known what a euphemism was if it crept naughtily into my Scouting shorts, raised the flag and tickled my fancy. I was a shy boy with an odd interest in learning to tie knots. That too is not any kind of oblique euphemism about latent interests in bondage. Whatever that is. Enough said. The book will be called Where's My Woggle? I expect you all to buy a copy! Scout's Honour and all that. It will be as much about growing up in the 1960s as about Scouting. Promises to be a hoot!

So, after my digression I headed off to Drum Hill walking all the way along Moor Road to the back of the campsite. My intention was to photograph an old gate that sported a hand carved Scout sign. I thought it would make a good image for the cover of the book. I walked and walked and walked and walked. I reached the gate post but no old gate was to be seen. Undaunted I clambered up through the woods in my old hiking boots (one can take nostalgia too far as I was to find out via my later aching feet). Feeling my teenage memories flooding back I was on a high as I finally reached the middle of the campsite and began taking photos and a bit of video. Below is a two minute video of my visual journey at Drum Hill.

The imaginary scent of wood smoke was instantly in my head and the very altar fire on which I cooked my very first proper meal (beef stew and dumplings) was still there right in front of me. I was cooking for my Scout Camp Cook badge. Cast aside any thoughts of a camper than camp Kenneth Williams type flapping vapidly over the flames. This was manly stuff and I was very proud of my outdoor endeavours. The other boys dumplings (stop it!) were all stuck to their hands. I somehow knew to roll mine in flour. Suddenly I had found something I was good at that was practical and useful!

So back to Monday. I spent some time at the campsite wandering from beech wooded enclave to mid field water facility and the trig point which holds a focal memory for camping excursions to the site but no practical application in my own experience. I did however remember dock leaves and how we Scouts rubbed them on our nettle stung legs to ease the throbbing pain after getting stung.

Via Morley Lane I chatted to some young cows and revelled in the good weather. If I had a penny for the amount of times in my young life that I must have hiked up and down Morley Lane I would have at least... I was never too hot at maths.

On the way back home through Little Eaton I popped into Barry Fitch's butchers shop to say "hello" and grab a hot Cornish pasty.

The next day I was going through an old photo album and found a picture of the old gate. Here it is in all its nostalgic glory. "Campfires burning, Campfires burning, draw nearer, draw nearer..."

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