What about our island, Bear?

By Charlotte Hofton

Published on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 11:30


What about our island, Bear?

Chief scout Bear Grylls. Picture by Martyn Milner


I recently commented on the grave disappointment of Bear Grylls’s latest TV series, The Island. Not only is it not about the Isle of Wight, which it jolly well ought to be, considering the IW was the seminal location for his formative years, but he doesn’t even join in the macho derring-do involved, simply lounging around in a studio and observing the action at a safe distance.

Really, Bear! You’ve let us all down very badly indeed. And if that weren’t enough, I have been contacted by a key figure in the IW scouting movement with a tale that reflects even more reproachfully on your behaviour.

The nation rejoiced in the appointment of Mr Grylls as chief scout in 2009. Dyb-dyb-dobbing had become perhaps a little passé but with this hunk at the helm, woggle to the fore, who could not thrill to the command to "Do Your Best" with the stirring response to "Do Our Best"? Dyb-dyb-dob, geddit? Coolsville or what, particularly when endorsed by a man who seizes any opportunity he gets to drink his own urine.

Bear’s predecessor had been Peter Duncan, who undoubtedly tried hard but thanks to his previous incarnation as a Blue Peter frontman, was doomed to be forever associated with sticky-backed plastic. With the arrival of Bear Grylls, however, the sticky-backed plastic could be replaced by machetes and a gung-ho diet of maggots and rancid camel. Mr Duncan, you may recall, also liked to put the Blue Peter tortoise in a cosy hibernation hutch. Bear would have just eaten it. Raw.

Seemingly, then, it’s all been rosy in the camp during Bear’s tenure, with the chief scout keenly pursuing his remit to provide "inspirational leadership" to the scouting movement and to ensure its message reaches "as wide as audience as possible".

But what is this? My informant, a person of long experience within the IW scouting movement, tells me, "When Bear took on the role, he promised to visit every county, which he’s almost done, but not the Island, where he started his scouting at Bembridge Scout HQ. He has been invited time and again, but sadly too busy."

Excuse me? Too busy? An examination of a few of the places he hasn’t been too busy to visit reveals the extent of his snub to the Island scouts. Among numerous other locations, he’s been to Kent, Norfolk, Cheshire, Hertfordshire, Scotland and, perhaps the cruellest cut of all, the Isle of Man. The Isle of Man! Really, Bear, you couldn’t be more wounding if you’d gouged out our heart with that thing on your penknife you use for taking stones out of horses’ hooves.

Was it the Isle of Man that taught you to rub two sticks together to make a fire, a skill which has surely saved your life on many of your adventures? No, it wasn’t. It was the Isle of Wight, and in particular Bembridge, that taught you all you know. And now you won’t come and see us, even though we’ve asked very nicely. Several times.

My informant has asked to remain anonymous, understandably wary of being linked with any criticism of the chief scout. A man who has wrestled snakes and wild pigs and come face-to-face with crocodiles and tiger sharks is unlikely to have any truck with a mere dyb-dyb-dobber.

A quick slice with that thing on his penknife he uses to adjust his bicycle saddle and Bear will have my informant roasting on a skewer over the camp fire in no time. Still, at least it’ll get him over to the Island at last.

Proms are not what they used to be

Teenagers must get sick of their elders telling them how it was much better in their day.

Everything used to be marvellous, everybody was happier, the sun always shone and children had proper respect for their parents in the days before mobile phones and computers.

"We didn’t need a computer to work out two plus two in my day, lad, and what’s more we didn’t get allergies or this attention deficit whatsit. Are you listening, lad?"

Well, let me buck the trend and tell the students who are currently embarking on the school prom season as they finish their exams, it definitely wasn’t better in my day.

All we got was a crummy dance in the grimy surrounds of the school gym, with the only concession to glamour being girls allowed to wear a cardigan of their own choice over their striped uniform dresses and boys permitted to remove their blazers.

The staff stood guard throughout, so there was no chance of a snog or a fag, unless you were one of the braver ones, which I wasn’t, and sneaked out to the back of the bike sheds.

The nadir of my humiliation was when the classics master asked me to dance. I had made a poor choice of cardigan and I think he felt sorry for me. As we shuffled round the floor, he attempted some light conversation by telling me a joke. It was in Latin.

So count yourself lucky, glammed-up prommers.

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