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I don't think anyone can have written an autobiography without at some point thinking 'Why would anyone want to know this shit?' I've always read them thinking 'I don't want to know where Steve Tyler grew up, just tell me how many groupies he fucked!"

   
   
   
   
   
       
     
       
       
 

My friend Thomas Duffy and I both joined the Cubs, which we loved. I think we’d exaggerated the subs to our folks so we could buy Slush Puppies on the way home. Our parents never caught on, even though we’d always come back with bright blue or purple mouths and crippling headaches. The Cubs was run by a lovely lady who lived round the corner from us. I don’t think she knew a single thing about the Cubs or the Scouting movement; she just started it up in the church hall to give us something to do. There were none of the awkward formal greetings and knot tying of the proper Cubs. If you wanted a badge you just told her and she’d set you a totally arbitrary task. I got my sports badge for running round the hall. There was a great fancy-dress competition every Halloween. Once I went as the Hulk – painted from head to foot in watercolours that dried on me in such a way that I seemed to be walking around in a huge scab. Thomas, quite brilliantly, painted an enormous cardboard box and went as an Oxo cube. He made his dad walk us up to the hall as he had a real paranoia that a passing lunatic might set fire to him.

The Cub leader’s brother would come to the meetings a lot to help out; he was maybe in his twenties. The last 20 minutes of most meetings involved him tying an enormous running shoe to a big bit of rope and making us jump as he swung it round faster and faster. Who knows what was going on in this guy’s life that he’d turn up every week to blast wee boys into the side of a public building with an enormous shoe, but we were really glad that he did. I even won one week! I was encouraged to stage a high jump competition at some railings near our house, hurting my balls quite badly.

Our outfit or unit or whatever (not having been in the proper Cubs, who knows what the term is) went to a real Scout camp once and it was absolute chaos. There’s always been something suspect about Scoutmasters to me. Middle-aged men taking young boys into the woods to practise tying knots is clearly not good. If you’re going to get felt up in a tent by the Scoutmaster then the very least you should get is a badge that you can use to cover the hole in the back of your shorts.

There was also some weird sectarian thing going on with the guy who was leading the trip. I was too young to decode what was going on but when the kids started singing ‘Flower of Scotland’ on the bus he went absolutely tonto, making the driver pull into a lay-by and giving a truly crazy, bulging-eyed speech about the Queen. That’s a real thing with sectarians – they always assume that people are interested in the shite they talk. He was literally foaming at the mouth about the Act of Union, in front of a bunch of 9 year olds who were thinking about when they might get a hotdog. Of course one must avoid generalisations but that man was definitely a paedophile.

At camp, we were no more prepared to set up tents and light fires than a tribe of monkeys. In fact, one of our guys (a real wingnut who seemed much too tall and old to be a Cub) immediately climbed a tree and started screaming like a monkey, breaking off branches and throwing them into the camp. Another got off the bus and just ran straight down towards the river bank, crashing straight into the river. The real Scouts looked shell-shocked as the monkey guy leapt down from the tree and tried to engage them in swordfights with an enormous stick. Clearly, all pretence of being a real outfit, unit or possibly troop had been blown.

The Scouts sent an observer to one of our meetings. I missed it but apparently he stood around slack-jawed watching boys get pelted into stacks of chairs with a big training shoe. We were all made to attend a real Cubs meet in a better part of town. The Cubs had to line up and do a little salute at the start! The leader was called Arkela! The gymnastics badge didn’t simply require jumping two-footed over a chair! Their leader called out a boy to give a mad little speech about the history of Scouting. He had an enormous gumboil, easily half the size of his face, and spoke in a wet mumble like The Elephant Man Jr. The meetings must have been bad because our Cubs got shut down and there was fuck all to do again.

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