All sport at school in Andover in the early 1960s was competitive, believe me, nobody hugged the person that came last.

Rugby, hockey, footy, cricket, athletics, gymnastics swimming; all were preferred to sitting in a class looking out of the window.

But not the dreaded cross-country runs. The route took in several counties. 

The run took place when the pitches were covered in snow. You have no idea how we prayed for global warming.

From the third year onward, you had to do two laps. Now that was tough.

Even worse was the school run which involved all years at once.

But I was in the 2nd Andover Sea Scouts where you were encouraged to use your initiative at all times.

When you are out of the sight of land sailing on Mullen’s Pond at Thruxton you can’t wait for help if there is a problem, you have to get your crew, cargo and vessel back to port.

And so friend, scout and classmate KB and myself came up with a simple but brilliant plan to avoid the run.

At the start of the race, we would pretend to trip each other, feign injury and spend the afternoon in a classroom while everyone else trudged around.

The day arrived, the scene was set, the whole school lined up. The starting pistol fired. 

Oh no! Forrest and KB have fallen and are hurt!

A teacher ran up and told KB to keep still as it could be serious. Another ran up to me grabbed me by my neck and screamed “get up you horrible child, there is nothing wrong with you!”

A sea scout has to be observant, he always has to be aware of the lay of the land, the state of the sea, the set of the sails, and he has to be on the lookout for scurvy and mutineers.

The signs were all there, inflamed tonsils, bad breath, bulging eyes and a loud voice. He was unhappy.

He screamed at me that if I didn’t finish in the top 10 my life would not be worth living and launched me toward the school gates.

I glanced around to see KB being helped away by two teachers, limping on the wrong leg with a smirk on his face.

Teachers mixed in with the runners to keep order and being at the back I had the tail gunner who was there to encourage the slower ones.

He carried a teaching aid which was about three feet long and made of thin bamboo. With this, he tickled my calf muscles regularly, and he appeared to enjoy it.

He must have been on a recent inspirational speaking course as he decided to try it out on me.

He started gently: "I’ve never liked you Forrest, too big for your boots." 

All the usual and then onto the advanced stuff. "Your class is supposed to be the cream of the school and you’re the clot that proves it, empty vessels make most sound," etc etc.

I mean for goodness sake some of these lines had been used by the after-dinner speaker at the Last Supper.

By this time my calves were getting sore, so I had to use my initiative again.

I left my new ‘besty’ behind. 

Every story has a moral and this one is that every youngster should join the Scouts.

Not only is it great fun but you learn vital skills that you take with you throughout life.

Brian Forrest,

Over Wallop,


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