Games people play: Pandora Melly learns what Scouts do with shrapnel
Saturday 26 April 1997
I don't play games. I don't have any hobbies whatsoever, but when I was little I had a wonderful book called The Boy's Book of Hobbies. It told you everything from "building a home museum" to "taxidermy", and it was full of misinformation. For example under "How to skin a rabbit" it suggested that if you slit the rabbit's tummy, then slid your hand around the back, the whole animal would slip neatly out of its skin "as smoothly as a finger from a glove" - which is simply not true. Rabbits' tails are stuck on like nobody's business. There was also a section on Scouting, with a picture of a Scout looking tremendous in his hat and woggle, and although I was underage, I managed to join the Isle of Man Scout Troop.
The Scoutmaster was a very weird gentleman called Mr Pritchard, who had been crippled in the First World War. The two interesting things about him were the undersides of his shoes, which had never been in contact with the ground. Also, if you were really lucky and could sing in a high treble voice, which I couldn't, he'd show you the bits of shrapnel moving round in his veins.
Instead of camping in the countryside, he made us collect jam jars, which he wanted to send to England to help the war effort. We collected and washed every jam jar on the island, but of course the Navy were not going to risk a ship to transport jam jars, so we put them into an empty shop and built an incredible glass palace with a tunnel leading through it. At one end, like an old spider, sat the dreadful Mr Pritchard showing people his shrapnel. I've never played any game since, and I blame it all on The Boy's Book of Hobbies.
Jam jars may be found surrounding 340 grams of Fortnum & Mason's rose petal jelly (pounds 5.75) - available only at certain times of year, owing to the vast quantity of petals needed.
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