“dead frog, Dead Frog, DEAD FROG! ”
So it happened that at 06:00 on Saturday that I was dressing after a cold campsite shower. The last 20 hours had been high intensity hard labour. Packing and loading tentage, baggage, and supplies, for some 30 youngsters off in a camping trip.
Then setting up camp – cumbersome canvas Icelandic tents, a brand new marquee with fiendishly unfamiliar fittings, and a few dome tents with the usual mysterious rips and missing bits since last use. All this happening between alternating bursts of hot sunshine, torrential showers, and clouds of midges.
A big muddy field in the middle of a forest rapidly sprouted tents of every description and filled with 350 highly excitable youngsters (of every age) and the surrounding forest rang to the happy shouts of kids exploring woodland paths, getting covered in mud, being stung by nettles, climbing trees (and falling out of them), and scavenging for firewood.
Around 23:00 on Friday night, happy muddy campers gathered for bedtime hot choccy and snacks.
At Midnight, intermittent rain showers converted to a Biblical deluge, accompanied by howling gales. Ancient canvas tents soon showed their limits, but by 02:00 all were rehoused in somewhat dry accommodation.
Yup, the annual Scout camp was well launched.
Back to Saturday morning….
An early start is always a good idea. Beat the rush, as it were. So, whilst brushing teeth, I hear a youthful voice shouting “”dead frog, Dead Frog, DEAD FROG! “.
But feeling a bit ragged after the busy night and cold shower I fail to share his enthusiasm. The voice continues – building in intensity. “Dead Frog, come quick, a DEAD FROG”.
Heck, I grumpily muse, it’s dead, it’s going nowhere, there’s no rush, tone the noise down.
On emerging from the shower block I see a gang of kids surrounding Declan (as his name turns out to be) and his dead frog. Word ripples through the camp – a dead frog.
It dawns on me, many of these youngsters are city kids. They seldom see a frog, any frog, dead or alive.
So I watch the sideshow. Declan (aged about 10) takes on a proprietary stance alongside his dead frog.
The entire campsite is obliged to pay homage to the unfortunately deceased amphibian – far more famous in death than whilst alive.
Young Declan proudly takes on the role of the “Master of the Frog”.
A little showman, he turns out to be. As gaggles of youngsters surround the frog, they alternate between gathering closer to inspect the frog, then recoiling in horror as they get too close.
As interest picks up, I watch the Master of the Frog organise a bit of crowd control – everyone must get a good look. I overhear him consoling an upset wee girlie, “don’t worry, he died quick”.
His moment of glory lasts about half an hour. But in this time, a horde of people, of all ages, and from all over the country are united in a shared experience. Later I hear a couple of seasoned Scouters talking. ” Did you see the frog – squashed flat, so it was”. He has reached everyone.
And I reflect, Yup, that’s what it’s all about. By 06:30 on the first day of camp, wee Declan has had an all-round character-building experience – leadership, public speaking, organisational skills, environmental awareness, empathy……..
And he cheered up one grumpy old git no end!