Jamboree clap clap, jamboree clap clap, come give three hearty cheers
And we’ll walk along together another 50 years …..
We’re riding along on the breast of a slave and the tit is in my eye
All of our eyes on a distant horizon look out for passers by …..
In 1949 the Essex International scout jamboree moved to Belchamps camp site in Hockley (3 miles from Rayleigh). The event was every 4 years and the Leigh-on-Sea guild (my parents and Jean neighbour from No. 7) belonged to were involved from the start. It took 4 years to organize each event. I’d grown up going to scout jamborees. I’d been to the one in 1968, 72 and remembered clearly the one during heatwave of 76. I got sunburn and was stung by a wasp that had hidden in my Pepsi can. Jean took me to Rochford hospital to sort out my swollen lip that had got infected but I remember the doctor being more interested in my sun burn and looking up and through my Martini Cinzano vest top.
For the 1980 event, dad and Jean were to organize the stores for the entire 2,500 campers and 100 staff. The event and preparation lasted two weeks and meant camping on site. I’d just left school and had nothing to do apart from waiting for O level/CSE results which I knew were going to be shit. I had no idea of what I would do with my life.
“Have a look through here little Lizzy” Marni’s Mum handed me a heavy hardback book of careers she’d bought Marni in her 2nd year of senior school, plenty of time before choosing her subject options. Marni’s Mum was a teacher and knew how to do stuff like that.
I’d flicked through every single page of the book and the only jobs that had interested me, with no qualifications, were Air Hostess and Ambulance person. At only 5ft I didn’t fulfil the criteria but I did question this and rang the Ambulance Service.
“We don’t want people sliding off the stretchers”
“What if you employed 2 short people?”
“What would happen if one went off sick?” Click, click. Mr Ridgeway on the party line had lost interest too.
One day I’d even gone to Southend and stood outside the Army recruitment office, reading the adverts and looking at boys in uniforms holding guns. I didn’t fancy any of them and I knew I would be too short anyway. Helping Dad at the jamboree seemed the only option to fill my life with something.
“I’ll come with you”, said Marni who was waiting for her A grades.
We camped in a tiny one-man tent, topping and tailing. We erected the tent parallel to the massive stores marquee that had rows and rows of long trestle tables.
The 2,500 scouts came from Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, British Guyana, Canada, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, England, Eire, Estonia, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Gold Coast, Greece, Haiti, Holland, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, New Zealand, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Rhodesia, Scotland, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, United States Of America and Wales, and they ranged from age 11 to 18.
All groups had scout masters age between 20 and Mr Agerer age which could have been anywhere between 60 and 80. Campers were counted in their countries and lines of chalk were carefully drawn onto the tables separating each, e.g., the largest being USA 235, the smallest Finland 4. The stores were open for campers between 7.30am and 10.30am. We got up at 6am and collected the cold items, milk, eggs and sausages from large temporary fridges powered by a noisy generator. We distributed all the food to the tables e.g. USA, 24 packets of cornflakes placed carefully within the chalk lines. Volunteers from each camp would queue up at the end of the marquee for Marni and I to hand over their breakfast things and food for the rest of the day.
Apart from the occasional trip with Dad to the Spar, food distribution was over by 11am, we didn’t have to work till the following morning, we needed little sleep so that meant 18 hours a day to roam the camps on the lookout for boys and scout leaders to entertain or entertain us.
We flirted like fuck, running from field to field, camp to camp wearing hot pants and halter neck tops with no bras, while the boys and men wore their scout uniforms. Some loved us and were amused and some got irritated, either because they were focussed on scouting duties or enjoying their own relationships far from home. One day we were hanging about in the woods when we were kidnapped by a Colchester group, they tied us up to a tree using knots they’d been practising for the evening world knot off. Reef, Turk’s head, Manrope, then they used their scarves to gag us with a granny knot then ran off pretty quick. We were rescued, ungagged and untied by an Austrian group who were hunting for wood. I was so relieved and excited that Heinz an Austrian got the first Jamboree sweaty shag in our tiny tent. Marni stood outside singing gang show songs over our sex noise and making sure dad or Jean didn’t walk past. We took it in turns to do this for each other and broke a few countries virginities whilst they taught us knots. Marni and I were both Cancerians and Heinz was Scorpio so he was either nearly 15 or 16.
“Where’s the beans?” asked Korben, one of Heinz’s scout friends who came to collect their food the following morning.
“I’m not handing them over till Heinz comes” Marni and I laughed, even though the beans weren’t Heinz they were some cheapo brand.
One night we were invited to a vodka party at the Whitley Bay camp. Matthew the leader of the group had blonde hair with short tight curls, he was dead good-looking and wore short white shorts that neatly fitted his pert bum, not the proper scout baggy ones that most of the other leaders wore. Matthew was late twenties, older still than Roy. We ran around the camp grabbing each other’s bums.
“You’ve got the best bum of the jamboree” I told him after 5 vodkas.
“And you’ve got the best girl bum of the jamboree” Marni may have been cleverer than me, but I was happy he thought my bum better.
Other boyfriends I had at the time were curious about what I was doing at the jamboree and were keen to visit including Andy Racher (no. 5)who had been back in contact. I thought I might as well invite him down, while I was feeling confident with my bum. I met him off the bus and took him to a back field, free from scouts, and lay down in the grass. Andy Rat was sniffing with hay fever and had red swollen eyes, he stood over me.
“I can’t get down, have to be careful with the knee”
He stood over me, got it out. I leapt up and ran screaming to find the nearest scout to save me. I was still drunk from the Whitley Bay’s vodka session.
“Help, he’s pissing on me!” As I looked back I saw Andy Rat still pointing his prick in my direction.
“It’s called a golden shower” Marni said when I met up with her later. “I’m going out with Sam tonight, I might stay at his.” Marni had been going out with the Sam of the Steve (no. 6) and Sam that Julie had been out with.
Alone for the evening I sought out my new more mature Whitley Bay Matthew who I found sitting round his group’s camp fire facilitating some sort of Morse code activity. I sat with them all for a bit and had more vodka shots.
“Do you want to come back to mine?” I whispered into Matthew’s ear. He nodded and hand in hand we walked through the dark fields, campers fires lighting our way back to the tiny tent.
“Fuck sake Liz,” the zip of the tent was open and Marni was crawling in just as we were about to get down to it. “I’m tired, bed.”
“You said you’d be gone all night” Matthew was already back in his shorts and about to leave.
“We’re going tomorrow” he said.
“No” I followed him out of the tent.
“I want to make love with you.”
“But you’re going.” He took off the necklace with silver ingot he was wearing round his neck, unleashed the scout knife from his belt (he’d been wearing his proper scout shorts as there had been an inspection earlier) and scratched out an inscription on the back, then put it round my neck.
“It’s beautiful, thanks.” I fondled the heavy ingot and turned it over. You could still read the inscription ‘love Myra’.
I put Myra’s ingot round my neck and in the morning Marni and I rushed to their camp to say goodbye and take group photos. We crouched at the front of the 26-strong scout troop (three of whom had been in our tent) with Matthew towering over everyone standing in the middle behind, ingot-less but white shorts back on.
“I’m sad” I said, standing on tip toes, kissing him frantically.
“I’ll see you in Northumberland, Whitley Bay isn’t far from where you’re going.” We had a final snog and bum grope and he went back to his troop.
The jamboree wasn’t the same after 2nd group Whitley Bay left, even Heinz didn’t have the same effect on me. I only had eyes for Matthew so it was count down for the Venture summer scout camp. We were going hiking in Northumberland then staying in the Wooler youth hostel for a night to dry out cause it always rained on our summer camps. I’d told Matthew we’d be in Wooler on the Wednesday and he’d arranged to have a day off work to pick me up in the morning and show me round the area.
At the Wooler Youth hostel our scout leader Nick led us to the girls’ 6-bunk dormitory.
“Nick, Nick, Nick” the girls were winding him up”
“Stay in there and behave yourselves.” Nick smiled, knowing that the girls would likely play up and try to get into the boy’s dorm.
“What are we all doing in the morning?” We always got one free day during the week where we could go shoplifting in the trinket tourist shops.
“I’m off to meet Matthew.”
“He’s the scout leader of Whitley Bay 2nd troop, one of my Dad’s friends from the jamboree”
“Ok,” Nick said. “Make sure you’re back in the evening.”
I was knackered from Hadrian’s Wall and sleeping on wool sacks on a farm and camping and hitch-hiking when we were supposed to be hiking. Meeting Matthew was an exciting diversion and a better option than going round the town stealing presents for our folks.
As planned, Matthew was waiting for me in the street outside the youth hostel. He didn’t look as sexy as he did in his scout shirt and white shorts, but he had a Cortina Mark 1 and inside all the seats were covered in furry soft purple material.
“I want to take you to Holy Island.”
“Cool. Sounds fun.”
“It’s a place of pilgrimage. There’s a monastery there.”
“Great. For monks.” He was winding me up.
We drove there in silence then he turned the car around.
“I think the tide’s gonna come in so we better head back. Don’t want to get stuck on the island.”
We didn’t stop to look at the monastery or anything but I wasn’t bothered cause on the way back he swerved into a lay by and stopped the car. He leaned over and pulled out a tube from the glove compartment and put it alongside the gear stick.
“That’s for anal sex.” I laughed. He must have thought I was a virgin. Matthew put the seats down as far as they would go. “I’m not a virgin.” I reassured him.
“Get on top.” We swapped seats so the steering wheel wouldn’t be in the way then he pulled down his pants and put the gel on his big thing and I got on top. It was cosy in the car but afterwards we didn’t talk again. Matthew dropped me back at the youth hostel and I joined my fellow scouts and drank cans of cider in the communal area. I had left the ‘love Myra’ ingot in Essex and wondered if I’d been wearing it, Matthew may have asked for it back.
“Why are you still wearing that shit round your neck?” Marni asked a few weeks later.
“I can’t sell it, it’s inscribed.” Marni tugged at the necklace, the silver chain broke. She caught the ingot as it pinged off the chain. “He’s married to Myra, I bet. You could sell it, chunky bit of silver that.”
Later, I placed the necklace (with Myra’s name facing down) into an old box my granddad had made me, along with the ‘Steve 4 Liz’ stamp, Gary and uncle’s postcard and the rest of the 1914 roll ups.