Today I got my first experience of being caught in a storm of golf ball sized hailstones. We’d decided to take the day out and visit the Moomba Festival in the city centre. All was well, and the kids were in a cub scouts arena trying their hands at rock climbing. Suddenly, we heard an ominous rumbling and within seconds we were pelted with inch thick hailstones.
We quickly caught the kids as they fell off the climbing wall, and nobly covered them with our bodies as we hurried them into the canvas awnings that the scoutleaders had erected earlier in the day. We were amazed at the size of the hailstones and all started to chat amongst ourselves about the unseasonal weather, and how we’d never seen the like.
The amazement turned to nervousness as the inch wide hailstones gave way to 1.5 or 2 inch wide, golf ball sized, stones. Gradually, one of the sturdy canvas roofs was torn to shreds, as were all of the European broadleaf trees in the park (next to the botanical gardens). The visibility reduced to 20m and that mostly due to hailstones, rain and the remnants of shredded leaves.
The rain fell so fast, there was no chance that it could soak away, so inevitably as the minutes passed, the water levels started to rise. Soon we were up to our ankles in freezing water. I mean ice cold meltwater. By the time 15 mins had passed, we were pretty wet, cold, and pissed off.
The hailstones went back to their original 1” dimensions and the boyscouts sprang into action. First, one intrepid lad leapt out into it and did a dance for us all. That raised our spirits, and insprired what can only be known as ‘das uber scout’ to show us a glimpse of Baden-Powell’s vision.
Baden-Powell must have had a vision of a Father Ted episode. He must have because das uber scout stepped out into the hail and started singing gung ho campfire songs. I, naturally, thought that das uber scout was about to embark on a solo effort, like his compadre, previously. But, almost against their will, the other scouts gathered in the tattered awning started to sing along. Quietly, at first, like they were embarrassed to be seen by non scouts. But clearly, being seen scouting in public is a liberating experience, because they soon started to throw themselves into it with gusto. Kerry and I were mortified. Were we expected to sing along? Were we expected to applaud? Were we expected to entrust our kids to psychos like these in a few years time? We opted for staring at the floor instead.
Several images leapt into my mind as I stood watching das uber scout launch into the 35th verse of ‘I’m singing in the rain’ (with dance moves and aboriginal refrains). The first image was of me in 3 or 4 years time, accompanying the twins on their first away trip. Sat around the campfire singing ‘he leapt out of the airplane, what a terrible way to die’ and having, for their sakes, to pretend I was enjoying it.
The next thought was of that episode of Father Ted where Graham Norton traps an reluctant group of teenagers in a caravan and forces them, through sheer force of cheerfulness, to Irish dance till the caravan collapsed.
Das uber scout’s grim determination to make us have a ‘good time’ was creepy but memorable. Perhaps that’s what the scouts is like?