IN the mid-sixties, when I was 14, my school sponsored me to take part in a month’s course at an Outward Bound school in the English Lake District. The Outward Bound motto is ‘To serve, to strive, and not to yield.’
It was a terrific experience. Participants came from all over the UK and all walks of life ranging from public schools to approved schools. We were arranged in patrols of about a dozen, each named after a famous explorer. My patrol was named Scott after Robert Falcon Scott, who perished in 1912 after being beaten to the South Pole by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen. The memory of my Outward Bound experience has stayed with me ever since.
I didn’t know who Scott was before embarking on this course but I read up about him and became instantly fired by his bravery, bulldog spirit and patriotism. Scott lived in that Edwardian era where duty was all, and nothing worthwhile was achieved unless it was through untold suffering and hardship. Brits had to do things the hard way. Scott and his small team trudged, pulling their sledges, for 1,766 miles (further than Land’s End to John O’Groats and back again) in the coldest place on earth. By the mores of the day, Amundsen didn’t play fair. All his team were proficient skiers. Dogs did all the hauling and in time supplemented the diet of the men and the strongest surviving dogs (anathema to the Brits, of course). Their clothing was inspired by Inuit people which kept them warm and snug. Scott’s men were dressed in wool and cotton, entirely unsuitable for the rigours they faced. Scott and his team had no shortage of courage and determination but they were saddled with the arrogance that was ingrained in the British upper classes inherent from their possession of a huge empire.
Perhaps the greatest example of friendship, selflessness and facing death head on, came from Captain Lawrence ‘Titus’ Oates who, wracked with frostbite and losing his feet, walked off into a blizzard to certain death to save his friends from carrying him any further with the immortal words ‘I am just going outside . . . I may be some time’.
Ullswater was freezing cold and we had to break the ice on the lake to wash in the mornings. Our food rations were never enough and I’ll never forget the four-day expedition across mountainous terrain with nothing to sustain us but Kendal mint cake and ‘Healthy Life’ biscuits . . . never seen them since and, quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to.
Why am I mentioning all this? I’ll tell you. How, in just a few generations, have we gone from a nation which produced men who would willingly sacrifice their lives for their friends and would readily face danger in conditions so inhospitable as to be unimaginable today to what we are currently witnessing? A society which allows the ageing to die in loneliness, cancer sufferers to be denied life-saving treatment, where mental ill health and suicide are rampant not least among the young, family members have been conditioned to believe that loved ones can be carriers of death, and businesses and employment are cast aside causing untold numbers to be plunged into debt, bankruptcy and despondency. And, of course, to be conditioned to believe that salvation lies only by way of an injection.
How has this happened? Where is the indomitable spirit that must be there in all of us, however deeply buried? We are the descendants of those gallant generations. I can’t believe that we have slithered in such a short time from people worthy of approbation, respect and honour, to frightened and obedient semi-humans who cower under the bedclothes, afraid to go out and awaiting instructions from the 60in ‘propaganda box’ complete with deafening sound bar that sits central to many living rooms.
Today, as we live through the worst and most fearful of times surely any of us have ever experienced, I think of my Outward Bound days and the memory gives me confidence and inspiration.
To serve . . . and to overcome my feelings of disgust and disdain for those who have succumbed to the evil narrative that is the Covid 19 pandemic and, through no fault of their own, are acting as enablers to the greatest crime in human history.
To strive . . . to do whatever it takes to overcome my own anxieties and fears and to be true to myself when most about me are behaving like aliens in a foreign world.
Not to yield . . . in spite of the exhortations of our diabolical government of occupation (for that is what we now have in the UK) who demonstrate every day that their lies, distortions and use of black propaganda are designed to frighten, confuse, and to pressure all of us into cooperating with their heinous crimes, I will refuse and I will not surrender no matter what. I will not co-operate with any of it. I will not wear a mask. I will not take the jab. I will not treat my fellow human beings as if they were lepers. Therein leads the path to dystopia and as the well trodden saying goes, ‘For evil to triumph all it takes is for good men to do nothing.’
To serve, to strive, and not to yield: it never meant more to me than it does now. They will NEVER destroy my humanity.