I can't quite remember exactly when or where this photo was taken, but it was almost certainly at a Christian boys
camp I went on in late July 1966, near Oxwich Bay, on the Gower coast of South Wales. The photographer was another Cardiff
High School pupil from a form a year below me, Ian Norris. The guy whose arse I'm pretending to kick was a friend of his who
I didn't know all that well.
My hormones were certainly beginning to 'rage' at this time, and I was putting on adolescent muscle, as
you can see from the thickness of my thigh, a great improvement from the time of my earlier 'spider walk'.
If you wish to see an enlargement of this particular picture, then please click on it.
The camp itself was organised and run by an evangelical church group that ran a couple of 'Sunday Schools'
in Grangetown at the time. I'd been a regular member of the Ebenezer church in Corporation Road since I was six. My mum used
to pack all us kids off there after Sunday dinner for a couple of hours to get some peace (I wonder what she did while we
were gone? My dad usually had a smile on his face when we came back!)
There'd be just around 120 boys at this camp, and about 10 adults from the Church. We'd go there every
year for about 10 days to a fortnight. Cost about £2/10/- in old money.
The tents had already been erected in a farmer's field by the time we arrived - they weren't
the small tents you see today sleeping one or two, but very large oblong army-type ones much too big for us boys to put up,
plus a couple of big marquees you'd have probably needed a crane to erect, which were used for eating in and assemblies.
There were about a dozen boys to each tent, ranging in ages from about 12 to 15 years old, sleeping
six each side, plus another older boy in charge of us, aged about 18 or 19, to see we didn't play with ourselves too much
(or each other at all!).
We soon had to add some new words to our vocabulary. On arrival, we were divided into sections
of about twelve boys each, a big bale of straw dumped in front of us, and then each given what seemed to us to be a large
long cloth bag. This, we were told, was for us to make a "palliasse" to sleep on - we had to fill this bag with the straw
to form a straw mattress. How strange. Then there were "fatigues". Well, while the adults did the cooking, we lads
had to prepare it all, and wash everything up afterwards. Have you ever peeled a cwt of spuds in one go? Well, I have,
with a little help from some of the other boys in my section. And then there were the "dixies", big pots that the porridge
and other things were cooked and dished up in. They took some cleaning, I can tell you.
But it was all great fun, especially for us lot of city kids. Two weeks
or so under canvas in July in a farmer's field a short walk from the beaches of Oxwich Bay and Port Eynon - no parents,
no soppy girls, and in my case, no younger brother to annoy me either. Great! It was for me
and many more of us our first experience of camping, being away from home, and a 'proper' seaside holiday all rolled
into one. A bit of an adventure too, and one of my treasured childhood memories.
A typical day.
The memory has faded a bit, so perhaps what follows is not quite as it actually was, but it gives
you some idea of the sort of things we got up to.
We'd wake up about 7am, and over the next half an hour or so, in ones or twos, with greater or lesser
degrees of enthusiasm, we'd slowly emerge from our beds and get dressed. (Well, we'd
all reached that age - I certainly had anyway! - when jumping out of bed as soon as you woke up and throwing off your pajamas
with abandon to greet the new day as naked as nature intended was not a good idea, not if you wanted to avoid being
the butt of ribald laughter from the other boys, similarly 'upstanding' no doubt, but more circumspect!)
First thing - our section leaders were very insistent on this (well, you know what adolescent boys
are like!) - A WASH! We'd grab a plastic bowl (or were they already there at the washing 'facility'? Can't quite remember)
and our toothpaste, toothbrush, soap and towel, and traipse off down to the end of the field where the washing 'facilities'
were located. A few tables and a couple of standpipes, if my memory is correct. One thing I do remember with great clarity. The
water we used to fill our washing bowls to wash with was BLOODY FREEZING! Needless to say, we washed as little as possible.
After quickly cleaning our teeth, a quick swirl of the soap with the hands, a splash or two on the face and a quick rub,
a splash more to rinse off and that was that for another day.
Then we had breakfast in one of the large marquees I mentioned. We always started off with porridge, made
the night before but kept hot in a 'hay-box'. Then we had sauté potatoes, with, I
suppose, baked beans and a sausage or two. Did we have bacon? I can't remember, but I doubt it. I don't think the money ran
to that. All that was washed down with a big mug of tea. Bloody fantastic!
After finishing breakfast - (what would the time be now? About 8.30?) - we went back to our tents and tidied
the place up ready for INSPECTION! It would take us about 30 mins, during which time we'd have to carefully fold our blankets
up (no-one used a sleeping bag then - don't know why not) put them on top of each other and arrange our suitcases, clothes,
cutlery and other things neatly - just like we were conscripts on basic training in the Army. Then we'd roll up and tie the
sides of the tent so it was all open and then line up at attention outside while a couple of the adults inspected the place.
Each section was awarded points on the basis of how neat things were.
Then after inspection, we'd all settle down in the tent for about half an hour of Bible study (well, it
was a Christian youth camp, as I mentioned earlier) with our section leader. Each day one of us in turn would be
delegated to read that day's selected Bible passage, and then our section leader would give us an exposition on it. Sounds
corny, but I liked this part of the day a lot. It was nice and quiet, contemplative and intellectual.
Then at about 10am, the entire camp attended a religious service in one of the marquees, when, in addition
to the usual hymn singing, sermon and prayers, (very much of a 'Sankey & Moody', 'happy clappy' flavour, rather than
'Ancient & Modern' or 'bells and smells') an inter-section quiz was held on that morning's Bible passage we'd studied
earlier, with marks awarded to each section for correct answers.
Then what? I think we spent the rest of the morning in either organised games or the fatigues I mentioned
earlier. There was a lot of inter-section sport, with points awarded for the winners. Now, what did we play? Baseball, certainly
- that was a very popular game in Grangetown, 'Grange Albions' being the local team, and a very good one too. There was also
a variation of netball and rugby combined - I think they called it 'netby' (how inventive!). It was very rough. I remember
one occasion when three burly fifteen-year-olds jumped on top of me, all at the same time, just because I was holding
the ball, and then being carried semi-conscious off the field.
Great fun though! Much better than games at Cardiff High School, 'organised' by that notorious martinet,
'sadist-in-residence' and general all-round 'arse-hole', Mr Ivor Jones. He had no conception of the word 'fun' and put many
of us off games for life, with his over-bearing attitude and his occasional slap across the face, or a wallop across
the backside with his dap.
Then we'd have dinner. Completely forgotten what we'd have.
In the afternoon, we usually went down the beach for a swim and general 'muck-about', often involving daring
each other to jump over ever steeper sand dunes. The beach was a good twenty minutes walk from the field, and one route,
the shorter one over the headland, could be quite precarious.
Anyway, arrival at the beach. I can't recall any of us going 'skinny-dipping' - Oxwich Bay was too
open and popular for that sort of thing - but we usually dispensed with the 'Barry Island Shuffle' when we changed
in the sand dunes. At least, we boys did. I recall one of the adults was a skinny young guy, looked really nerdy. For some
reason he was affectionately known as 'Noddy'. As we watched him struggling into, or out of, his trunks, desperately trying
to hold his towel around him at the same time, one of us boys - we were all nearby - would often shout towards him, "Yes,
you too can have a body like NODDY!", all of us joining in as loud as we could on the word "NODDY!"
Well, it seemed funny at the time.
Sometimes, a few over-enthusiastic section leaders would form a chain and pass large stones lying
on the beach foreshore along this chain and lay them in order on the sand, where, in due course, in huge letters thirty
feet high at least, some religious sentiment like 'JESUS SAVES' would be spelt out. While it looked impressive when
viewed from the headland, it was a little OTT in my opinion. While, for the most part, they wore their Christian
fundamentalist doctrine lightly (they were Plymouth Brethren - did I forget to mention that?) there was the odd religious
nut that took things a bit too far. I remember meeting one guy there that said it was a sin to go to the cinema, because if
Jesus came back while you were watching the main feature, He would not be pleased! (Yes, they were those kind of
Christians!) Well, it takes all sorts I suppose!
Then, after our afternoon on the beach, we'd go back for tea.
Afterwards, I recall a couple of occasions when we'd all go for a walk along the headland, finishing up
on some outcrop of rocks where we'd all congregate for an hour or two, and have a chat, listen to some stories, and sing a
couple of hymns together. I fancy we lit a campfire as well - it was getting dark by this time.
Usually though, we'd have some time to ourselves in our tents, then at about 8.30 pm - or maybe a little
later, we'd have another service. Afterwards, a short break, and then cocoa and biscuits would be served up in one of the
marquees, and after that - it would be about 10, perhaps a bit later, by now - we'd go to bed.
Yes, to bed, but not to sleep. We'd usually spend some time singing rude songs (well, we'd had enough
of 'Jesus, He is the Key' by then) and telling dirty jokes to each other, and generally muck about for about
an hour, before we'd drift off to sleep. I remember the first camp I went on, somebody cracked this joke "What comes in pints?
- Elephants!" I didn't get that one that time. I did the following year, though! There was also another joke doing the rounds
that had as its punchline a particular way of pronouncing "Amen!". It took me much longer to figure out what that one was
There were also several spots during the day when we boys might have some time on our own together for a
while, when we'd get up to the usual adolescent mischief, like you can see below.