There was always something appealingly old-fashioned about 4,500 British scouts travelling to South Korea for the four-yearly “World Scout Jamboree”, says Jenny McCartney in The Daily Telegraph. “How often, today, do you hear that festive word ‘jamboree’?” And what’s not to like about the idea of our brave boys mingling with 40,000 fellow scouts in “hats and woggles” from across the globe. But despite the group’s motto, “Be Prepared”, the South Korean experience held “quite a few nasty surprises”. Some, like bad food, mounting rubbish, dirty loos and lack of shade, were the fault of organisers. Others, like a fierce heatwave and typhoon, were just bad luck.
But for all the harrumphing about poor planning and expensive evacuations, I’m inclined to agree with Yeom Young-seon, a provincial official, who said: “Above all, the Jamboree is not a summer resort. It is an experience of overcoming hardships.” Too right. I was thrilled to hear that despite all the trouble, our scouts kept alive the spirit of “international co-operation in adversity”. One girl was surprised by a snake under her bed, but “thankfully the Bangladeshi scouts knew just how to deal with snakes”. And they have the lifelong consolation that “whatever one loses on a disastrous trip in terms of material comfort, one subsequently gains in power of anecdote”. Trouble-free trips make for dreary stories. The real storytelling juice of life lies in the “pungent smorgasbord of survivable disasters”.