As a lad I was in the boy scouts – the 1st Bispham Scout group, Seagull patrol. I was a keen collector of badges and at the age of about 12 I entered for my cook’s badge. I had to cook a dish at camp and have it tasted by the Scoutmaster. My mother trained me in how to cook fried liver and onions with mashed potato. I learned how to roll the liver in flour, how to fry the meat and onions, how to peel and boil the potatoes, how to mash them and most importantly – to add salt to the potatoes.
We arrived at the Mowbreck campsite, which was a muddy field, late on a Friday evening. First I had to light a fire and erect a tent. Once the fire had burned down a little I could start cooking over it. I peeled the potatoes and they boiled slowly in a billy can. Eventually I fried the liver and onions and mashed the potatoes. I presented the whole meal as best I could on a plate which I took across to the Scout Master, Mr Sadler, in his tent. He was a short, rotund, rather dour man who took his duties very seriously. He had already had his supper but he carefully tasted mine. First the liver, ‘Very good Sloane.’ Then the onions, ‘They are fine too.’ Finally the mashed potatoes. He gave a rare smile and said, ‘Very good. Well cooked.’ I had remembered to salt them. I was elated to have passed the test and gained the badge.
By now I was very hungry. I came out of his tent in the pitch dark and ran back to my tent carrying the plate with my dinner. I tripped in the dark and the meal went everywhere. I had to scramble around on my hands and knees in the dark searching for the remains of my carefully prepared dish. I found a fraction of it and went to bed hungry.
I try to draw a positive from everything that happens to me so the lesson I take from this episode is this: when you achieve a success do not dash on to the next thing, no matter how hungry you are. Stay calm. Savour the moment. Relish the victory. Eat the meal!