The Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award

Being part of the most active Scout Unit in South Yorkshire, I was strongly encouraged to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and given every opportunity to complete each section of it, with a decent amount of effort. I worked through the Bronze in my first year when I was 14, went on to the Silver which took me about 18 months, then steadily completed each part of the Gold over the course of about 2½ years while doing my GCSEs and A-levels, finishing the award in September 2007.

For each award, the participant has to complete each of four sections (and a fifth* for the Gold);

  • Volunteering: undertaking service to individuals or the community
  • Physical: improving in an area of sport, dance or fitness activities
  • Skill: developing practical and social skills and personal interests
  • Expedition: planning, training for and completion of an adventurous journey (2 days for Bronze, 3 for Silver, 4 for Gold)
  • *Residential: staying and working away from home doing a shared activity

These things take a long time to process so despite the fact my forms were submitted in September 2007, it took till November 2008 for me to get my certificate. I also achieved the Queen’s Scout Award (which requires the completion of the D of E Gold amongst other accomplishments) at the same time and finally received my certificate from the Chief Scout Peter Duncan last month (see this post).

The Bronze & Silver certificates are merely posted out but the Gold ones are presented at a special ceremony with Prince Philip in presence. I had an invitation (the poshest invitation you’ve ever seen) to go to St. James’ Palace in London to be presented with my certificate, which I attended on Wednesday. I caught the train back to Sheffield on Tuesday night after my lectures, got a coach down to London with my Mum and we made our way to the palace where I saw my friend Annie in the queue to get in; I met Annie while doing my D of E, coincidentally, on my Gold Residential Project where I helped out (as did she) on a kids’ Summer Camp in Huddersfield. I then also bumped into my friend Miles, who is in the same Scout Unit as me; I had no idea he was going, as we’re at different universities and haven’t seen each other since Summer. We were seated together as we were grouped by region (Yorkshire & Humberside II) and we sat chatting about kayaking while waiting for things to begin.

We were given a speech from the guy in charge of the day, who told us all about St. James’ Palace and the room we were in, the Portrait Gallery, which contained dozens of portraits of monarchs. He also gave us a brief history of the palace, telling us facts like King Charles spent his last night in the palace before being beheaded, most of the things he said I’d found out on Wikipedia on my phone on the coach on the way there (maybe that’s what he did to prepare too). He then passed on to Steve Backshall, a TV presenter who makes shows about explorations and expeditions such as Expedition Alaska, and also presented CBBC‘s The Really Wild Show. Steve gave us a few stories of his adventures and congratulated us all on our achievements before handing back to the guy who told us what to do when Prince Philip entered.

Prince Philip entered the room and began to speak to the first of the four groups, we couldn’t hear what was being said until he got to the group before us, when he made a hilarious remark to some girl; he tended to ask people individually what they did for a certain section of their award (“What did you do for your service/skill?” or “Where did you go for your expedition?“) and he asked this one girl what she did for her skill, she replied “I was on the committee at my university” to which he responded “That’s a skill, is it?” which made everyone laugh – I guess it’s only really funny if you’ve done the award; you see, there’s always debate about what constitutes a skill, and some people sign things off claiming them to be a skill, which is cheating really. You’re meant to do something like learn a musical instrument or take up a new skillful hobby and show improvement over time. He’s perfectly right to have said that because she’s clearly signed it off unlawfully, and what a way to be told! There is no higher authority than Prince Philip himself! Miles & I thought it was brilliant how he came out with it! Completely BURNED!

He got closer and as he moved on to our group, the last group, and he immediately spotted me and Miles on the end; he asked us if we were from the same Scout group, and commented that he noticed we were in the same uniform with the same necker colours (the necker is a group identifier). He then noticed another lad in Scout uniform and presumed aloud that he was from another group, and started to ask other people where they did their award through, some did it through schools & colleges, one from the St. John’s Ambulance, but most of them seemed to be from Scouts. He asked a few more questions to the group, asked if anyone had done their expedition abroad, which Miles had, so he told him that he’d done it in Slovenia, and explained that they climbed Triglav which he described as “that big hill” which made everyone chuckle. Prince Philip then got hold of the pile of certificates and said “Are there enough here? They must be very thin!” to which Miles’ wit leaped out as he said “It’s that credit crunch” which was hilarious at the time, and had everyone laughing.

It was great to meet Prince Philip (or to use his full title since 1957: His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh & Philippos of Greece and Denmark), and at age 87, is doing great. He is the patron of the University of Cambridge, as well as the D of E Award and had a great military career which he was forced to give up on becoming consort to Queen Elizabeth II when her father George VI died (I read on wikipedia today that he was the one who broke the news to her while on holiday in Kenya in 1951). With my Queen’s Scout and D of E certificates I now have the complete set! Signatures from them both.

I couldn’t get any photos inside the palace as it wasn’t allowed, but I got some just outside, and there’s a good one of the London Eye from the bridge in St. James’ Park.

London, baby!

I’ll try and be quick because I’m mega busy at the moment – got a massive week ahead of me and time is precious but I’m trying to keep up the whole ‘frequent blog post’ thing I’ve mentioned in the last few posts so here I am writing this from my brand new ASUS laptop which I set up last night. It’s always interesting to know what the first thing a person does when they get onto a brand new computer; mine was to download Google Chrome (a new web browser made by Google – it’s amazing – try it!) which since it was released last month has been my new primary browser, knocking Firefox down to second (followed by Safari then IE).

I had a great weekend in London with my parents, who I haven’t seen since I moved out a month ago, so it was nice to let them know what I’ve been up to and how my course lectures and my halls life are going. The trip was primarily arranged due to my invitation to London Zoo to be presented with my Queen’s Scout Award but seeing as it was my parents’ wedding anniversary that weekend, we decided to make a weekend trip out of it. I caught the train home after my computing lecture on Friday afternoon and spent the evening at home and we got the coach from Sheffield to London early Saturday morning, a lovely four hour journey, and checked in to our hotel and after a nap we spent the evening in London; we went on the London Eye which I took many many pictures of (and from).

Sunday morning we got up early to get ready for the presentation, headed out for the tube in the pouring rain and made our way to the Zoo! We checked in there and spent some time wandering about checking out the animals and exhibits, then when it was time we went over to the Mappin Pavilion which is where the presentation was held. I hadn’t really any idea what the presentation was going to be like – I hadn’t really thought about it; all I knew was that I would be being presented with my Queen’s Scout Award certificate from Peter Duncan, the Chief Scout (head of the Scout Association) and former Blue Peter presenter. Despite being bang on time, I was the last to arrive (at this point I discover there were just four of us being presented at this time) and was immediately ushered into a sofa while having my coat removed by some sort of organising person, and before I had a chance to take in my surroundings I saw Peter Duncan just ahead of me, shuffling four creamish certificates in his hand to see who was to be first. “Ben Nuttall” he called out, and asked me to step up to join him at the front. I stood up and looked out at the dozens of people applauding – I’m still not really sure why they were all there.

I was put on the spot and suddenly asked by Peter Duncan what I did to achieve my Queen’s Scout Award (for those that don’t know, the Queen’s Scout Award is the highest accomplishment in the Scout movement, and is patroned by the Queen (formerly King’s Scout Award) and achievement involves completion of the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award as well as various other tasks). I completed mine over a year ago; with the most talkable bits happening over a year ad a half ago, so having to reel off a nice little speech about a four-day walking expedition I did in April 2007 was rather awkward but with it being such a memorable four days I managed to share a few entertaining short stories about the hike and mentioned what the purpose of the expedition was and how we ended up finishing it at the pub from ITV’s Heartbeat while they were filming. Peter asked me a few more questions, and we had a good chat about Scouting and the future of the world and I was presented with my long-awaited and well-deserved certificate, photographed a few times, and I took a seat to listen to the next three people and their adventures.

After this we got a chance for more photos and I had a good chat with Peter; I told him about my Grandfather (94 next month!) who met the very first Chief Scout, the founder of the worldwide movement, Lord Baden-Powell. We then talked about the media and their tendency to ruin good news stories with silly headlines and pictures that make the articles lose their point about what Scouting today is all about; outdoor pursuits, adventure, opportunities galore, making something of your youth, preparing for adulthood and showing future employees and such that you have made the most of your youthhood by getting out there and doing something.

We thanked Peter and the organisers for a great presentation and I was congratulated on my achievement once again by those present as we departed. We had a look round the rest of the zoo before heading back via tube to the coach station. Another four hour journey back to Sheffield and a couple of hours chilling out at home before having to get the train back to Manchester, only to find that it had been cancelled. I had to get a train out to Hope in the peak district, wait for a bus there which took me to Stockport, then waited for a train to take me to Manchester (an hour later than planned at quarter-past midnight). I had a maths test in uni at 9am this morning, so I had to do a spot of last minute revision on the train, but without any spare paper I had to take notes on the back of a bank statement I had in my bag!

So after my morning lectures and the maths test today I got my new laptop set up and here we are. I took many photos in London at the weekend.