The founder of the worldwide Scout Movement was Robert Baden-Powell and here I am out his former London home. It's near the Royal Albert Hall and just off Hyde Park in a quiet cul-de-sac. It's still a house and must be worth £15 - £20 million (one-bed neighbouring flats are £2 million.) Also in the millions are the number of Scouts around today - about 54 million. Last year a statue of him in Poole made the news when it was a probable target for the everything-offends-me-brigade who were set on tearing down statues of men associated with colonialism (people camped by it overnight to ensure it remained untouched.)
He was born near this house - across Hyde Park in Paddington - but spent years abroad after joining the army and soldiering in India, Afghanistan and South Africa. The public first became aware of his heroics after a stint in the Boer War in South Africa where - for seven months - he protected the garrison at Mafeking when it came under siege by the killer Boers. Returning to England he thought boys needed more experience of the outdoors and, aged 50, started the Boy Scout movement. With the help of his sister he organized the Girl Guides movement two years later.
Thanks to Robert scouting spread across the country and then the globe. He retired from the army aged 53 to concentrate on being the Chief Scout of the World (presently Bear Grylls.) He wrote the first of many books Scouting for Boys (150 million copies sold) which promotes a positive outlook and practical tips on living outdoors. Aged 55 he married Olave who shared his work in the Scouting movement and they’d go on to have three children. For nearly three decades he wrote books, organised and attended jamborees and travelled the world to promote the positive impact on improvements in youth education. It’s a wonder this chap could walk as he became so heavily decorated - a knighthood, honours, medals, doctorates, awards and prizes. He was 81 by the time he retired to Nyeri in Kenya. He died there at home aged 83 after recurring heart attacks.
I strolled down the quiet road not passing a single person or cat. Being a dead-end I suppose there's little foot traffic. This was probably a prime enclave of London when the Baden-Powells lived here as there're a few blue plaques of celebrated people bolted onto the houses. The Churchill's lived here while Winston was in power (he died in the bedroom.) I walked back up to the house and the Hyde Park traffic grew louder. There was a deflated balloon stuck in the front garden of number nine.
I took a photo of the blue plaque and wouldn't have been surprised if it had been sprayed. If BP was still alive today he might feel incredulous at the politically-correct prism through which some folk see and scorn him. Though he lived through a colonial era and romanticised British's past he seemed to me to be more about personal growth than politics. He'd probably think present society as gone backwards - a preponderance of drugs, over reliance on Government handouts, cosmetic surgery for vanity, people bent on compensation, scammers, promiscuity, addiction to the internet, etc. Where has integrity gone? He didn't prize intellect, cherished the natural world, was suspicious of business institutions and loathed the idea of adults working just to amass material wealth.
An old woman once asked if I was a scout. She was stuck on a traffic island in busy traffic and I helped her over the road. I wasn't a scout though. I'm sure Scout night clashed with Benny Hill night so I never went. Scouts used to shake hands with their left hand as it’s the hand nearest to the heart and is offered as a token of friendship. Is this still the case? I'm not sure. Oh well....I had one last look at the house, did a salute and left.
The statue of BP in Poole which came close to being torn down...