With the recent death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh it sparked a memory of my time working towards attaining The Duke of Edinburgh’s bronze award. Back in the late 80’s the opportunity to take part interested me as I used to be a Cub Scout as a kid and I enjoyed the activities, camping and teamwork. I had learnt to map read, build a camp fire and the traditional learning to tie knots, along with other skills. I remember we got visitors to come in with learning activities like how to perform first aid, play sporty team games or have fun visitors like the K9 from Doctor Who and his creator. As you can imagine, those that know me, that was a really memorable visit. The scout group often felt like a military organisation with parades and standing to attention and forgetting the need to recite the scout law as it was then, “On my honour, I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God and to The Queen, to help other people and to keep the Scout Law.”

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was formed in 1956 and is participated in 144 nations, engaging young people in a similar way to the Scout group created by Robert Baden-Powell in 1908. The DofE was different as it only required completion of the activities without the weekly meetings. I remember spending time with two emergency services. Firstly spending time with the London Fire Brigade and learning the various functions of a fire engine and how to combat a fire, although I never got to actually put out a fire. I do remember however cutting a car open with the jaws of death in the yard behind the fire station. What kids wouldn’t love that. The other service I was spending time with was the Metropolitan Police. I went out in a patrol car, following incidents as they were received by the radio and learnt to understand the various challenges they face. I remember I spotted a registration of a stolen car while on patrol that they had missed. Hopefully the victim got their pride and joy back.

The most memorable element was going the hiking, orienting and camping with my school friends that also took part. I got to use my skills gained from the scouts and I got to be the leader of the team to successfully complete the challenges set by the organisers. I wonder if this was the start of my interest in being a leader and learning to influence people to get something done, that would one day become my career as a retail manager? Maybe or I might just be bossy my nature.

The Duke of Edinburgh‘s award
Orienteering on the back of someones car. Are we lost?

I remember cooking food on a Trangia cooker in a field with fairly mixed results as our cooking skills were in their infancy. It was cruel when the DofE team came back one night to check on us with Fish and Chips for themselves. The smell was amazing and I’ve never felt so hungry. The power of smell. My friend Vip had been given some fried chicken by his parents that he forgot in the bottom of his rucksack. I’m not sure how long it had been in there, going green and sweaty but we ate it anyway and it was heaven.

The Duke of Edinburgh‘s award
Gary trying to enjoy death chicken!

I honestly can’t remember how long all this took as it was over 30 years ago now but I did complete the bronze award and I attended an awards ceremony with my parents. I got my certificate and bronze badge awarded to me by British Olympic heptathlete Judy Simpson. She later went on to become a household name as ‘Nightshade’ on ITV’s Gladiators.

Duke of Edinburgh’s Bronze award
I achieved something

It was a great time of life and its with thanks to Prince Philip for creating it. I would recommend anyone to do it and I’m sure that his death will create a renewed interest in him and The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.


The Wall

Some of you may know that I’ve been hunting street art for many years.  Mostly I find these various size works in and around the Shoreditch area in East London or The Leake Street Tunnel near Waterloo station.  Whenever I travel abroad I always try and find the local street art district with some amazing and well known artists’ work being visible in more than one country it’s always a nice surprise to spot a tag or style from an artist you’ve seen before. My Instagram page has been running since May 2020 and has organically grown to just over 1000 followers.  This is just the tip of the iceberg of course, with the fandom and movement having at least 100 times that in street art fans in the UK and with some Instagram followers having well over 15,000 followers.  I’m not shallow enough to worry about the followers that I get that much but it’s nice that people want to see my photography and my street art hunting efforts.  That for me is the real enjoyment of street art hunting, the not knowing what you’ll find next and with most pieces changing every week, it’s an exciting and constantly evolving outdoor gallery and I also often get a good 15k worth of steps out of each hunt whilst wandering around the streets of EC1, so it’s good for my health too.

Street Art - March 2021

A couple of days ago I was asked if I’d like to see some street art created by Sonia Boyce to cover the wall protecting the new Crossrail line that runs from Abbey Wood and though North Woolwich, Silvertown and Custom House.  This would be the biggest mural in Europe covering an area over 2km long.  This should be interesting to see but  I would always be a bit hesitant however about a corporation getting involved in an artwork project as the amount of bureaucracy and committee meetings often results in something very bland and disappointing. 

Crossrail Art - Sonia Boyce
Crossrail mural
Crossrail Art - Sonia Boyce

The Crossrail version of the Berlin wall certainly needs something to brighten up the area and I’m surprised that street artists or enthusiastic youths with spray cans and no idea haven’t already had a go at it with “Bozzo Woz Ere” but it seems mostly unmolested if just a dirty white wall. The pre-printed panels that are going up ready for the summer 2021 launch are pretty much as I would expect. Mostly a safe hospital style design of a black and white cityscape with flowers along the bottom. The panels are dotted with quotes from local residents and are mostly uninspiring.  One quote did stand out though that I’m stunned actually went through the due diligence and creative process.  The offending element was highlighting the crime and murders in the area. This will do wonders for the house prices I’m sure.

The quote read, 

I love this area North Woolwich. 

I’m glad I was brought up here, it’s like a village. It has a hairdresser, a corner shop, a post office, a library, three parks, a bakery and a pharmacy. 

What else?

There’s the Police Station, there’s a Chinese takeaway.

It has everything all in one small area and everyone knows everyone.

The only negative thing is the crime and the murders, which has been increasing.

This is unfortunate, but other than that everything else is fine.

Also there’s a little beach and you can take a ferry ride.

It’s all so close.

Like a village.’

Crossrail Art - Sonia Boyce
Great place, apart from the crime and murders!

How on earth did that ever get approved? Having seen this I decided to Tweet about it on the @Moliblog Twitter page showing my shock and disappointment at the way Crossrail and the artist can think this a great way to promote the area? 

Moliblog Twitter

Given the reputed £1m+ price tag, I can tell you that local community groups could really use that money post Covid more than hearing that they live in a crime and murder zone. It’s especially insensitive as less than 5 minutes walk away, a shrine is still in place to a young man that was the victim of knife crime. You could argue that the quote was honest and a temporary piece of commentary it would be challenging and inspire change, however as a permanent wall covering it falls short of any decency and consideration for local residents.


Crossrail didn’t reply to my tweet and why would they.  However, after ITV news and The Evening Standard quoted my tweet on their websites, the story did get some momentum and I’m glad to say that Newham Council put out a press release asking for the offending panel to be covered up or removed.  The Crossrail programme manager Jim Crawford appeared in ITV news that night and was frankly clueless about the whole project and claimed he would look into it. 

Crossrail Art - Sonia Boyce

I’m pleased to say that today the panel has been taken down and hopefully something more positive will replace it.  A quote maybe about the power of street art that can bring people together despite a big dividing wall though the borough. At least they don’t have guard towers and searchlights. Yet.