Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Who Dares Wins

When did you last receive a challenge in the form of a dare? I suppose I was probably about 9, and I can’t exactly remember what the dare entailed, but I can recall being a member of ‘Our Gang’ when we challenged each other to collectively ‘raid’ a recuperation centre for children who had been injured during the war. These unfortunate youngsters had not been evacuated from the cities and taken to places of refuge before becoming victims of air raids; consequently they suffered the traumas of injuries, and perhaps they had lost brothers, sisters or parents. We, as children being brought up in the comparatively safe environment of the Somerset countryside had little understanding of what these youngsters had gone through.

‘Our Gang’ was a territorial group of juveniles who opposed a similar gang from nearby. There was no real malice towards our ‘enemies’. We simply enacted psychological warfare. I can’t remember the two gangs actually drawing blood in a conflict, but we were an intimidating lot. We armed ourselves with Hazel and Ash poles that resembled javelins, and we ran about like a lot of wild Indians.

On this particular day of the dare we plucked up courage to make an attack upon the Centre where these children were housed. The first individual dare was for someone to creep up the long path to the front door; then press the imposing brass knob on the end of a plunger that made the bell ring. A braver person than me took up the challenge, while the rest of us hid behind the trunks of trees that surrounded the requisitioned manor. Having carried out his dare he quickly scampered to a nearby bush. Seconds later a tall, matronly lady dressed in a red nurse’s uniform appeared at the door. After a brief moment, and with an expression of puzzlement, she retired behind the closed door. Five minutes later another brave warrior repeated the dare by pressing the brass knob. Out came the lady again. This time the colour of her face resembled the colour of her uniform.

Discretion being the better part of valour, we retreated to the cool shadows, under trees beside a pond, a few hundred yards from the mansion. There we laughed and celebrated our victory which was short-lived. Our lookout made a high-pitched cry of, ‘Copper! ‘Let’s scarper!’ I was the smallest and youngest member of the gang which meant I could not keep up with the bigger boys, and by the time I had climbed halfway up the iron fence the others had vaulted, I felt the strong hand of a rotund policeman grabbing my belt.

Well, allegiance was thrown out of the window, and it was only a few minutes later that the Man in Blue had all the facts; whereupon he vowed to visit the parents of the miscreants. In due course we all faced the consequences of stern admonitions from our parents and never went near the place again.

In these times of the Afghanistan conflict I am reminded of the valiant efforts and dedication of the Special Air Service whose motto is, ‘Who Dares Wins’. By attempting to win, some brave souls have lost their lives, but there are no winners in warfare and those who dare to make peace may win the battle of hearts and minds, as with the relative ‘peace’ of Northern Ireland.

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