Once upon a time, when I was a curate, The Dufflepud and his friends spent one evening at Youth Club planning a dream trip to Madagascar. They were all Explorer Scouts at the time, and as they talked the dream began to seem possible as part of a challenge known as the Explorer Belt.
Lots of conversations later, the whole thing foundered because that little core group were so keen to include the Dufflepud, but thanks to his August birthday, he would not have been 16 in time for the expedition to take place.
A year later, though, the scheme surfaced again...This time it was to include Explorers and other Scouty types from across the south west of England, and in no time the Dufflepud was signed up, together with that little group of friends. They started planning, fund-raising, working at horrible hamburger joints with large yellow logos, and the months ticked away.
Then suddenly Madagascar, which had been conspicuous by its absence from international news for decades, hit the headlines with all sorts of political unrest following an election. Suddenly it was on the FCO's list of countries unsafe for inessential journeys. The Scout association announced that they could not countenance a trip and insurers refused to cover it. Disaster.
We felt terrible. After all, if the Dufflepud had been only 2 weeks older, the whole expedition might have taken place last summer, before the trouble began.
The expedition leaders spent the best part of a week phoning, emailing, making arrangements in all directions and lo, the expedition has a new destination..Uganda (renamed in true colonial style) MADUganda.
The essential elements of the "Explorer Belt" - a 10 day trek in the bush in small groups (3 UK and 2 Ugandan Explorers) remain intact. The original plan to spend time working in an orphanage has had to be jettisoned, but instead there will be white water rafting down the Nile, an opportunity to straddle the Equator, and (this is where I get seriously jealous) 5 days on safari in the Masai Mara in Kenya.
I would post his sister's reaction to this, but we have just agreed that this is a clean blog, with no carbon emmissions...so I can't.
What I can say is that, even after despatching 2 other children on gap years abroad, to destinations that they had arranged themselves and about which I knew pretty much nothing, it's somehow even more alarming to have signed all the detailed consent forms that are part of a highly organised Scouting expedition. I have agreed to all sorts of sensible responses in all sorts of continencies that I devoutly hope are most unlikely contingencies. Now I'm watching him reconsider his packing, which is demonstrating the Scouting motto "be prepared" to a ridiculous extent, and trying not to imagine situations in which he might actually need all those first aid essentials...
He's only away for 28 days, he'll be with good (and pretty sensible) friends (indeed, in many ways he's pretty sensible himself) and he's part of a highly organised and well-led expedition....and I Still Don't Like It.
Normal service will be resumed once I've stopped jittering.