Thinking about the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme but uncertain if having friends precludes you from enrolling? Rest assured, Duke of Edinburgh candidates come in all shapes and sizes and have hundreds of friends, not all of them imaginary. So take five minutes to find out more about why you should spend the next three years on wet hills and camping in muddy fields while your cooler classmates are just getting drunk and having sex with that girl you were planning on talking to some day.
Founded in 1956 by Philippos Schleiswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksberg (heir to the Imperial Hellenic throne of Greece), The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme was designed to build the character of the youth of Britain by fostering traditional English values such as the ability to complain about the weather. Since its inception the D of E has spread across the Commonwealth and has helped inculcate British grit into the young of nations no longer able to learn from their betters in former colonial administrations.
Anyone may take part in the scheme providing you are between the ages of 14 and 25, not irredeemably common and not already Duke of Edinburgh. Each year thousands of youths embark upon the scheme and the award is held in high regard by universities and by employers in need of staff able to hire a taxi to avoid hiking up a mountain and order pizza to be delivered to their tent via mobile phone. At any one time there are thought to be up to 25,000 young people world wide attempting to qualify to become Duke of Edinburgh.
Are you up to the challenge?
The Bronze Award
To achieve a Bronze Award you'll have to put in at least 6 months effort in each of the four strands of the award. But it's not all bad news! Some of the elderly people you'll have to volunteer to work with will be too mentally infirm to realise you're a nerd at all. And volunteering at a Primary School could provide you with your first educational experience that doesn't involve being bullied.
- Community Service
It is not possible for all participants to follow HRH Duke of Edinburgh's example and allow the community to serve them by marrying the crowned head of a European nation and faithfully failing to assassinate her. If you think you may be unable to marry into royalty during the year then you may find it easier to accept the service of your parents, particularly your mother.
During the six months in which you endure the service of your community you must at no time consider picking up dirty laundry or tidying-up after yourself - no-one aspiring to be Duke of Edinburgh should even be aware that shirts require washing. A good candidate will put up at least token resistance to the idea of getting a hair-cut and develop a shrug of indifference when shown a pile of unwashed plates. If you can't handle this, maybe you should try the Girl Guides.
Some teenagers find the ability to accept service from the wider community without having provided it with any tangible benefit difficult and uncomfortable. Tough it out! Disguise your discomfort by feigning indifference to the labour of those around you and soon it'll become second nature. The most promising candidates develop an air of bemused incomprehension of the very necessity to work but, for now, you can simply practice by spending your parents' money without thanks.
- Physical Activities
To become a successful candidate for the Bronze Award you will have avoid all physical activity for a minimum of six months. Remember, this provides employment for members of the lower orders who are damned lucky that there are people like you around to wait on.
It is possible, but not mandatory, to combine the Physical Activity aspect of the award with the Community Service by avoiding any exertion required for minimal self-preservation and leaving such menial tasks to others (see above).
It is an essential requirement that a Duke of Edinburgh Award candidate must develop a skill useful in later life while completing the above sections. A popular option is to periodically open a hospital and show progression in one's ability to shake hands with underlings without showing obvious distaste.
If this option is not available to you it is equally permissible to tour factories and practice the potentially tricky technique of yawning loudly while asking the staff what they do. However, should you choose to develop your skills in this area, it is necessary to listen briefly but visibly unenthusiastically to each reply before giving the correct response - "That must be ghastly for you."
Bronze level candidates are expected to participate in the planning of a three day expedition to one of the more benighted corners of the United Kingdom, preferably a part where local people do not speak English, such as Wales or Yorkshire. If visiting Scotland, do not attempt to deep-fry haggis on a camping stove but do remember to take every opportunity to be photographed mooning while wearing a kilt.
Following completion of the Bronze Award, a certificate will be awarded to you by someone who has seen the Duke of Edinburgh on television. You are now qualified to breed prodigiously while criticising third world countries for their burgeoning population. You may also interfere in the marriage of your children, though, since the average age of completion is 16, convincing a friend to ditch their unsuitable girl/boyfriend is an acceptable alternative.
To gain a Silver award it is necessary to participate in the scheme for an additional eight months, practicing the same skills that you began to develop at Bronze level but showing progression in each. This will be ghastly for you.
- Community Service
At Bronze level you learned to accept the service of your immediate community, now you must set your sights higher and learn to accept the service of a wider community. As a Silver Award candidate you will be able to accept the unquestioning service of others without flinching and should have developed the skills to appear to expect the labour of fawning flunkies as of right. At this stage an air of ingratitude is expected and you should be able to kick offending servants without pity for stirring one's tea clockwise, buttering scones from right to left or similar offenses.
If you are a Silver Award candidate in a private school then you may still benefit from the traditional "Fagging" system by exploiting the services of smaller boys for room cleaning duties and shoe-polishing. However, accepting the sexual services of smaller boys should not be attempted until Gold Level.
If you are a Silver Award candidate in a state school then you may find it more difficult to recruit unquestioning service from others. A legitimate alternative is to extort dinner-money from children in lower years and to compel them to run to the shops to buy you chips, cigarettes or pornography. On no account should you walk further than a hundred metres if considering buying chips or cigarettes on your own behalf (or 250 yards for pornography). Lighting your own cigarettes is acceptable providing that the match is extinguished on the skin of a smaller child.
- Physical Activities
At Silver award level it is not enough to merely avoid all physical exertion; you should also avoid any mental exertion. Candidates still at school often do this by compelling weaker spirited boys to complete their homework and/or by forcing the more cowed-looking members of staff into writing their examination coursework. Candidates already in the world of employment often avoid all physical and mental exertion by accepting a position at B&Q.
Permissible skills to be developed at this level include;
1 Shooting - Preferably, this should be done in full view of the public, especially animal rights activists. You should avoid loading your own weapon (see Physical Activity) or retrieving dead or wounded birds/mammals. Dogs may be used to retrieve the above, providing that a member of your retinue subsequently carries the corpse. A Silver Candidate may retrieve an animal from a dog's mouth only if it is still alive and only if intending to snap its neck in front of a photographer. During the eight month period of the Silver Award you should aim to dispatch at least 250 grouse, or 100 pheasant, or 60 foxes, or 3 dolphin, or 2 environmental activists, or 1 panda.
Additional credit is available for injuring (but not killing) groundsmen. This allows a well-organised candidate to visit the victim in hospital, offending medical staff by refusing to use anti-bacterial hand wash and commiserating with the patient for his "Dashed bad luck".
Candidates from council housing estates may find game shooting prohibitively expensive and may instead choose to participate in a drive-by shooting of a neighbouring gang.
2 Coach-driving - An exception to the restrictions on Physical activity is made for coach-driving as it is the horses which undertake the majority of the exertion. However, under no circumstances may you groom, feed or muck-out your own horses. An outstanding candidate should be able to drive a coach and horses through any constitutional arrangements, or allow a footman to detach the coach so that he can ride rough-shod over the will of the republican majority.
Again, award organisers accept that not everyone has access to well-stocked stables. However, passing your driving test, borrowing your parents' car and simply ignoring traffic restrictions and speed limits is a permissible alternative.
At Silver level you should take no part in planning your expedition as this may be construed as exertion. It is preferable for expeditions to be made to distant parts of the United Kingdom in the back of your parents' car. You should on no account attempt to look through the window during this journey and should ensure that your I-pod is turned up sufficiently loudly that the most annoying beats leak from your headphones.
No sort of accommodation should be good enough for you: remember, The Duke of Edinburgh only camps in deluxe tents large enough to house a fleet of state Rolls Royces and then only if a retinue of servants has been provided. Hotels which you may visit should fly your standard at all times and will not meet with your approval unless the staff treat you with the required level of deference. Waiters and bell boys may call you "Sir" but you must insist that the manager/owner refers to you as "Your Majesty" when responding to your complaints about some of the Royal Rice Crispies Snapping when you specifically requested only those that Pop.
If your parents refuse to holiday within the UK, it is permissible to fly to another European destination providing you make your unhappiness at using RyanAir plain to all who will listen. Repeatedly. And then some more. You cannot always hope to insult the host country's President or Monarch during your visit, but drunkenly urinating on the national flag will suffice.
Note: Ogling girls' breasts on the beach is permissible and is a requirement if the girls are putting on some sort of cultural display, such as sunbathing. Or trying to change discretely behind a towel.
Successful candidates receive their certificates from a member of the same species as the Duke of Edinburgh. They are now entitled to sneer at poor people and foreigners. Evidence of their racial intolerance will now be seen as high-comedy.
To qualify for the Gold Award you must complete at least a year of the four previous strands as well as one additional residential strand. Remember: Royalty must learn to suffer for us all without complaint.
- Community Service
By now you must be able to accept the service of (part of) a community with complete indifference and ingratitude. Where possible you should attempt to live tax-free on the labour of others and should not neglect opportunities to criticise the standard of that labour. Any toleration of back-sliding amongst one's peasantry will be frowned upon. Gold award candidates must earn to accept the service of a yet bigger community - remember: no pain (for others), no gain (for you).
If possible, you should attempt to spend time in one of the large countries in the "White Commonwealth" such as Australia or Canada (New Zealand, if necessary) so that you may display your ability to patronise awestruck locals. Care should be taken to upset Aboriginals, Maoris or Native Americans by appearing bored during any traditional dancing. Opportunities to pose with particularly phallic pieces of tribal carving should not be missed.
Where possible the trip should be undertaken at public expense, preferably in a private yacht or aeroplane. At the very least the trip should be part of a gap year funded entirely by your parents, with the sole aim of losing your virginity in a region too remote for news of the disaster to reach your friends (should you have any). If you are unable to take a six month break in your education or employment, a six week visit to Scotland is allowable providing that the trip is made by private train, accommodation is in a picturesque castle and that you take part in the Scottish trout and salmon eradication programs.
Many candidates combine the Community Service aspect of the Award with the Residential aspect which is also a requirement at Gold level (see below).
- Physical Activity
There should by now be no activity of any sort. The ability to flat line a brain-scan may earn you an immediate pass. Many candidates will be now be living in Halls of Residence at University and should, therefore, be able to demonstrate the ability to leave the shower block freshly decorated with vomit in full confidence that "Someone else will clear it up."
- Skill development
It is not necessary to acquire any new skills for the Gold Award level although examiners sometimes test the ability to wave listlessly to foreign-types while wearing several layers of clothing unsuitable for the climate. The ability to nonchalantly wear funny hats while pinning medals to peons is considered essential, but D of E central office recognise that not all applicants will be able to find a Pacific nation to worship them as God. However, by now your parents and boy/girlfriend should be firmly convinced of your divinity if you have the necessary skills to pass this most daunting of challenges.
There is still a requirement to carry out an expedition at Gold Level but this is more usually combined with the final element of the course - the Residential Strand (see below).
By now it should be possible for you to live entirely at the expense of not just your own nation, but at the expense of other nations around the world. For example, a good candidate may achieve this drinking at least one bottle of cheap South African wine for each grape picked during a temporary vineyard job on a gap year in Paarl, contracting hepatitis and being airlifted home at the expense of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Alternatively, you may consider becoming drunk enough to be caught working illegally at the Toronto beer-festival and requiring the British Consul to bail you out of jail.
Less affluent candidates should consider the possibilities of visiting a brothel in Prague or Amsterdam and then wasting police time asking them to search for your missing wallet. Contracting an STD is not essential, but will allow you to accept the service of at least one long suffering nurse on your return home.
Nb. These are suggestions and candidates should note that there are any amount of opportunities to spend parents' money abroad before being rescued by diplomatic officials.
Well done, sir!