I volunteer in a number of organisations,
supporting children and young people in Portsmouth. I've introduced
chess to an increasing number of boys and girls at the Breakfast
Club at Charter Academy, Portsmouth.
I also help each week at Portsmouth Academy for
Girls, playing chess during the lunch break. Two Year 8
girls have volunteered to act as junior chess instructors at
Langstone Junior School in Portsmouth: I've organised the
after-school chess club there for 12 years, attracting about 28
children each week. We've entered for local and national chess
tournaments, winning a considerable number of trophies.
And I support a Portsmouth junior school as the training
governor, and as a volunteer reader, on Tuesday and
I also produce the list of readers and intercessors for
St Cuthbert's, and act as safeguarding co-ordinator and
process the DBS Disclosure Forms.
My other role is safeguarding adviser for the Mothers'
Union in the Portsmouth diocese.
I've also served in a variety of adult leadership
appointments in the Scout movement since 1957. I meet
leadership teams to deliver the safeguarding brief for organising
trips abroad for Scouts and Explorer Scouts from
Chess is a challenge to improve strategic
thinking. It's a tool for children and young people, in
contrast to spending many hours these days playing with the iPad,
the Xbox, and isolating themselves at home in the bedroom with
their computers and mobile phones.
Social interaction playing a board game, with a
highly competitive nature, provides an opportunity to express fair
play and good manners. Parents tell me that sometimes their child
is very calm and thoughtful following our weekly chess-club
It's rewarding to see a Year 5 boy or girl improving
their game each week, and enjoying success with winning at
school or local schools' chess tournaments.
My grandfather was very patient with my wish to play
chess. Looking back at our weekend visits to him in
Yeovil, I'm confident he used to let me win sometimes.
My form tutor, Mr Lewis, ran a school chess
club. I learned a lot of chess tactics from his
stewardship. During my fifth year in Portsmouth Naval Base, we
apprentices would play chess during the lunch break in the design
You just need to be willing to learn to play the most
complicated board game ever invented. Be prepared to
listen, try new and different techniques, and indulge in
risk-taking. Experts have stated that children who excel at maths
make good chess players, and teachers state that chess helps
children to use planning skills and concentrate at their
Over a game of chess, or just talking one to one, I'm
able to unravel any issues, and particularly with Year 10
and 11 boys and girls. When discussion is about spiritual
development, sometimes the game becomes a side issue, a useful tool
to start a discussion. The young people sometimes carry a lot of
baggage, and once they feel that a high degree of trust has been
established, they unload their problems in confidence.
Belonging to a club, and playing with friends,
from all school years, with a win-or-lose outcome, means the
youngsters interact between various ages, and boys playing girls,
on agreed terms. At competition level, chess rules are rigidly
enforced, and this is accepted by the children and their parents
when they are representing their school.
I do sometimes wonder if any form of chess-type game was
around among the first disciples. God could be seen as an
observer from on high, watching the battle on a chessboard, and the
emotions experienced by the players wishing to win. I have heard
that chess masters around the world will seek God's help and say a
prayer prior to a major competition.
In my role as the safeguarding coordinator for South
East Hampshire Scouts, my training has included sessions
on why teenagers self-harm. This helps when attempting to gauge the
level of their concerns.
It's a pity that child-protection protocols frighten
volunteers off. I think it's a perceived problem. Be
confident in what you're doing. Be prepared to attend training. We
have a very highly qualified trainer in our diocese, who will
deliver an excellent training session for people who'd like to work
with children and young people. I have to do this for any of the
roles I undertake.
I completed a five-year apprenticeship as a
joiner, and worked at Portsmouth Naval Base with the MOD
for 42 years. I had the privilege of working on the Royal Yacht
Britannia. After ten years on aircraft carriers and
frigates, I was appointed to a position in the Apprentice Training
Division, helping to look after more than 600 craft and technician
apprentices. I developed one-week residential leadership
experiences for the years 3 and 4, and organised sports activities
on a Wednesday evening for ten years when we won several trophies.
I used to insist on good timekeeping and fair play.
I was promoted to manage the Non-Destructive
Examination Centre in Portsmouth Naval Base, leading a team of
qualified staff undertaking radiography, ultrasonics, and Magnetic
Particle Crack Detection on all classes of Navy ships and
submarines. I had two sessions of work at the Clyde Submarine Base,
Faslane, testing systems and the hull integrity of nuclear
submarines. I also tested helicopter platforms for the Falklands
War. It was a very busy time.
We were well protected. We used to have to
charge a dosimeter, measuring radioactivity, and wear a film badge
which measured our monthly dose. We also carried a radiation
monitor. We understood what we were doing and why we were doing
We were working to tight time schedules in difficult
conditions. I would sometimes say a prayer thanking God
for keeping me and my team safe when using high-powered radiation
sources, and a number of people whom I worked with had a strong
Running a large Scout troop, with children from
various backgrounds, I had to learn to listen. Listening skills are
very important for being a successful volunteer. You never quite
know what nine- or ten-year-old boys and girls are going to come
out with - there's such joy and spontaneity. I find teenagers like
to work to a plan. Ask, what is your first lesson today? and out
comes their timetable, which they carry in their pockets. They
value the structured life at school.
Within that, there must be fun and spontaneity within
the lessons. I do promote high standards and good manners.
If you expect that, you get it, most of the time. Some of the
family situations that these teenagers have to cope with now - a
minority, I'm pleased to say - are quite horrific.
I was born in Salisbury, but the family moved
to Portsmouth when I was 11, as my father had gained promotion with
Janet and I were married in Yeovil in 1964. We
celebrated our Golden Wedding last year with about 80 people from
family, church, Scouting, and our walking group, the Solent
We have two children, who are both married, and
four grandchildren. Sadly, Eloise is disabled. She can't speak or
walk; but she has a happy disposition, and always recognises Gran
and Granddad, greeting us with a big smile. For a number of years
we would all holiday together in a cottage during the summer
We enjoy walking, and weekends with our walking
group, which we formed 14 years ago. I like Austria particularly,
with its scenery, spacious environment and clean air.
I enjoy music and reading. Alexander Kent and
C. S. Forester are favourites.
I'd still like to continue to learn more about
cooking, play the piano again, and keep fit and
I'm happiest being with family, and having a
balance of time when I am busy with my volunteering, and relaxing
with a good book, planning and organising people and events,
hearing about children and young people achieving
I pray for my family and friends, and for
people who are suffering ill health or unhappiness.
I would choose Chief Scout Bear Grylls as my companion
in a locked church. I'm confident he would help me to
David Stemp was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.