So all those muddy camping trips in torrential rain weren’t wasted after all… Scouting is good for you. For ever.

Adults who used to be scouts or guides long ago are still reaping the benefits years later, says new research. Apparently, ex-scouts and guides have better mental health in middle age and suffer less from anxiety and stress. That’s what comes from knowing how to build an open fire or tie a proper reef knot…

It’s not just the sociability and making friends – scouts and guides even do better than people who’ve been to other youth groups – so there’s more to it than that. Researchers say it might be the open air. Getting outside is always good for you and scouts and guides might have started the habit early. Then there are skills…

As a guide, I was taught to do things: put up a tent, manage a canoe or give a talk to a crowded room. The first aid skills they taught me saved my husband’s life when he plugged himself into the National Grid via the lawnmower – which would have been such a STUPID way to die.

As well as traditional stuff, guides now learn all sorts of interesting things from personal safety to party planning, making chocolate cakes to survival skills and sorting out a bank account. These are vital survival skills for the modern world. Mastering them is not just useful but gives a girl – or boy – confidence in themselves and the confidence to tackle other skills. They’re less likely to sit there and wait for someone else to take over.

So much learning these days is geared towards the relentlessness of exams and testing, an apparently endless treadmill.

And one of the unintended consequences of modern life is that we tend to keep our children younger for longer. They might know all about sophisticated sex, yet can’t be trusted to read a bus timetable and get themselves home. Time and again, research shows that one of the more important bases for happiness is having control over our own lives. Mastering some useful skills is a start.

Scouts and guides have decades of experience in encouraging youngsters to stretch themselves, to find out what they can do- often a lot more than they think –and, above all, making it fun.

Being able to do stuff – all sorts of stuff – is a great feeling. No surprise, then, that the benefit lasts for years.

MEANWHILE, 15-year-old Arthur Heeler-Foord went missing because he was bored with his life. He left a note for his parents and a polite apology to his bosses in his part-time job. Although he promised to be back in a year, his parents, understandably, were frantic with worry. After two months, Arthur was spotted and returned home by police.

A country boy born and bred, he’d spent his time exploring London, Birmingham and Manchester, sleeping rough and doing odd jobs to get money. He was a bit smelly but he’d seen a different world and survived.

Yes, you could shake him until his teeth rattled for his thoughtlessness and the worry he caused, but I can’t help thinking that, once he’s found something to interest him, Arthur will be a very successful and independent young man.

I DON’T know what I expected Theresa May to wear to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. In a fit of inverted snobbery, Gordon Brown once went in an ordinary business suit and, surrounded by chaps in full formal white tie rig, looked very foolish.

So when Mrs May turned up in a bright red dress, sleeveless and split to the thigh I wanted to cheer. Stylish, confident and an outfit that certainly said “Don’t mess with me.”

Not bad for a 60-year-old prime minister.

I REALLY hope John Cleese was misquoted. The 77-year-old so-called funny man said recently that children are the cause of most of the misery in the world. “They cost you a fortune, you worry yourself sick and they grow up like their mothers.”

As in the same interview he’d said he wished his ex-wives were dead (one actually is), then you can only imagine what his daughters thought of that.

Once upon a time John Cleese might have been funny. He certainly isn’t now.

PRISCILLA Presley met her husband when she was just fourteen years old and, she says, lost her teenage years to him. What’s more, in all their married life, she never once let him see her without make-up.

Which tells us more than we want to know about their marriage – and perhaps also explains why it didn’t last very long.

A NEW York paper in a spiteful bit of ageism, published a close-up of Madonna’s hands, mocking their wrinkles.

Madonna is 58 and probably fitter than your average commando. Yet, with comments like that, is there any wonder she so often wears those little lacy gloves on stage?