This week, when unit meetings had finished for the term, but before we got deep into the summer holidays, everyone decided that it was a good window of opportunity to get together. So my guiding activities this week were a meeting/meal with my District, and another one the next day with my Division team. Both were lovely: a chance to catch up with other leaders and meet some I didn’t know before, put some dates in the diary, wish each other good luck for camps and holidays, say goodbye to some unit leaders and hello to their successors, learn bits of news (e.g. our hall has received a generous grant to buy some new tables and chairs, yay! And we might have a new Rainbow unit opening after Christmas, double yay!), and eat tasty food. Many thanks to the two leaders who welcomed 20+ of us into their homes and provided chairs, drinks and in one case a delicious lasagne.
(No prizes for guessing which song inspired this. Could be useful…er…if we ever have an Elizabethan-themed campfire?!)
I sing of Fred, an elk of great repute,
Of cleanly habit, and of lively mind.
His only vice? A drink of puréed fruit
Which oft he supped in bed as he reclined.
Alas! One night he met with dreadful woe,
For, though he paid it all attention due,
His drinking cup did grievously o’erflow
Upon his locks, and on his pillow too.
“Oh lackaday!” cried Fred. “My silky fur
Is stiff and sticky! How to make amends?”
He styled a quiff, and soon it did occur
That he was quite the envy of his friends.
In short, if you spill juice upon your head,
Then make the best of it, just like our Fred.
I’ve been enjoying reading about other guiding bloggers’ Starquest events, and now my turn has come! My county held its Big Brownie Birthday celebration/sleepover a couple of weeks ago in the grounds of a stately home.
They were very grand grounds. I commented that it would be a good site for a county camp, and the veteran Guiders I was with said that there had indeed been a county camp there a few decades ago. There was then some debate about whether it had been in 1985 or 1990.
The plan was for the Brownies to arrive in the early afternoon, have three hours to wander freely between the various activities on offer, collecting star stickers for completing them, and then have a picnic tea together, followed by campfire songs. Then the Brownies who were there for the day left, and those who were sleeping over had some kind of band performing and slept in three marquees, all 1600 of them.
Not having any Brownies of my own, I was there running an activity with other leaders from my Division. When we arrived to set up, it was rainy and gloomy and we all got our feet soaked on the grass. Just as the Brownies arrived, it cleared up and turned into a hot, sunny afternoon. What a relief!
Some of the leaders from my Division were helping the Brownies to make star wands.
And I was helping another leader to run an activity where the Brownies had to make a shape out of tent pegs using compass instructions (one step north, two steps south west etc.). If they got it right, it looked like a rocket. Both our activities were busy all afternoon. It was great to meet lots of Brownies and leaders from around the county, and see some familiar faces too.
I didn’t get to see much of the other activities, but there was a lot going on. There had to be with 2000 Brownies there for the afternoon! There were several kinds of dancing, a planetarium, a recyling bus, “synchronised swimming” (the Brownies decorated shower caps and learned some moves), traditional games, and no doubt much more.
After picnic tea time, and the cake-cutting, Queen’s Guide Buddy and I led campfire songs for everyone. It was a good half-hour slot, just right for doing all the best songs. (There was one awkward moment when I started Princess Pat without enough warning and no one joined in, but fortunately QGB rescued it!) From where I was standing, I could see Brownies joining in with the actions even in the back ranks, which was encouraging.
We both left after that, but I hear that the sleepover part went well. It was a huge day, and I take my hats off to the volunteers who organised it. It’s sure to be something the Brownies will remember for life.
I missed the last Guides meeting of term this week (don’t be too sad: I was on holiday at the seaside), but I know they were playing water games in one or other of the gardens near the hall that we’re kindly allowed to use.
There will have been cups, basins, buckets, groundsheets, washing up liquid, and of course water balloons. Not much more to say, really, so here’s a watery picture: an unfortunate Unit Helper has her shelter-building skills put to the test!
Hooray for summer!
At the end of June, I went with the Guides on what has become our annual night hike and sleepover. We’ve been doing it for so long, mainly thanks to the leader of the other Guide unit in my district, that as long as nothing unexpectedly goes wrong (which it didn’t this year), it runs like a well-oiled dream.
Here’s how it works: everyone arrives at a local village hall at 9:30pm, dumps their overnight gear in a suitable spot, gets their beds out, and gets ready to walk.
This year we took a bumper crop of 36 Guides from 5 units in the division. We leave as soon as possible, before it’s properly dark, leaving our torches off to make the most of the remains of the daylight, and use our night vision.
As an aside, night walking is one of my favourite things to do in guiding. It’s such a simple activity, but for a lot of Guides, especially the young ones, it’s a new experience to be out so late, and to take pleasure from walking in the dark. I love it how the things we see, hear and smell at night are different from in the daytime, and how conversations open up in a way they wouldn’t if you could see each other. I love showing the Guides that darkness isn’t something they have to avoid or be afraid of.
Anyway, we walk up to the downs and along a ridge, admiring the night-time view. This year we saw two firework displays going on! Usually some people make their Promise here.
Then we turn our torches on and walk down in a loop back to the hall, arriving about midnight, where some kind volunteer has stayed behind to get hot chocolate and biscuits ready for us. Everyone gets ready for bed…
…stays up chatting and midnight feasting…
…and eventually drops off (I called it a day at 2:15; the last Guides were nattering till 3am). This can be a very productive time for leaders! It’s a chance to catch up with leaders from other units, and to talk without the pressures of a unit meeting. Last year we helped someone to finish signing off their Leadership Qualification; this year we did some much-needed planning of the programme for camp.
In the morning, leaders start crashing about getting breakfast ready at 6:30 or so, we have a leisurely breakfast (in this case drinks, cereal and eggy bread, yum), everyone gets dressed, packed up and tidied, and if there’s time, the Guides have a play in the play park outside until they’re picked up at 8 o’clock. The leaders do a last sweep of the hall and off we all go!
This week the Guides had their second cook-out of term. We usually do two each summer for various reasons: they’re popular with the Guides, they can learn/remember the basics the first time and build on what they’ve learned the second time, we can explore different sites, we can have a joint meeting with another group.
This time we used the same leader’s garden as before, together with another Guide unit from our division. We often go on camps and trips with this unit and we know the leaders quite well. Some of the girls recognised each other too, and it turned out that one of our Guides has a cousin in the other unit!
Our Unit Helper had kindly gone there earlier in the day to turf out little fire pits. When we all arrived it was pouring with rain, but even so the usual number of Guides turned up – hurrah! We had some dry newspaper and kindling wood to get things started, and within half an hour the sky had cleared into a fine evening and all the fires were hot enough to add damp wood.
All that remained was for the Guides to cook and enjoy the food they’d brought. Some groups stuck with tried-and-tested sausages and burgers, while others got more adventurous. Our youngest Guides very impressively brought along a kettle to make hot chocolate and a biscuit tin to cook mini pizzas in, and our Young Leader helped them to rig these up.
What I like about cook-outs – beside the food and fire – is having time to chat with the girls. I learned much more about them this evening than I do in a “usual” meeting, and we discussed the camp programme and possible ideas for a trip next term, as well as all sorts of random stuff. This was my last Guides night before the summer holidays, as I’m away next week. What will I do with my Monday evenings?! Wait, I know…plan for camp.
A couple of weeks ago, the Guides and leaders who are going on camp left our scrapbook meeting half an hour early to have a parents’ meeting for camp. (The remaining Guides and leaders finished their evening just fine – we could hear them singing Taps outside.) We were joined by Guides, parents and leaders from the other unit in town – as usual, we’re all camping together.
This was a particularly special meeting because it was the first one led by Queen’s Guide Buddy, who is running the camp to get her licence as part of her Queen’s Guide Award (I did mine with Brownies in February, you may recall), so that we can do our exploration in the autumn.
The other leaders said they felt strange but proud to watch QGB taking the meeting. She made a great little booklet for everyone with all the info and kit list in, and worked through it, and it all went fine. I said my bit about the programme of activities, and others about first aid and catering. There weren’t even many questions at the end.
The leaders stayed chatting for a while afterwards, arranging a few more things for camp. It’s only 8 weeks away, yay!