Having loaded up vehicles the night before, the leaders, plus helpful family members, arrived on site at 9am to unload and start setting up. We had to miss our planned tea break and sit-down, but by the time the Guides arrived at 11:30 we were ready to welcome them.
As the girls arrived, they handed in health forms and home-made (well, almost all home-made) cakes, left their bags in the party tent, collected name badges, and joined me and another leader for games (mainly monkey football, fruit salad, and stuck in the mud). We played for about half an hour, and I was pleasantly surprised that everyone got into it, because when we did the same at our last camp, it was a bit awkward and lifeless. Not so here: phew.
Queen’s Guide Buddy, when she was ready and happy with the arrival paperwork, took the Guides on a tour of the site (toilets, shop, bins, out-of-bounds areas etc.), and then we sat down to eat our packed lunches. This introduced those not familiar with it to our standard camp mealtime routine. We sit in a circle with leaders on camping chairs and Guides/Senior Section on sitters, with the patch of grass in the middle becoming the “table”, which no one is allowed to walk across. The patrol on hostess duty lays out the sitters and chairs, makes a table decoration, lays out the grace sheets (QGB had made some new ones, laminated, with a selection of secular and God-mentioning graces on one side, and the words of the Promise on the other side), and chooses a grace to sing. When there is food to serve, we send a few Guides at a time up to a table where the leaders and Senior Section serve them, observing a one-way system. After the meal, each patrol does their own washing up, and sometimes a share of the leaders’ and kitchen washing up, in a bowl on a stand.
Anyway, during this lunch, QGB said a proper welcome and went through roles, rules, explanations, and so forth. Afterwards, we got on with the fun.
All the Guides started off painting totem poles: each tent group had a long carpet roll tube (begged from a local carpet shop), and used acrylic paints (8 200ml bottles in a selection of colours was about right for 6 totem poles, though the Guides used up the bright colours before we leaders made our pole, so ours was mostly brown and grey!). They got really into it, and it was a good way to encourage tent team spirit.
Meanwhile, I called out a tent at a time to tie dye their neckers. We knew we’d need camp neckers for our excursion later in the week, and QGB thought that if everyone decorated their own, they’d be more positive about them than about our usual old neckers. So I cut up a bedsheet into 34 triangles and she hemmed it (an experience she doesn’t want to repeat), and the Guides tied elastic bands round them and left them in a tub of blue dye. It was nice sitting around with each tent, chatting with them as they twisted rubber bands.
Meanwhile again, other leaders called out a tent at a time to pitch their tents. They were very efficient: every time I looked, another tent had gone up.
After a squash and cake break (a staple of camp), we had originally planned to start another activity, but it looked like everyone would be happy to have more time for painting and pitching and settling into their tents, so we let them carry on and taught them how to make gadgets, and postponed the activity to another day, rather than rushing it.
Before dinner, everyone put their beds down, and we all sat in the tipi and introduced our teddies (an idea I’d stolen from pack holiday a few days earlier). I wish I could remember what meals we ate each day, but most of them have blurred together in general tastiness. I know that on the first night both the main course and the pudding were things that our QMs had prepared at home and warmed up in the camp kitchen…maybe casserole and apple crumble? Delicious, whatever it was.
Our evening entertainment was line dancing! First the Guides put on boots/wellies/cowboy hats if they had them, then they made spurs* in what I like to call a flash-mob craft because it was fairly speedy. Once everyone was spurred, our chief QM, who does line dancing, taught us all a few dances. Everyone picked the first two up, and I saw some Guides doing them by themselves later in the week; the third was more rhythmically complicated and not many people got it, but it was all good fun.
Then it was time for hot chocolate and a biscuit (another camp staple) and bed. One of my favourite quotes of the week came when QGB was explaining the bedtime routine.
QGB: You’ll need to hammer in all your brailers and tuck the sodcloth under your groundsheets, because you don’t want to wake up soggy.
Guide: Who’s Soggy?
We hoped the dancing might help the Guides to get to sleep at a reasonable time, and it sort of worked: I think the last time we had to speak to a tent was 11:30pm. The leaders turned in somewhat later!
* How do you make them, I hear you ask. Cut out card from this Welly spur template, cover the star in silver foil (or metallic pens, or use metallic card), punch holes through the shaded circles, cut along the dotted line to make two “legs”, bend one leg forward and the other back, sit them on the back of your ankle so that the legs wrap around your ankle and the star sticks out at the back, and tie elastic between the two holes.