Monthly Archives: August 2014

Wild West camp: day 1

Summer camp 2014 (7)

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.

Summer camp 2014 (5)

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.

The finished totem poles

The finished totem poles

Wild West camp: meet the camp

Summer camp 2014 (10)

I’m back from a lovely week and a half of guiding holidays: two nights with Brownies and Rainbows from near where I live, whom I didn’t know before (I’ll write about that in due course), then one night at home before going on camp with my own Guides.

Now that I’ve caught up on sleep and stopped hearing phantom Guide/leader voices and waking up in the middle of the night half-dreaming that I’m surrounded by Guides awaiting instructions (does anyone else experience this?), it’s time to write up what happened before I forget.  In brief, of course, because time at camp is much fuller than it is anywhere else, and it would be impossible to write down everything that was done, seen, said and thought.

Before embarking on a blow-by-blow account, here’s the background detail.

My Guides camped, as usual, with the other unit in our District.  We stayed at a Scout activity centre about 12 miles from home, so the girls’ parents provided their own transport.  We were there for 5 nights, from Saturday to Thursday, and we were lucky, nay blessed, with the weather.  It wasn’t particularly hot – though most people were down to t-shirts for at least a couple of hours most days – but it was almost entirely dry and not aggressively windy.  We were only affected by rain in that we had to put waterproofs on for a couple of adventure activities, and we moved two meals inside to avoid a passing shower.  Couldn’t really ask for more.

We took 8 adults: all the leaders of the two units, plus our District Commissioner.  My Queen’s Guide Buddy was doing her licence (needed for her Queen’s Guide Award so that we can go on an expedition) and overseeing operations, then there were two first aiders (one of whom dropped in and out of camp as her work allowed), three caterers, and two activity people (one being me).  We’ve been guiding together for years, some for decades, and it was a very good, comfortable team with no difficult characters.  QGB commented that it only worked because everyone was pulling their weight and more all the time, and one more full-time adult would have been useful to relieve some pressure.

We took 25 girls, although we only ever had 24 at a time.  There was a bit of coming and going, with a few arriving on day 2 having been on family holidays, and one leaving on day 2 for an appointment.  QGB handled the coming and going well, and I didn’t notice it unsettling the other girls.  We had a little Senior Section contingent: two 14-year-olds who are both Guides and Young Leaders at other units, one Ranger, and one ex-Guide who is coming back as our Young Leader in September.  For the sake of being brief, I’m likely to call them all Guides in this and future posts.

We also had the two young sons of one leader, who were brilliant free entertainment.  All the Guides became big sisters to them, and a few in particular did a lot of looking after/playing/helping/chasing around the campsite.  Hats off to the leader, too, who somehow always manages to be fully functioning both as a Guider and a parent.

Our campsite was a lovely space enclosed by a hedge, some woods, and a building.  Yes, we’d chosen the luxury of an indoor kitchen and a small hall which the QM team took over as a storage/preparation area.  In our evaluation chat at the end, they all said that having a proper kitchen was something they’d do again next time.  The building also had a veranda and a sunken patio area.

Tent-wise, the girls were in 5 Icelandic tents (green canvas, bedding rolls and gadgets), plus one storage tent for a group of 6 older Guides, so they could all sleep together without being crushed by bags.  The leaders were in two modern tents, and we also had a modern tent with a pod for first aid and activity storage, two party tents (we brought our own, and the campsite staff pitched another on day 2 because it was needed for the next group who were camping), and a tipi (from a contact of one of the leaders, to fit with the theme).  Really, we were spoilt for sheltered space, and it was lovely to be able to, say, leave craft materials out in one tent while we ate dinner in another.

The theme of the camp was the Wild West, inspired by the wooden veranda.  It ran strongly through most of the week, as we managed to find activities, crafts, food, decorations, and even tents, to fit.  Is that all you need to know for now?  I think so.  On with the camp!

Summer camp 2014 (13)

How to make a rain stick

Home made rain shaker stick

Here’s another craft from camp. The picture doesn’t do justice to the pleasant rattling sound it makes.

My original plan was to poke cocktail sticks into the cardboard tube, but that would have left pointy bits at the sides.  I see from various online instructions that you can poke nails or tacks into the tube…but internal silver foil was the easiest and cheapest material to obtain, so it won.

I asked all the leaders to collect and bring along cardboard tubes, and we had a mixture of kitchen roll inners, silver foil inners, and the tubes that glowsticks come in – it sounded like a monsoon when they were all rattling at once!

Download a rain stick instruction sheet – feel free to use it in a legal and non-profit way 🙂

I returned from camp yesterday, so no doubt posts about how it went will follow soon!

How to make a dream catcher

A home-made dream catcher

This is one of the crafts we’ll be doing on camp round about now.

Our dream catchers are thicker than the average, because they’re made from the inner tubes of the barcode sticker rolls I use at work.  I’ve been saving them for a year, knowing that they’d come in handy for something guiding-related.  It’s so nice to be proved right.

Download a dream catcher instruction sheet – feel free to use for your own legal and non-profit purposes 🙂

20 years of guiding

When this post comes out, I’ll be on camp.  There will be glorious sunshine, and everyone will be having a lovely time.  Let’s hope.  Meanwhile, it occurs to me that my guiding experience started almost exactly 20 years ago, so settle down and I’ll tell you How It All Began.

My dad is a member of SAGGA, which is a continuation of SSAGO, the Student Scout and Guide Organisation, after you’ve finished being a student.  However, SAGGA is pretty inclusive and you can join without having been in SSAGO, or indeed to university.  They do service projects, they have get-togethers and family camps, and it’s all good scouty-guidey fun.

In summer 1994, my family went to a SAGGA camp at Broneirion, a Girlguiding-owned house and grounds in mid-Wales.  That was my first conscious experience of guiding, and indeed scouting, though I’d been to one or two other events when I was very small.  A few memories stand out: the marquee (I’d never seen such a big tent before!); the smell of paraffin; the mealtime paraphernalia, with all kinds of chairs and stools and name-labelled cutlery; the bushes and shrubberies in the garden, great for secret passages and hidey-holes; the dining room in the house with a portrait of Lord Baden-Powell on the wall; the campfire circle, where I caught the singing bug; and the Brownie house, a little cottage hidden in the grounds.

One day, my mum and I went for a walk past the Brownie house.  It was in use, and I think we went in and chatted with the leaders and saw the Brownies doing their thing.  At some point, then or later, I decided that I wanted in on it.  I wanted to be a Brownie and live in a cottage with my friends and sing songs round the fire together.

When we got home, my parents made investigations (this isn’t my memory now, just their reports and conjecture).  I wasn’t old enough to be a Brownie, but my mum phoned the local Commissioner and asked if I could join Rainbows.  The Commissioner said that the only Rainbow unit in town was pretty full, but there were plans to open a new unit after Christmas…if only they had another adult helper….

Classic recruitment technique, as I now know.  That was how, the following January, my mother and I joined Rainbows together, and started our guiding adventures.

DIY camp badges

Reverse-image badge designs on transfer paper

Printed, cut out, and ready to iron onto yellow felt.

A few years ago, inspired by a swap she got, Queen’s Guide Buddy started a tradition of making our own camp badges with felt and print-and-iron transfer paper.  Sometimes she makes them, sometimes I do, and this year it’s a team effort: I designed and printed, and she’s going to iron on and cut the fabric, because I don’t have a working iron.

Incidentally, the neckers are also a team effort: I cut up a king-size sheet and she’s going to hem them with her sewing machine, another domestic appliance I don’t have!

Clare’s top tips:

  • Read and follow the instructions on the transfer paper
  • Make sure you print on the right side of the paper and in the right orientation: for dark fabric, the image should be the right way round, and for light fabric it should be in mirror image
  • Aim to make more than you need, because a few badges usually melt or don’t stick or come out wonky.  This year, I need 35 badges, but I printed and got enough fabric for 48.  That’s 12 to a page x 4 pages, because 36 would have been cutting it too fine
  • Follow official guidelines on branding, e.g. how to present the group name and trefoil.  Here are the ones for Girlguiding in the UK (may be a members-only page)…and my heart just sank as I realised I’ve done something wrong, which fortunately the world can’t see because it’s in the blanked-out bit of the photo.  Too late now, but I guess we shouldn’t use them as swaps after all.  Please learn from my mistakes!
  • Don’t leave it till the last minute.  This is a bit of prep you can do weeks or months in advance, as soon as you know the theme, approximate number of participants and (optionally) location of your camp.  You don’t want to be up printing and ironing at silly o’clock the night before camp.  Again, trust me on this.

Sighing over storage

Storage box with note stuck to it saying "This box is for camp - Clare"

Camp is fast approaching!  Whenever I start to panic, I remember that at least I’m not the one doing my licence.  (That would be Queen’s Guide Buddy, and she’s doing a great job of it.)

With another leader, I’m in charge of the programme.  We’ve made our magic spreadsheet of activities and kit, and this week I went to the hall to start getting things together.

This meant delving into my unit’s cupboard and storage crates.  Argh!  Suddenly the memories came flooding back: the time we made Christmas cards and hastily shoved all the coloured paper away at the end of the meeting; the time I was rummaging in the crate, spilled sequins everywhere, and didn’t have time to gather them up again; the crafts QGB and I ran at Region camp, which are still in the bottom of the crate where we left them last summer… yeah, I think we need to sort our storage out.

On the plus side, I was pleased to find things I wasn’t sure if we had, like felt, glittery card, and six colanders.  I got together a couple of boxes for camp, and felt much better for having made some non-last-minute preparations and ticked things off the kit list.