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.