Monthly Archives: September 2014

Hall clear-out

Towards the end of the summer holidays, we had a big clear-out of the Guide hall.  It had been almost a year since the last one, and although leaders in some units had been good and kept their areas tidy, others (ahem…like my unit…) needed an incentive to sort things out before the new term.  It also gave us a chance to tidy and clear the communal areas.

First, an introduction to the hall.  We’re lucky that it’s ours: it belongs to the district.  All the units and the Trefoil Guild meet there, apart from one Brownie unit and the Rangers.  That’s partly because they meet at the same time as other groups, and partly a hangover from when there used to be two Districts in town.

There is an entrance hall with coat hooks and cupboards, some for units and some for shared stationery/craft things.  There’s a main room with some more unit cupboards and wall displays (as I’ve mentioned before, it’s small – comfortable for up to about 30 people), a tiny kitchen, and a tiny toilet and a handwashing room where we keep the Brownie Promise paraphernalia.  Finally there’s a store room where each unit has shelves to keep their larger things, and we keep more shared stuff like games equipment, cooking equipment that doesn’t fit in the kitchen, future tombola prizes, flags, old annuals and handbooks, the vacuum cleaner, etc. etc.  There’s a little paved area in front of the hall, but no other outdoor space, so we rely on kind neighbours letting us use their gardens, or else going out somewhere public like the park.

On the clear-out evening, we emptied as much of the store room into the main hall as we could, and tried to be as ruthless as possible about throwing away things that were no longer needed/never used.  So long, punctured footballs!  Adios, empty glue bottles!  Cheerio, excessive amounts of mediocre scrap paper!  Some things, we agreed, were fun to make but really didn’t have a long-term life of use: goodbye, giant Brownie-made snakes and ladders board!  Farewell, giant Guide-made Chinese dragon!

Some people sorted things that had got muddled up, e.g. putting the bean bags in one box and the juggling balls in another.  I spent some time sorting out my own unit’s craft crates.  I’m now pleased to say that we have one for paper and funky foam, one for other indoor craft bits (e.g. pipe cleaners, ribbons, tape), and one for random/outdoor things (e.g. string, matches, horseshoes).

It helped that we had agreed on a time limit of an hour and a half, so we knew we wouldn’t be stuck there all night.  We overran a little, but eventually everything was back in place looking beautifully tidy and organised, and we had lots of bin bags to take home.

It was also a good chance to catch up with leaders from other units, find out how their summers had been, how their pack holidays and camps had gone, get bits of leadership and residential qualifications signed off, talk about what we were all doing this term, and generally have a good chat.  By the end of the evening, I felt just about ready to start the term!

Shiver me timbers!

This week at Guides, in celebration of International Talk Like a Pirate Day (i.e. we had one meeting left to fill and were trying to think of a seasonal theme), we had a pirate night.

Parrot 1

Everyone came in costume – some girls used their stripey uniform tops, which was good thinking.  We started by making these balancing parrots, which I printed on coloured card.  The girls each cut one out and decorated it with pens and feathers, in a determined effort to get rid of the excess craft feathers from our summer camp.  They stuck a penny on the tail and, hey presto, they balanced.  Except for a few that were too soggy with glue to stay upright.

Their next challenge was for each patrol to build a perch for all their parrots using dried spaghetti and marshmallows (again, things we want to use up before the marshmallows go out of date.  The spaghetti is way out of date, but that doesn’t matter).  Some groups managed better than others!  The one below collapsed when I asked them to add more parrots.

Parrot 2

Next, we played a game where they had to eat a mini donut off a string without using their hands (as if pirates had captured them and tied their hands behind their back).  This was over quite quickly – it turns out mini donuts are much easier to eat than their big brothers, as you can just put the whole thing in your mouth and tug.  All the Guides did it at the same time, but next time I think I’d do it as a relay race.

Pirate donuts

Then we played a treasure game.  The girls sat in two lines facing each other, and each had a number down the line.  When a leader called a number, the two girls with that number had to run up, put a toy pirate hook on their hand, rummage in a treasure chest, and hook out pieces of jewellery (leftover from selling it at a fundraising stall) until the next number was called up.  When all the jewellery was gone, the teams counted up how many pieces they had and we declared a winner.  Actually, that’s what we would have done ideally, but somehow the Guides who were counting got muddled and had to start again several times, until we decided to leave it and move on.

During this game, I started to prepare the next game (kind of a Chinese raffle involving chocolate coins and dice), but we realised that there wouldn’t be time to do it justice, so we played a quick game of ‘Captain’s Coming’ instead.  (Leader calls out nautical-themed actions, and the last girl to do it is out.  This time, our “out” girls were very good at being quiet and watching the game with eagle eyes to spot who should be out next.  That doesn’t always happen!)  We’re going to use the coins for our next ‘guess the number of sweets in the jar’ fundraiser instead.

That took us to the end.  What I liked is that practically everything we did could have been done with any seciton.  Yes, it’s good to give Guides challenges suitable for their age, but this was a good reminder that sometimes they’re very happy just colouring, cutting, sticking, and playing silly games.

Wild West camp: day 6 (and last!)

Summer camp 2014 (98)

Thursday morning dawned bright and cool, and I stepped out of my tent to find the five bivouacking Guides sleeping snug and sound.  We took them hot drinks to tempt them to leave their cocoon – they all said they’d had the warmest and best night’s sleep they’d had all week, probably because they were covered in so many layers, and maybe also because it’s easier to stay up chatting in a tent than it is outside lying in a line pinned down by groundsheets!

The girls in the tipi had also slept well.  We joked that we wondered why we bothered with patrol tents at all!

Breakfast was one of my favourites, camp dreams, i.e. sandwiches dipped in pancake batter and fried.  The fillings were jam and cheese this time, but I’m also partial to chocolate spread – nom!

The girls weren’t due to leave until 5:30pm, since it was a weekday and we thought it might not be convenient for some parents to pick them up in the middle of the day.  We tried hard not to make the whole day feel like we were just waiting to go home, although it was obviously on everyone’s minds.

In the morning, we split the Guides into two groups.  Just for a change from the usual activity groups, which they’d been in most of the week, we divided it by age, with the 10-11s together and the 12-14s together.  One group finished their hobby horses, because it would be a shame to leave them unfinished, and also because Co-Activity Leader was adamant that she wasn’t going to take any broom handles or foam home!

I took the other group to make edible wagons.  I divided them again, so they were working in groups of 5-6 and gave them a selection of biscuits and sweets (including, of course, Wagon Wheels) and icing, and half an hour.  They came up with very inventive creations!  This one has a mobile jail…

Summer camp 2014 (106)

…and this one is being drawn by a horse, whose smiley face has partly fallen off.

Summer camp 2014 (107)

The groups swapped over, then we had squash and cake.

Then First Aider and I took the girls off-site to give the others a leaders a chance to clear up and take the remaining tents down.  We went to the campfire circle with pens, post-it notes and the cow-shaped laundry basket, and asked the girls to write their favourite thing about camp on one colour post-it, and something they would change on another colour, and feed them into the cow’s mouth.

Next, the Guides did a trail, finding bird pictures hanging in the bushes and writing the birds’ names in a grid.  When it was filled in correctly, a line of letters going downwards spelled ORNITHOLOGY.  The first, second and third groups to finish got to go up to be served first at lunchtime.  I made the trail for region camp last year, and kept the bird pictures and blank answer sheets in the hall – fortunately, I grabbed them at the last minute as a possible filler activity!

Then First Aider ran a game – something about being baby birds flying into nests, which continued the bird theme nicely! – while I gathered up the bird pictures and played hide-and-seek with FA’s three-year-old.  He soon realised that I was easy to find in the bushes because of my bright purple cardigan!

Lunch was a “cattle drive roundup”, i.e. finishing all the leftover food.  I forgot to mention that the QMs, when drawing up the menu, gave everything themed names, like “cowgirl casserole” and “Native American hotpot”.  As you can tell, I didn’t really keep track of what we were eating when – I knew that it would be tasty, whatever it was – so it became a running joke that whenever someone asked me what was for the next meal, I’d say “cowboy surprise”.

After lunch, the Guides did a litter sweep of the site.  This was very worthwhile, since as well as finding bits of rubbish – mainly water balloon fragments and the odd sweet wrapper – someone found a figurine that had dropped off QGB’s badge tab and would have been a shame to lose.

The Guides made a final trip to the campsite shop, and I went in for the first time all week and stocked up on badges for me and other leaders who had asked for them.  Then we went to our final activity, go-karting.

There were just two pedal go-karts and a little track, so we raced in pairs and timed everyone so we could work out the fastest.  With 24 girls and a one-hour session, there was only enough time for everyone to have one go, and there was a fair bit of sitting around.  We tried to keep everyone involved by counting down to start the race, and having a few Guides doing the timing and a couple on hand to give the karts a push in the uphill part of the track.  They were generally happy to watch and talk amongst themselves.  The senior section and older Guides were getting a bit uninterested and at first said they didn’t want a go, but the younger ones managed to talk them into it.

Oh, and there were a couple of minor collisions that caught everyone’s attention.  Despite me making sure everyone knew how to brake before they started, some Guides forgot it when they reached the slightly downhill part of the track…one hit the tyre wall, sending tyres flying spectacularly, and another took a corner too fast and rolled the kart.  I’m glad they have a few more years before they can drive cars!  Fortunately both were ok – I don’t want damaged Guides at any time, but especially not an hour before the end of camp, and especially not QGB’s licence camp!  I had a go too (soundly trouncing Co-Activity Leader), and to be fair, it was quite hard to remember to pull the brake handle in the heat of the moment.

Summer camp 2014 (113)

When our time was up, we went back to our campsite – now looking very bare – and got everyone in a circle for a final piece of cake (the QMs had paced it very well, so we just about got through it all) and a closing talk.  QGB gave out camper interest badges and the badges we had made, announced some prize winners, and thanked everyone; and we thanked her and gave her three cheers for doing such a spectacular job of running the show.

That brought us to the end.  The girls collected their belongings (including hobby horses), and found their parents.  The leaders took down the tipi and packed the last bits and bobs into vehicles.  We said our goodbyes – not too sentimentally, as we all see each other quite often – and headed off.  Those who live near our hall and camp store kindly returned equipment there.  QGB and I were the last to leave the site, and she dropped me off at home to an evening of unpacking, washing, and a very early night.  Real world rehab could wait till the next day.

There’s so much about camp that I haven’t included, because I forgot it, or forgot when it happened, or it would sound ridiculous if I tried to write it out, but I’m glad I’ve at least written the main things.  That was the point of this blog, really: to record what I do in guiding, so in future I can look back and remember it, because so much gets forgotten or blurred together.  I’ve enjoyed all the camps I’ve been on, but I do think this was one of the best, for a mixture of factors but especially the lovely people in my guiding family who I was lucky enough to share it with.

Barbecues

Barbecues (1)

This week’s meeting was straightforward.  Unit Leader suggested it would be nice to cook on barbecues before it got too dark – we meet from 7:00-8:30pm, so all our meetings are pretty much in darkness from October to March.

We brought disposable barbecues and matches, the Guides brought food and utensils.  They’re dab hands at outdoor cooking now after our two summer cook outs, and most groups went beyond just sausages and burgers: I saw bacon, salad, kebabs, chocolate bananas and, of course, marshmallows.  Some patrols were even over-equipped, and needed reminding that when cooking on a barbecue, unlike on a fire, it’s not necessary to wrap everything in silver foil.

We did it on the gravel driveway of the house next door to our hall.  We are very lucky that one of our Guides lives there and her parents are more than happy for us to use the drive and garden.  We all waved to her little brother before he went to bed!  We were also lucky that they have a floodlight, otherwise it would have been very dark by the time we finished.

The Guides pretty much looked after themselves.  I experimented with a bit of craft for selling at stalls, but decided I needed more time and daylight to try it properly.

Just before the end, we cleared up, went back inside, and presented Young Leader with a leaving present, as it was her last meeting before going to university.  It’s quite a landmark – she’s been helping us for over 4 years, and was a Guide for 4 years before that, so altogether she’s shared some of the most formative years of her life with this unit, has changed, grown, had new experiences, and given us countless hours of help.  No need to be too sentimental, as we’re likely to see her when she’s back for the holidays.  We asked all the Guides (and leaders) to bring in something small to put in a hamper (i.e. a box wrapped in coloured paper) for her.  It looked great when we put it all together: there were sweets, stationery, toiletries, make up, hot drinks equipment – I’m sure she’ll be pleased to have them all at university!

Miraculously, the meeting finished on time, in fact a couple of minutes early.

Barbecues (2)

Wild West camp: day 5

On Wednesday we called in the cavalry.  We like to have a themed wide game day on camp, and months ago QGB had the inspired idea of asking the Rangers to run it.

There were many advantages to this: they could be involved in camp even though they weren’t there for the whole week; they got some planning and leadership experience and it counted towards their Octants; it took the pressure of the leaders at camp to some extent; the Guides got some fresh faces leading them, as they were no doubt fed up of us by that stage in the week; and the Guides got to see the joys that await them if they move up to Rangers.

QGB gave the Rangers and their leaders an idea of what was needed, they planned it over a couple of meetings in the summer term, there was much exchange over email and Facebook about equipment, timings, who was coming, etc. etc.  Much was at the last minute when we were already on camp, so thank goodness for QGB having a clever phone that lets her use email.

Before the day’s activities began, we had another delicious breakfast – was it pancakes?  Or hash browns? – with two highlights.  Firstly, Unit Helper finally finished the leftover jelly from several days before, which she had been dutifully having with every meal.  Secondly, one of my favourite lines of the week: we were getting the Guides to complete the lyrics to campfire songs before they could go up to be served.  When we were down to just a few, I tried one from We Are the Red Men.

Me: We come home from far-off shores, greeted by our…?

Guide: ?

QGB: What’s a name for a Native American wife?

Guide: Er…the old dun cow?

Before activities started, the Guides made their bedding rolls as usual, but instead of stacking them on their gadgets, they put all their bedding rolls and bags in the big party tent, dismantled their gadgets, and took out their brailer pegs.  Although we had one more night, we decided to take the patrol tents down today, to give us more time to pack up the rest of camp the next day, and because there was a chance of rain the next day.  Oh, and here’s another favourite line.

QGB: When you’ve taken the brailers out and cleaned them, you stack them up in twos, crossing over each other.

Guide: Yeah, we know, you stack them in a hashtag.

Who says camping skills aren’t relevant to modern life?

Sporting my feather headdress…and also my 5th-day-of-camp look

Sporting my feather headdress…and also my 5th-day-of-camp look

Three Rangers came to run the wide game, although more had helped with the preparations (I think we have about eight in total at the moment?).  They divided the Guides into two groups.  In the morning, half made Native American headdresses with feathers, beads and raffia (simple but went down well) and the other half played piñatas – wonderful home-made papier-mâché cow piñatas that it was sort of a shame to smash into smithereens – and then a Wild West version of the game I call “mafia” or “werewolves”: the one where a narrator tells people when to go to sleep and wake up and some people are murderers and the others have to try to work out who it is.  The Guides loved it – they’re just at the stage where Wink Murder is no longer quite as exciting as it used to be, and this is the cool teenage next step up.

Summer camp 2014 (68)

The pinatas before…

...during...

…during…

...and after.

…and after.

We had squash and cake, the groups swapped, and then it was lunchtime.  Lunch was one of QGB’s favourite activities: cooking on trangias.  She led assembling-and-dismantling-your-trangia relay races, then the Guides fried sausages, heated sweetcorn, and mixed Angel Delight for pudding.  Yum!  This was followed by a long washing up time to get all the burnt bits off the trangias.

Summer camp 2014 (88)

In the afternoon, the wide game continued.  Again, we really appreciated having the Rangers there to run it, as it meant that some of the leaders could take down the patrol tents, and others (including me) could finish scrubbing the trangias and reunite all the parts, and fill up water balloons for later.  I felt a bit strange not seeing so much of the girls that day, but that must be what the QMs and QGB felt like all week.

In the wide game, one group of Guides went into the woods and made shelters out of groundsheets and string, and the other group did initiative exercises, passing each other through a spider’s web and lassoing a cow-shaped laundry basket (this was the “nuclear waste” challenge where you’re not allowed inside the enclosure and you have to get it out by throwing ropes around it, pulling tight and lifting as a team).  The teams swapped activities, and then they had a water fight (yes, the second of the week) with the shelters they’d made.  Each group had to get inside their shelter and they were given an equal number of water balloons.  The Rangers released one group at a time to go to the other shelters and pelt them with water balloons.  It was quite clever, because they had to decide how many balloons they would take to throw at other groups, and how many they would keep to throw in retaliation when they were under attack.  A whistle helped with keeping order, and at the end, Co-Activity Leader and I were there to make sure no group left the area until all the shelters were dismantled and all the bits of balloon were picked up.

    There are Guides in there somewhere.

There are Guides in there somewhere.

Then it was time for squash and cake and getting dry, and everyone said a big thank you to the Rangers.  They did us a great favour, did a super job, and I think learned a bit about planning and running activities.

The Guides had some time to do final practising for the evening cabaret, then it was dinner (er…something tasty…I’m writing this several weeks after camp and the details are getting hazy) and time for the evening entertainment.  It was good fun, and featured:

  • a “fashion show” – the Senior Section patrol dressed up one of the QMs, who was a very good sport, in a ridiculous outfit involving a swimsuit and a tutu, and paraded her for all to see
  • a cowgirl-themed play
  • First Aider’s five-year-old singing “ten fat sausages sizzling in the pan, one went pop and the other went bang, eight fat sausages etc.”, holding a frying pan with modelling balloons and popping them with his fork.  We all sang along and it was adorable.
  • The yoga class skit, where Guides sit on top of other Guides who are lying down, so that it looks like they have super-flexible legs
  • A medley of songs, with the lyrics changed to be camp-relevant.  Although it was upbeat, we leaders found it quite moving, as it was full of the guiding spirit and made us proud.  We captured it on video the next day.
  • The leaders’ act.  We jokingly complain about the plays that the Guides make up, because they’re often purposeless, improvised, too long, and hilarious only to the performers…and ours that night was all of those things!  We started off singing Three wheels on my wagon, carrying a box back and forth, and dropping pan lids as the wheels fell off, and then we sang a hastily-written song about camp duties to the tune of We Are the Red Men (“Pow wow, pow wow, can you come for your duties now?” etc.).  The Guides gamely laughed (probably at us) and clapped (probably with relief).  All part of the fun!

Since we had packed up the patrol tents, most of the Guides slept in the tipi, with a few choosing to sleep under the stars (and under lots of layers of blankets and groundsheets).  We tucked everyone in and said goodnight, and then the leaders had a session signing off as much as possible in QGB’s residential qualification book and discussing our favourite parts of camp, and things we would change.  I was pleased when one of the QMs said she was impressed by the variety of evening activities.  We made a valiant effort to finish all the snacks and “leader juice” we’d brought, but eventually had to admit defeat and go to bed.

Back to Guides

This week normal service resumed as we had our first unit meeting of term.  I was a bit late (the fault was shared between me and the bus), and I arrived to a buzzing and very full hall:

  • 31 Guides, including one newbie, a little sister who was very well looked after all evening by her older sibling, and about 5 who we weren’t expecting to come back – one had even given us a goodbye card and present last term!
  • 3 Young Leaders: the outgoing one who leaves for university in a couple of weeks, the incoming one who left Guides at Easter, and an ex-Guide/Ranger/Rainbow Young Leader who came along for the craic.
  • The usual 4 adult leaders/helpers.  A very good spread, though a little cramped.

They had formed patrols and the Young Leaders were going around writing down who was in which.

Then they played a Kim’s Game: Unit Leader had brought along 30-something random objects and spread them on a table, and two leaders held up a cloth to shield the table from the room.  Each patrol numbered themselves from 1-6 (those with fewer members had some people with two numbers) and when a leader called a number, all the people with that number would go and look at the table for about a minute, then report back to their patrol and write down what they had seen.  When everyone had had two turns, the patrols swapped sheets and marked each other’s, with extra points for giving details like “blue hairbrush”.

Fun fact: when I was a Brownie, I was County Kim’s Game Champion in a contest run by the Trefoil Guild.  I have a certificate somewhere to prove it.

Next, we handed out one of the objects to each Guide, and gave the patrols 5 minutes to put together a play/sketch using all the objects, then watched each other’s performances.  They always enjoy a bit of drama, and we have a love/hate relationship with watching their plays!

While all this was going on, the leaders did a bit of speedy term planning.  It’s quite a long term – 13 meetings – but once we’d put in the things we need to do/always do (Bonfire night, making cakes for a stall, making crafts for another stall, Christmas party) and things we’d committed to (one of Unit Leader’s colleagues, a former Guide leader, is coming in for a couple of nights to do the First Aid badge), there were only a few weeks left, which we filled with seasonal things and activities the Guides asked to do last term that are more suitable for the autumn.  Bish bash bosh – not directly girl-led this term, but I think they’ll be happy with the programme.

After the plays, since the Guides were already sitting down like an audience, we asked those who had been on camp if they enjoyed it, and spoke about some events coming up, which we gave out letters for at the end, mainly the BIG GIG (I’m pretty excited about this – for those not in the know, it’s a national pop concert for Guides and Senior Section) and next summer’s county international camp.

Finally, we had a round of “riding on my pony” (a singing game) and managed to end the meeting on time.  It was lovely to see so many of them back and enthusiastic about the new term.

Wild West camp: day 4

On Tuesday morning we didn’t need to be anywhere in a hurry, so we let the Guides sleep in till 8am.

What was for breakfast, maybe beans on toast?  Ooh, I think also fried potato cakes made from leftover corned beef hash – yum.  After that, we got ready to leave the campsite: bedding rolled, bags on gadgets, packed lunches made (one patrol at a time went to the kitchen to put their own lunches together) – because we were going on a mid-camp excursion to a nearby swimming pool.

Wearing our tie dye neckers, which turned out ok, if a little pale

Wearing our tie dye neckers, which turned out ok, if a little pale

It was astonishing how much the Guides built up the walk to the pool in advance.  The day before, several asked me and other leaders (imagine the disbelief and horror in their voices) “Is it true that we’re walking for two hours?”  We repeated many times we had allowed two hours for the journey, including rest breaks and bearing in mind that our oldest and youngest campers walk slowly, and that First Aider’s 5-year-old had done the practice walk without complaining.

Still, I think the Guides were presently surprised to find that it really was just a nice 4-mile stroll through fields and villages, over the ring road and the railway, with iconic views of the nearest city.  Each tent group had a laminated route map with instructions to follow, excellently made by First Aider, and even though we all walked in a big (sometimes a bit straggly!) group, the adult assigned to each group encouraged them to check where they were, where they were going next, what features they could see, whether we were halfway yet, etc.

Summer camp 2014 (61)

We stopped for a drink and cake break en route (just because we were offsite didn’t mean we could slack off the cake schedule), reached the swimming pool around lunchtime, had a picnic on the grass next to the pool, and gave the girls two hours to do what they liked within the enclosure.  “Enclosure” makes it sounds restrictive, but actually it was a nice big fenced area with a pool with a “serious” deep section and a “fun” shallow section with a gradual slope and sprinklers; lots of grass round the edge; benches, sun loungers and umbrellas; table tennis tables; and a stand selling drinks, ice creams and burgers.  In other words, plenty to keep everyone busy for the afternoon.

Most of the Guides and a couple of leaders went in the water for a bit.  A few (mainly younger Guides) stayed in all the time, but others (mainly older Guides) were happy chilling at the side most of the time.  We were semi-lucky with the weather.  It wasn’t hot, but it was at least mild with patchy sunshine, and it only rained for 5 minutes.  The water apparently is usually warm, but had been topped up that morning so had a chilly edge if you stopped moving.  I went in for about an hour, and had a marvellous time playing tag, doing handstands, and generally being 10 years old.  The best moment was when, near the end, there were enough people in the pool that the lifeguards turned on the big sprinkle fountain: cue big cheers from the little Guides.

Summer camp 2014 (65)

We got out and dry, purchased last-minute snacks, and walked back to the campsite.  We kept the Guides lively with a scavenger competition.  They had to collect items from a rhyme written (or found?) by First Aider.  It went along the lines of “Something new, something old, something silver, something gold” and carried on for about 10 more verses.  I managed to share one of my interesting plant facts with my group by suggesting a mare’s tail fern as “something old” because it’s existed in more or less its present form since the time of the dinosaurs.  QGB (who’ teaches biology) would be proud of me, I hope.

Back at camp, the Guides had some downtime before dinner.  They were clearly getting worn out, as there was a bit of tent grumpiness.  It was one of those moments where I appreciated having a good team of adults around: QGB was busy greeting visitors and asked me to extract some grumpy Guides from the toilets, and I managed to get them back to camp with sympathy and humour, but then found it hard to change tack, so I gratefully handed them over to another leader to be firm and sort things out.  To be fair, this mild event was almost the only problem we had with the girls: I thought they were an exceptionally easy and good-natured bunch this year.

Dinner – hurrah! – was takeaway pizza, giving the QMs a well-earned rest from cooking.  Then it was beds down, and the Guides were inspected by three special visitors from the Trefoil Guild who were joining us for the evening: our two Unit Leaders’ mothers and our Division President, who have all been many roles in guiding and love meeting the girls and joining in activities, and I want to be just like them when I’m older.  The Guides who have been with us for a few years remembered them from other occasions, and it was nice to hear them saying to each other “here comes M., she dressed up at the Queen at our Jubilee camp”, and so on.

Summer camp 2014 (67)

Meanwhile, I went off with Co-Activity Leader to get the campfire going.  Well, I faffed about and then she got it going with one match.  We had plenty of dry scrap wood, including an old wallpaper table, and it was a bit of a blazing inferno!  Luckily it died down a bit by the time the Guides arrived.

QGB and I led the campfire singing, and the interesting thing was that I thought it was one of the best we’ve ever done, whereas she thought it was one of the worst.  I think we just had different expectations and noticed different things.  The Guides, maybe because they were tired from an active day and three nights under canvas, weren’t great at joining in with the loud, active songs – we instinctively didn’t ask them to stand up, because they wouldn’t have wanted to, and some of them fidgeted and made silly noises instead of singing.  So we went into the tuneful songs sooner than QGB would have liked, but they worked brilliantly well.  They were so tuneful and audible that we sang Campfire’s Burning in three parts, which never happens, and Heidi and Land of the Silver Birch, and You’re a Pink Toothbrush (not sure if other groups sing it, but we like it!), and I taught them a new song that I learned at Region camp last year, the Liège Song (which you can find here but without the tune – I think it’s common knowledge among seasoned Anglia members), and they picked it up quite easily.  Our Trefoil visitors and some of the leaders recognised it and said they hadn’t heard it for years.  And Purple Lights and Texas and it was all rather magical.  Some of the Guides said so too, as we walked back.  So I declare it a good campfire.

Back at the campsite, it was – you know the routine by now – hot chocolate, biscuits and bed.

Wild West camp: day 3

On Monday we gave the girls another 7am wake-up call, as we were booked for some more site activities.  I can’t remember what breakfast was officially, but by this stage of the week the options included puddings from previous meals.  Unit Helper made a noble effort and had jelly and apple sauce with just about everything in an effort to finish it! When breakfast was eaten and washed up, bedding rolls were made, and tents were tidy, the girls started activities.  Half went off to the zip wire, which was reportedly good fun.  They got several turns each, and some were brave enough to do it upside down! Summer camp 2014 (34) The other half stayed at the campsite and did craft.  We used the party tent for shelter, but took off one side because the weather was nice.  There were several dabbling options, and most Guides chose to make dream catchers and/or decorated horseshoes.  These were a load of used horseshoes that First Aider had got free from a local stables, and polished to get the mud and rust off.  The Guides were very happy wrapping these in wool, ribbons, feathers, beads, and so on.  Co-Activity Leader and I sat with the Guides and gave them little bits of help; mostly they were just happy to sit and craft.  Meanwhile, we painted some cactus shapes that I’d made from a bit of foam from work, for a bit of thematic decoration. Summer camp 2014 (31) Something I thought worked well was a half-time energiser: after 45 minutes, we got the Guides up and played a couple of running and catching games, just enough to keep them lively, before going back to the crafts. The other half of the Guides returned, we all had squash and cake, and I think the Guides then had time to get their tents ready for inspection, and a bit of hobby horse-making time, before lunch.

A welcoming tent!

A welcoming tent!

Those pegs spell out "WELCOME". Competition for inspection points was hotting up.

Those pegs spell out “WELCOME”. Competition for inspection points was hotting up.

In the afternoon, the two halves swapped: one group went off to do crate stacking (again, it seemed to go down very well, with much hilarity over the way people’s towers collapsed), and the other half stayed in the party tent and did crafts.  The other activities we’d laid out were rain shakers, which only a couple of Guides made, but I helped both of First Aider’s young sons make their own; and moccasins, which involved cutting a shape out of felt and blanket stitching it into a shoe.  The prototypes looked really good, but no one finished a pair of their own.  I’m sure we’ll be able to re-use the pattern some time in the future. During this craft session, Co-Activity Leader and I took it in turns to sneak away and fill up water balloons, because water games were next on the agenda.  Fortunately the weather was, if not hot, at least fairly mild.  After squash and cake time, the Guides changed into swimming costumes and/or waterproofs, and then we had a few rounds of “drip, drip, splash” (like “duck, duck, goose”, but dripping water from a cup onto everyone as you go round), some relay races with a holed cup, water balloon throwing contests, a sort of volleyball game with water balloons and tarpaulins, and a challenge for patrols to raise and lower a full basin of water between them, using only their feet, lying on their backs.

Dream catchers and Pringles: the ingredients of an excellent night.

Dream catchers and Pringles: the ingredients of an excellent night.

There was drying-off time, there was dinner, there was the resolution of an issue involving an unwanted visitor from another campsite, and then it was saloon night. This was a variation on casino night, which the other unit does as part of their programme every year or two, and was masterminded by First Aider, who spent most of the afternoon working out odds, making signs and labels, and counting poker chips.  Hats off to her.

Summer camp 2014 (53)

We set up several games, all with an element of gambling: net-a-duck, roulette, 21’s, a dice game, toss the horse shoe, and skittles  Each had a leader or Senior Section running it.  The Guides were each given the same value of chips to start with, and had about an hour to go around playing what they wanted.  Just for fun, the QMs made cocktails (ice cream sodas and mixtures of various types of juice and fruit), turning their storage space into a rather snazzy bar, and we set up the “Wanted” sign – with props – for people to pose in before it got too dark.

Summer camp 2014 (44)

The Guides’ gambling behaviour was interesting to watch: most latched onto a favourite game and stayed there most of the time; some were cautious with their money whilst others were reckless.  As for me, I really enjoyed running the roulette wheel – perhaps I should start a new career as a croupier.

Summer camp 2014 (48)

At the end, First Aider got all the Guides to line up in order of how much money they had left.  What’s meant to happen is that the ones with the same amount they started with are well above the median, illustrating that the odds are in the casino’s favour.  It didn’t quite work this time, as some of the odds were a bit generous to the Guides, but I really like the principle: lots of fun with a life lesson. The Guides’ day finished with hot chocolate, of course, and the leaders’ day finished with an unexpected sleepwalking Guide, just as we were heading to bed.  How do others handle this?  She woke and was surprised but not distressed, and we returned her to her tent, moved her bed from next to the door to the middle of the other Guides, and laced the door up tight.  It didn’t happen again on camp, but it gave us food for thought, as none of us had had sleepwalkers on camp before, and hadn’t asked parents if there was any chance of it happening.

Wild West camp: day 2

Summer camp 2014 (20)

Sunday dawned bright and cold, and the girls had a prompt 7am wake-up call, as they had adventurous activities booked for 9:30am.  We had breakfast (the cooked element was porridge, yum!), made bedding rolls, packed daysacks, and the Guides were, impressively, ready to leave at 9:15am.

The Scout site were were staying at offers a lot of instructor-led activities.  Our budget allowed for each girl to have 3 sessions.  This morning , half did archery and the other half went on the 3G swing (two people are harnessed into a seat, the rest of the group pulls a rope to winch them up really high, and then…they swing).  They returned for the campsite for squash and cake, then my co-activity-leader introduced them to the camp challenge booklet she’d made (it’s wonderful – I have a feeling she’ll be asked to do all future ones), and the time before lunch was spent getting tents ready for inspection, having inspection, and starting the booklet.

Summer camp 2014 (22)

The plan was to put up the name of everyone who completed the challenges in the booklet up on the wall of fame (a groundsheet with “wall of fame” painted on it, first used at region camp last summer), but no one finished it in the end.  I saw some people working on it, but possibly the Guides didn’t have enough free time to do it justice.  Or maybe the wall of fame just wasn’t enough incentive!

Lunch was a tasty ploughman’s with…maybe jelly and ice cream?  We definitely had jelly at some point that day.  QGB’s assessor came for lunch, a leader from another District in our Division whom most of us know.  Apparently – and unsurprisingly – she was very impressed.

After lunch, the girls had a bit of time to mooch and roam to the shop, before another adventurous activity.  The groups swapped over for archery and the 3G swing.  I watched both for a bit – the swing looked terrifyingly fun, and although archery wasn’t new to most girls, I liked that everyone had plenty of turns to try to improve, rather than just two or three experimental goes as sometimes happens, and that the instructor upped the game halfway through by doubling the shooting distance.

Summer camp 2014 (24)

After another squash and cake break (with every Guide bringing a cake, we had to eat a daily quotient to get through them all), we started the Hobby Horse Challenge.

Co-activity-leader and I had decided early on that we should make hobby horses, and we’d also decided that, rather than just giving the components to the Guides, they should do a challenge to earn each piece, like a mini-wide game.  We had some ambitious challenges up, but in the end we abbreviated them, as there just wasn’t time for everything.  I was both disappointed and relieved not to attempt to lead the Guides in milking PVA glue out of rubber gloves (the cow theme, innit)!

To earn the broom handle for the horse, the Guides had to make a fire and make smoke signals: two puffs per person.  We took them to a campfire circle and each tent group built a fire.  When the fire was established, they put damp grass on the fire to make a lot of smoke, then used a square of damp thick fabric to cover the fire, remove, and cover again, creating a puff of smoke.  None of the leaders had tried this before, let alone the Guides, but fortunately it worked and the fabric didn’t put the fires out or anything.

Once everyone had puffed and put their fires out, we did the next bit of the challenge, which was water pistol target shooting.  We hung three balloons from a stick (with water in them so they hung down) and one at a time, each Guide had to hit all three with a water pistol.  Then they were given the materials for their horse’s head.

At this point, the challenge broke down a bit because putting the horses’ heads together took so long.  They were made from two large bits of foam underlay (Co-Activity Leader happened to have loads left over from decorating: win.  The fact that it was turquoise made the horses even better), stapled together around the edge and turned inside out, with two small foam ears poking through and stapled in place.

Some finished horses, chilling in the corral.

Some finished horses, chilling in the corral.

We started putting the heads together outside, then moved into the tipi as it was more contained and less windy.  While some Guides stapled, others made eyes out of paper, post-it notes and googly eyes.  Co-Activity Leader (the mastermind behind the horse heads) was here, there and everywhere answering cries of “what do I do next?”.  Meanwhile, I took a few Guides at a time outside to do a wool trail (winding up a long piece of wool that had been wrapped around trees) to find nosebags for their horses (=sandwich bags) containing strips of fabric for the reins.

The horses were still in progress at dinner time, so we pushed the heads to the side of the tipi, tidied up the craft things, and left them for another day: the beauty of having lots of group space.  All those horse heads, some with eyes, some without, did made it look like the site of some bizarre sacrifice…

Sunday dinner was memorable, as it was delicious roast pork/nut roast with veg, roast potatoes, apple sauce, gravy, the works.  QGB sent a photo to our Region and County Facebook pages, where there was much praise for our QMs.

After dinner, we played some games “in the dark” – it was a clear evening and took a while to actually get dark – including one that I improvised based on a game I used to play when I was a Brownie.  Each patrol had to take off their shoes, lie down and pretend to be sleep.  When the leaders shouted “the bandits are coming” and banged on a dustbin lid, the patrols had to wake up, put on their shoes, hold on to each other in a conga line, run around a big circle, and race to be the first patrol back to where they started.  It took a lot longer to explain than it should have done – the Guides had listened to a lot of instructions over the day and were losing capacity by that stage – but once they got it, it was very entertaining and we played twice.

When it was properly dark, we had a glowstick quiz.  We hung 20 jam jars in the trees with glowsticks inside, and a question stuck to them.  Each patrol was given a bundle of post-it notes (a different colour for each patrol) with the answers written on them, and they had to decide which answer went with each question, and put the answer in the jar.  Again, their attention spans were seriously flagging as I explained what to do, but once they understood, they got on with it and worked well in their groups.

Summer camp 2014 (29)

The questions were assorted facts about Native Americans.  I found it very educational putting the quiz together – it’s not a topic I know much about or studied at school.  Download the questions, answers, and extra facts.

As each patrol finished, we sent them back for hot chocolate, followed by an earlier night than the first one!  Co-Activity Leader and I collected the jars, and we counted up the correct answers and went through them with the Guides at breakfast the next day.