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.
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.
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.
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.
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.