Monthly Archives: October 2014

Campfire night at Brownies

A couple of weeks ago, I went along to the Brownie pack that meets just before my Guides, to be a qualified leader when their Brown Owl couldn’t make it.  This was the pack that I took on holiday back in February, so it was nice to see them again, and meet the new Brownies who have joined since.

They were having a campfire-themed evening.  First, each Six made a log out of a kitchen roll tubes, coloured paper, scissors and sellotape.  We showed them one that a leader had made earlier, and let them work out how to copy it without many more instructions.  When they were done, we put all the logs together in the middle of the room to make an indoor “fire” (with a bucket of water next to it, of course!).

Brown Owl had left us things to make edible fires – chocolate biscuits, matchmakers and strawberry laces – as well as tealights and mini marshmallows, but we decided to skip the construction and just let the Sixes toast the marshmallows on the tealights and make fancy s’mores with the rest of the food.  I don’t think I’d ever toasted mini marshmallows before, only big ones, but I liked it as they were ready within seconds!  Another advantage was that there are lots in a packet, so each Brownie got at least 10 or so.  The Brownies were happy to spend quite a lot of time doing this, experimenting with different techniques and finding out what happens when they toast other things, like strawberry laces…and wooden skewers!

Finally, we all sat in a circle around the “campfire” and sang a few songs.  It was a fun evening, and nice to spend time with a unit that is smaller (in numbers and in girl size!) and younger and even a bit quieter than my Guides.


BIG GIG 2014


A few weeks ago I went to the BIG GIG – a pop concert for members of Girlguiding aged 10+ – with a coachload of Guides, Senior Section and adults from my District.

We left in the afternoon and arrived in Wembley in good time – in fact, so early that we saw everyone coming out of the afternoon concert as we drove past the arena.  It was our first glimpse of groups in matching clothes and/or headgear – we would see many more over the course of the evening – and the Guides were fascinated.  I was happy to hear one of them say in wonder, “and just think, they’re all Guides.”  None of the girls had been to a national guiding event before, and most haven’t even been to a county event, so I think it was a bit of an eye-opener to see that they are part of a huge movement of girls and women like them.

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The coach parked, and we ate our packed teas, applied glitter and handed out matching flashing head boppers before getting off the coach.  We walked past Wembley stadium to the arena, queued for a little while, and then got let inside.  We were among the first, so we found our seats and let the girls go off to the toilet/food stalls/merchandise stalls, while we watched the auditorium fill up.

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Finally, the concert started, and I enjoyed myself much more than I expected.  I knew the atmosphere would be great – with thousands of excited Guides, it couldn’t not be – but I liked the music too!  I didn’t recognise all the artists, but it turned out that I knew quite a few of the songs from the radio, or because they were covers.  There was a good mix of artists – boy bands, girl bands, solo men, solo women, and a dance group – and of genres and songs to appeal to everyone, and I had a good bop along most of the time.  I liked that there was plenty of room in front of the folding seats, so there was space to stand and dance, but also the option of sitting down when one wanted.  I had a good view, but felt for some of our little Guides who managed to be in seats behind tall adults from another group.  Luckily those adults were happy to sit down most of the time; and the Guides spent a lot of the time as far out into the aisle as they could get away with.

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It was a really good trip, and I thoroughly recommend it.  My Guides, from the 10-year-olds to the 14-year-olds, kept saying how much they enjoyed it, and their parents have told us how excited they were to have been to their first concert.  We got the tickets by ballot in the summer, and didn’t find out if we’d got them till the middle of the holidays, so it was a bit of a rush to tell the girls about it and get numbers in the first few weeks of the autumn term, but it was well worth it.

Halloween fun

This week at Guides we had a halloween-themed night.  It was a bit early, but next week we’re off for half term, so this was our last meeting before the end of the month.

We started by playing the chocolate-and-dice game, in two groups.  Unit Leader had wrapped the chocolate bars up in newspaper to add an extra layer of difficulty, and make the type of chocolate a mystery (it was Aero).

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Next we had a feel inside some boxes that another leader had prepared.  They contained:

  1. Tinned lychees (eyeballs)
  2. Cooked spaghetti in soil (worms)
  3. Cooked cauliflower head (brain)
  4. Soft toy (spider/rat)
  5. Jelly (blood)

The Guides got into smaller groups.  Each group sent one person up at a time to feel the mystery items (no looking: they were covered with tea towels), then they went back and discussed and wrote down what they thought was inside, while the next person went up.  We explained that we wanted gruesome halloween-themed answers.  Everyone got a second feel if they wanted.  It was fun watching everyone’s expressions!  I had a feel myself, and even though I knew what was in the boxes, it was still pretty disgusting.  At the end, we all shared our ideas – some of our girls came up with really imaginative/horrible suggestions, like zombie spit – and what was really in the boxes.

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Finally the Guides decorated hanging pumpkin/bat decorations that catch the light.  It was a good way to wind down after the excitement of the games, and we haven’t done any craft for a while, so it was time to do some to keep the programme balanced and varied!  It’s the half term holiday next week, and after that we’ll be back for bonfire funtimes.

Someone left the cake out in the rain

So after those epic baking nights at Guides (part 1 and part 2), what happened to the cakes?

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Unit Leader took them home and baked them in marathon sessions, cling-filmed and labelled them, and brought them along to the health centre the following Saturday mornings, along with all the other things necessary for a cake and book stall and a tombola.  Lucky she has a transit van, really.

She and several other volunteers in the district work at the health centre, and they kindly let us have a stall outside when they hold clinics for flu vaccinations every autumn.  We get lots of passing trade, the staff get tasty treats for elevenses, and the patients have a gamble or buy a cake or book to make them feel better after their jabs: win win.

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On the day of the first stall, it just rained and rained.  We still had plenty of people buying cakes and our other wares, but not many wanted to stop and chat or browse, and all the helpers were cold and damp before the end of the morning.  And our gazebo overturned into a tree, which was quite funny.  Lesson learned: always peg out the guy ropes, even if it doesn’t seem windy!  At the second stall, the weather was warmer and drier, so it was much more pleasant standing outside and encouraging people over.

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Both times we had a good number of helpers from the district: leaders, Senior Section, Guides, Trefoil Guilders, assorted family members, and even the children of one of the health centre staff.  Quite a few also dropped off cakes or popped in to say hello on their way to get jabbed.  Some I hadn’t seen for a while, so it was a good chance to catch up and talk about events coming up in the future.

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It was good, too, for that warm fuzzy sense of community.  Some of the helpers seemed to know everyone who went past, which was useful for drawing them in and getting them to buy something out of guilt friendship.  Even I, who haven’t lived in the town for 7 years, recognised quite a lot of people.  I also had some nice chats with strangers, particularly an 80-year-old woman (she told me so) who told me she went to Brownies in the hall where we still meet, and about how she especially remembers doing her Telephone badge and having to walk in a group to the phone box in the market place with a penny and ask the operator to be put through to a certain number.  Yet more evidence that Brownie memories can stick with you for life.  I know some of our current Brownies have just done their Communicator badge, in the same hall where this lady was a Brownie, which included sending a text – I love how that’s pretty much the same thing, over 70 years later.

Altogether, both stalls raised over £900 for the district – everyone involved (especially Unit Leader, the driving force) can be very proud.

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Baking bonanza (part 2)

Another baking night, and the Guides excelled themselves.  This time everyone knew what they needed to do, and we got set up faster and got the Guides started as soon as they arrived.

In 1.5 hours, 26 girls made a whopping 51 cake mixes.  51!  They used up every tin and tray we’d brought, and kept Unit Leader very busy baking them all at home.  What a great effort for the fundraising cake stall this weekend.

Baking 2


This week we took the Guides swimming. It was a nice low-prep meeting between two epic baking sessions, and with two leaders away, we needed something that didn’t require much adult input. A couple of mums kindly stayed for the evening, for bit of extra adult presence.

We had a good turnout (more than two thirds) considering it was in a different town at slightly different times, and considering not everyone always feels like swimming. The pool is really fun – it has a water flume and a wave machine – and we spent a good hour-and-a-bit splashing around. Get me in water and I basically turn into a ten-year-old. I had to rein myself in from being too competitive about who could do an underwater handstand for the longest.

Fun at the fête

Fête stall

Unit Leader (who is also Division Commissioner) arranged for us to have a stall at a nearby village fête to raise funds for the division.  This is something we don’t do a lot – usually fundraising is for units and districts – but she’s keen and working hard to make us feel more unified and the proceeds will be spent on something that helps that.

I went along to help, along with our District Commissioner and UL’s mother and sister.  I felt both very unprepared and very loved: I rocked up on my bike in uniform with just a banana to sustain me through the day, but the others had brought chairs, packed lunches, a thermos of coffee, mugs, a bottle of squash, and beakers for everyone.  That’s my guiding family.

We put up our new gazebo (purchased with Sainsbury’s Active Kids vouchers, and extremely fast and simple to pitch) and filled it with tables, signs (some showing the old branding; naughty of us, I know), promotional materials, a tombola, guess the number of sweets in the jar, and miscellaneous items to sell.

The crowds arrived, and we had a steady trickle of people passing our stall all afternoon.  The most popular thing by far was the tombola.  It’s simple to run and it’s not very original, but it works.  The other things we had to push a bit more, but by walking around the fête a bit with the jar of sweets, we managed to fill a page with guesses.  Altogether we raised a very respectable £215.

We also had some good chats with past, present and hopefully future members of Girlguiding, and with anyone else who was vaguely interested.

I enjoyed looking round the other stalls and soaking up the great British village fête atmosphere.  I bought some future birthday cards, threw cricket balls at crockery, admired the entries for the photography and miniature garden competitions, and ate some tasty home-made cake.  We also had a good view of the singing, dancing and hoop-spinning going on in the performing area.