Monthly Archives: November 2014

Remembrance Sunday

No apologies that this post is a couple of weeks after 11th November.  If it’s worth remembering, it’s worth remembering on any day of the year.

A couple of weeks ago, my district took part in our town’s Remembrance Sunday parade and church service.  The local uniformed organisations and the silver band meet at the civic hall and march round the corner to the church.  We stand outside by the war memorial and listen to the bells striking 11am, then representatives from the organisation raise and lower flags, and other representatives lay poppy wreaths on the memorial.  We go into the church and have a service.  We come out, re-form the parade, and march around the market square and back to the civic hall, finishing shortly after noon.

Every year it is the same, and I love that.  Many things in life have changed in the almost 20 years since I was first in the parade, but this is one thing that has remained constant.  Well, almost the same: of course, the people in it have got older and come and gone, and some of the hymns in the church service have been replaced (the old ones were better).

Of course, continuity isn’t always a good thing.  A prime example is that the sermon in the service is consistently poor quality.  The parish priest has a good clear speaking voice, so he sounds convincing, but his sermons are too long, unstructured, lacking a theme to bring it the whole thing together, and pitched at the wrong level for the congregation, or rather pitched at too many levels, as they’re full of references to scholarly theological texts and programmes that were on television last night most people probably haven’t watched.  And this is on what must be one of his most crowded Sundays of the year, and what is for many one of the only times in the year when they go to church.  What a missed opportunity.

I should add that I don’t hear many sermons, so sometimes I doubt myself and think, “Maybe this is actually good, but I’m not capable of appreciating it.”  But another leader, who hears lots of sermons delivered by lots of different people, assures me that they can be much better.  Hear endeth the rant.

A great benefit of the almost-unchanging format of the parade and ceremony is that it gives me something to focus my thoughts on during all the moments when there is opportunity for thought.  I am very fortunate not to have been personally affected by war, so it can be hard to reflect on it without feeling detached, theoretical, hypocritical, helpless, and all sorts of other things.  Instead, I remember remembrance days gone by, here and elsewhere, and what my community and I were like then.  Another interesting reflection is to mentally dress everyone around me in period costume and imagine that we are doing this in, say, the 1990s, or the 1970s, or the 1950s.  Or, heaven help us, in wartime.  And with that it becomes much easier, and terrifying, to imagine the effects it would have on my beloved community.

All told, we had about 40 Rangers, Young Leaders, Guides Brownies, and their leaders marching.  I wonder, in 20 years’ time, which ones will be leaders like me, still Guiding in our town, and remembering Remembrance Sunday 2014.

First aid part 2

The nurse who is a once-and-hopefully-future Guider came back for a second week and ran a meeting for the Guides about the “other bits” of first aid: bleeding, choking, burns, fits, fractures, sprains, and so on.  Again, this was nice and easy for the leaders – all we had to do was a bit of watching and helping.  Queen’s Guide Buddy and I sat in a corner and did some planning for our exploration.

The Guides were very good and patient through a meeting that involved quite a lot of sitting and listening, with a few quiz sheets and a bit of practical bandaging and sling-tying.  It’s definitely the air of authority and unfamiliarity that our nurse friend has – they’d never listen to their usual leaders for so long at a stretch!  To be fair, they were genuinely interested, and quite a few of them wanted to share first aid situations that they’d been in.  Next week we’ll make it up to them with an evening of games and activities in the dark.

First aid part 1

This week, a nurse and former Guider came to do some first aid with the Guides.  This is a lady whom Unit Leader recruited into guiding many years ago, who was heavily involved for many years but has stepped out of it for the last ten years or so.  She came to the BIG GIG with us, so I wonder if Unit Leader is trying to re-recruit her…

What all this means is that she knows her stuff, knows how Guides work, and was quite happy to take charge of the meeting, so the rest of us didn’t have to do much except a bit of watching and helping.  Lovely!  The girls liked seeing a new face – they listen more when it’s someone they don’t know! – and they covered responses to finding a casualty, the recovery position and chest compressions, and did some quiz sheets about this and about healthy lifestyles.  She is coming back next week to cover “the rest of first aid” – I’m looking forward to it.

Ooh shiny horse shoes

In half term, I went to the Guide Hall to spray-paint some horse shoes.  It was lovely and peaceful being in there by myself.

Let me explain: we got the horse shoes free from a local stables to use for crafts and games on our summer camp (Wild West theme, if you remember).  There were about 30 left over, which we left gently rusting in a bag in the hall.  Unit Leader asked me to come up with a way to transform them into something we can sell to raise funds.

First I scrubbed them with wire wool to get off the rust and mud as best I could.  Then I laid them out on newspaper and gave them a good old spray, with the windows wide open of course!  It took a good couple of hours to do them all on both sides.

Now they’re sitting prettily drying on the worktop.  I don’t know what the finished product is going to look like (or even what its function will be; ornamental, I suppose), but I’m pleased with the results so far.

Horseshoes (1)

District bonfire

District bonfire 2014 (1)

The district bonfire is an annual tradition, stretching back…hmm, at least 11 years that I can remember, but it might well be longer and I either didn’t go or don’t remember!

We meet at a hostel/study centre up on the downs above our town (the same one where I led campfire songs for another district in the summer), where the views down across the vale are glorious by day or night.  At night, it’s much easier to locate all the towns and roads, because of the lights, and at this time of year you can sometimes see tiny fireworks going up in the distance.

The evening is quite a smooth operation by now.  Some volunteers build and light the fire; others bring sparklers and water buckets; others bring flasks of hot chocolate, trays of sausages and rolls, ketchup (very important!), tables, cups, napkins, and serving tongs; Queen’s Guide Buddy and I lead the singing; and everyone looks after their girls.

This year, it was the perfect night for a fire: cold, dry and clear.  Everyone met their girls in the car park, then we gathered in a semicircle round the campfire and sang for about half an hour.  Then everyone got a hot dog and hot chocolate, followed by a sparkler, then we said goodbye to the Rainbows, did another half hour of singing, and rounded the evening off with Brownie Bells and Taps.

I was really pleased with the singing this year.  I think the Guides, especially the older ones, can set the mood, so when they’re a bit don’t-want-to-join-in it makes the whole thing less fun, whereas when they join in enthusiastically, the younger girls respond to that (and so do I).  Luckily we had some nice keen ones bouncing off each other!

At the end, I showed another leader around the hostel (it felt sneaky because we didn’t see anyone inside) – it was a good chance to get an idea of it, as we’re helping to plan a leaders’ sleepover there in a few weeks.

All in all, it was a lovely bonfire night, and I’m sure it’ll be on the cards again next year.

District bonfire 2014 (6) - Copy

A spooky assessment

A few weeks ago, I visited another Brownie pack holiday to assess a leader for her Going Away With… qualification.  I was interested to see the venue, as it was a place I’d heard of but never seen, a Girlguiding property just outside the county.

I must admit, I had mixed feelings about it.  The house itself was cosy, a bit old-fashioned but very comfortable and full of guiding decor and nicknacks, with plenty of communal space and a good-sized kitchen.  There was a grassy area outside with a campfire circle and space for running around or a few tents, and a track ran around the whole area, making a clear boundary.

However, I found getting to the house a bit spooky!  Maybe it was just because it was getting dark at the time, but it was in the middle of remote-feeling woodland with public footpaths running through it, and the drive went past lots of run-down buildings.  No obvious site warden…not sure I’d want to stay there except in high summer, but other leaders I’ve spoken to assure me that they’ve had perfectly good holidays there.

Anyway, this leader was doing a great job of running the holiday.  It was jungle-themed, and all the girls, Young Leaders and leaders seemed to be having a fun and relaxed time.