Catching Up

So I’ve had a busy few months and want to get back to blogging a bit more often. No promises but I will do my best.

A quick summary.

  • I finally aged out of Senior Section – #onlyagrownupinguidingnow
  • The night before my birthday I got assessed for and awarded my Commonwealth award. I quote “My god you can really talk”
  • I got asked to be County Senior Section Adviser and have agreed
  • I’ve been running a lot of self defence sessions with Rainbow, Brownie, Guide and Senior Section units in the county
  • Went to the GirlGuiding Roverway briefing weekend and made lots and lots of new friends
  • Had Guide Camp
  • Ran lots of Guide and Senior Section meetings
  • Started planning my first training session (hurry up March)
  • Volunteered at Brownie Starburst in the STEM area

Snores and S’mores Camp

Camp was finally here! This year, like last year, we attended the Snores and S’mores Camp arranged by GirlGuiding Ulster at Lorne Guide House. There were 150 Guides and around 30 leaders attended the camp which took place from the Friday night to early Sunday afternoon.

As a leader, it was a pretty easy camp, I only had responsibility to ensure my Guides were well behaved and turned up to activities on time (although some of the other leaders didn’t manage that very well). All the food was provided.

This was only my second camp as a leader and my LiC, Barrel, isn’t very reliable and informed me a few weeks ago that she would be disappearing on the Saturday and may not make it back for the Sunday. To which, I mentally questioned why she was coming at all. Admittedly, we only had 11 Guides and our ratio is 1:12 so even if Barrel wasn’t there, I would still be okay. However it didn’t really seem fair.

One Fridays, I finish work early at 2.30pm, so I made it to the camp site by 3.30pm and to my surprise, there were already tents up! A few weeks before, they had held a Brownie Camp and had decided to leave the tents up for us. I went to ask where my girls were going to be, as I had brought a leaders tent with me. It’s a 6 man tent with 2 pods to allow us to have our own space.

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They hadn’t quite got the allocations complete so I went to help transport food instead. I had a good laugh with a couple of the activity instructors and when we were assigned a spot, I started on the 6 man tent. It took me an hour and some creative engineering with duct tape, to get the tent constructed by myself, but I felt very proud afterwards.


While putting up the tent, I got a text message from Barrel, stating that she would be down later, she did not specify when. I ignored the text because I really couldn’t deal with the situation. She then whatsapp’ed me, asking if I had received her text, I replied that I had received her text. She then asked if I was okay with her coming down late, I replied “sure”. She then asked again and I replied, “yes”. I was being rather passive aggressive, I understand that, but I’ve really reached the limit of my patience with her.

The tent was up by 5.30pm and I had all my gear in and my bed made up by 5.50pm, the Guides started arriving at 6pm so I was feeling pretty happy with myself. I had even had time to stick their names on the signs outside the tent!

The Guides all arrived and got themselves sorted and settled in and ran off to chat to one another. That left me sitting outside my tent alone and I didn’t really know what I was going to do. However I was in luck, a Guider I had met during my training, Butterfly, was two tents down and came to chat. Throughout the weekend, if she saw me alone, she would call me over with a cry of Norma No Mates :p

We had an opening ceremony and the Guides were all up on their feet dancing. While a leader’s meeting was held, the Guides got to explore Lorne and collect items to build a little man. We were the red team along with 12 Guides from another unit. My Guides didn’t really cope with the necker very well, they had them tied around their heads, but at least they were wearing them!

Supper was doughnuts and hot chocolate and then came the challenge of getting the Guides to bed. By 11pm I had them all in their tents with an order to go to sleep. At this point Barrel finally turned up. So not really much use to me at all.

Saturday dawned and we had a busy schedule of activities to enjoy. We started with the climbing wall. Two of my Guides are sisters, the elder, Ariel, is in her last year with us and is scared of heights, she tried the climbing wall last year but wasn’t up for trying it this year. The younger one, Belle, is also scared of heights but really impressed me with her courage in having a go. She actually tried twice and got about half way up the wall!

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After a quick snack, we headed off to team fun, lots and lots of team building activities which was really well run by the instructors. They had a go at the arm twisting game where you get all tangled up and have to untwist into a circle, rearranging themselves on barrels in order of name and birth month, team skis, directing a blindfolded partner through a mine field, tanagrams and many many more. Barrel left for her day trip about half way through this activity and I was left alone with my 11 Guides.

Lunch was provided by Subway, before camp, everyone had filled in a menu choice and each person got a box with their name on. The leader picked up their Guides’ boxes and everyone was fed very efficiently. The food was also very good and we got both a packet of crisps and a cookie.

The afternoon started with grass sledging and a visit to the shop, the Guides were already tired so we cut this session short and let them have half an hour free before the river run. They did enjoy the sledges though, a couple of Guides didn’t quite stop in time and ended up in the bushes.

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Then it was time for the river run, the Guides had a blast! Drenched and covered in mud they emerged, so very happy. They played lots of games in the water and the instructors were excellent.

Then came the challenge of 8 showers vs 23 very muddy Guides and dinner in half an hour! They were pretty good and managed to get sorted but I did have to pre-warn about only taking 5 minute showers, Belle was still slightly muddy at dinner.

Dinner was a food van serving chips and either a hamburger or chicken nuggets. I had the chicken and it was really good. They only problem was the van only had one fryer so serving was very very slow! It really wasn’t a high maintenance camp for either the Guides or Leaders.

We were asked that each group contribute a song, sketch or dance to the campfire in the evening and I kind of panicked, I don’t know a lot of campfire songs off by heart. The previous evening, one of the instructors had taught them the army, clapping version of “I’m a little teapot” and they were all up for it, I had, in fact, heard it several times today. I was happy for them to do that song but asked them what their plan was, if someone else sang it before they did. They all launched into “Baby Bumble Bee” and amazed me, they all knew the words and actions and gave it their all. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my Guides come together and show this much interest in anything. They all got up together at the campfire and gave a rousing rendition and I was so proud to be their leader.

Barrel turned up just before the campfire and we all joined in and enjoyed the singing and dancing. Afterwards it was Smores time! The Guides all lined up and were given marshmallows on skewers and chocolate digestives and really enjoyed roasting the marshmallows.

After all the Guides had eaten, it was the time of the leaders to get their smores and we all lined up too. I think as leaders in Guiding, we have to retain our childhood joy to be able to understand what the kids want. I’ve found this applies no matter your biological age, I’ve met Leaders and Trefoil Guild from the ages of 18 to 80 and they all have this in common, the ability to laugh no matter what happens and to enjoy the excitement of children and get stuck in.

I ended up chatting to a couple of leaders around my age and really enjoyed the chance to pick up ideas and talk about our journeys. I think I persuaded one to apply to the World Scout Moot next year. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I’m going but I will be doing a post about this soon. In the meantime, my dear Guides decided to stuff my sleeping bag with balloons, I’m glad I had put away my underwear! The Guides asked if we could stay up a little later since this was going to be my last camp with them and I agreed. I reckoned that five or ten minutes wouldn’t do them any harm. However that was not what Barrel had in her head, she started playing music (while the other units were trying to sleep) and kept saying “no, its fine, they don’t have to go to bed yet”. I knew the Guides were exhausted so I put my foot down and scurried them off to bed.

While we were sitting talking, the Guides decided to tip my chair back and leave me stranded on the ground! It was very funny and they were very gentle. And the pic gave a pretty decent showing of my camp blanket. I’d been wearing it as a cape in the late afternoon and the Guides have nicknamed me Anna from Frozen!

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On Sunday, we arose, somewhat bright and early, and a bit bleary eyed to start into archery with an excellent instructor who my Guides decided to name Ian, after the evil guy in Alvin and the Chipmunks. He was fantastic and took it really well. They were kept interested and dynamic.

Our last activity of the weekend was bushcraft and I don’t know about the Guides but I certainly learnt a lot. We all got to build fires, and light them using a striker tool. Once the fires were up and running, the Guides wrapped up potatoes in foil and also scooped out the centre of a potato and cracked an egg inside, reapplying the lid. Then we placed them in the fires to cook. The Guides were so very excited to eat their own cooked food. I think I would be interested in trying to cook on an open fire at camp some time.

At camp this year, we were awarding a few prizes, we had a prize for the Guide who threw themselves into the weekend and really gave everything a go and this year, it went to Belle, she was so helpful and enthusiastic and tried her best at everything. The second lot of prizes, was for the tent who worked together best and got along with everyone to the best of their ability. This year it went to Belle and Ariel’s tent, along with their other two tent members. I had bought adult colouring books with colouring pencils, since they seem to be really popular at the moment.

After that came packing and closing and shipping the Guides home with their parents. I had a lovely time at camp but was very tired and slept for 3 hours when I got home. I’m looking forward to doing my Going Away With licence in the next couple of years.


100 Years of Senior Section Party

The day was finally here, the Celebration/Look Back party. I’ve been having a bit of a stressful time in work and could have done with the party going off without a hitch but that was a bit too much to expect from a Guiding party I suppose.

I asked the Guides and Leaders to arrive 15 mins early and Sheetbend has the keys to let us in when the Beavers aren’t meeting. However Sheetbend was late and we didn’t get into the hall until our guests started to arrive and well… everything was a bit of a mess.

Barrel was supposed to have invited the Trefoil Guild 3 weeks ago… but hadn’t. She had, in fact, invited them the day before. But we had two very lovely ladies appear to join our celebrations. I had also invited any mums, big sisters, aunts and grandmothers who had ever been involved in Guiding or wanted to find out more about it and two lovely mums appeared. We invited our District Commissioner, Clove and had a few old Senior Section members.

Sheetbend had promised sandwiches but turned up with some cold pre-cooked chicken wings and cocktail sausages and the fixings for some sandwiches. So overall not a success.

Barrel was assigned traybakes and turned up with some cake.

I was assigned smores, I achieved all the fixings, put them in the oven to melt, in a metal dish… and then promptly forgot about them! That involved a lot of scraping of burnt marshmallow off the oven *Headdesk*

However, some things did go to plan. We had a competition to design the uniform 100 years in the future. We gave the Guides plastic bags, newspaper and sellotape and set them off while the adults chatted. Some of their outfits were hilarious. One team had added a diaper, they claimed it was to show that Guiding was for all ages. Several teams had hats, one looked like a wee bonnet. Three out of four teams had capes, they claim they would be practical at camp. It was very very funny.

Sheetbend had brought some old pictures of our Guide and Senior Section Units in years gone by, including one which shows the unit parading on VE day. After reading the book, “How the Girl Guides won the War”, that picture really hit me hard. It’s a book which I will probably do a blog entry on at some point over the summer.

One of the Guides brought her mother’s old uniforms to show to us all, the Guides all agreed that culottes were not the way to go with a future uniform.

As part of the yearly challenge badges, we went around the room and asked everyone what they enjoyed about being a Guide, Trefoil Guild member, Leader or parent. It was lovely to hear what the Girls enjoyed. One of the Trefoil Guild members had attended a Boarding School in Dublin where basically everyone was in the Guide Company. Captainball was almost a school sport and they competed against other Boarding Schools in and around Dublin.

I asked a friend in work to bake and decorate a cake for the party. I can bake, but am not very good at decorating. The cake was amazing.

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The presentation of awards also went well. The Guides thought the ribbons were really pretty 🙂 We awarded patrol of the year to the Poppies who had managed to average the most stickers per patrol member for being helpful (and some other things you can get stickers for, like sewing on badges).

It did take the Leaders quite a while to clear up after the Guides at went home and it was very hot! So Sheetbend’s Daughter and Granddaughter bought us ice lollies from the shop across the road, I was very thankful.

I had brought my Camp Blanket along to show the Guides examples of old Brownie and Guide badges and I was showing Sheetbend the section of my blanket which shows badges we’ve done with the Guides and the couple of swaps I have managed to gain, from a Canadian Guider at  Camp last year and one Reef sent me from where she camped this year. Sheetbend said I should have some of the old Guiding Badges and gave me a pile of them. She also gave me the old necker of the unit, we don’t wear one anymore but our colour was green.

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I’ve decided that I’m going to sew the badges onto the necker and then sew the necker to my blanket in the swaps and special occasions section. This was a gift that made me very happy, and it didn’t even cause Sheetbend a second thought.

I spent the evening looking up what the badges were for and learnt about Patrol Pendants, something I had never heard about before.

At the end of the month, our unit is going to a camp organised by Lorne (Guiding Headquarters in Ulster), Barrel is supposed to be there as well and informed me that she will be there on the Friday night but needs to leave on the Saturday and may not make it back for the Sunday. I kind of wanted to ask her what the point of her coming at all was but I think I’ve given up. I’m now trying to see if I can get another leader to come with me but it’s technically alright if I can’t, ratio-wise for our Guides I’m within the limits with 11 Guides and there will be other leaders there. It may just be a bit boring for me.

S’mores and Tents

This week I was a little let down by my other leaders. We have the official LiC (Leader in Charge), Barrel; an Assistant Leader, Sheetbend, who is only helping us out occasionally since she is working up to retirement (her, I have no problem with); our two LiT’s (Leaders in Training), Square and Sheepshank and a Unit Helper, Fisherman. Fisherman hasn’t completed her CRB check yet so obviously cannot be left alone with the Guides (Girlguiding UK rules) and Square, as I mentioned before is doing a university course, has several placements and is also a hockey coach, so she isn’t always available for Guide meetings or things at weekends. Once again, her, I have no problem with, I am happy to help her with her leadership and love seeing her, she is great with the Guides as well.

However, Barrel and Sheepshank are a different story, they never let me know when they aren’t going to be at Guides, frequently contacting Sheetbend but not me, when Sheetbend isn’t going to be at the meeting herself. To be honest, if they had good reasons for not attending I wouldn’t mind but often its that they decided to go for a walk instead, or go canvasing with a local politician like this week.

I can run a Guide Company by myself, but I’d really rather not. I have a full time job and a part time one, in addition to volunteering with Guides and I like having some free time. So I’m hoping that they all start stepping up.

Right, rant over, let’s move on to what we did this week. I had Sheetbend, Fisherman and Square (She could only stay for half of the meeting) and we were putting up tents outside. At least it didn’t rain but it was very windy, none of them got the idea that putting something heavy on the part of the tent they aren’t dealing with, stops it from blowing away! It took nearly 40 mins but at the end we had 4 tents all standing in one form or another, and without too much arguing.


Then came the challenge of taking them back down and putting them back into the bags they came in. We sensibly moved back inside for that bit, it was bitterly cold by that time.

We are heading to camp at the end of June. Last year was my first year as a leader at camp, and none of our Guides had ever camped before, so getting the tents up was a struggle. I’m hoping we are in better shape for this year!

And if you have tents, then you definitely have to have S’mores 🙂 so we melted marshmallows over tealights and ate lots and lots of S’mores while chatting about camp songs. I’m hoping that they will know a few more before camp.

All in all, it was a pretty good night.




My Journey – The Young Years

I’ve decided that I want to write up a lot of my journey in Guiding, as well as updating weekly with what we’ve been up to.

When I was younger, I wasn’t involved in many activities outside of school. We moved house when I was about 9 and one of the girls who lived in the development was a Brownie and encouraged me to come along. I turned up in full uniform, it had been donated by a family friend who had moved up to Guides and I was so excited to start!

I only had a year in Brownies, but I loved making my promise, making new friends and I even got to go on pack holiday! We went to the Ulster Folk and Transport museum and stayed in the dormitories there. I got to visit Lorne (Guide Headquarters in NI) for the first time and go to the shop.  On the last day of the holiday, we were gathered together for Guide’s Own (a bit like a church service but not following any particular religion), and they announced the yearly awards. I received a prize for best new Brownie, they thought I had thrown myself into the pack with enthusiasm.

You have to understand, I didn’t normally get those sorts of prizes, I’m a bit of a bookworm and always have been. Brownies was the first time that no one made assumptions about me and my intelligence. I got to try lots of different things, but I still did my book lover’s badge 🙂 I’ve since sewn my Brownie Badges onto my camp blanket (The picture also shows my Guide badges, I’ve rearranged them since).

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After my year in Brownies, I moved up to Guides. Once again I was in love with an organisation. The first year was pretty enjoyable, I learnt Captainball (Guiding sport, a bit like netball), and remember getting to cuddle animals for my animal active badge.

Things got really good in my second year, I met two Guides, Reef and Bowline, who became my two best friends. They both live in different cities in England, and I can still say that I would trust them with my life and that they are my first port of call when I need a shoulder or advice.

I started reading the Chalet School series, by Elinor M Brent-Dyer. It’s about a boarding school, which starts out in Austria, travels during the war and settles down in Switzerland. In the first few books, they start a Guide Company and I was inspired by how seriously they took their promise and tried so hard to be the Best Girl Guides they could be.

I got the opportunity to go on camp several times, including a mixed Scout and Guide Camp in Crawfordsburn with over 300 people attending.

By the time it got to our final camp, Reef, Bowline and I were pretty sorted with this whole camping thing. Reef was supposed to have moved on from Guides, as she is the year above me, however she had asked to stay with us, but she was also completing her Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award. That year we were staying in two man tents, but were an uneven number, we begged to be the ones that were in a three and didn’t mind squeezing into the small tent. However our Guide leader, Clove was so very lovely and brought her personal four man tent for us to share.

We had very strict rules for our tent:

  • No shoes in the tent – they live in the entry at all times
  • Beds were made up at the same time – to allow overlapping of the ground sheets
  • If it isn’t being used – put it back into your bag

This made it very easy for us, at the end of camp, to pack up and be ready to go. However, some of the younger Guides had not followed the rules we lived by and we spent a lot of time helping them get sorted.

When I finished Guides, I continued with my Bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards with my Guide Leader, Clove and Bowline joined me. We walked our Bronze and cycled our Silver. I got to use a trangia and spent a lot of time having fun with Bowline.

There was no Senior Section near to me so I couldn’t continue into there.

And so ended my Guiding experience until I was 23. More on that next time 🙂