Mar. 27th, 2011

phantym_56: (Default)
Have I mentioned in the chaos of this week that as of last Tuesday I am a fully-qualified, signed-off Ranger Leader? I'm a fully-qualified Ranger Leader!! My qualification has gone off to County for verification and at some point I will receive a badge and certificate. Now I have to redo Module 1 with the Brownies to become a fully-qualified Brownie leader.

I want to do my Commonwealth Award too - it's nowhere near as big and intimidating as, say, Queen's Guide, it's about as intimidating as a Guide Interest Badge. The only potential problem is that I need to find out about Guiding and the development thereof in another Commonwealth Country. At the moment, I'm thinking of Ghana. I need to know about how Guiding began and what its aims are, I need to know about how the Commonwealth developed and about another country and its Guiding and do something practical in relation to it (ie correspond with someone, make a scrapbook, prepare a typical meal) and I need to do 20 hours community service. That's the compulsory challenges. For the optional ones I've chosen Fit For Life - choose and do a new physical activity. Got that. Cryptic new sport. I've only done it once; it's plenty new enough. And the other one is Creative Writing - write about life in your own country or tell a legend from your culture. This has to be done before I get too old to be a member of the Senior Section, ie the end of July. No problem.

I'm in charge at Brownies tomorrow. I was meant to be doing a music evening and I got it all planned out and then realised we could turn it into a campfire evening. Some floating candles in a washing up bowl (has turned into some small candles in glasses) as a campfire, cook marshmallows over tealights, sing some songs etc and we can get the Campfire Badge as designed by Croydon Rangers. I've gathered 29 songs in a unit songbook and spent hours losing my temper with the printer attempting to print ten copies. I don't know the tune of the Brownie Smile Song or Linger but as long as we stay away from those two for now, we should be ok. They're cute little books. I couldn't find packs of matching card so I have two blue books, two pink, two yellow, two green and two a sort of khaki-grey. Well, I have eight completed books. I will need to quietly and discretely print two more at work tomorrow since we've run out of paper at home and then I'll need to sneak my holepunch out so I can string the books together. No holepunches at home, unfortunately. Worst case scenario, I'll get our unit helpers to actually physically put them together while I'm teaching the girls Alice the Camel. In my years of Guiding I've amassed quite a reasonable number of songs and I've recently discovered a certain level of musical confidence I didn't know I had. This, I think, comes of teaching seventeen girls and two adults, the words and tune to Brownie Bells. Mandy, bless her heart, taught them the Brownie Song and as a result, they spent weeks missing the second half of it and still haven't grasped the tune. (Mandy allegedly learnt about 800 instruments to Grade 5 at school (above that you had to buy the instrument so when she got that far, she changed instrument) but my experience is that she's kind of tone-deaf. I am extremely untrained and struggled to scrape through Grade 3 clarinet whereupon I abandoned music lessons but I do have a very good ear.)

Being ambitious, I'd also love to get my Musical Activities Qualification. Unfortunately, for the time being, it's vanished off the website. There are murmurings that it will be available to download from the members' section, so I assume it's being overhauled. I'll put it out of my mind for now; I have my Commonwealth Award to do and it would be great to get my camp licence. And there's a walking qualification too. I just want qualifications! I did want to do the climbing and if I had it, I'd be in great demand, I'm sure but the Girlguiding rules on climbing and abseiling are so strict, I'd never know when I'm actually allowed to be in charge of the wall. And besides, I haven't climbed in years and I get to a certain height and remember I don't particularly like heights. I am not a great climber. I draw the line at the boating qualification. I do feel a slight guilt that I've lived by the sea for twenty-five years and never learnt to sail but the sea is a powerful and scary thing and frankly, despite my love of baths, I'm not a water-baby at all. Camp, music and walking. Those three'll do for now. And by "now", I obviously mean "at some point in the hazy future beyond my Brownie module 1 and Commonwealth Award".

Anyway, I never meant to rabbit on about Brownies and Rangers for so long,

I went to the chemist yesterday, held out my hands and said "Help!". They suggested E45 Itch Relief Cream. Not the answer. It burned. Not enough to make it red or cause any damage, but enough for me to wave my hands around and go "Aarrgghh, please stop that!". It only lasted a few minutes but it didn't stop it itching despite repeated applications over the day.It's not that they itch because they're horrifically dry. They're actually relatively soft and well-moisturised but they're bumpy and itchy. They get a little dry around the knuckles because they itch and I'm scratching. So today I've got myself a tube of hydrocortisone cream. The first application was fairly promising. Well, it didn't burn, anyway. I'll give it a few days and then if it's still going I'm apparently off to the doctor to plead for medical help.

So that was my weekend. Putting songbooks together and rubbing various creams into my hands. I wanted to do some camp blanket badge-sewing tonight but I think I'm not going to bother. I got home late last night and went out early this morning. I'm tired. The bath calls. My hair feels icky.
phantym_56: (Girlguiding 100)
Oh, go on then. I know I post something like this from time to time but I think it's worth doing.

I have been involved in Girlguiding for over twenty years. I started as a Rainbow ("a Blue Rainbow" - meaning that my unit wore blue tabards, whereas the one up the road wore yellow ones, and I still have that tabard) at age four or five. Age seven I moved onto Brownies where I was first an Imp and later an Elf and later I was Sixer of the Elves. At age nearly eleven I moved onto Guides, where I was first a Kingfisher then a Chaffinch and later Patrol Leader of the Chaffinches. When I was about thirteen, my former Brown Owl spotted me and my best friend hanging around the hall before Guides and asked if we would come and be helpers (I have since learned that the correct term for Guides helping at Brownies is "Pack Leader"). When that best friend stopped going, Jess came along instead. The pack closed a couple of years later because Brown Owl had to retire and her daughter, Tawny, didn't want to run it anymore. When I reached fifteen or so, the Guiders decided I wasn't leaving of my own volition so they threw me out. They made me a Young Leader, where I remained until I was eighteen and went to university. I tried joining a group there - everyone who was interested met up one evening and details were taken but I never heard anything more. I went back to my Guides at those times when uni terms and school terms didn't quite match - the first week or two in September, end of June/July etc, kept in touch and when I graduated, I was offered leadership of the Rangers. They'd sprung up while I was away - several older girls had shown a similar disinclination to leave and as it wasn't possible to have six Young Leaders, the old Ranger unit had been reformed. The Guide Leader kept an eye on them and made sure they didn't die but they were almost completely independent, in a room of their own, organising their own activities and basically, running feral. Thus I became a Ranger Leader. Nearly two years ago, a colleague spotted an advert for a Brownie leader, since all their leaders were about to leave and unless they could find two people to run it, the pack would have to shut. She went for it. I was a little more reluctant but I couldn't let a Brownie pack close in the Centenary year so I suddenly became a Brownie Leader as well. That's my Guiding history.

It's home and family and a big part of my life. For many years I felt like I had three surrogate mothers in the Guide leaders - not so much while I was a Guide but while I was a Young Leader and then Adult Leader. I learnt a lot through them. I became an outdoorsy sort of person through it. One of the leaders was quite into walking so when I was eleven, the entire unit did their Stage 1 Walker badge. I've hiked over many a hill and heath with the Guides. I learnt to camp, and to enjoy camping. I acquired a small two-man tent for a lightweight camp, a tent I still use and love today (and am capable of pitching single handedly, in the rain, at midnight, in November, within ten minutes. I know this from experience). I have become A Person Who Camps. I learnt to cook, and for someone who doesn't eat, the ability to cook keeps me from being completely alienated food-wise. I can cook on portable gas stoves, trangias (I can also light the trangia, refill it and I can even put it back together again afterwards), buddyburners (and I can make a buddyburner), barbecues and conventional hobs. I'm now unofficial QM's assistant - I help teach Guides to cook on camp (I vividly remember one girl having trouble slicing a tomato before we discovered she was holding the knife blade-side up) and I carry on with the cooking while everyone else is eating. I can cook eggy bread, sausages, hot dogs, burgers, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, pasta, umm.... anything you'd eat on camp (Am struggling to think of anything else apart from sandwiches now). Admittedly, one of my particularly massive Guiding failures is that I can't light a wood fire but if someone else does then I know exactly how to cook a marshmallow to perfection (although I haven't mastered the art of eating the thing without getting sticky all over my face and fingers). I've learnt hundreds of songs and dances and sung and danced them under the stars, (sometimes in the rain) with a blanket draped over my shoulders. I've made juggling balls, had a failed attempt at learning to juggle and do diabolo, I've performed glo-poi in front of an entire county's worth of Senior Section I'd never met before. I've learnt to pitch and strike both canvas ridge tents and modern nylon dome tents. I can put up a marquee (with the help of at least six other people - canvas marquees are heavy and they're extremely unwieldy). I know how to storm-lash, I know how to snake-lash a draining board, I know how to lace a tent door and how to make a bedding roll. I know how to keep warm in a tent. I know how to invent and set up a wide game. I've taught semaphore and Morse. I know how to make fake wounds with a special dough and blackcurrant jam and I've done First Aid training so many times - as a Guide I got my First Aid badge, we repeated that one a couple of times during the five years I was there, as a Pack Leader I taught/helped as the Brownies did their First Aid badge and I've had to do First Aid as part of my Qualification. I can make two kinds of sling, bandage a wrist or ankle, find a pulse in wrist or neck, put someone in the recovery position, do CPR (although please don't collapse in front of me; bending over someone and blowing into their mouth makes me quite light-headed, or maybe that's just because Resusci-Annies are particularly difficult to get air into). I can read a map and follow a bearing, I can make pancakes, I can arrange flowers into a passibly pleasing arrangement, I can transport water using nothing more than a sheet of paper, I can make a paper water bomb and cute little origami boxes out of old Christmas cards. I can make a godseye, although I haven't had to in years and I hope it continues because I hate it (a cross made of sticks and then you wind acres of wool around it to make a sort of woollen kite).

I've tried so many things I wouldn't otherwise have been able to. My first experience of rock climbing. Canoeing. Pottery. Archery. Low ropes. High ropes. Quadbiking. Abseiling. Candlemaking. Glass painting and glass etching. A myriad of crafts. Wide games in the dark. Indoor camps. Camp under canvas. Even skiing (which was how I learnt about the existence of a dry ski slope half an hour away which led me to take up snowboarding).

As I look around me, my room is full of stuff I did at Guides. Little wool dolls. The shield I made as a Brownie Pack Leader on Arthur-themed indoor camp (judging from the pictures on the shield, it rained and we played marbles, made princess hats and lutes and my camp name was Gareth). An embossed tracing paper picture of an elephant in a sailing tub. Several candles in painted jars. Blue hand-made candles (including the one that melted the mould and poured molten wax all over the kitchen floor and my feet). Downstairs there's at least one engraved glass. In the spare room is a hand-sewn plate bag with an embossed leather tag that I made in 1998. Somewhere there's a toy squirrel I made on a very early camp (the infamous one on which I collapsed from low blood sugar one morning before breakfast). The fluffy foam-footed beastie I made at Brownies (first or second night as a leader). The pen I was given when my first Brownies closed. The big fluffy Trefoil Me To You bear the Guides gave me when I "left" Guides. I have cards all over the place for various reasons signed by all the Guides at whatever time the cards were made and given. I have a big Kingfisher magnet stuck to my shelf brackers and somewhere a fairly large ornamental Kingfisher because us Kingfishers, we were a club. Kingfishers were special. I have a huge great tiled mirror that's so big and so obvious I don't even notice it now. I have a little painted china basket. My current membership card (I am a "member and recognised volunteer". I wonder if I get a new card and new description now?) I have a little square canvas on which I've painted a car. I have two little orange plastic cups that accidentally came home with me from camp over five years ago. I used to have a peg doll of me made by one of the Guides (unfortunately I forget which one). In the garage there is a stripy painted metal kettle I was given "for my flat" by three Guides many moons ago. On the stairs is my camp blanket and in my sewing kit are least six badges I still haven't sewn on it. On my floor is my file full of things like "Guidance notes for Rangers" and "Everything you need to know about record-keeping. There is a Girlguiding lanyard which has the old hall keycard on it still. There are two Iron Age-style torqs beside my bed from two different camps at the reenactment campsite. In the corner, wedged behind a bookcase is a roll of window film left over from making a sitter for camp two years ago. There is evidence of the presence of Guiding in my life all over my room, all over my house and all over my character.

My point is that there's so much I've done, made, learnt and experienced. If it wasn't for Guiding, I wouldn't have become an outdoorsy person; I would never have got into caving (and without caving, who knows what my uni years would have been like?) or snowboarding, I probably wouldn't be travelling, I certainly wouldn't find myself responsible for twenty-one children who don't belong to me twice a week. It has an old-fashioned reputation; you still meet people who respond with "Oh, dib-dib-dib!" (which is Scouts and to the best of my knowledge is something even they haven't done in nearly a century anyway) and the girls still tend to keep it a secret at school and cover up their uniform in public. It still has a reputation for being the realm of "the goodie-goodie" (My Dearly Beloved Boss's sister loved Brownies for a couple of weeks until her best friend told her it's for goodie-goodies, at which point she promptly refused to go back). "Cool" people like to talk about "I got thrown out of the Brownies for swearing." No, you didn't. I don't need to have ever so much as seen your face in my life to know that didn't actually happen.

These days, I admit, it's been taken over a bit by the corporate thing and it throws around words like "empowerment" and "choice", which makes me bristle a bit because it's all buzzwords and it means nothing. There's no way to apply stuff like that to actual kids. What we can do as Leaders is make sure Rainbows/Brownies/Guides/Senior Section is available to them if they want to come, make sure the girls feel safe and happy there and that they do things they want to and get opportunities like I had. That's what. And that's why I'm a leader.

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phantym_56

June 2012

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