Surprisingly, to myself, I managed to get through my final meeting with this Brownie pack without crying. For the most part, I just felt strange, like I couldn’t quick believe it was real that I wouldn’t be coming back. There were a few moments that were tough when Girl N commented that I shouldn’t have drawn a smiley face, I should’ve drawn a sad face because I’m leaving was one. Another was when I said I would visit at Christmas and Girl Z said: “Everyone says that and no one ever does.” I definitely intend to if I am back before they break for Christmas, which I should be.
The night was a good one. At the beginning of the evening, we did the present giving. This included me giving the girls the Owl plushies I had made them and the other presents I had got for the leaders. We also gave the Six prizes to the Gnomes who got the most points this term. And I was given some presents from Brown Owl to say thank you and goodbye. I was somewhat overwhelmed by how thoughtful the presents were. There was a book giftcard to help towards my reading list; a small Brownies notebook; a keyring with pictures of my city on them and a BeanieBoos Owl. There was also a card with owls on it that everyone signed. I really will treasure them.
With Eagle Owl’s assistance, we make concertina butterflies. The girls seemed to love this activity, even if they did spend some time insisting they look like JoJo Bows rather than butterflies. They were a really cute activity and I have to admit I had fun making one myself.
The minister from the church was with us for the evening, joining in with activities. He brought with him a giant parachute that we played games with. As we’re only a small pack and this parachute was huge, we did have some issues making it go up and down, but we got there and it was certainly a lot of fun. Once we were done playing with the parachute, we made a den using chairs and the parachute.
With the den made, the girls were given cookies and milk which they took into the den to eat. There were a few complaints about the roof hitting their heads but for the most part, they really seemed to enjoy the novelty of it and they did help to make it so that it pretty awesome. At the end of the meeting, the minister took some pictures from me, of all the girls and the leaders. There was one girl away which was a shame but I’m glad to have a few pictures with most of the girls and all of the leaders.
I’m definitely going to miss this pack and really hope I am able to visit it. I’m so excited to see what my pack in my uni city will be like. It’ll be my first time going into a pack already having my ALQ and I can’t wait to get stuck in with new ideas and new girls. For now, it’ll be a summer of working on finishing my Look Wider.
Now that I have my blog up to date with the most interesting activities we have done this term – or at least the most interesting activities I was there for – I can talk about the sad thing that is occurring this week. Due to me returning to Uni in September a good 250 miles away from where I currently live, I am having to leave this Brownie Pack.
This is a really emotional time for me. I have been with this pack since just before I graduated from University the first time around. I joined in September of 2014 when the Brown Owl was also completely new and the pack was at risk of closure due to only having three girls. It’s been a long and wonderful journey being a leader at this pack. While it was not the pack that begun my guiding journey, I thoroughly believe it is the pack that turned me into a Brownie Guider.
My first pack was wonderful but there was somewhat of a rush to get my ALQ completed and I had at least one argument with the Brown Owl of the pack, which added to Uni stress did not make for a confident leader in me. Joining the pack I am currently at changed everything. Although the pack is old, it felt brand new because the Brown Owl and I had to build it up. Rather than being in a pack that had 20-odd girls and 5 leaders and didn’t really need me, I was now a part of a desperate pack that needed all the help it can get.
The Brown Owl at this pack has been wonderfully supportive. We may not necessarily have agreed on every single issue but we always found a way to compromise to find the best thing for the girls involved. We saw the pack grow from three girls up to twelve and drop back to nine. We’ve seen the pack gain a better connection with the church we meet in and we’ve seen girl after girl grow in confidence and as a person through the activities they do and the friends they made. The Brown Owl here helped me to better understand the Adult Leadership Qualification and work through it at my own pace rather than just trying to get everything signed off. Although this meant it took over two years, I was able to say within myself that I was a competent and confident leader by the time I had finished it. This Brown Owl also encouraged me to do all four modules, rather than just 1-3 which is definitely what I wanted to do.
From this pack, I have seen a number of great leaders and young leaders; Brown Owl, Snowy Owl, Ladybird, Squirrel, Fluffy Owl, Rainbow Owl, Cutie Owl, Eagle Owl and Curly Owl. Many have come and gone due to university, work or school but Fluffy Owl, Curly Owl and Eagle Owl will be remaining with Brown Owl.
Fluffy Owl is 16 now, she was 14 when she joined us and has been working on her DofE and is now working on her Young Leadership Qualification. I’m sad that I’m not going to be there to see her complete it but I have all the confidence that she will do so. In her two years with us, I think she has become more confident working with the girls and coming up with the activities and she is bound to go so far with her Guiding journey.
Eagle Owl is a PhD student who somehow finds time in all of that to also be a Brownie Guider. She came to us already having her qualification and like me is firmly set into her Guiding journey. Her time with us has been short, she joined not long after Thinking Day, but she has slotted into the pack perfectly, having some wonderful and fun ideas for activities. She is no doubt going to continue to be a brilliant leader.
Curly Owl has only been with us a couple weeks and I’ve not really had the chance to get to know her, but she is new to guiding from what I do know and she seems very enthusiastic and is definitely really good with the girls and that’s what is important. It’ll be a shame not to see where her guiding journey takes her and I really hope she starts her ALQ soon because she is bound to be a wonderful leader.
The girls we have seen come and go have varied from the incredibly shy to the type that makes you wonder if the teenage gene came a bit early but there is not one of them that has not left an impression on me. Girl R who hit her head hard on the floor when she dropped dramatically. Girl P who did not like me shortening her name. Girl M who got very attached to me and tried to teach me some Polish word. Girl T who started very shy but slowly came out of her shell. Girl M2 who’s Mum had the same illness as me. Girl R2 who’s sister was Squirrel. Girl A who was clearly bored of Brownies by the time she was 9. Girl C who could be a nightmare or the sweetest girl you meet. Girl N who’s currently very attached to me. Girl Z who wouldn’t stop talking about her first communion. And so on and so on. I would be here all day if I were to mention them all. They have helped me grow and I like to think that I have helped them grow in return.
Since joining this pack, though, it’s been so much more than this pack. I have become a part of a proper Guiding community. While the district is a bit of a mess, with changing boundaries and irregular meetings and packs that are difficult to get hold of, I can honestly say I have made some firm guiding connections and there are a number of people I am sincerely grateful to have shared this experience with. It is other packs as well, packs I have helped out on holidays with, girls who I maybe only saw for a couple of days but remember me and still call out their silly nickname for me if they see me even though they are in guides now.
It’s also the place where I learnt about Senior Section and Rangers. The place where I was able to do badges once again and study within myself what it meant to be a young woman and a member of girlguiding. I have made a lot of progress on my Look Wider and I desperately hope to finish it before I leave in September. Wish me luck.
Joining this pack, joining this community has made be who I am as a guider and while three years may not seem long for many people, it’s the majority of my guiding journey so far and it is something I will always be grateful for and will remain sad to have to step away from.
That being said I am excited to be able to move on. While I wish I could take the pack with me, I am glad to be moving away from my home city, my home county and taking myself on the next step of my life’s journey. I’m going to study a Master’s in English Literature and no I don’t have a clue what I want to do after it. Who knows where I’ll be in a year or what I’ll be doing. But I know for sure I will still be a Brownie Guider.
This week, rather than meeting at the church hall, we took our girls to the local fire station. The Dad of girl R is a fireman so it had been relatively easy for Brown Owl to organise this trip to make finishing the Fire Safety badge more interesting. I figured the girls would enjoy the trip but I was surprised by just how much they seemed to love it. There was a point were girls J and C were bouncing up and down and telling us that this was the best trip ever.
During the evening, the girls were shown the firefighters uniform and the man leading the evening explained why they were so heavy and hot to wear. During this part of the evening, Brown Owl and I had the opportunity to try out the uniform. Putting them on in the middle of a heatwave was not ideal as everything is so large and heavy. Of course, this is completely necessary as it is to protect them from the smoke and fire. I found it almost impossible to even take a step with the boots on and they walk as though they are just normal boots. I already respected firefighters but I definitely gained a new level of respect seeing and learning everything up close.
The girls were given the opportunity to see the different parts of a Fire Engine and were taught all about why they are there and what they are used for. They even got the opportunity to get up into the Fire Engine and learn about how the firefighters act when they have to go to a call out.
Towards the end of the evening, we all got the opportunity to have a go with the hoses on the fire engine. This was great fun for Brownies and leaders alike. We were shown how to make the water faster or slower and we were aiming for a turned over rubbish bin and saw how the force of the water made it move.
This was a wonderful night and it was so great to see the girls really enjoying themselves as they learnt about it all and completed their Fire Safety badge. Honestly something I would recommend to all Brownie packs.
As someone who seems to flit between being very much a city girl to very much a country girl, the idea of camping with the Brownies was both terrified and exciting for me. No one in my current pack has a going away with licence so when we were invited by another pack to join then on a summer camp, it was important to me that our girls be offered the opportunity. My Brown Owl is of the belief that camping should be saved for guides, however, was willing to let our girls go if I was willing to go with them. I was.
Preparing for this Brownie Camp was worrisome, having never done a Brownie Camp before I was worried about leaving something important behind. I must have checked my kit list 5 times before I accepted that I had everything I needed. Important things that were packed included Dill, my small teddy Armadillo and Haribo. Despite all the fuss, I managed to get myself packed completely with four hours to go before I needed to leave, giving me time to do the boring, non-Guiding things I had to do that day.
Once I arrived at the pickup point, I was picked up and we drove to the campsite. The plan was for the leaders to get there early and get the tents up before the girls arrived. I had been camping only once before this trip and knew little to nothing about the process of putting up tents. It was not an easy feat but we got there in the end, with the help of the pack leader’s three-year-old daughter and a couple of Brownies who arrived early.
The camp was greatly enjoyable and I remain completely pro-camp for Brownies. I believe there is a difference between camp for Guides and camp for Brownies and both should have the option to do so. This was only my second time sleeping in a tent and I got considerably less sleep than I would’ve liked [although, more than another pack holiday I’ve been on]. I shared with Izzy (now Snowy Owl) and Rabbit who were young leaders for the pack we were going with. I was glad to be able to make friends with people around my age who were also in Guiding because it seems such a rarity for me.
During the camp, the girls were working on the Circus Skills badge, which meant they got to do a number of fun activities like walking on skills, making juggling balls out of balloons and rice and learning to juggle with them and making balloon animals and flowers. This, of course, lead to a lot of popped balloons and leaders uncomfortable about the sounds.
One of the three girls from my pack, unfortunately, took ill and didn’t make it through all of the camp. It was worrying and sad to see her go from bubbly and excited to quiet and ill. I sat with her as we waited for her Mum and Nan to come get her though, and we spent the time talking about Youtube and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which I suffer from and her Mum had just been diagnosed with.
I had a lot of new experience at this camp, most of which were quintessentially camp experiences. I saw my first campfire and the difficulty that comes with trying to light one. Izzy and the other pack’s Barn Owl [yes that was confusing for the weekend] spend rather a long while trying to get it to light at all, but eventually, Barn Owl found a large branch and when that caught alight the fire continued for hours. Another new experience was camp fire songs which of course is a direct corrolation from the campfire itself.
The final quintessentially camp experience was rain. We were lucky that the rain didn’t come until the last night. But it came overnight and it poured and poured. The grass we were pitched on became saturated and the tent me, Izzy and Rabbit was not the only one to had leaked quick dramatically. Tired and grumpy girls, tired and grumpy leaders and pouring rain certainly is an interesting combination.
At this camp, I also learnt that mass making hot chocolate is done using a giant jug and that waking up to a Brownie bringing you tea is a delightful wake-up call.
Other things, I relearnt include that sleeping in a tent is really uncomfortable and that my sleeping bag is particularly loud when you move around a lot in the night. All in all, I would really love the opportunity to attend another Brownie Camp if I was invited.
In a continuation of one of the activities in phase one, I wanted to talk more about Dartmoor and the time I have spent there. Dartmoor is one of my favourite places, a place I feel as though I really come alive. I have visited Dartmoor a few times over the last few years, each time different from the others.
My trip to Fingle Bridge with my friend Shawn was the first time I used my ‘Short Ish Walks on Dartmoor’ book. We parked the car by a pub and the bridge itself and then took a walk that eventually circled back and ended again at the car park. The walk took up along the river, up some hills, past a building that looked a lot like Hagrid’s hut and passed the back of Castle Drogo. Once we returned to the car, we had some well earnt doughnuts.
Once again with Shawn, only this time we went to Haytor. Haytor is one of the first tors you get to when driving to Dartmoor from Newton Abbot or Bovey Tracey and at the weekend or school holidays is always crazy busy. However, we were lucky when we went that it wasn’t particularly busy. We went exploring around the tor, finding what I called a geocache but was, in fact, part of letterboxing, we also stumbled across Haytor’s Quarry which neither of us knew about beforehand.
With my friend Tasha this time, we went to Hound Tor. We explored up and around the tor itself before wandering down a hill towards an old medieval village. We continued after the village, making friends with dogs along the route, playing pooh sticks at a stream and wandering off the path. All in all we walked around 4 miles around Hound Tor and had such a wonderful time.
I don’t have a video of the final area of Dartmoor that I want to talk about. Again with Shawn and this time we took the Short Ish Walks book with us and went to Belstone. This was an absolutely beautiful village and an amazing walk that I am torn between wanting to do again and not because it was difficult with the valleys and hills. Along the walk, we passed a viaduct, streams and a naked man. We felt ridiculously accomplished when we finally made it to the stone circle, although the circle itself was smaller than we expected. Back at the car it took a long longer than you would expect to get out of the car park because there were ponies on the road that were not wanting to get out of our way.
This doesn’t count as visiting a different place as it’s a place I have been to before. Shawn and I took our friend Laughing Owl to Hound Tor when she was down to visit a couple years ago. We actually climbed the tor this time which was a huge achievement for me as I had always been too scared to actually climb very far.
Working on my Adult Leadership Qualification was an almost four-year journey full of false starts, a lack of understanding and stressing out about what things meant. However, as time went on my confidence in myself as a leader grew, making it easier for me to work through the qualification and eventually actually finish it.
I first started my LQ while with my first Brownie pack in my university city. However, with them, I felt rather rushed and some things that were ticked off I did not feel as though I had done or done well enough to have ticked off. Because of this when I moved home after uni and started with my current pack, I requested to start my leadership again. This was by far the best decision I could’ve made. The pack, when I joined only had three girls and the Brown Owl was also new. Between us we grew the pack into what it now is, gaining new girls and seeing them move on to guides. Although I did not take the name, I was acting in the position of a Tawny Owl. This meant that I was and am extremely hands-on in the running of the pack, I take on a number of activities, attend all the planning meetings, and get involved with the parents when it is necessary.
Due to this hands on approach I had and have with the pack, I was able to get work through my LQ in a way that I was confident and happy with. The fact that this Brown Owl gave me a lot more support was also helpful. The LQ is split into four modules and the fact that I have done all four of them means that technically I could be Brown Owl of my own pack, although I do not feel close to ready for that. One day though.
For the LQ, I had to work on a number of different things, including planning activities, attending district and planning meetings, arranging an activity outside of the meeting place, participating in Powwows, discussing subjects with individual girls and working with the Brownie Finances. In truth, I felt confident as a leader long before my LQ was officially all signed off, but due to struggling to find a Safeguarding training that I could get to officially finishing it was delayed.
However, in October last year, I finished it and the District Commissioner signed everything off for me. At the Thinking Day event this year, I was present with my Leader’s badge which was a wonderful moment and it now proudly resides on my badge tab.
Due to our small total number of girls and other factors, we only have three girls at the St George’s Day parade this year. One was holding the flag, the other two marching in lines with some girls from another pack in our district. St George’s Day parades always fill me with pride. Not for the country, in the current state of political mess, I’m not in a place where I can say I am proud of England. But St George’s Day makes me proud to be a part of the Guide/Scout family. Seeing the sheer number of people who turn out not only to be a part of the parade but to watch it makes me realise how special this thing is that I am a part of.
After the march itself came the Church Service. Despite that being some questionable song choices the service was lovely. There was a theme of Aims and Ambitions which was somewhat emotional for me as someone who is returning to uni this September. We sang the Climb by Miley Cyrus, which I was okay with but some people had issues and Firework by Katy Perry. Now I like Katy Perry but St George’s Day and a song that specifically mentions the date America got free of us? Interesting choices as I said.
All in all, I loved the St George’s Day event for the feeling of being a part of something huge and important.
Returning to Brownies after the Easter Holiday brought with it something I never wanted to happen: The Brownies finding out that I am going to be leaving the pack. In September I am starting a Masters in English Literature at a University five hours away, meaning, of course, having to leave the girls. I left it to Brown Owl to decide when was the best time to tell them this and it came earlier than I thought it would.
On the first meeting back, we discovered that a couple of girls hadn’t returned, one parent had let us know and the other was and still is MIA. We were discussing girls leaving and when you have to leave and when you don’t and one of the girls oh so innocently asked Brown Owl, “If you leave does that mean Barn Owl’s in charge?” with which Brown Owl replied “No because Barn Owl is leaving” and I think everyone in the room was shocked. Brown Owl, I think, didn’t plan for it to come out that easily and I certainly was not prepared for it. The girls did not believe it at first, they claimed it was a late April’s Fools joke, etc. But then we explained that it was because I was going to University. The girls were somewhat offended, claiming that they were more important than my uni city.
Honestly, I find myself wanting to take my Mum and my friends and my Brownies to my uni city with me. The Brownies are one of the hardest thing for me to be leaving. My friends and my Mum will be hard but it’s different because they have a better understanding of why I am going. For now, though we just had to get through the term and I’ll try and forget that we are nearing the time of me no longer being there.
The first week back was the week that ended with St George’s Day so we wanted to do something that would help the girls to understand who St George was and why we do a parade. For the activity, I printed out a figure of a knight with a cross on the shield for them to cut out and put together with split pins so each limb moved. It was a great fun activity, but I think more fun was had explaining how the parade works and having the girls practise marching.
The second week of the term, we spend the majority of the evening making posters. We’re a small pack and we need to try and get more girls here, so we made posters with information about what Brownies is and why more girls should join. Unfortunately the majority of girls didn’t finish in the meeting so had to take them home to finish. Hopefully they will be returned next week so we can start putting them out and about in schools and shops.
In the Easter Holidays, we were planning to take our Brownies to see the Gang Show in our City. We have taken them every year but one thing or another stopped me from attending in 2016 and 2015, so this was to be my first time experiencing it. I was exciting about it, there was Guiders in it that I am friends with so it was bound to be awesome seeing them on stage.
The day came and I went about my usual morning routine, which is essentially getting up, coming on the computer and ignoring my phone. When I eventually look at my phone, I see a missed call from the Brown Owl of our pack. That is never good sign before an event, right? The voice message asked me to call back and I did so. Brown Owl was ill with food poisoning and wanted to know if I felt I would be able to cope with our 7 girls on my own with the young leader who was also going. Insert instant terror and excitement.
This was an amazing opportunity for me to grow as a leader and I wasn’t going to disappoint our Brownies who had already paid for the show, so of course I agreed that I would be fine. And I was. At least, I got through it and feel like I would be able to do it again. I stopped by Brown Owl’s house on the way to collect the paperwork telling me who to expect and who still needed to give me their forms and then I was on my way.
I arrived outside the theatre 20 minutes before our girls were due to arrive, which gave me some time to breathe and more time to panic. Anxiety disorder is wonderful in these scenarios, isn’t it? Slowly the girls begun to arrive and by five minutes after the time they were due 5 of the 7 were there. I took the girls up into their seats. Despite the small number of us, we were over two rows, so I did the sensible thing of having Fluffy Owl, our young leader at the end of one row and myself at the end of the other so we topped and tailed them so to speak.
It approached the time of the start of the show and I was informed that it would be started 15 minutes late in order to give people the chance to get into their seats properly, etc. This gave me time to once again go outside and check to see if the other two had arrived. They had not and when I was back in my seat one of the girls who was there said she had a text from one of them that morning to say they had only just got back from a holiday to Poland that morning. I started to assume they weren’t coming.
A few minutes before the start of the show, I see one of them appear and get an apology from her Dad as he slips back out. This girl confirms to me that the other isn’t coming because she’s too tired from the plane journey. I’m able to relax somewhat knowing that all of my girls that are coming are now here and in their seats and will not be moving until the interval.
The interval came and not too soon, despite the fact that they were enjoying the show, I could tell some of the girls were getting restless. Interval time meant being able to stretch their legs, buy some sweets and have some time to talk amongst themselves. It also meant I was able to have a quick chat with some other Guiders I knew about the fact that I was freaking out at being completely in charge, they were quick with reassurances that I was clearly dealing with it well and everyone freaks out especially the first time. I was also able to but a Gang Show 2017 badge for my camp blanket.
Back to the show and I believe the girls enjoyed the majority of it. In the second half, there was a part where they did a shout out to all of the Guiding and Scouting packs that were in attendance. When they got to us, there was very little response from our girls, despite me going “Guys that’s us” so the guy on the stage said he was going to go out and come back, he did so and shouted our pack name again and we were slightly louder from apparently a rather shy pack as I was the one making the most noise.
The show itself was wonderful. I loved pretty much all of it, but there were a couple of sketches that really stood out for me. As someone with an interest (read: obsession) with Paris and France generally, the French section was of particular love for me. The fact that they sang One Day More from Les Miserable was just perfect. The other part that really stood out for me was the remembrance of lost singers. They did a dedication to John Lennon, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. As someone who is a big fan of the first two and a minor fan of the latter, this was an extremely emotional moment. Added to that I had watched Nowhere Boy a film about John Lennon only the day before and was still somewhat emotional about that.
However, the most emotional part of the show for me was the ending. They sang the ending songs with everyone on the stage in their Guiding and Scouting uniforms. It was at this point that it hit me how much I like being a part of Girl Guiding within my city, it hit me how many guiders I know and how much I am a part of the Guiding world here and how in just a few months I am going to be leaving it. It is something that is continuing to hit me over and over as I approach the time when I leave.
The end of the show, I’m sure you can imagine, was a nightmare of impatient children and me not wanting to get any of them lost to the crowds. Eventually we got down the stairs and the girls were automatically running off to parents they had seen and I hadn’t. Eventually I was reassured that five of my six girls were safely with the right adults. Fluffy Owl informed me that “Girl J is with adults” and disappeared to get her lift. Panic mode returned as I hadn’t seen the adults that Girl J was with and I knew I wouldn’t be able to relax until I saw her with the right adult. It was only a moment later when I saw her again and was able to confirm to myself that she was in fact with her own Dad.
Finally, I could breathe and I went to get myself a well earnt Subway.
Taking the girls out of the meeting place is always great fun, and the wonderful thing about taking them bowling is that they are able to make that bit more noise. A Bowling Alley is an overly loud place as it is, so if the girls are shouting a bit more than usual no one is going to notice. It’s good to give the girls that bit more freedom.
We had booked for 12 girls but one didn’t come and another left Brownies altogether before the bowling night, so only 10 girls came. This meant the four adults split into two teams and took turns bowling. I worked with our newest leader Eagle Owl, while Brown Owl and Fluffy Owl worked together.
We had two games of Bowling and some food. There was a bit of a mix up with the food as we were told we would be able to get kids menu food but we weren’t. However, it wasn’t too much of a problem and all of the girls ate and enjoyed their food. All of the girls enjoyed the bowling as well. Some of the littler ones started off using the shoot but eventually went to just bowling free. It was terrifying seeing girl C2 lifting the bowling bowl and walking up to throw it. She is only 7 and barely looks big enough to be a Brownie so it was easy to believe that bowling bowl could send her toppling over.
Of course it wouldn’t be a trip to the Bowling Alley with the Brownies if some things didn’t go wrong. A couple of times the ball got stuck in the gutter. We had the sides up to prevent goings into the gutter, but somehow Girl N managed to get the ball to bounce and land in the gutter a couple of times anyway. And then there was the one time the ball was thrown down the aisle before the aisle was ready and so got stuck in front of the cage around the pins. All easily sorted and things the bowling staff are used to, just a little hilarious for us leaders.
All in all, Leaders not included Girl A got the most points. Next week at Brownies I’m going to tell everyone what their total scores over the two games were.