Sunday, 27 December 2009


Son happy.
Daughter happy.
Me happy.
Husband got a fancy pants camera in the summer as a joint birthday/Christmas present so he's happy too.

Lovely Christmas meal with family, even if I do say so myself.

Hope you had a good one too.

Thursday, 24 December 2009


The table is set.

The ham is roasting - we'll have it warm tonight and cold on Boxing Day.

The presents are wrapped.

And there's a Phineas and Ferb marathon on Disney XD.

We're going nowhere today!

Have a great Christmas.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Holiday Home

Not strictly Guiding at all so feel free to ignore, but if you want to see our Christmas decorations, here you go!
From one to nine:
  1. Christmas glass bells, bought in Austria in 1994
  2. Our infamous Christmas barbed wire, bought in 1995. It was simply decorative wired tinsel stuff but has become mangier and mangier as the years go on and has resembled barbed wire for some time. It is hung up anyway.
  3. Christmas wreath made by daughter's hands many years ago
  4. The Christmas Minas Tirith from Lord of the Rings. Given to Mr Guider years ago as part of a DVD box set of Lord of the Rings and immediately became the table centrepiece at Christmas
  5. The mantelpiece decorated
  6. The alarm box decorated
  7. The hall mirror decorated
  8. The Habitat Christmas tree, the wooden nativity, the Early Learning Centre santa set, the left overs from last year's Playmobil Advent Calendar, a Lego snowglobe and a wooden German decoration
  9. The tree. This picture does not adequately show how it completely fills the window and lets in no light, we have to have the lights on all day! Everyone who has visited the house since we put it up has commented on how big it is, pressing against the window! You know when you buy a tree, bring it home, put it up and it doesn't look as big as it did? This one got bigger on the drive home.
That's my Christmas decor, barring a few strands of tinsel elsewhere.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Not Guiding, but thought-provoking

This article will make me think about how I approach our community service projects with other charities.

I know sometimes I have teenagers marking off their time for Duke of Edinburgh Award with our unit and they disappear as soon as they have hit their minimum time allocation. I understand that at that age you have so much to balance with schoolwork that anything that can be ticked off, is. But I also know I feel sad that those kids only think the Brownies are worth working with for x number of hours.

So, when we do our community service, I want to be sure that what the Brownies do is helpful and not insulting so I'm going to keep this article in mind.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Broadcasting Brownies

Yesterday we went to our local radio station - the DJ that does the Saturday 10-2 show invited us in to see how things worked.

We split into 2 groups of 2 adults, 2 children-of-Guiders (that was a YL and a Guide in one group, a Guide and a Rainbow in the other) and 7 Brownies in each group - we arranged it fairly short notice so that was all the ones that could come.

We had an amazing time. And anyone who says men cannot multi-task has never met a DJ. Although his set list was all programmed in, he also chatted away to us in between being on air, took phone calls, edited them down, checked texts, checked the weather, checked the traffic cameras...and pressed all the buttons and slid all the levers.

The Brownies got to applaud, chatter, set the quiz question, have their voices turned into giggling chipmunks, pass opinion on the music played, talk about what they do at Brownies, about Christmas...all on air.

It counts as 20 points for Adventure 100, but more importantly, it counts as one of those experiences the girls just wouldn't have had without being Brownies.

What a high to end the year on!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

What have the Romans ever done for us?

Went to the school Christmas play tonight.
Son was a Roman soldier.
Hey, at least it was vaguely relevant, not like he was a lobster or anything.
And he and the rest of the centurions did look cute.

Friday, 4 December 2009

As often as I want?

"So I can come back and get another one?"



Who'd have thought laying out every spare craft we've accumulated over the last three years (you know, when you buy for 24 but only 22 turn up) in a row and letting the Brownies choose what they want to make would go down so well!

They think we rock because we gave them free rein to make what they like (some girls even spent the night making santa beards using cotton wool, straws and sticky tape left over from the asthma night!) and to keep coming back for more.

We think they rock because we now have lots more space in the Brownie boxes!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Tonight, and in a couple of weeks

Tonight - we've rescheduled and we're doing the Blue Peter Send a Smile Appeal. We've had 50 t-shirts donated, so we'll be creating the gowns and decorating them with fabric pens.
Sending 50 gowns, saving the £150 it would have cost the charity to buy them, means a cleft palate operation can be funded instead!

And in a couple of weeks, we're going to visit the local radio station...and 4 Brownies will get to go on the air!

Quite excited, can you tell?

*Update - a pic from tonight!*

Sunday, 22 November 2009

I won a prize!

Check me out, I was randomly generated by Metropolitan Mum to win a digital camera!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

What an adventure!

You may have noticed me talking about the centenary of Guiding (if not, here's some info).

Last week, we got the Brownies to plan their Adventure 100, the official centenary challenge. With 10 activities in each of 10 sections, there was a lot to narrow down! So each six picked a favourite and second favourite in each section, we put them all together and tried to come up with a programme that covers everything that got at least two votes out of the eight available, plus a few others.

Together with two or three fixed plans already in place, we've now planned January to July as a result!

Here's the plan:
Week 1 Penpals/American Games/World Guiding
Write cards to Americans, play American games

Week 2 World Guiding

Week 3 Cool Buffet and Cool Threads
Make sundaes, design own t-shirt, decorate own t-shirt

Week 4 Be a Star/Music to Ears (girls rehearse and make instruments)
Girls perform something, need to practice, bring instruments. Make shakers for those who don't want to perform

Week 5 Be a Star/Music to Ears (girls rehearse and perform)
Girls rehearse and perform - poss in front of parents?

Week 6 Flashback (EU country) - Germany
German friend to help teach some vocab, games, songs, food from Lidl

Week 7 World Conference - Scotland
Jen to run Scottish night

Week 8 Joint party with Rainbows (5.30 to 7, both units)
Joint party for Rbows and Brownies, with theme of being 5 because our unit will be 5.

Week 9 Stargazer night at local school observatory
Need to contact school to ask for observatory access

Week 10 Midnight Feast/Play in Dark
Eat picnic in dark, make refridgerator cake, play games in dark


Summer Week 1 Fire Safety (school)
Cover clauses of fire safety (if we can get a firefighter to come to us, great, if not, must be prepped to do it ourselves)

Week 2 Fire Safety (fire station)

Week 3 Moving - Off to the Races
Make own hats, have picnic, race something (cars?)

Week 4 Water Games/Water for Life
Taste different flavours of water, play water games outside such as throwing sponges

Week 5 Shape 100 and Jump Up High
Make 100 shape out of things and selves. Then games based round jumping.

Week 6 Aquarium visit
Contact local garden centre to see if we can visit, particularly to look at aquariums but also anything gardeny

Week 7 Olympics 100
Run our own Olympics, with each event based around achieving 100 as an individual or six

Week 8 Dream Catcher and Necklaces
Have ordered dream catchers, beads and thread

Week 9 Floating/Hanging Around, local playground
Climbing frame/parachute games/girls to bring kites

Week 10 Puppets and Show
Have ordered farm and jungle puppets to be sewn up

Week 11 - Camp Fire
Usual end of year stuff - make smores, play games outside. Joint meeting with Guides, poss also Rainbows

Additional events:
Panto Jan
Thinking Day Feb
London weekend Mar
Birmingham carnival Apr
Brownie Takeover May (tentative)

Also to squeeze in if they come off - a night of Bollywood dancing, a visit to a local radio station and some community service - we usually have some service every term but as long as we squeeze something in over the two terms I'll be happy given the special centenary circumstances. There: 21 weeks of fun!

That's not even including a division camp being planned, we probably won't take part in that for a few reasons: we are doing a lot already, plus our Guides are doing it so will be using the tents, and our Rainbows will probably do it for a day visit so any other leaders will be involved with that.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Tiles - fantastic!

We went to Ironbridge a couple of weeks ago and decorated ceramic tiles using clay. The tiles were then fired at over 1100C for three days, then sent out to us.Before

Before, with a picture of the aimed-for end product.


Love them, love them, love them!

Sunday, 8 November 2009


Well, I've done it, I've handed in my notice as Guider in Charge for our Brownies.


I've been thinking about it for a while, I've been doing it nearly five years now so I do feel I have done my bit.

I'll still be going to every meeting, helping with planning, using my overnight licence when required.

But I will no longer be:
  • running the waiting list,
  • being the person who signs the girls up for everything,
  • being the person who organises the paperwork for everything,
  • being the person who gets the phone calls/emails,
  • the person who stores all the boxes!
One of the current assistants, whose daughter starts Brownies in September, has agreed to step up then. So I'll carry on to the end of the school year, July, then in September she will be the main leader.

At the same time as I told the District Commissioner I wanted to do this, she told me the Division Commissioner (one up from her) wanted her assistant District Commissioner to become assistant Division Commissioner, leaving the District Commissioner needing a new assistant.

Guess who!

Kind of makes sense to be honest, I'm trained for the new Guiding computer system so can support on that, I'm often the person she runs stuff past. So if the former assistant does accept, then as long as it doesn't turn into me having lots of paperwork again (and she assures me it won't), then I am up for it.

Remembrance Sunday

We went to a Remembrance Sunday service this morning - 13 Brownies, 2 Guides, 1 Young Leader, 4 Leaders.

I was so proud of the girls just for being there, and for their excellent behaviour.

It was very moving, and I think the older people appreciated having so many young people there.

I plan to make a massive fuss of the girls who turned up on Thursday evening, plus give them each one of these beautiful badges.

Next year, if we do it again, we should have a poppy wreath to lay, we were told we didn't need to have one, and indeed we didn't NEED to, but the Scouts laid one and it would have been nice for us to do the same.

Lest We Forget.

Monday, 2 November 2009

I did go so now it's gone!

Girlguiding has a new computer system and every unit needs to go on it. It means we'll have one centralised place for the girls' information and will make it easy when girls transfer.

I wasn't a big fan, even after being trained as a key user for my area, until the day I deleted my waiting list a couple of months ago when I overwrote the file with a much older version in error. At that point, if the information had been on the system, I could have printed off a new version; instead I had to reconstruct it using the Rainbows and a bunch of emails from parents over the past three years.

As well as adding my own girls (24) and then my waiting list (23), I also had to train exactly half the leaders in my area. I trained some a couple of weeks ago then the remaining two tonight. All done now.

I still think it has flaws - it only works in one browser, not the one I prefer to use. And when you print out an emergency contact report, you get every girl, you can't remove the girls not going on that specific trip, so you'd have to score them out.

But it also has benefits - data can be retrieved if you delete your own records *blush*, easy transfers between units and even across the country, smart report creation with medical and dietary information highlighted.

So I'm a convert...but I am glad the bulk of the work is done!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

World Heritage

OK, not strictly Guiding, but we had such a good family day out yesterday I need to pass it on!

We visited a World Heritage site. Though there are 890 of those across the world, and much as I would like to see the Great Barrier Reef or the Great Wall of China, we stayed local and went to Ironbridge Gorge.

Potted history: The world's first cast iron bridge was built over the River Severn at Coalbrookdale in 1779. The designation of the Ironbridge Gorge as a World Heritage Site recognised the area’s unique contribution to the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the impact of which was felt across the world.

Ironbridge has 10 museums, if you want to see the lot you really need 3 days, though most people would probably find about 2 days worth of interest and skip a few. You can buy admission to each museum, but if you go to more than two, a passport is better value. Why am I bothering to tell you that?

Three reasons:
  1. to save you money if you are thinking of going
  2. because we were so impressed - the passport lasts 12 months and you can go back to any of the 10 museums as often as you like in those 12 months
  3. because I am a crafty crafty woman and even though the passports are great value for money I managed to save us even more money by finding a "Buy an Adult Passport, get a Child passport free" voucher for each of the kids on the Heart of England website. If you visit the West Midlands or live in the area, you really should check that site out before going anywhere, pretty much everywhere we visit has some kind of voucher on there.
On this trip we went to:
  • Enginuity - a kind of science museum (reminded me quite a lot of Snibston) where as well as Son pushing a steam train just by turning a wheel and Daughter trying a range of blades on a wind turbine to see which was most effective, they also got to make boats from scraps of plastic bottles, binbags, straws etc then sail them in a test tank. This was Son and Husband's highlight of the day.
  • The adjacent Museum of Iron - ok, I confess we didn't actually go round this museum, just went into the cafe and had some lunch.
Then we got in the car (the museums are scattered over 6 miles) and drove down through Ironbridge to:
  • Jackfield Tile Museum - This place is still working and produces tiles for many London tube stations, and also had very interesting displays and videos about producing tiles (yes, the kids were interested too, it was that good!). The highlight here for Daughter and me was decorating our own tile - not just a ceramic tile with ceramic pens, this was way better. You were given a blank clay tile, having just seen them being made in the factory. You selected a design (or drew your own) then traced it onto the tile. Then you got a bag of piping clay and piped that on to the design, then pots of coloured liquid clay to fill in the colour of the tile. Son did a dog (heavily helped by his dad), Daughter did an owl and I did an Art Nouveau style. You have to leave them to be fired, then they are mailed out, so I will add pics when we have them.
A quick drink from the cafe there and we headed off to the actual Iron Bridge and a visit to the Tollhouse.

An excellent day out, 80 mins from home. Next time it will be so much cheaper, as we will already have our passports so admission won't be a cost, plus we plan to take a packed lunch and extra drinks with us.

Next time, probably around Easter, we plan to visit:
Oh, and steering everything back to Guiding, there are two Youth Hostels in the Gorge, plus a shuttle bus around the gorge...I'm thinking a Brownie weekend in Ironbridge maybe this time next year?

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

I got snippy

You saw the great centenary events we have planned?

I sent out a sheet listing everything we were doing, the cost (nil in some cases) and asked parents to return it the following week.

Of 24, 16 did so.

I sent out a gentle email reminder and of the remaining 8, 4 got in touch with their yeses and nos.

To the remaining 4, I sent another email after a few days saying we really needed to know for planning reasons so anyone who didn't reply by 5pm 2 days later, I would have to count them as no for the first two events since we needed to issue consent forms for one and pay for the other.

One got in touch, with 3 minutes to go on the deadline :-)

So three girls won't be taking part in the first two events, at least. A detailed note and two emails are all I can manage, I just don't have time on top of everything else to chase and chase and chase. Sometimes I just have to say no.

Shame though.

Friday, 16 October 2009

So good!

The asthma night last night at Brownies was so good. I recommend this resource so highly, both our Brownies and our Guides have done it now and they all enjoyed it and learned practical tips from it. Even though it was part of Changing the World and that has finished now, you can still get the resource pack here, you'd have to ring Asthma UK to see if you can still get the specific asthma badges, though since they don't have a trefoil on, I would guess they probably still have some so they can offer this to other youth groups in the future.

We started inauspiciously: one leader ill so off, one leader recovering from illness (me), one leader off because her daughter was ill, one young leader missing because her school football ran over. Still, we co-opted two parents to stay and we managed it all just fine.

I started with the girls in a big circle and we talked about asthma, what it was, inhalers and what triggers were. We also tried breathing through a straw, then breathing through a straw with noses pinched. While we were doing that, the two remaining leaders and the two mums set up a table for each six with kitchen roll tubes, cotton wool and elastic bands.

Then the girls moved to each table and while on the table they made a breathing tube, named it and tried breathing with the tube, then with cotton wool in, then with elastic bands round the tubes too. The adults talked them through how each stage related to asthma, an attack and relief after taking an inhaler. They also went through how to help someone who had an attack.

In the meantime, the YL and our Guide helper (called a pack leader) were reading sheets for two games and prepping for those, and I was sorting out sheets and cheques that had been returned for our centenary events.

Then the YL played the first game with them, about mucus and airways (much more fun than it sounds but really helped them understand) then the YL and PL took a parachute each and played a parachute triggers game. The rest of us were clearing up the discarded cotton wool!

Finally we got them back into circle and they each had a flapjack (a snack with no asthma triggers) and we had a quiz to make sure they had taken in what asthma was and how to help someone.

Then it was giving out a badge each, plus a First Aid Advanced for a girl who had already taken First Aid a couple of years ago so had done a little extra at home to earn the advanced badge this time.

And that's it, we have 2 weeks off, and we're back on Nov 5th - not doing fireworks though, we're doing Marie Curie Daffodils because otherwise we won't have time to get them planted this year.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Strictly sickly

Boy was ill Thursday night until Sunday. I've been ill since Monday night and am improving now but some way to go. Daughter and husband both fine so far.

I'm missing District Meeting tonight in the hopes that I will be well enough to do Brownies tomorrow night.

But now that I am improving, I want to play on Facebook. But I can't, as I am linked to 7 or 8 colleagues. My work has been very sympathetic about me being ill, since I so rarely am, but I am pretty sure that sympathy will disappear if I beat a colleague at Cube Crash or Combine.

For those of you that read this AND know me on Facebook, that's why I am not commenting on anything you have posted. :-)

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Here's hoping it sticks

Our Brownies have completed the First Aid badge. Out of 24, 19 got the badge. They worked hard and I'm very proud of them, I really hope that the information sticks!

We're rounding off the half-term with a session on asthma next week. While informative, it's also great fun! Here's the plan:
  • 10 mins welcome and go over what asthma is and what can trigger it
  • 5 mins breathing through a straw, 1 min at a time, including with nose pinched shut
  • 10 mins creating an airway from a kitchen roll tube and putting cotton wool in and trying it then
  • go outside
  • 15 mins play open airway, where some Brownies are an airway and other Brownies are mucus(!) trying to block them
  • 10 mins play swap triggers - 2 parachutes, a few girls are a trigger and they swap under the chutes
  • back inside
  • 10 mins Polly's Day, where each six has a girl assigned a word and when they hear it in a story, they have to run. 1st girl back gets a point for her team
  • 5 mins snack - flapjacks, no triggers in a flapjack (flour can be a trigger)!
  • Last 10 mins - recap and badge presentation
This is all from a pack created by Asthma UK, we made a donation and received badges for each girl in return. It was part of Changing the World, a Girlguiding UK initiative in the run up to the Centenary year, we already did a Changing the World activity earlier this year - with the British Red Cross - but this pack was so good, we saved it to do as part of our First Aid initiative.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Before and after his promise

Before (showing me the magnetic fishing rod he'd made)
And after - he knows his promise but still finds it hard to hold his fingers in the right position!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Brownies and Beavers

First, the newest Beaver is now invested (fast, huh?). As the only one who had the trifecta to be invested - his jumper, a necker and the promise in his head - he was super brave but he managed it. I will add a pic when I find the cable that connects my phone to the computer.

Secondly Brownies. Soooo excited. We've worked out what we want to do for the centenary year and now the girls get to take those plans to their parents and see what they can sign up for. We're doing:

  1. November - Remembrance Sunday
  2. January - Panto
  3. February - Thinking Day at a regional event
  4. March - a weekend in London!!!!
  5. April - regional carnival in Birmingham
  6. May - Brownies Take Over The Tracks
We'll also squeeze in a swimming event and (maybe) a local sleepover for the newer girls before we wrap up next July but basically, that's it outside normal meetings.


Saturday, 26 September 2009

We lost a Brownie!

Ok, we didn't lose her in a crowded place or anything...but one of our Brownies is leaving, not to move home or go to another pack or to Guides, just because she wants to.

Rationally, it shouldn't bother me. In the 5 years our pack has been running, we've had 4 girls leave before now for reasons other than moving, changing nights or going to Guides:
one whose family was going through a terrible time and while we tried to make Brownies an escape she just wanted to be at home, within reach of a parent;
one who had special needs and we worked hard with but she just didn't click and feel happy (she did return as a Guide though);
one who was one of those much too cool for school girls and we just didn't fit her image...
...and then there was the big sister of the girl who has left us.

Something about that family, we just don't manage to keep them all the way through, though this one did last longer with us than her sister.

Over 5 years, we've had approximately 60 girls in the unit. So we're doing ok.

But I hate it when they leave because they feel they've just outgrown us. It makes me second guess what we are doing, are we doing enough for the older ones (though this girl wasn't even one of the older ones, she was about 9th oldest out of the 24)? I think we are, or we'd lose more I suppose. If 90% of your girls continue in Guiding to at least the end of Brownies if not beyond, then that's pretty successful, right?

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Newest Beaver

The newest Beaver is loving it. As you can see, he now has the uniform, there's also a neckerchief but you don't wear that till you take your promise.

So cute. I put camouflage on his eyes using Paint to protect his identity.

This week, they strung conkers and played with them, practiced making the promise salute and started a little leaflet about Beavers that will help them learn their promise.

Conkers? I love it. Exactly what six and seven year old boys should be doing of an autumn evening.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Patch them up!

This week our Brownies started their First Aid badge. We have St John Ambulance volunteers in to run it for us and by the end of four weeks they will be able to:

1. Discuss with the tester:

**why first aid is important
**why you should get medical help as soon as possible and how you would do this
**why you should get adult help as soon as possible
**why you must think of your own safety before rushing to help a casualty
**how you think someone might feel if they have had an accident.

2. Do each of the following.

**Know how to check whether a casualty is unconscious or not.
**Show how to open an airway.
**Show how to check someone for normal breathing.
**Show how to put a casualty into the recovery position. Explain when and why you would do this.

3. Do each of the following.

**Know why your blood is important to you. Show how you would deal with the following types of bleeding:
– small graze or cut
– nosebleed
– serious deep cut with a lot of bleeding
– cut that has a piece of glass in it.

**Explain how and why you would protect yourself when dealing with a casualty who is bleeding.

4. Know what causes burns and scalds. Show how you would treat them.

5. Do each of the following.

**Describe what would make you suspect that someone had a broken bone.
**Show what you would do if you thought a bone was broken.

The volunteers have a long night of it: after working with the Brownies, they are staying on to work with the Guide unit afterwards on the Guide level First Aid badge!

We are paying the St John Ambulance for running this for us, though I doubt the volunteers have anything more than their travel reimbursed, so we are very grateful that they are coming in to ensure the Brownies learn properly.

Saturday, 12 September 2009


I made this cake, at 6 year old's request.
That's it spaced out at home.
That's it on a tray at his party, had to squish it up.
The party kids recognised it as the Very Hungry Caterpillar so that was good, and Son really liked it.

But it didn't look as good as the model I was trying to emulate!

Friday, 11 September 2009

What a week!

I've had a busy week:

  • Kids went back to school. Daughter to Year 6 (last year of primary) and Son to Year 1. They've settled in again just fine, seem to like their teachers, not too worn out.

  • On Wednesday, son started Beavers. He loved it. They played football, then made fortune-tellers and he's been put in "white" - he doesn't know white what, because they are not sixes, but they do seem to be smaller groups within the colony. Just before he went, he said: "If I hate it, I can leave can't I?" I said: "Yes, when you are 8." (In other words, when he is old enough for Cubs!) He was just nervous because he's second oldest in his class, so was the only one from his class starting this term. But a friend who is only 2 weeks older who went to pre-school with him also started - this friend is actually in the year above at school because they were born on either side of the cut off date!

  • Daughter also had Tae Kwon Do as usual on Wednesday. We'll be fine the weeks my friend can take her with her own kids, it will be a struggle managing both activities other weeks, but I'll worry about that when it happens.

  • Thursday my brother, wife and their son stayed over on their way back to Scotland from Cornwall. It was great to see them again, although we'd all been at a family wedding the week before as those who know me on Facebook will already know!

  • Brownies also started back, a full house once again with 20 returning Brownies and 4 new ones. All settled well, we played Ladders then the meeting was on the theme of Girlguiding's Centenary Year. They took a sheet of card, designed their own 100 logo, cut out key bits and glued crepe paper on the back so that when you put the card in the window, the sun shines through. They were great and so varied. And it took 45 mins...I thought it would take 20-30 max! So a nice easy meeting and a chance to break in our two new leaders, Assistant Guider Puffin and Unit Helper Robin.

  • I also had to pop over to the next village to pay for the hall for my son's birthday party. Funnily enough the Brownies there were just finishing up, when I walked in, in uniform, I think the leaders thought I was volunteering!

  • Son's birthday today - he is in possession of a lot of Lego, a Star Wars lightsaber and some Science kits...he went to bed a happy boy. Party still to come.
So that's my week - are you surprised I am sitting on the sofa chilling now?

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Strictly Cookies

Today Strictly Guiding plays host to a guest blogger - Mike Harling of Postcards From Across The Pond, who is on a Kindness of Strangers tour.
Answers/ripostes to Mike's questions/merciless mick-taking of Guiding will be included at the end.


The Tour - Part II - is gaining momentum now. I left Lulu in London and am now in the west midlands with Jen and her Girl Guide troop. Is that what you call Girl Scouts over here?

I was a Boy Scout when growing up in America. I was recruited early, starting out at the Bobcat level and working my way up to Life Scout. In my ten-year career, I managed to fall just short of achieving the acclaimed Eagle Scout rank, thereby setting the “slacker” tone that has pretty much been the theme of my life ever since.

On the up side, I learned to throw a tomahawk and tie a proper hangman’s noose, so all in all, I’d say the experience leaned more toward the positive side.

I was 47 when I moved to England, and therefore have not tapped into the Scouting movement here. Since America’s Scouting movement was derived from Britain’s Scouting movement, I assume you have one but, like the school system, its nuances continue to elude me. Are Bluebirds involved? Do you have Brownies? And what are Girl Guides; are they the ladies I see in London holding up umbrellas and being followed by 273 Japanese tourists with Nikon cameras?

I don’t know for certain, but if I had to guess I’d say you don’t have any Girl Scouts over here, based solely on the fact that I have never been button-holed by a colleague trying to guilt-trip me into buying a load of overpriced cookies. In the States, Scouts and cookies (of the girl variety) go together like a McDonald’s Happy Meal and a McDonald’s drive thru—you can’t have one without the other. So if my friends and workmates aren’t pimping their daughter’s yearly cookie drives, then you can’t have Girl Scouts over here. Not real ones, anyway.

Be that as it may, Jen and her troop are taking me on a mini-tour of the West Midlands this afternoon. The young ladies are apparently keen to show me all the good things their area of England has to offer and are preparing pithy, historical speeches for a dozen or so places of interest; I think it’s a requirement for their Blue Badge Tourist Guide merit badge. At any rate, it should be fun, and if I am wrong about there not being Girl Scouts in Britain, I apologize.

And I’ll take a box of Peanut Butter Crunches and two packs of Thin Mints.


Visit the Tour Page to view the latest Tour updates.

Michael Harling is the author of

“Postcards From Across the Pond – dispatches from an accidental expat”

“Laugh out loud funny regardless of which side of the pond you call home. Bill Bryson move over, there’s a new American expat in town with a keen sense of humor.”

-- Jeff Yeager, author of “The Ultimate Cheapskate”


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We have Rainbow Guides (age 4 or 5-7), Brownie Guides (age 7-10), Guides (age 10-14) and Senior Section (age 14-25) plus adult leaders, unit helpers and Trefoil Guild.

The only Girl Scouts over here are on USAF bases, so no, we don't have Girl Scouts. But on the plus side, we also don't have cookies - we take subs (between £1 and £2.50 a week depending on area and particularly the rent for the venue you meet in) and we use those to pay for meetings, then we ask parents for money for extra trips when we can't cover it from subs - so parents can choose which trips their daughters go on and pay, rather than raise $200 through cookies then find their daughter can't attend whatever trip it was anyway. From hearing the grief cookies cause leaders and parents over in the US and Canada, I am very glad we don't do cookies here.

But if you want us to sell you a packet of Sainsbury's biscuits at a marked up price during our tour of the West Midlands, we'd be happy to. That'll be £5 as we pass Shakespeare's birthplace, another £5 as you marvel at the joys of Birmingham and £2.20 as we leave you on the side of the M6, thumbing a lift to your next destination.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

We are 100!

Girlguiding is 100!

This weekend is a really special weekend for Guiding here in the UK. It's exactly 100 years since some enterprising girls snuck into Lord Baden Powell's Boy Scout rally and demanded Scouting for girls.

With his sister Agnes, he went on to set up Girl Guides in October 1910. So from September 4 until next October, we are celebrating our centenary year.

As a unit, we are encouraged to "Brownies Take Over" so our Brownies will be taking over a local steam railway place and having rides and fun next May.

We will also be taking part in a special event next Thinking Day to mark the occasion, and finally we hope to do two other things: a special sleepover (venue not yet decided but probably either London or Oxford) and a fun march and party in Birmingham alongside all 9 counties in the Midlands Region.

Then at 20:10 on 20/10 (Oct 20) in the year 2010 every member of Girlguiding will take her promise again and get a special promise badge that she can wear throughout her time in Guiding, not changing it if she changes sections (eg from Brownies to Guides, Guides to Rangers) but only people who took part at that exact date will be allowed to wear it.

Party party party!

Guiding for teenage mums

Apart from the fact it will be a Senior Section Unit, not Guide unit, since the girls will be aged 14 and up, this is a really fair report - not sensationalised at all.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Strictly Scouting


Five year old is going to be a Beaver!

He turns 6 at the end of next week, and we just got the phone call, he starts Beavers the same week.

After all the fun daughter and I have had in Guiding over the last 5 years, can't wait for son to join the Scouts!

I guess there will be a lot to learn about the Scout way of doing things rather than the Guide way.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

I got my grubby girl back from Guide camp

Now I can tell you where they were: Brownsea Island, the birthplace of Scouting and Guiding. Baden Powell held the very first Scout camp there way back in 1907.

So a really special place - I was very envious!

She had a blast - low ropes, archery, swimming at a waterslide place on the mainland.
She had "the maximum number of showers" which turned out to be two.
She cooked sausages, bacon and eggy bread - yum, love eggy bread.
She didn't fall out with her friends.
She loved the letter I wrote her.
The cookies I sent were used as bribes for the 2 year old who was camping with them.
She cried a few times (all through tiredness) though never seriously, her leader said.
She got homesick one time, the day she knew I was in Poole just across the harbour from her, but not enough to need to talk to me.
She had enough clothing and footwear and everything else.

Pretty good all round.

Kelloggsville asked about her rucksack. It was from Mountain Warehouse, we got it from their outlet store, but it is available online, it's a Drifter 60+20. I know that picture looks like it has lots of strappy bits and the main reason for buying it was to not have hanging bits. But everything zips away. The small bag you see on the front zips off for use as a daysack. There's a great long strap you can see hanging down on the left of the picture, it's all padded and makes it easy to carry that way, it's detachable so she didn't take it as she didn't need it. And the other straps relate to the back and there is a cover that pulls up and zips round quickly so you are left with a large bag with nothing dangling, just a handle on the top and a handle on the side.

It also has, and we didn't discover this till she tried it on, an adjustable back height thing, so you end up with the weight distributed just right for your height, and the hip fastening comes in just the right place. It took some working on, but we got it just right for her and it made a real difference to how easy it was for her to carry.

The last thing we really liked was a large zippable pocket at the bottom - very large as it fit her wellies, trainers and water shoes! Not only that but you could slip your hand through to the main part of the rucksack and pull something out the bottom without having to unpack it all.

Definitely not a cheap rucksack, but ideal for what she needed and we'll get years of use out of it because it is so well made and thought out, so well worth it.

So she's eaten, had a bath, washed her hair and is relaxing in her soft and clean bed. I'm very happy to have her back.

PS: I gave her leaders these meringues each to say thank you. It was hard to give them away!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

She's gone

Well, this morning I dropped my 10 year old off for a week long Guide camp.

I felt a little sniffly, but kept it in, and it wasn't that hard to wave her off - though this is the first time she'll have been away from me for a week but not with relatives, if you follow me.

We bought her a new rucksack for the occasion. The one hubby bought that we use on French holidays didn't really fit her needs. It has lots of external pockets perfect for suncream and bottles of water, and tags where you can hang spades and buckets. But we were told explicitly that there was to be nothing hanging off the sides, as the rucksack might snag on something while being transported to and from the campsite. So the ideal-for-the-beach bag wasn't ideal-for-the-camp.

A friend of hers is on holiday right now but heading to the camp on Monday, and we were asked to store her rucksack and bedding roll and drop it off for the coach today. Her rucksack was very compact - no hanging straps or pockets, you could even zip away the back straps for transport. Seemed ideal for this, so we sought out our own one, bought it for daughter and attached a luminous yellow ribbon to make it clear it was hers! I say compact - it's still 65 litres + a day rucksack.

We managed to fit in everything - though it will be interesting to see if daughter achieves the same on the way back! That included 4 different sets of footwear - she wore her walking boots, but also had to take wellies, trainers and water shoes, the kind that attach quite tightly to your feet, for wearing if they paddle or swim.

Add to that swimsuit, towel, 3 or 4 changes of clothes, wet weather gear, plate bag, toiletry bag...the list goes on but we crammed it all in.

Most important of all, she and I baked choc chip cookies yesterday and I sent those with her too - well you have to have provisions!

She must be there by now, putting up tents - we've been told they will be far too busy to let us know they have arrived so we've to assume no news is good news.

Ironically, I have never been to the area she is going to (note I am not naming it, I will once she returns). But my company is sending me there TOMORROW for a training course on Monday!!!

Sadly, I won't be able to visit the camp but I will be literally less than a mile away - considering the site is nearly 200 miles away from where we live, you can see why I am astounded by the coincidence.

Right, stiff upper lip - time to enjoy a week with the five year old, who is an angel when he has no-one to fight with!

Thursday, 13 August 2009


  1. Go to Google
  2. Type in: I like to ta
  3. Kill yourself laughing at the options offered by the predictive searching.
  4. Type in: I like to p
  5. Repeat #3

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Susan didn't lose

I've been reading Fat Cyclist for a while, my husband got me into it.

The writer is witty, a dad, a cyclist, and his wife has terminal cancer.

People all over the planet raised money in Susan's name, mostly through cycling. Husband has bought a couple of Fat Cyclist products, which include donations in her name.

And we wrote Win Susan, as instructed by him, on the route of the Tour De France this year.

Sadly Susan died yesterday.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

South African Brownies

A very different perspective from Girlguiding UK or Girl Scouts USA.

While the principles of being prepared and helping others are certainly the same, this article looks at an area with Brownies and Guides where Guiding could be the tipping point between a life where they are safe and value themselves and one where life is very different.

Sunday, 2 August 2009


Nothing to do with Guiding...but this made me laugh all the way down.


You have 2 cows.

You give one to your neighbour.


You have 2 cows.

The State takes both and gives you some milk.


You have 2 cows.

The State takes both and sells you some milk.


You have 2 cows.

The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away.


You have two cows.

You sell one and buy a bull.

Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.

You sell them and retire on the income.


You have two giraffes.

The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.


You have two cows.

You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.


You have two cows.

You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.

The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.

The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States , leaving you with nine cows.

No balance sheet provided with the release. The public then buys your bull.


You have two cows.

You go on strike, organize a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.


You have two cows.

You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.

You then create a clever cow cartoon image called 'Cowkimon' and market it worldwide.


You have two cows.

You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.


You have two cows, but you don't know where they are. You decide to have lunch.


You have two cows.

You count them and learn you have five cows.

You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.

You count them again and learn you have 2 cows.

You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.


You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.

You charge the owners for storing them.


You have two cows.

You have 300 people milking them.

You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity. You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.


You have two cows.

You worship them.


You have two cows.

Both are mad.


Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.

You tell them that you have none.

No one believes you, so they bomb you and invade your country.

You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of a Democracy.


You have two cows.

Business seems pretty good.

You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.


You have two cows. You sell them and buy seven sheep.

The one in the middle looks rather attractive.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Rain rain rain

Went to France for a week with the family and had an amazing week - pics on FB if you are linked to me there.

We had great weather - two downpours in the week we were there, we were in the house for one so fine, and the other we just bought brollies and carried on! But apart from those 2 downpours of about 30 mins each, it was lovely, high 20s, low 30s all week.

I've been living in denial since we got back - still wearing my cut off trousers and sandals, but today, after sneezing approximately 25 times in the space of 10 minutes I have to accept it's cold, wet and I need to just put on my jeans and a fleece and accept my summer is over.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Can relax for the summer

Because the autumn term is planned, invites have gone out to the four newbies for September, and now there's nothing to do!

Here's the plan for the 11 week term:

Week 1: World Guiding - a few bits from the World Guiding badge, we have a Brownie troop in the US (Texas) to write to and I want to make a World Trefoil suncatcher by getting the girls to cut out the bits of the trefoil and paste yellow tissue paper in the gaps.

Weeks 2, 3, 4 and 5 - First Aid. St John Ambulance are coming to teach the girls, 1 hr for 4 weeks. They'll also be staying on and teaching the Guides for their badge afterwards.

Week 6 (last before half term) - Asthma UK, using the Changing the World syllabus, even though that will have finished by end of August. We'll teach the girls how to help someone who has an attack, and what is happening when they have one - several of our girls have inhalers so this will be very useful.

After such a serious half term, we have a fun half term to follow.

Week 7 - the two young leaders will be running a dance night.

Week 9 - Doctor Who - games plus making daleks out of swiss rolls, icing, choc buttons and matchmakers

Week 10 - Adventure 100, a first look at the syllabus for the centenary, plus some planning for what things they would like to do from January

Week 11 - Clear out the crafts - all those crafts where we bought for 24 and only 22 turned up over a five year period? We'll be setting them out, the girls can draw numbers from one to 24 and take it in turns to pick a craft and make it.

We'll also have to squeeze in a promise ceremony, probably around the Dr Who week, and leaving for 4 girls who are off to Guides in January. And we're trying to plan a weekend away, though our ideas keep getting thwarted but we'll get there!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

So sad

I can understand why their leader is giving up - a 90 mile round trip to lead a unit!

Here's hoping someone in Dewsbury comes forward.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Last meeting of the year

We went to the local campsite for the last meeting of the year, held jointly with our Guide unit, just as we always do for the last meeting each school year (see 2008 here). We were joined by the Senior Section for the first time, it's for girls aged 14-25 though ours are mostly 14-18, our unit started a few months ago and it was lovely to have them involved too.

We kept it pretty relaxed since the girls appreciate a bit of under-organising sometimes! They spent the first 20 mins gathering wood for the Senior Section fire, then 10 mins parachute games. 20 min stuffing their face with sandwiches and the left over treats from the sleepover and they drank a lot of juice!

Bit more playing with the parachute then they made s'mores on the Senior Section fire using marshmallows and chocolate digestives.

Finally a little ceremony to say goodbye to the 3 Brownies moving to Guides, the leader moving to Canada and give out badges to the 2 girls who had earned their Adventure badge and the 10 girls who had earned their Seasons badge, plus our YL had earned the Chief Guide's Challenge (even harder than Baden Powell Award) so she was presented with that.

All wrapped up for the term - now we can start thinking about September!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Nearly done

Just two more meetings till the end of term - one night on the Seasons badge then a night at the local campsite with our sister Guide unit.

And a great new programme has been announced for September - Adventure 100 - to start the centenary celebrations. I can't wait, I already have images of climbing up tall towers and sleeping in strange places.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Gone sleepin

We're off on our sleepover (after I have taken my daughter to a Tae Kwon Do demonstration and then lesson in two different places).

WIsh me luck...luck in this case = more than 4 hours sleep.

Friday, 19 June 2009

A palpable hit

Crown bowling was a hit! The girls were split into two teams, one went off to the nearby park to play while the first team had their go, then they swapped over.

They didn't bowl on the greens, at first we wondered why then when we saw the girls lobbing the heavy balls and them bouncing off the mats, we understood why the club did not want their beautiful greens full of lumps and bumps once our girls had finished.

They all enjoyed themselves, and it was lovely to help them try a sport they really would not get the chance to try outside Brownies.

That's another clause ticked off for the Seasons badge, on we march towards the end of term!

Thursday, 18 June 2009


Taking the Brownies bowling far so not very unusual.

But we're not going ten pin bowling, we're going crown bowling.

Stepping in the footsteps of Sir Francis Drake no less.

Wonder what our 23 7 to 10 year olds will make of it?

Sunday, 14 June 2009

She's back

She's back from camp. Had a great time, came back with half her stuff attached to the outside of her rucksack because she couldn't fit it all back in.

So I have noted all the tips so far...but more gratefully received before she goes to Brownsea for a week in the summer!

Also, I have been enjoying the sun and admiring my bed sheets bleaching gently on the line...only to take them in once dry and find that a bird poo-ed on one of the pillowcases!
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