Sunday, 29 June 2014

Wales, Cubs, loombands, chips and the Chief Guide

I've been quiet for a while, but not because all activity stopped after our Wales/Switzerland holiday, more because we've been so busy! Each of these nights/events deserves a post each but in summary:
*Wales night - the girls who went on the holiday talked to the others about what they did and showed some of their crafts and badges, then did some Welsh activies led by our WelshGuider 
*Second Commonwealth Games night - our local Cub pack visited and we had a presentation on fencing by one of our mums who is also a Commonwealth Games medallist, then half the Brownies and half the Cubs played team games outside and the other half learned their promise in sign language, then we swapped over to the other activity. Great fun involving another organisation!
*Loomband night - they were meant to make a bracelet then draw a dragon on shrinkie paper to add as a charm but the loombands took over and they all had a blast
*Playpark and chips night - I missed this due to a local school open evening I had to attend, but I hear they had fun.
*Starquest Brownie Revels, lots of activies and games alongside 1300 other Brownies from our county - very very wet but lots of fun again, plus our two newest Brownies got to make their promise to the Chief Guide and she not only pinned on their badges, she gave them the special badge above after - massive envy from the leaders!
We have just one more night left, at our local campsite for cooking and singing, plus our Big Brownie Birthday Finale the week after.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Big Brownie Birthday: Our Chalet at Broneirion Part 4

We had to wake the girls on Sunday, tiredness had definitely set in! After breakfast we packed and brought out bags downstairs, we had to be sure we were ready to leave at 2pm because we had a train to catch home!

The girls had to strip their beds, clearly something not many of them had done before! And of course, some started doing that while packing, so we had to call halt, get them to pack and then do the beds or there would have been teddy bears and trousers heading to the laundry!

Before lunch we also fitted in our final activity session, service, a key part of a world centres experience. Then there was a lot of clearing up - amazing how many different materials and art products we used over two days - and uniting girls with everything they had made. This was when we really saw how tired they were getting, one of our most sensible Brownies was in tears because everything she had made had disappeared and she was sure another unit's girl with the same name, who had had to leave early, must have taken them (in error of course, she did have to leave in a rush and the mum driving was having all kinds of bags thrust at her!). But actually, everything was still there, in the corner, clearly marked so she got it all back.

Together with some of the other girls who were all packed, our girls helped create a page in the Broneirion scrapbook about the weekend so that if they ever come back, they will be able to find themselves.

Lunch was a very filling roast dinner, the most food we had all weekend, and very tasty.

One tradition from Our Chalet is to have a group picture taken on the back steps. To recreate this, we used the beautiful sweeping Broneirion staircase to have a pic of everyone attending, then of each unit, a lovely memento.

All done and time to head home. Since our passports were stamped on the way there then of course they had to be stamped on the way back. So we queued up for passport control, returned our name and duty tags and signed the scrapbook.

Then it was outside to wait for our two minibuses to appear, dead on time, and off to the station, waving goodbye to the others.

We had no problem getting seated on the train and were thrilled to hear it actually went all the way to the airport again not the stop before as we had been told. As that got us one stop nearer to home, we decided we would stay on.

A relatively quiet journey back, the girls did sing a bit but they were definitely more tired. As were we!

Turned out though, it was a mistake to stay on our train for that extra stop. The trains were running a little late and then were held at the station at the stop before. We saw the train we had planned to take appear on the board and as the minutes ticked by, started to worry we wouldn't be able to catch it at the next station. It was only a 25 min wait for the next one but of course the parents would be waiting for us, and we all just wanted to get home.

By the time we pulled into the airport station we were 15 minutes later than expected and had two minutes to get 11 of us up the stairs, across the bridge and down to the platform. I led the group and we legged it as best we could! We could see our train on the platform and as we ran down, a strung out line of girls, the conductor put his whistle in his mouth to release the train. I shouted "no, please!" in my best begging voice and he said I needed to shove the girls into the corridor fast. I did, counting as I went, I knew we had nine girls but I couldn't swear they were our nine (joke!) and as I got on with the other leader he was whistling and slamming the door onto us. As the train was a few mins late already, and they don't normally hold a train, I know we were lucky to have been allowed to get on, and I know it had a lot to do with the power of a Girlguiding uniform! Big thanks to that Virgin Trains conductor.

We were lucky enough to find a relatively empty carriage where we could slump down and recover, then we were off just two stops later and handing back the girls, after filling in parents on the bumps and bruises!

An exhausting weekend - when I got home my husband actually followed me upstairs, took my bag away, ran me a bath and made me chill out for half an hour, so my tiredness was apparent! But a great weekend: the girls bonded with each other and girls from other packs, they learned new skills, they learned about Switzerland and WAGGGS and Girlguiding and just had lots and lots of fun.

15 months in the planning for us, from discussion about signing up to going for it, and it was worth it. 

Friday, 6 June 2014

Big Brownie Birthday: Our Chalet at Broneirion Part 3

Saturday was a busy day, as well as the set chores, we:
Bouldered (climbing wall that goes round rather than up)
Zorbed (giant see through hamster balls, yes I had a go and there is photographic evidence, no I won't be sharing)
Bouncy castled
Had marshmallows and chocolate fondue
Had Swiss cheese and chocolate
Made cable cars to race
Made boxes out of lolly sticks
Made pyrography key rings (burning a design onto wood)
Played crab football
Spelled out WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) with our bodies
Had a campfire where we each taught at least one song, we chose Supercaliforniasurfer and left behind card surfboards and words with the other units in case they wanted to try it with their girls back home.
This was also the day my girls got ridiculously accident prone. There was a skinned knee, cuts, slammed fingers...they were definitely getting tired as the weekend went on.

Dinner was Swiss meatballs and chocolate mousse and settling down for bed was much much quicker! I slept better too, though still less than at home, and we had to wake then on Sunday as there was so much left to do before heading home...


Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Big Brownie Birthday: Our Chalet at Broneirion Part 2

We arrived and were able to take our bags up to our rooms as we were a little early for the planned check-in. With the train only running every two hours that did restrict when we could arrive!

Then we were 'checked in' - we had to produce the passports we were asked to create and they were stamped and carefully put away. The girls learned about their duties, they each had three duties over the course of the weekend from serving food, clearing up, making tea for trainers.

We had dinner - sausages, which went down well, then our first scheduled activity, an ice breaker so we could get to know the other two packs who were there.

Settling down for bed wasn't easy - I found myself the only adult up with the girls for a long time while the others had a leaders meeting and I was not only dealing with our excited girls but girls from other packs telling me soandso had thrown a flip flop or showing me their wobbly tooth (that girl came back and found me in the middle of the night to show me it had come out!). I did eventually give up and ask for others to deal with their girls when I started getting tearful ones from the floor below coming up to tell me they were homesick!

Friday night was not a good nights sleep, it was well after midnight when I fell asleep and as well as the tooth visit, I also woke up around 4.30 and never really got back to sleep. But I never sleep brilliantly when I'm away with them, you're always a little on alert! No-one's fault, but I was very tired on Saturday morning.

Here's a little taster of one of the Saturday activities...

Monday, 2 June 2014

Big Brownie Birthday: Our Chalet at Broneirion Part 1

This weekend just gone, we took nine Brownies to Broneirion, a Girlguiding activity centre in mid-Wales, for a World Centre holiday.

There are four World Centres in Guiding: one in London (Pax Lodge that we visited last year), one in India, one in Mexico and one in Switzerland - Our Chalet.


And as part of the Big Brownie Birthday, a number of Girlguiding centres across the UK transformed themselves for a couple of weekends into a World Centre.

We signed up for going to Our Chalet at Bronerion. It's been 15 months in the planning for us; from first tentative email among the Guiders, to polling the girls who were interested to decide which venue to attend.

And so it was we ended up at our local train station on Friday lunchtime to head off to Wales. We bought the tickets three months ahead of time so our train travel cost just over £100 for the 11 of us!

We headed to our connecting station, and were very early because we knew we had to make the next train or arrive two hours late since the trains to where we needed to go are only every two hours.

So since we had a big wait, we headed on the monorail from that station to the adjacent airport (actually the airport our Young Leader will fly from when she goes to the real Our Chalet this summer) and had our lunches/a snack there.

It added to the fun, I was really surprised that none of the girls had been on the monorail before. When my kids were smaller we'd get the bus into town, then the train, then the monorail if we were flying to see my parents in Scotland so they've been on it a lot but this was a real novelty for our girls.

We returned, caught the train for the next lengthy stage and even managed to meet the Brownie pack that's local to Broneirion - they had been in London on pack holiday because of course to them there is nothing special about going to Broneirion! They were very sweet, even giving us a badge for each girl, which they loved. We gave them our unit badge.

Finally at the tiny train station near the venue, we were met by the two minibuses we had booked to collect us - funnily enough one of the drivers was married to one of the local Brownie leaders who had been on the train!

They dropped us off outside Broneirion and it was time for our trip to Switzerland to begin... (Part 2 to follow)
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