Monday, July 6, 2009

Things my elders taught me: A Guiding Light

Today, we hand over to Before Our Time reader - The Mof- to share her memory of the skills she learnt as a Guide. If you would like to be added to the line-up to share what you learnt from your elders, email us on - Megan and Alison.

Apart from parents and teachers the big influence on my young life was the Girl Guide Movement which was started in UK in 1910 by Agnes Baden-Powell, sister of Robert Baden-Powell who had started the Boy Scout movement three years earlier. Seeing their brothers having such adventures the girls were agitating to do the same but Robert Baden-Powell decided that the girls' movement should be organised differently and despite popular opinion of the day being that girls should not be in Guiding, the movement got off the ground.

The aims of Guiding were to foster physical fitness, survival skills, citizenship and outdoor activities such as camping.

In our the little village in Scotland a Guide company was started by our local doctor and her housekeeper when I was about 10 and I think I must have been first in line to join as there wasn't much extra curricular activity in country areas.

We were divided up into patrols and allowed to choose an emblem. As I was the leader of a patrol (in consultation with the rest of the patrol, of course) we decided to be Kingfisher patrol as I had long admired this colourful bird

Every week we had to turn up in clean uniform which consisted of a blue blouse which we were allowed to wear over warm tops in winter, light blue tie which doubled as a sling for first aid, a navy blue skirt and brown highly polished shoes. There was also the brass trefoil badge which had to be highly polished. All this in itself was a great lesson in discipline as we were inspected at the start of every meeting and there was extra pressure on the patrol leader to make sure her patrol was up to scratch.

Weekly we had to affirm the Guide promise:

"I promise on my Honour that I will do my best
to do my duty to God and the Queen
to help other people at all times
and to obey the Guide law"

We also had to promise to try to do a good turn every day.

The Mof and a Guiding friend.

In keeping with the aims of the movement the programme each week consisted of games for exercise, mental exercise of some sort, lessons in first aid, outdoor nature study and tracking and a time to work out things for personal growth.

We worked towards badges for areas we were personally interested in such as cooking, sewing,first aid, knitting or nature study.Each badge was sewn onto the outer sleeve of the blouse and so it was a big incentive to gain as many badges as possible! I distinctly remember doing the cooking badge. I was invited to the Leader's home where I had to cook the meal I had worked out beforehand and while it was cooking had to set the table beautifully and then present the meal which we sat down to. I had decided to make my mother's brown stew recipe with mashed potato followed by apple crumble but in the course of attending to the dessert I forgot about the stew and it stuck to the bottom of the pan and singed! The Leaders very politely ate it up and I was awarded the cooking badge!

Camp cooking was more my style and I loved the camps, cooking potatoes in the fire and toasting over the fire. We were taught to respect fire -- how to build a fire, make sure that it was enclosed in a stone circle and completely out and covered with soil before we left it.

Looking back it was a time of learning skills, discipline, socialising, lots of healthy competition and lots and lots of fun.

The Mof lives in a country town in Western Australia where she is involved with a variety of community groups. She has recently returned from a trip to Scotland revisiting all the haunts of her youth. She doesn't often burn brown stew anymore.

Were you a Scout or a Guide?


weenie_elise said...

I not only was a Guide - I still am a Guide Leader

I think the most important thing I learned as a Guide is a reef knot - so useful and easy and effective.

Ronnie said...

I was a 'Brownie'. I was asked to leave when I was caught telling the younger kids that Santa maybe wasn't a real person.

I am still recovering from the shame.

the mof said...

Gosh, Weenie elise, I had forgotten about the knotting skills learned at Guides and think now of all the times I use the reef knot."Left over right and under, right over left and under,and pull". I still say it in my mind as I do a reef knot!

M said...

I had to choose between Ballet and Brownies when I was in primary school.

While I enjoyed ballet I was always a little envious of the girls who turned up to school in their brown dresses covered in badges for cooking, sewing, camping and doing good deeds.

So here I am - I can stand in first position and hold my back straight but I'm hopeless at knots and lighting fires and it would also explain why my shoe shining skills are a little lacking!

Nanu said...

Was I in the Girl Guides? I certainly was and that was after being in the Brownies. My experiences and memories of it are exactly the same as the Mof's but for me it was really all about the camping which probably had a bigger impact on us as we were a city group. I absolutely loved the camping and being in the great oudoors and still do to this day. Our kit's all ready to go off for a few days when the weather picks up again. But what improvements since the fifties. Then we slept on the grass, wrapped up in only 3 blankets, and sometimes it was so cold we doubled up for extra warmth, all in the same bell tent, toes to the pole in the middle. Is that what helped me to cope with -40ÂșC in my 60's? One year, the World Camp was at Braemar so we went on the Open Day. I had never seen anyone from ouside Britain before and it blew my mind to see so many different people all together. I don't think I've ever quite got over it. The first I saw were from Fiji and I was absolutely fascinated. I stood there for ages just watching them and what they were doing. Since then, I've remained fascinated by people from elsewhere and the different way they do things.

Nanu said...

P.S. I've just remembered that one of our Greenland group amused us all greatly by saying that she had failed her Camper's Badge in the Girl Guides because her wellie stand wasn't good enough. She has obviously improved since then as she has spent many months, running into years in all, camping in the Arctic which, of course, means also dealing with Arctic storms and polar bears !

Nanu said...

P.P.S. Now just remembered that, recently, in the waiting room of a Swiss train station, I had a lovely conversation with some Girl Guides, although they called themselves Girl Scouts, from Finland. They had 4 boys with them so is it unisex now? I didn't ask at the time as there was so much else to talk about. They were on their way to an established camp-ground in the mountains – so established there were huts and meals could be provided! It wasn't like that in my day!

rhubarbwhine said...

You knew I would love this post, didn;t you? :)