Before I tell you about camping in Iceland, let’s have a quick recap of Ranger camp the weekend before.
We camped on Brownsea Island, which is idyllic but labour intensive. Thirty-five people require a lot of stuff. Every girl had a massive bag and a bedding roll, plus we had eleven tents, crates of food and equipment, loose equipment like tables and gas bottles and first aid boxes and washing up stands. It all had to be taken to the quay, put next to the boat, put on the boat, taken off the boat, carried down the track to the trailer, taken off the trailer to get at the tents and then carried to its final place, only to have it all repeated in reverse less than forty-eight hours later. Guides these days are lazy. Getting it on the boat was ok, it was a novelty to form a human chain and fling the stuff in but by the time it came to carrying it from the jetty to the trailer, they’d lost interest. Most of them picked up the lightest thing they could, took it to the trailer and stayed there, despite being nagged and ordered to get back and get carrying. We could have done it with no problem if everyone had loaded themselves up properly and made two trips.
The Rangers had a subcamp, in yelling distance of the Guides and the licence-holder, on a windy patch of sand in the middle of the bushes. Million dollar view but not much comfort when it’s too windy to get your tents up.
And it was a catastrophe. I’m fond of my girls who are, on the whole, enthusiastic and lively and interesting young women. But they were at their worst this weekend. Two of them are very cliquey – every Ranger meeting involves at least three dozen duck-face selfies together – and that just rubbed the others up the wrong way on camp. One of them can be bossy and overbearing and she started airily telling the others what to do, which they – understandably – resented hugely. One of them has bad suicidal tendencies and has no idea how close she came to not being allowed to come to camp courtesy of the Division Commissioner. One of them acted the hyperactive five-year-old the whole weekend and one of them spent the whole time looking like she didn’t want to be there. They refused to go out on a trail together because if they did, they’d blow up and it would be horrible. Three of them refused to go on a night hike and stayed in their tent singing at the top of their voices. Four of them took all the pasta with no regards for the fifth, who was forced to cook her own from scratch while the flavourless bolognese got cold.. Three of them refused to put on sun cream and got burnt. Oh, they were horrible! It became a weekend of “they’re doing [x]!”, “they’re doing [y]!” “they’re being annoying”. I shall point out that my youngest is fourteen and a half and my oldest is twenty-two and is also a Guide leader and they’re all far too old to be acting like that.
The trouble with camp is that you spend every waking hour being responsible for them, there’s not a moment to yourself. You wake up to the sound of a peacock shrieking right outside your tent and hear them talking yet when you go to get them up at the very reasonable hour of 8am, they’re fast asleep and you have to poke and prod them to get up and get dressed and get breakfast and how is it ten o’clock already? We haven’t even done anything yet! Then you spend all day trying to convince them to do the activities you’ve got yourself stressed over planning, which they can’t be bothered to do. And then they don’t go to bed until midnight and they sing loudly and cackle and you get maybe an hour’s sleep before it all starts again, only now you’ve also got to bribe and bully them into striking camp before you can do any activities. It’s exhausting.
However, it is very nice to amble across the campsite at dawn, happy in the knowledge that the only people on the island are the campers because the first boat doesn’t arrive until 10.30, a mile away. And it’s very nice to hang a hammock in the trees for twenty minutes while the girls are out on their trail. And it’s very nice to sit on the beach at night and watch the goings-on at the port, again, knowing that no one is on the island.
It was also nice to do a Promise renewal by the Stone. If you don’t know, Brownsea is where Lord Baden-Powell did his experimental camp that led to the formation of Scouts and Guides grew out of Scouts when they demanded “something for the girls”, so Brownsea is a home for Scouts and Guides and people make pilgrimages there from all over the world. It’s our birthplace and the Stone commemorates that.
How was the actual camping? Well, I took my two-man tent – I figured the one-man wasn’t going to fit in my bag and if I had to carry it separately like all the others, I might as well have the big one. The new down sleeping bag – mixed feelings. I was freezing on Friday night but warmer on Saturday night. The camping pillow was terrible – much better results with a jumper under my head. I don’t really sleep well in tents, especially when I’m worrying about what one of the girls in particular is up to, especially when I’m cold and especially when everything is so noisy. Brownsea, for all its idyllic island-ness, is noisy. The peacocks are noisy, the oystercatchers are really noisy, the cross-Channel ferry hoots loudly and there are ‘Orrible Scouts on the other side of the campsite.
But next year, I’m handing every bit of the planning over to them because I was so stressed about it this year that I didn’t sleep for a fortnight beforehand. They’re normally really good at planning and all I could get out of them this year was “Rainbow theme” and “we like anything in our sandwiches”.