There we are in the blistering heat, a marquee up behind us. It’s taken us three or four attempts to figure out what shape the frame should be but it’s up.
There’s me, most experienced camper of the lot and severely emetophobic First Aider.
There’s Pixie, inexperienced camper doing her assessed camp for her camp licence.
It really should be the other way round, Pixie dealing with the sick Guides, Bumblebee running the camp but after An Incident, I’m extremely nervous of taking too much responsibility for the Guides and Pixie needs to do her Going Away With licence for her Queen’s Guide Award.
Friday night was fine. The Guides got their tents up, although several dads did interfere despite being told that the Guides must do it on their own. Each Patrol cooked hot dogs over a Trangia with no problem and then they were very quiet at night and we didn’t have to get up to yell at them. This was a particular novelty because our Guides can be little nightmares during the day and I’d expected screaming throughout the night. I’ve been camping as an adult for fifteen-odd years with The Other Guides, who are good as gold during the day and then terrible at night so I was quite proud of ours for uncharacteristically letting us sleep.
Saturday was fine. I mean, Pixie left the matches uncovered overnight and they were too damp to use by morning and we ran out of bread by breakfast – something of a problem when lunch on both days was sandwiches, but Turtle, our extra pair of hands, ran into town to stock up. We did crafts, we did climbing, an assessor came to talk to Pixie about her licence and that left the girls unable to eat dinner for two hours but they ran around the campsite and played in the woods and when they got hungry I fed them cake.
Our theme was Alice in Wonderland, so we played croquet (sort of), we made top hats, we had a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, we painted teapot-shaped teabag holders and our Patrols were Tweedledee and Tweedledum – we agonised over Patrol names for weeks before Pixie had that stroke of genius.
Sunday – well, Sunday couldn’t have been more different. Each Patrol cooked their breakfast over a Trangia, normally a nice sedate group cooking experience. Yeah. One of the Trangias caught fire. I was right there, I had my hand on the pan at the time, trying to hook a piece of bacon back in when it just whomph! I’ve never seen a Trangia do that before. I didn’t even know it could. I lost my head. I knew it had to be removed from the heat and I picked it up but then I’m standing there with a pan full of fire in my hand. A thousand ideas went through my head and were instantly rejected. I panicked. I threw the pan on the floor (cue instant visions of campsite on fire, forest on fire, entire county on fire…) but fortunately, the grass was still dewy and the pan went out by itself in seconds. The second Trangia didn’t catch fire but it smoked so much that I think the only reason it didn’t was that I kept taking it off the heat to cool down. Under the circumstances, it wasn’t really possible for either Patrol to cook their breakfast, and some of the girls were almost as traumatised as I was by the fire so we handed it all over to Pixie on the big gas cookers.
And then we ran out of matches. Turtle had only bought one more box and we’d used them all. There wasn’t enough breakfast food to go round except sausages, there weren’t enough rings to cook them all on and then we couldn’t light them. I had a firesteel in my plate bag but you need to apply pressure and you can’t get that on either a Trangia or a gas stove – at least, I couldn’t. Make a campfire, sure. But not light the cooking equipment.
And then our two sisters, who’d fallen out multiple times throughout the weekend, had their big fight. Both of them in tears for the rest of the morning and they upset one other girl enough that she was also crying by the time she’d run for a leader to try to sort it all out. Pixie is still upset that neither of the sisters would talk to her about it.
Next up was archery – my job. I’m the qualified archery instructor. It was ok. At my first session we ran out of time but this one worked quite nicely. I gave each group their own coloured arrows rather than random ones so we knew exactly what we were retrieving and we didn’t lose a single one – we actually came back with two extra which previous groups had lost. We played crazy scoring, where each colour was worth a random number, thus removing the pressure to hit the centre of the target, which beginners like Guides can so rarely do. I mean, some people did take the crazy scores too seriously as indicators of who was any good. I also pinned a balloon to each target and we had a go at hitting them.
By the time the site owner had collected the archery equipment and I’d walked back to our camp, those two sisters were sitting on each other’s laps. Half an hour ago, they hated each other so much they were crying. And now – !
We did some crafts, had some lunch, did a wordsearch and then our District Commissioner arrived to help us strike camp and get the stuff home. Pixie had bought us all a campsite badge – fortunately, it comes with multiple edge colours. I have a blue one from a camp years ago, a green one from a District activity day and now I have a yellow one. Most of the Guides achieved their Camper badge, except the poor girl who missed Friday night because she got stuck in a car park at a cheerleading awards presentation. We knew she’d be late, we’d made provision for her to do the “put up a tent” part in advance and then she couldn’t have the badge because she couldn’t be there for two nights, which is most unfair when it wasn’t her fault but the fact is, she wasn’t there. Luckily, all she has to do on the next camp is be there to get the badge because she’s done everything else. The third badge we got was one of those name tapes, with the theme of the camp, the location and the date. These are cheap as chips and they mean everyone gets something to sew on their blanket to remind them of this specific camp. And because I’m a grown-up, I ordered the Girlguiding official “My first Guide camp” which is a Fun Badge meant for Guides on their first camp. They already had three badges, we weren’t going to give them a fourth, but it was my first Guide camp without an older more experienced adult in charge so it was a very significant camp for me.
I mean, we did have a fire and a lot of falling out but it went better than I’d expected. So much better that maybe I might be thinking of doing my own Going Away With licence at an indoor camp in the spring. If I want to do an outdoor camp, I just need to do one more module but I get seven of the eight modules without worrying about tents or gas stoves or an entire van full of equipment. Pity Girlguiding doesn’t have a “my first residential” badge.