Monday, 6 August 2012

Scouting for Girls

Mean stitching technique
courtesy of Brownie training!
At the age of 16, a friend and I boarded a train to a nearby village to go to a party.  So preoccupied had we been with securing cans of Special Brew and menthol cigarettes (sophisticated or what?), we didn't give a second thought to how, or indeed if, we were going to get home.  There was always the prospect of a friend's floor, or in the worst case; calling my mate's dad to come and collect us.

I will spare you the full details of the evening but needless to say we ended up drunk, deserted by friends, and with no idea of where we were going to sleep.  After a brief discussion we agreed that calling home to ask for a lift was out of the question.  We had, of course, lied about where we were and 2am is never a good time to call your dad in a drunken stupor and announce you are in need of a lift home for the third time in a month.  Please.

We instead returned to the train station where we had earlier alighted and found it to be deserted and freezing.  As you can't 'plump up' a wooden bench, sleep was not forthcoming so we ended up in a dilapidated hut that offered a bit more shelter and set about building a fire.  The only problem was that we had nothing suitable to build a fire with, and as both of us came from families that were very light on the whole 'outdoors experience' we didn't have the nous to fashion something a la Bear Grylls.  Instead we tried to start a fire using the only thing we had that we thought was flammable: a box of Tampax.  To that we added some printed materials which we found near the hut.  In the dark we did not know what they were, under the light of our matches we saw they were a pictorial study in the anatomy of women and wished we had never touched them.

We discovered that night that tampons are not good fire-lighters and that you should never go scavenging for stuff to start a fire with if you don't have a torch lest you should encounter some 'specialist' magazines.  You live and learn......

So what's this got to do with anything?  Well, the point of it is that my daughter has recently joined the first group within the Scouting family; Beaver Scouts.  As a former Brownie (see If I had a Photograph of You for the proof) I didn't know what to expect.  One term in and she has already taken part in archery, a woodland exploration that involved leaping in a huge bog, following a line blindfolded and building a shelter, and - most recently - building a fire.  These are girls and boys between the age of 6 and 8 who, far from being cosseted and wrapped up in cotton wool are being given freedom, the opportunity to try new things, learn properly useful skills and succeed in all sorts of different areas.  Best of all they are having an absolute ball.

As a result I'm sold on it and wish that I'd had the chance to join the Scouts as a girl.  I'm not sure whether it would have stopped me from going to the party, but I sure as hell would have been able to light that fire........

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