By Kristina Griffiths
Here I am a year on since I first entered the 11th St James scout hall, I have my cup of tea I’ve set the flag ready for patrol break and I’m about to get several pioneering poles out of the store room ready for that evening activity and I can’t help but think back over the memories from the last year.
My first Friday scout session I had no clue what to expect, I had no scouting experience I had never been in guides I didn’t know a clove hitch from a four-leaf clover. But here I was standing in the middle of a then smaller troop, holding a drill ready for DIY. The next few weeks consisted of me trying my best to make book ends, a shoe rack and a bird house. The bird house I have to say was my favourite as it was a wooden box which was slightly uneven and no hole for the bird to get in but I’m new to this so I’m cutting myself and the kids some slack!
I was starting to relax and not be quite as worried as I was at first to let my bunch of 10 to 14 year-olds run around with a drill, and that weekend I successfully put together some bird houses at home complete with holes.
In my first month of scouting I attended a getting started course which was an eye opener for me because not only did you learn some important parts of scouting such as safe guarding, the path to obtaining a wood badge etc, it also told us a lot about the history of scouting which gave me a feeling of pride to be involved in such a worldwide organisation.
The big snow hit us here in Sutton Coldfield, but that doesn’t stop us scout leaders. It was a cold Sunday and it was an early start because we had ‘a getting to know you’ Jurassic event for our district. I had five scouts going and I was determined to get there. Along with several other leaders across Sutton Coldfield East we got there despite the cold. The day included a strategy game of trading with other troops, an egg-drop and a fun game of hungry scouts to finish.
The event was sponsored by a local butcher so burgers and hot dogs galore but what do you do when one of your scouts refuse to eat on a day-long event? Well of course I have him my packed lunch, he happily munched on some hot cross buns and I felt relieved that he wasn’t going to starve that day!
A couple of weeks later I helped at the Iceland at the top of Sutton Coldfield town where we were doing a bag pack to help raise funds for our scouts going on the world jamboree. It was with a few of the leaders that I had previously met who were very friendly and automatically put me at ease.
From the coldest winter, we entered the hottest summer. And what is better than having a raft race in summer? Nothing. So, in the weeks coming up to our district raft race we had a couple of nights where we were teaching the now growing troop knots lashings and whatever else they would need to build their raft.
It came to the day and it was hot, and it was all hands-on-deck we were all trying to sneakily help our teams as it was a no leader kind of help event.
They had an hour to build their raft and get safety checked before it was a race around a track set out on one of the ponds in Sutton park.
So, before they were about to set off on the course one of my scouts decided he gets sea sick and can’t ride in or on boats so it’s a few seconds before the start of the race and I’m trying to get my scout off the raft (he’s at the front of course). But we were now a team member down and slightly unbalanced but with a bit of shuffling around we got around the course in one piece, the scouts and the raft.
Of course, before the race started, I was running around making sure everyone had sun cream on as it was at that point the hottest day of the year. It wasn’t until the next day when I looked in the mirror and realised that I had forgotten myself so it was hello lobster for a few weeks after.
We had a swimming night where our scouts were timed and our team for the district swimming gala was picked.
After several events and much cheering on to encourage our cubs and scouts the drum roll moment… Our team only went and won first place! To say I was proud is an understatement I phone the girls at work to tell them.
The weeks leading up to remembrance Sunday, we were talking to our scouts about the first world war and some history of the scouts and how, they played their part. I’ve got to say it was really interesting to learn about.
So here I was the night before Sunday the 11th, I’m coming off the back of a 6-day week, and 9-days working straight, I’ve got my sleeping bag, all ready for the big remembrance sleepover. I was clutching my mug of tea which the vicar had kindly provided me. Thinking how tired I was it dawned on me that not only were my scouts there but beavers, cubs and guides what had I let myself in for?
After everyone had arrived and we had set up all the sleeping areas, it was camp fire time! Not a real one of course as we were in doors and I don’t think the vicar would be too please if we had burnt his church hall down.
We sang songs and had a good time my scouts of course were far to cool to join in at first, but they were soon teaching me the camp fire songs.
After this came movie time. Easy right? Think again! We had it down to three, there was Assassin’s- Creed, ( the stabby one), wonder woman (the first crush of a troop of pre-teens on the cusp of puberty) and Tarzan (omg he’s so fit six pack guy) sometimes the girls are just as bad. If you must know we watched Tarzan because you know, if you can’t beat them, join them and you know six pack guy!
So, I had started the film and was dishing out the popcorn when one of them came up to get theirs, sat next to me, and said “Kristina do you know you have a moustache?” took his popcorn and off he went. I sat then looking into my giant bucket of popcorn not knowing whether I wanted to laugh or cry.
So, the film was on they had popcorn, they were set time to have five minutes and a cup of tea. Or time for some of the cubs to come out and one of them ending up needing first aid, nothing too serious nothing a bit of Savalon didn’t fix. So, after that excitement it was time for everyone to have hot chocolate and crumpets. Meanwhile I was picking up the large amount of popcorn that was now on the floor because I’d left them for ten minutes and wrestling had started. Now everyone except the leaders were fed and watered it was midnight I’d been up since 5:30 for work surely it was time to get in my sleeping bag. Nope. We still had to plan who was doing what from each section in the service. By the time we had our flag bearers and readers and we had sent several cubs back to bed, it was 2am but everything was sorted including a poem I had been asked to write for the occasion.
Finally! Bed time I got in my sleeping bag only to discover the zip had broken so every time I rolled over, I had to shuffle my bag round.
5am what is that sound? Oh dear, Lord it’s the alarm it’s time to get up. So, the first task is of course getting was getting a bunch of scouts up and washed ready for breakfast. 6am still not up right! No more miss nice guy I flicked on the light switch to many protests finally they were up! Breakfast-time cereal and a cooked breakfast what more could you ask for? Sleep, right where’s my cup of tea?
After the washing up was done. The leaders, scouts, beavers, cubs and guides were ready for parade and it went smoothly without a hitch all shirts were tucked in, (it’s a shirt not a skirt as Paul would say). After making sure all the scouts were home safe and we had got the last of the popcorn out the carpet. It was home time and I was on my way home back to West Bromwich, where I was re-telling my parents of my adventure the night before I mean serious you couldn’t make this up! Would I do it again? I’d do it in a heartbeat.
I went on an outing with the other leaders from across Sutton. There was 11 of us in total with me being the only female. You would have thought that would have been daunting but over the last year I’ve got to know them, and you couldn’t wish for a nicer bunch to call family.
It’s been a year since I first started, I’m sitting on our mini bus with chief Adam who’s driving us to a district rifle shooting competition I have eight scouts entering, some of them my self-included have never shot before so we were in for an exciting day. It’s one of the things I love about scouting there’s always new things to do and learn, and if you get stuck there is always some there to help you.
My kids I can say took to shooting a lot better than I did! Although I learnt how to load and prep the gun before shooting, am as we discovered after much encouragement from my troops, am a poor shot after missing the target twice. Oops! But you know, we all have to start somewhere so maybe next year I might hit the target.
As I said the kids were a lot better than me with one of my older ones making it through to the county team, proud leader moment right there.
Just a few of the things we have done in January are rock climbing, where I climbed a wall, well when I say I climbed I got a few inches off the floor with much encouragement from my kids and their parents , only to remember I’m terrified of heights and freeze leaving myself as one of the parents said laughing good naturedly at me looking like a little koala bear hugging the pole for dear life. The kids on the other hand were amazing zipping up the walls and challenging themselves.
This was shortly after burns night my first night in charge as Bob our group leader was on holiday. safe to say I was a lot better at this than shooting or climbing. Poetry is one of my passions in life and I got to teach my troop about one of the great and my favourite poets. After much protest at trying haggis for the special occasion, it turns out they love haggis and were fighting to get more.
We have a fun packed programme for this first couple of months put together by our little team here at the 11th St James, a couple of things including Irish night for st Patrick’s day, a Sutton Coldfield Monopoly run and much more!
Joining scouting has been the best thing I have ever done, I have made life-long friends and picked up some new skills along the way. I am looking forward to what the future brings me as a female scout leader.