End of Year 1

Come be a pack leader, they said. It’s only a couple of hours a week, they said. You’ll enjoy it, they said.

And you know what, they’re mostly right!

Warning. Make yourself comfortable, get a drink, this may be a long message…

This Friday just gone marks the end of my first year in Scouting. I was invested at the AGM in 2017, was assistant leader for what seems like about a minute and a half before moving up to pack leader and I’ve loved every bit of it. It made me question the job I was doing and now I’m starting teacher training in September. I’ve got my Cubs to thank for that.

It has been a busy year. I could not have done any of it without the help of my assistant leaders, young leaders, and the leaders of the other sections who have helped keep me straight in matters of scouting about which I still know little! But it’s a bad day if you don’t learn something new.

I am extremely proud of each and every one of my Cubs. Sometimes it does feel like I’m trying to herd cats, but they’re the best cats I could ever want to try and herd.

Each of the Cubs brings something different to the group, something uniquely theirs. And that’s what makes every session special.

Now for the homework…

It’s a long time until September, and the worst thing anyone looking after kids can hear is “I’m bored!” So here are a few activities that I want you all to do between now and September:

Read books. You’re never bored if you’ve got a good book on the go. I’ve got a few racked up for my summer reading – “Horror in Honduras”, “Rotherweird”, and Jasper Fforde’s complete “Thursday Next” series. Your local library will be doing a summer reading challenge and those 6 books count for your Book Reader badge.

Take pictures. The Photographer badge project would make a great way to remember a day out you take over the summer – we could have a night when we get back where everyone brings in their pictures and we can all have a look at where you’ve been! Try to take an amazing photograph in your back garden!

Enjoy nature! Right now, everything’s coming into fruit. Raspberries, strawberries, backcurrants, redcurrants… The gardens are heaving with delicious things! If you pick some of these – with the aid of an adult who can tell you what you can and can’t eat – and then use them in a recipe that counts towards both your Naturalist badge and your Chef badge. I used to pick blueberries up on the moors at Brimham Rocks with my mum and brothers – never got a chance to cook with them, though, we picked and ate!

Relax, have fun, and enjoy your break. I remember when I was this age, growing up in Yorkshire, the summer holidays felt endless and yet over in the blink of an eye both at the same time. September and our new year will be with us all too soon.

Do and see something completely different. There may well be a special badge (completely unofficial and one for your camp blankets) if you say hello to me at the Lincoln Steampunk Festival, August bank holiday weekend…

Cubs, thank you. You’ve made this year very special for me. Leaders, thank you. Couldn’t have done this without you. Young Leaders? Thank you, you make the start of every session a gamble. Departing ex-Young Leader? Best of luck gallivanting around the globe. Do write that blog!

See you all in September.


Who’s sock is this?

I was never a Scout, Cub, Beaver, whatever.  Don’t know why, apparently my dad was involved in some respect, I only found this out after his death in the reaping that was 2016.  Sheesh, he was in good company that year – I think the same week did for Alan Rickman and David Bowie.  So I never really understood what it was all about.  I figured camping was involved, probably fires, knots were pretty important, singing.  Left-handed handshakes.  And Bear Grylls.   I spent the bulk of those years reading Tolkein, Donaldson, Aligheri, and Adams so my life might’ve been significantly different had I been involved in Cubs!

So after a couple of years of taking my kids to Beavers / Cubs / Scouts / Explorers, I answered their pack’s call for volunteers and joined 1st Thurlby as Assistant Leader to the Cubs section.  In hindsight, a few months (years?) as a parent helper might’ve been a good idea but I figure if you’re going to fill a Friday evening, might as well go all in.  The weekend just past was my first experience of a Cub camp.  And it was an experience.  2 nights at Walesby Forest Activity Centre with the whole of the Stamford and Bourne district…

Questions you find yourself asking…

  • Who’s sock is this?
  • No, really, who’s sock is this?
  • It’s got to belong to one of you six, there’s only been you in this tent this weekend?  Who’s sock is it?
  • Well, where did you last see your necker? (Or sleeping roll, or sleeping bag cover, whatever they’ve mislaid)
  • Has everyone got their packed lunch?
  • Were you not listening when I asked if everyone had their lunch?
  • Have you looked in your tent?
  • Have you really looked in your tent?
  • Is that it there?
  • Where’s my bed?  We were promised beds!

And many, many more.

Ah, the glamorous life of a Cubs pack leader on camp.  Sleeping under canvas, meeting new people, exploring new worlds and new civilisations.  Well, maybe not the last one.

There are things you’ll get used to:

  • Repeating yourself
  • Counting to 10 (or 100) in your head
  • Taking a deep breath and schooling your face before turning round
  • Head-counts
  • Being asked the same question a dozen times by 4 different Cubs
  • Never drinking a hot cup of tea (but I have a solution for that)
  • Doing what needs to be done, doesn’t matter who’s job it’s supposed to be

There are things you won’t get used to (or, at least I hope I won’t):

  • The thrill when one of “your” Cubs does something they didn’t think they could do
  • The thrill when one of “your” Cubs does something you most definitely couldn’t do! (I’m looking at the Leap of Faith here!)
  • Silence on the campsite (that’s just weird)
  • The sheer quantity of sweets 23 Cubs can consume
  • An earnest “Thank you” from someone you talked to
  • The wall of tiredness that hits about an hour after you get home

Would I do it again?  In an instant.  But next time, I’ll be better prepared.  I’ve got a personal kit list now to augment anything I’m given:

  • Camp bed – I’m too old to be sleeping on a roll on the floor.
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Tabasco / other chilli-based condiment of your choice

Long story short, if your local packs are looking for leaders and you think you might want to give it a go, do it.  Get involved.   I’m knackered, I ache in places I didn’t realise existed, and I can’t wait to do it again.