When I was a Guide, we all had camp blankets to take on camp. We were taught in the Guide Handbook how to make your bedding roll – blanket underneath, sleeping bag on top, camp blanket on top of that pinned to the underneath blanket with kilt pins. My first sleeping bag was this horrible thing made for indoor use only really (not great when you live in Scotland!) patterned black and purple. And so when I was about 15 I got some black fleece and purple fleece to make two blankets. The purple one became my camp blanket.
However, I could not sew if my life depended on it. The badges I sewed on fell off pretty quick, so I did what I started doing when my Mum told me I needed to sew on my own badges to my Guide sash. I invested in a bottle of fabric glue.
The problem? Your badges are stuck in that position. FOREVER. And now I’m older and struggling to remember what badge came when, and realise it would be helpful to have them less spread out and more in ‘order’ (and have room for more) I discovered that my fabric glue was so good this is what happens when you try to remove the badges from your blanket.
I got a temporary job at Christmas that has become a permanent one, building bears. I did warn the manager at my interview that sewing isn’t my strong point. I do believe I even confessed my ballet teacher gave me a lifelong ban of sewing when I was 15 (no, really – and for good reason). They have however patiently (with minimal laughing at some of the sewing pickles I’ve managed to get myself into with a piece of thread and a needle) taught me how to stitch up bears and I decided to use this transferable skill to make a new camp blanket.
On Thinking Day my Mum and I went off to the same shop I got my original blanket from, but this time I wanted the colour to be more of a shout out to my life as a Guide and Senior Section leader. And then our lovely unit helper who is an excellent dressmaker and has this special machine called an overlocker let me come round to her house and she taught me how to use it. Amazingly it wasn’t a disaster, though don’t look at my blanket too closely as you’ll discover the sides are slightly squint. That’s how you know I’ve done it myself! 😉
And on nights when I’ve given up on doing my university work, I’ve undertaken what I like to call some ‘productive procrastination’ by sewing the badges. A few need to be redone as they are very squint, a few that have gone missing that need replaced and there’s still a lot of my badges I’ve collected and earned as a Ranger and an Adult volunteer still to go on, but I really, really love my blanket.
For me, my camp blanket is a bit like a photo album full of memories. Each badge has a story to tell and a memory attached to it. I can remember my Mum teaching me about the lemon cream Jif to clean the bathroom sink so I could earn my house orderly badge. The night my friend and her sister were sick all night after we did the Cook’s badge (her Mum thinks it was the sausages. I never ate them. Phew!). The badges a Guide in ?Australia? sent me after we sent letters to each other for the World Guiding badge. The burn I fell backwards into when my Guides went to stay in the Ranger bothy at Netherurd. Performing on stage with my Guide unit cheering me on in That’s Entertainment. The day me and my friend walked around Edinburgh in the pouring rain trying to find the Tourist Office we’d managed to walk past. Going to dance at the opening ceremony of Castle Ceilidh camp which then got flooded out and made the national news! The camp where I met the girls who invited me and my friend to come and join their Ranger unit. Jubilee Beacon night with my own Guide unit, who had never been to Trefoil before, and the annual campfires that came every summer after. Running down to the fire station to meet other Guides in the division to do my fire safety badge clutching the bargain dress I’d got reduced from £45 to £6 (yes I still remember the price of the dress…it was that amazing a bargain. I wore it to see in the new Millennium). The weekend we went to the London HQ for the finals of the environmental competition and I’d forgotten to pack my pyjamas. Making my promise outside a house with a blue door in Notting Hill. Doing the test for my First Aid badge and having to perform CPR on the farting resusi-Annie doll with St Andrew’s Ambulance. My 18 months volunteering with the Brownies to do my Service Flash. The Brownies threw me a surprise Winnie the Pooh party for my 16th birthday because they knew I loved Winnie the Pooh!
I could go on and on and on…
A few of my Guides and one of the Young Leaders are now starting their own camp blankets. Most of them are doing it for their World Guiding badge, others doing it so they can have a keepsake of their journey in Guiding.
Because there are some Guiding traditions we really should hold on to. Badges and camp blankets are two of them.