Neckerchiefs & Remembrance

After my Mum and my neighbour’s comments asking why the girls weren’t in uniform when they were, this year we wondered about getting unit neckerchiefs. Another unit in our area had got some for their whole unit and that leader passed on the email address of her contact so we could get something similar.

I e-mailed Steph from One Stop Scouting and within two days she had sent me a set of swatches and idea of how long our order would take. I then took the swatch samples and held a bit of a ‘Pow-wow’ (yes I know that’s a Brownie thing!) with our Guides. I suggested that the main necker colour should be some shade of blue as that’s the colour associated most with Guides (Red for Rainbows, Yellow for Brownies, Blue for Guides, Turquoise for Senior Section), but that they could pick any colour they liked for the border. With 16 Guides we worried that it would be a nightmare to get consensus, but they very quickly as a whole group chose two colour options to vote on for the border and two for the main colour. I always say on things like this they can vote more than once, so we can get an idea of majority that will be happy with what is decided on. They decided on Marine Blue neckers with a Grape border.

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The girls seemed to forget about the order until a few weeks later when they began to ask what had happened with the neckers and when they would arrive. In the end they came about a week before Remembrance Sunday but as we didn’t want them get lost or forgotten between our meeting day and Sunday we decided just to wait til the Sunday to give the girls their neckers. And they seemed to like them. They most certainly looked smart with them on, and we quickly realised their benefits in a crowd.

They also wore them to Gang Show (a night of the year that fills me with a lot of anxiety and stress) as crowds of kids and teens all looking the same.From years of joint trips to help with leader:child ratios now two of our Guide units and the Senior Section have the same meeting point, and the two Guide units have grown a fair bit in the last year. So it was wonderful to be able to immediately recognise who was one of ‘mine’ at a glance due to that purple (sorry, grape) border.

The Senior Section also have got unit neckers, which some of the girls are pleased with, and others are not impressed with. They chose grey neckers with a turquoise border to match the current uniform. It did make them look smart, and several people commented to me how well turned out the girls were looking this year and well…noticed that the girls were in attendance. Previous years some people haven’t even realised that there were members of Girlguiding in attendance at the War Memorial.

Unforunately I can’t share the photo I got of all the Brownies, Guides and Senior Section that I snapped after the church’s youth service for remembrance with their flags, but a photographer for the local heritage trust made a video of the War Memorial Service.

You can get the neckerchiefs in two sizes (Adult and Youth), and you will definitely need the Adult size for Senior Section. I think they were £4.95 each, and your minimum order is 25 (this can include both sizes).

We hope in future to have a deposit scheme where Guides can pay £5 deposit for a necker, then at the end of their time at Guides they can either keep it, or give it back and if it’s still in decent condition we will give them their £5 back.

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Remembrance Sunday woes…

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(Thank you to a local resident who has given me permission to use the photo above)

Remembrance Sunday.

An important day, and especially poignant this year as it marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War 1.

I was brought up with it instilled to me by my Guiders that it was important for us all to represent in our uniforms on Remembrance Sunday. The churches the units I was a member of always had reserved seating for all the youth organisations and made a big deal about us  being there. Often older members of the community who would be there would come up to us and say how nice it was to see us there, and comment on our uniforms.

When I returned to Guiding three years ago, I was surprised to see how little Girlguiding was represented at our local Remembrance events. The second year I was there, we managed to get the Guides to have their flags in the colour party. I was so angry when I saw the church newsletter commenting on how wonderful it was to see the Boys Brigade and Scouts in attendance – no mention of the Guides and Brownies!

If you know me, you’ll know that I’m not one to stay silent. I was not going to have the girls feel unvalued or unequal to the boys’ organisations (though granted, Scouts aren’t an all boy organisation, which I personally think is a real shame). So the next year, we had our ‘colours’ at the local community war memorial service AND the church one (same as the Scouts and Boys Brigade) and the Girlguiding and Scouts were both asked to do readings – not just the boys anymore! We still didn’t have seats in the church again though.

However, I did notice that none of the youth organisations in our area were laying poppy wreaths which I thought strange. I was on the case like as soon as the service was over last year.

This year, I got on the ball in August! I spoke to our Division Commissioner about getting our new Division Banner out for the War Memorial service and carried by our Senior Section. I asked if Girlguiding could lay a poppy wreath (and mentioned it to the Boys Brigade and Scouts too). And I asked the church in advance if we were to do a reading so I could make sure we had a girl comfortable with being in a church and public speaking. And I asked if we could try and ensure we were seated all of Girlguiding sections together, making the point this was one of the few times that the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides were all together – and that it helped the younger ones to see older ones to make them more comfortable with moving up to the next section if our faces become familiar.

All was good.

And then three out of six leaders were unavailable. Which meant that I had to be both the Guide and Senior Section unit leader for the morning!

Our war memorial service went well. One of my flag bearers didn’t appear til the last second (not ideal) but we got there. Luckily I was there as the Anchor Boys (the Rainbow equivalent of the Boys Brigade) were looking lost as we paraded out of the church graveyard across the the memorial behind the colour party (which all their leaders were in). The poor wee lad at the front looked in panic, and I was able to subtley tell him to keep going to make a line of Anchor Boys behind the colour party, and at the end to follow the colour party and promise that the Girl Guides would follow on behind them!

However, the youth service after was a different story. Our Banner carrier was the only other leader present (as she is also a Ranger) and we had to give the banner back to our Division Commissioner because she couldn’t attend the youth service. There’s the scramble for seats before they all get taken by the Scouts. I had told the two Guides carrying the unit flag before the War Memorial service that they needed to collect their flag on the way back from the hall.

In the rush – I took the banner from our Rangers and promised to get their bags from the hall as I began putting the banner away with our Division Commissioner so she could leave to get to her next engagement. Our Ranger who is also a Guide leader took the Guides into the church to get seats – making sure we had one on the aisle for our Ranger doing the reading. However, 3 out of 4 of the youth service colour party forgot they were meant to be in the colour party and went with her! Only when I finally got in the church with the bags having also been fielding Rainbows and Brownies and their leaders to tell them to find seats with the Guides  and Rangers…I sat down just as the service was about to start, with the Rainbows as the seats with the Guides and Senior Section were all taken. Then one of the Guides tapped our Ranger/Guide Leader on the shoulder and said ‘I think I’m supposed to be over there‘. Fast chinese whispers of ‘Laurie, Laurie….the colour party isn’t there’. I looked round to see the two girls who had been at our Friday rehearsal and spoken to before and made sure the flag was already….and asked them from across the pews ‘Where’s the flag?’ to which they replied “we don’t know” as the minister walked in to start the service.

Then as the colour party went past I suddenly noticed our Guide carrying the ‘Queen’s flag’ was alone without her Colour guard.

Afterwards I said we all just had to laugh about it. I felt so bad for the parents and the girls. Next year, hopefully all our leaders will be there and we can have a fast plan of action so there’s not two of us running like headless chickens not noticing that we have Guides with us that should be in another place!

The other point from the day was an interesting one. My Mum and our next door neighbour (who nursed troops in India during World War 2) came down to the War Memorial Service to pay their respects and see me! Later that night, my Mum asked me ‘Why were none of the girls wearing Guide uniform? They looked awful compared to the Scouts!’

I explained every one of them was wearing uniform.

She had not realised that there was no ‘bottom half’ to the uniform but the main issue was that several of the girls have the stripey t shirt – she didn’t recognise it as Guide uniform. The fact they were all wearing different items of clothing – gilets, t-shirts, hoodies, zip up jumpers…was also confusing.

‘Maybe that’s why they think you weren’t there’ she said (noting my rant about the year the Guides got no acknowledgment for having been there).

Speaking to our Unit Leader, she recalled a visit we had from the church elders one year when they made the statement ‘So Guides isn’t a uniformed organisation anymore then?‘ She looked around the room and ALL the girls were wearing ‘uniform’.

It made me realise that people expect Guides to be bright blue, and the fact that the Guide uniform doesn’t have the Guide Trefoil logo on the tops anymore is a problem. And having noticed some chat on the Girlguiding facebook group about one person’s town not letting the Guides parade because ‘it’s only for uniformed organisations’ has made me realise that the uniform change is good!

Although the Senior Section polo shirts are recognisable, I don’t think their hoodies are (especially as there are two different colours – neither of which are aqua!). With that thought in mind, we are now speaking about getting unit neckers to hopefully have for events so that the girls are more obviously part of Girlguiding.

It’s funny how someone from outside of Girlguiding can often give you a new perspective on something that you don’t see because you’re ‘in it’.

Anyway, I was proud of all the girls who made the effort to attend!

Welcoming the start of a new year at Guides

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The week before it was all about the planning. Taking the girls ideas and feedback they’d given us last term and working out how we could do it this term.

E-mails, phone calls, term programmes, A LOT of printing and some supply shopping…

…and on then it was time to put the uniform back on for our first Guide meeting of the new school year.

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Our Young Leader is now an Adult Leader in Training, and officially made her promise at the end of last term. We weren’t sure if all the girls on our register would return, but all of them did. We’ve only got 12 Guides this year to start with, the Brownie unit that ‘feeds’ into our unit meets on a different night so we keep losing the graduated Brownies to a Guide unit that meets on the same night as them. We were also aware that some of the girls are hiting 14 (a few already have) and we’d noticed a couple of them beginning to show signs that they were feeling a bit ‘old’ for Guides, and others really not ready yet to move onto Senior Section.

So we put a plan to the older girls which they seem excited about – for the oldest Guides who are 14 or will turn 14 this term to be in their own Patrol. As  a Patrol they are going to work on activities that are still Guide activities but are more like the sort of things they would do as Rangers/Senior Section. The other great thing is that they all remember our newest Adult leader from when she was still a Guide and asked her lots of about Senior Section. I’ve basically told the girls to ask her when I’m not there so they know they aren’t getting biased answers. 😉

The only down point was when I mentioned that there was a new uniform – the words ‘there’s a new uniform you can now get in the Girlguiding shop‘ were barely out of my mouth before the girls who apparently have seen pictures of it started passionately yelling about it (not in a good way). Two of the girls have grown out of their uniform and were most upset when they heard they couldn’t get the old one anymore. I’m glad for those of you who have seen it in person and told me it looks better than it did in the pictures. I said that to them, told them it is a bit like the Senior Section one just different colours and that if still felt very strongly about it when they saw it in person they should give feedback to Girlguiding about what they’d like the uniform to be like.

(Have any other Guiders faced this negative feedback from their Guides? How are you dealing with it?)

We did our Unit Guidelines, the girls have given me more ideas for the coming year and were really happy to find out that we’ve managed to organise a request they made at the beginning of the calendar year – to learn First Aid. We’re super excited to have a volunteer instructor from British Red Cross coming to teach First Aid to the girls for 3 evenings later this term. We’re going to be tying this in with a night just before Remembrance Sunday about what Girl Guides did during the World Wars.

Next week the girls will choose their Patrol Leaders and Patrol Seconds and pick what Go For It, Challlenge or Badge they want to work on during Patrol Nights this term.

Meanwhile, I’m off to get more ink cartridges for my poor overworked printer…

The Guiding year has begun!