My next set of  “life skills ” was acquired when I joined the school Guide company.

We met every Tuesday evening after school from 4pm-6pm. We learned all the usual practical skills eg knot making, map reading (Himself will never believe this!) etc.

The Guides also reinforced the values we had been brought up with, honesty, integrity, loyalty and optimism (“a Guide smiles and sings at all difficulties”–part of the Guide law!)  

Every year we went to Guide camp. This was really basic camping in bell tents and ridge tents sleeping on the ground on a groundsheet in a bed made from a cotton sleeping bag and blankets held together with blanket pins. Our knotting skills were put to good use to lash together thin branches to make stands to keep our belongings off the ground. Cooking was done on an open camp fire, washing and washing up was done in enamel bowls on trestle tables, the food was stored in “larders” hung from the trees.

It was hard work but we thoroughly enjoyed it, even the time we camped in Statford upon Avon when it rained every day. The campsite was on clay soil and turned into a quagmire. The upside of this was that the Guiders tried to get us off the site as much as possible, so we not only went to the pre-booked performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, but went to three more plays.  There was a scheme then where you could turn up on the day, pay 2/6 (12 1/2p) and stand at the back of the stalls. The performances were so brilliant and we were so young  that we didn’t notice any discomfort as we watched actors who would become so well known over the years. There was a young Judi Dench, Muriel Pavlov and Laurence Harvey amongst others.

My favourite camp was at Sandringham. It was lovely turfy ground, so very comfortable to sleep on and the site was surrounded by rhododendrons which were in full bloom. We were also lucky enough to be shown round the grounds of Sandringham House, which were a riot of colour from the many varieties of rhododendrons.

When we were 15 years old some of us moved into the Guide Cadets which was the senior version of the Guides. This group became very close friends and we spent many happy times together and still remain friends 50 years later, even though it is mostly by mail and Email now that we have scattered to the far corners of the earth.

From the Guides I learned not only  practical skills, but the importance of teamwork and leadership.

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