I have just written a birthday card to one of my oldest friends, Patsy. When we moved house and got our possessions into some sort of order, I discovered that I had a large supply of pristine birthday cards. I decided, a bit late in the year, that I would send cards to all my old friends; this being the year that we reach our three score and ten. I am now searching my memory for dates of those for whom I have addresses and Patsy is the first on my list.

When we were 15 years old we moved from the Guides to the Cadets. This was a school company and  was  quite small, about a dozen, and most of my closest friends were members. 

We were like the big sisters of the guides and went on camping holidays with them and helped supervise the working patrols and days out. We had a Captain, Mrs Gill a science mistress and two lieutenants, Miss Davis, domestic science and Miss Rutherford, maths. We were divided into two patrols. We were the Wombats, which had been renamed in honour of our first patrol leader an Australian girl.

We wore a slightly different uniform from the guides, a navy skirt with a lighter blue blouse and a white tie. The tie was in the shape of a triangular bandage, which had the practical use that it could be of use an emergency, but I was never called on to put it to that use. We also wore a navy woollen battledress and changed our guide berets for a stiffer beret styled hat. We met on Friday after school and were allowed to wear the outfit instead of school uniform on that day.

As well as the guiding techniques we practised we also learned a bit about leadership. This must have worked a bit as some of the ones I stayed in contact with through the years joined the WI and all of them were either treasurers or presidents of the local branches and some served on county committees. I guess we were all “joiners”

We tended to be friends outside the guiding community too and went on hikes etc at weekends. On our last Easter holiday we had a superb holiday Youth Hostelling. We must have covered many miles around Derbyshire, exploring the villages and moorlands. In those days you had to travel to YHs under your own steam,  by foot, pedal or boat! They were very cheap, but you had to cook your own food and do a small task towards running the YH each day. This varied a lot from hostel to hostel, some more demanding than others.

Several of us had birthdays in July, so we decided to combine forces and have a grand hike. We each took an ingredient for the campfire cookery, sausages to cook on sticks, potatoes to bake in the fire etc. My contribution was a cake, baked by my Mum, and Halina took punnets of strawberries. We had the route planned, the campfire site earmarked and our bags packed. We assembled at the bus station for the first stage of the journey on that beautiful summer’s day, and then watched in disbelief as the skies changed from a cerulean blue to Paynes grey and the thunderstorm started!

My brave friend, Vera, immediately invited us all back to her house to cook and devour our food. She lived nearest, and her mother was out at business all day 🙂

We managed to have a memorable birthday party (we did clean up the kitchen afterwards!)

We have stayed friends over all these years,though scattered geographically. Most of us have stayed in touch with a few of the others but, through the network we hear about the others,  sadly two of them are no longer with us, both of them taken by ovarian cancer. I am hoping via Patsy’s contacts we can all be linked by post in this particular year at least.

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