Sunday, 3 June 2012

A Jubilee story

For this month's Storytelling Sunday, created by Sian over at Fromhighinthesky I thought I would give you a Jubilee story about our Silver Jubilee Guide Camp way back in 1977. When you've read it you can go take a look at all the other wonderful stories that are part of this fantastic project.

a 15ft Icelandic Ridge tent with sides lifted 
Way back in 1977... several of you weren't even born yet and more of you were between the ages of eleven and sixteen so could have been on your very first Guide Camp. We took 18 girls to camp at what was the Gwent Guide campsite at Rockfield, just outside Monmouth. By we I mean me as Guide Captain (the title we had in those far off days) and my assistant Guider, Viv. That was her title, Assistant Guider, but she was so much more than that. I'll tell you about her one day.

We supervised the girls putting up their tents, three patrols of six girls so three tents. Here's the statistics so you can hold this image in your mind.
They were 15ft long Icelandic Ridge tents. The poles are 3inch round wood with quarter inch thick steel sleeves to join the pieces together each pole being 6ft tall they came in two pieces. The ridge pole was in three pieces.The fabric of the tent is your genuine tent canvas. Sturdy, thick and weighs about two hundredweight, taking all six girls to carry it. The above picture is of the same tent but a different year - they were far more experienced by then. So this is not one of your namby pamby modern tents with lovely   lightweight carbon fibre poles and fabulous waterproof nylon. No this was a tent that meant business, mess with it and you would get both wet and crushed.
Most of the girls had never camped before and several had never been away from home before, so the day was spent calming the over-excited and channelling their energy into the challenges we had set for the patrols for the week. More of those another day.
It is usual at a Guide or Scout camp for at least one of the tents to "fall" down so Viv and I were prepared - we're Guides for goodness sake! We sat around our campfire, played the donkey game and sang several songs. I remember "If I were not upon the stage" and "You'll Never Get To Heaven". Then we sang Taps and watched as they traipsed off to their tents, then traipsed down the field to the chemical toilets - all in a huddle because it was dark and the night monsters were going to be out in force. Their torches swinging wildly and lighting up everything except the path to the toilets. Soon they had all put on their pyjamas, snuggled into their sleeping bags and the torches were turned off after a reminder that we were on a campsite with no spare batteries.
OH, I should say at this point that our tent was a good 25 yards away from the girls. Far enough for them to feel all on their own, but close enough to still hear them in the night.
The murmer of voices dwindled to a whisper so Viv and I got into our pyjamas and as I crawled into my sleeping bag she said it
"Well, nothing else can happen now"
You can hear them can't you? those Karma Pixies, all turning their heads at the same time and staring in the direction of someone who could throw a temptation like that in front of them.
"That's tempting fate", I said, crossing my fingers and hoping that Fate was busy happening to someone else.
I was woken by the strange sound of someone knocking on the tent and the squeak of a panicky little girl
"Captain, Captain, oh please come! The tent has fallen down and I'm the only one left alive!"
As my daughter and one of Viv's daughters were two of the occupants of that tent she had our full attention. In fact I went from horizontal in a snug warm sleeping bag to to upright with my wellies on, running up the field in 5.6 seconds. I know because Viv told me later and she knows about such things. In fact she swore that she didn't have to move a muscle and the vortex I created by my speed swept her out of her sleeping bag and into her wellies.
When we reached the collapsed tent two of the other girls were outside clinging to each other and sobbing. I found the front pole, found the guy rope and confirmed my suspicion that this tent had been delib  assisted in its downfall by one of the other patrols, and I knew which one. I handed the torch to Catherine - the one who had knocked on the tent - and said
"Shine it on the ground to find the pegs".
Viv and I pulled up the posts at each end of the tent, using the guy ropes and it was easy to find the pegs, still in the ground, where the ropes had been simply lifted off them. I bent to put the rope on the first peg
"Catherine, shine the torch on the pegs, not on my face please. Thankyou."
I moved to the next peg position and reached down
"Catherine, don't shine the torch in my face - thank you"
Now to the side of the tent where there were four ropes.
Rope 1. "Catherine, PLEASE don't shine the torch in my face"
Rope 2. "Catherine, PLEASE DON'T shine the torch in my face"
Rope 3. "Catherine DON'T SHINE THE..... thank you"
Rope 4. "Catherine, GIVE ME THE TORCH!"
I went into the tent and hurriedly shone the torch on the recumbent figures within. They were still asleep. I gently woke them - in Charlotte's case I had to bellow in her ear to wake her but they were not unconcious or concussed and hadn't heard or felt a thing. We straightened out the groundsheet and put the other three back into the tent inspite of hints that they would prefer to sleep in our tent. We returned to our tent discussing how to deal with the tent droppers as we knew exactly who had done it. We got into our sleeping bags and Viv began
"you can stop right there," I hissed, "don't say another word unless it's goodnight"
"Goodnight, God Bless" said Viv and then we began to laugh.

If you enjoyed this story then take a look at all the others that can be found HERE

If you want to know how we got revenge then look at this


Missus Wookie said...

Oh I remember camping with those tents that definitely meant business! Thanks for the memory/smell of wet canvas and mould... Laughed at your writing - especially the vortex and wellies ideas :lol:

Thanks for sharing!

Amy said...

My children are very good at shining torches in our eyes, rather than at what we are wanting to look at!
I also have memories of the older style tents, very draughty!

WendyB said...

Fantastic story, love the way you've told it. The words uttered by the little girl knocking on your tent did make me laugh - obviously I knew all would be well though.

Barbara Eads said...

OMG! That is hysterical. Your story brought back memories of my Camp Fire Girl days. I never liked to camp---and it wasn't because of the tents.

I think your next story should be how you handled the "tent dropping culprits"!

Sian said...

Oh, I love this! Yes I was at Guide Camp in 1977 in a tent very like the one in the picture. I loved every minute of it - hurray for Guide Captains everywhere! I'm going to be singing campfire songs for the rest of the day..

Maria Ontiveros said...

What a great story - well told; especially the dialogue about the flashlight!

Louise said...

lol great story and thank you for bringing back so many memories...of grandad lived there so me and my sister spent many a summer there.

Gem's Crafts said...

What a fab story! It's brought back memories of my girl guide camps, but we were never as naughty as your guides!

Alison said...

Great story..and I too loved the torch dialogue...thanks for stopping by my blog today
Alison xx

Anonymous said...

You must dish the dirt who were the culprits? I know it was not me as I was merely a Brownie in 1977 and did not get the privilege of sleeping in that tent, in the mill field and being woken by one of those monsters, ok I concede it was a sheep. Thanks for the memories.

Wanda said...

I laughed from beginning to end of your story and especially liked your phrase "karma pixies"--it is so true that they are just waiting to be tempted into action!

You will also have to tell us the fate of tent droppers too--I'm guessing that story is at least as good as this one was.

Unknown said...

Lol! Until a few years ago my boys were in scouts and they were still using those tents!!!! They even bought new ones. As one of the leaders I voted for newer tents, but there is nothing as sturdy as a canvas Icelandic. But boy are they heavy!

humel said...

I have mixed memories of camping!! Luckily no tents ever fell down though.... And yes, I too would like to hear what happened to the culprits!

furrypig said...

I have so many great memories of camping and I hope we get to go again this year!

Mad about Craft said...

I've only recently hung up my tent pegs. I was a guide, a Ranger Guide and a Scout Leader for 30 years. Many an Icelandic tent I've put up and slept in, I loved at the time but I'm glad I don't have to do it now! I'm enjoying my 'retirement'.

Becky said...

What a brilliant story! I wasn't a guide but did stay in a tent like that in 1977 with my junior school at Cuffley Camp - great memories, thank you for bringing them back to me :)

Irene said...

Great storytelling. I love the way you shot out of the tent and dealt with the situation which couldn't have been easy in the dark, despite the hilarious shining torch. Bet you were a fantastic Guide Captain.

Susanne said...

Great story, you truly captured my attention. And bless you for rising to the challenge of being a Guide captain in the first place.

Anonymous said...

LOL - great story. Oh I remember tents like that - made me swear off tent camping forever I think. Luckily our Guide camp had cabins.