My Running Gear

It had been three weeks since my last run and I knew that I’d need to fit in one more in 2013 to be sure this wouldn’t be just a phase. James was working today so it was easy to get up early and get in 30 minutes before my day of de-cluttering.

It felt great to still be able to complete 30 minutes after a long break and with plenty of chocolate tumbling around my belly. The last 5 minutes were a struggle but I didn’t stop. I can’t wait to get back into the swing of it.

So this post is to look at the equipment I use, I’ve received a few items for Christmas and bought a couple more. I’ll start with the first item I bought:

trainers

Nike Air Alvord 10 Ladies Running Shoes

I waited until I’d completed 6 runs, 2 weeks of training, before I invested in a pair of running shoes. I could feel that my flat tennis shoes weren’t best for pounding the street and was prepared to pay £30-£40 on a decent pair.

In Sports Direct there is a dedicated running department with a simple foot arch tester. By placing your foot – shoe removed – onto the pad it will light up showing which parts of your foot touch the pad. You then compare this with the high arch image and low arch image to determine which you have and therefore which trainers are best suited to you.

The difference running in these trainers was evident immediately. I felt more bounce with each step and a comfy feel on the sole of my feet. I did require plasters for a blister on my ankle which is long gone now and at first the laces kept coming undone but they are settled now.

It is a little cliché but these trainers fit my foot like a glove and I couldn’t run without them.

waist belt

Karrimor Running Belt

Some research early on brought me to this running belt to wear under my clothes to hold my ipod. This belt is perfect; I don’t feel it on my hips as I run, my ipod fits snuggling into the expandable pocket and it doesn’t bounce around as I run either. I highly recommend this!

shirt

Short Sleeve T-shirt

Though this isn’t one the actual shirts I use it is the same style. I have three from Primark which fit lovely. I also have one technical white vest for the summer and have also used regular t-shirts depending on what is in the wash. My preferred are the Primark ones and have had no problems with them so far.

shirtlong

Long Sleeve T-shirt

For this I always use basic Primark shirts. They are skin tight and I wear these beneath my short sleeve t-shirts to keep myself warm, but the main reason is to have two layers to thread my earphones between so they don’t stick to my tummy or rub up and down. That was very irritating in the early days.

JACKET

Karrimor X Lite Running Jacket

This was a Christmas present from my Mum and I only tried it out this morning but I love it. It should’ve been cold but the jacket prevented the wind from hitting me hard enough to have an effect. It was lightweight so it didn’t hold me back and the hood fit around my head perfectly. The cuffs are tight so the sleeves don’t ride up my arms. Plus being light blue I’ll be wearing this one in the dark.

JACKETpink

Waterproof Jacket

I started with a thin black jacket from Primark, it was a little short in the body but at £5 it was a steal. But as the days drew in and mornings and evenings got darker I needed a brighter jacket.

This thicker jacket from Trespass I bought before our adventure in Blackpool. We were expecting a lot of rain and this was perfect for the trip. When I started using this for running it was sometimes great. The problems with using it for running though is that it is thick, so it holds me back, and I can get over heated too. I only wear this now if the weather is stormy.

tights

Karrimor Xlite Warm Running Tights + Karrimor Xlite Running Capris

When I started running my bottoms of choice were baggy three quarter lengths. I was conscious of what I looked like so I didn’t want to wear shorts or tights, but also I didn’t want to spend money on something if I wasn’t going to keep it up.

Now I have moved onto running tights. I started with a Primark pair that were fine and ran my first 30 minutes using the running tights above and they were fantastic. Calling them ‘warm’ is spot on, I didn’t think about my legs being cold once. I also now have a pair of three quarter length running tights which I am saving for the warmer weather. I had trouble before when wearing full length jogging bottoms, and my baggy three-quarter lengths would hit against each other as I ran, so I’m glad to have made the move to tights.

earphones

JVC Marshmallow Earphones (White) + Skullcandy Earphones

I was given the Skullcandy earphones for Christmas and used them for my run this morning. I have to admit I was disappointed in them. Perhaps it was the rain but they kept slipping out my ears and it was rather frustrating have to keep putting them back in. I did like the pause/resume button on the wire which allowed me to start the podcast when I was outside the door rather than fiddling with my belt before leaving.

I may try them again but my favourite to use is the JVC Marshmallow earphones. These were also a Christmas gift from 2/3 years ago bought without running in mind. They stay in my ears, are comfortable and can hear the podcast fine.

gloves

Karrimor Running Gloves

Since winter set in I’d needed a suitable pair of gloves to run in. Nothing woolly but something simple. These do the job just fine. I liked the added detail of a key pocket in each palm. I used these this morning and the only problem I see with this is the feeling that you have to hold the key. They won’t drop out if you didn’t but it is engraved in our brains not to drop things and feeling the key in my palm meant I spent a lot of the run with a closed fist. In the 5k+ podcast it advises you run with your fingers loosely touching your palm so it did require me to think to avoid clenching my hands. But it was a lot better than running with cold fingers, especially in the rain.

Wow, I never realised how much running equipment I’d accumulated in such a short amount of time.  Running should be a low cost sport but it is what you make it. I enjoy spending time in the running department in the sports shops looking at different accessories and types of clothing. I didn’t even go into my socks! I have a few special pairs designed for running which I aim to use unless they’re all the wash.

So am I missing anything from my collection? I’ve recently thought of wearing a hat but that would be the quickest way to overheat. A carry water bottle may be of use too. So with my new running items hopefully I’ll stay motivated into the new year.

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Paintball at Center Parcs

One new experience I wasn’t expecting to take on during our week at Center Parcs was Paintballing. It is an activity that has always interested me but I’ve never had the opportunity to do it. I was even jealous when a couple of 10 year old Brownies had told me they’d done it! My friends are not the type to do it, and neither are James’, and I was worried about the two of us going locally and ending up tagged into a stag do group or bunch of annoying 15 year olds. Doing this at Center Parcs seemed a great idea as everyone would be small groups joined together.

On our first morning at Elveden James spotted Laser Tag on the screens showing all the potential activities.

“They do paintball here too,” I naively pointed out.

And it was quickly settled that we would book up paintball for Thursday morning. I spent most of the week with a slight panic in the back of my head about this activity. The pain of being hit didn’t worry me, just my natural fear of making a fool of myself. I wasn’t a good shot in Call of Duty and I never put myself forward so I didn’t know how I would do in this situation.

The morning of the paintballing arrived and I, somewhat instinctively, wore about 5 layers on my top half. (vest, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt, hoodie and waterproof.) This proved to be vital in avoiding disturbing looking bruises. My bottom half I only wore jeans and would consider wearing tights and my running leggings underneath next time as I gained some colourful wounds on my legs. I already bruise easily so the marks were very distinctive.

Anyhow, I’m getting ahead of myself, being as prepared as I could be we headed off to the outdoor activity centre. We got signed up, put our belongs in a locker and sat waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. I quickly realised I was the only girl among us. The majority of the group was made up of friends, brothers, and a father and son, the ages ranged from a 12 year old boy to 50+ military wannabes. As the groups did not split evenly we were a team of 8 against a team of 6.

We were briefed on safety and how to handle the guns and were taken out to have some practice shots. It was easier that I expected, but also scary having to remember to switch the safety on and off. In one game I ran into battle with the safety on.

The teams were sent to separate bases and the first game was to get one member of the team to the other team’s base. I’m not going to lie, I did very little in the first game! I wanted to see what other people did and at first our whole team spent their time in hiding. I tried a few shots but wasn’t very successful. Our team won this game as the wannabe military sergeant ran the field to reach the other base first. Phew, I needed a break!

Second game was the same but we swapped ends. This end seemed to have much less cover and was more of a struggle. James and the Sarge decided to run forward and I was told to cover them. Hah! I tried but James was hit as he dived for cover and the Sarge  had nowhere to hide but a tree and was quickly picked off. I was alone! (Well, the others on our team were to the left of the field and I was standing in full view of my fallen teammates and felt I had to make a move.) I tried to copy James, and I did. My first hit was to the top of my head. I dropped behind the barrels and felt another hit to my arm. Headshots don’t count but I knew from the pain in my arm I was out so I raised my arm and off I went. On closer examination the paintball hadn’t exploded on my arm and I could’ve continued but I was happy to have left. James wiped the paint from my mask and we waited to start the next game.

Game three was capture the flag. In the middle of the arena was a red and blue flag and the one that was raised after 10 minutes would decide the winning team. Our team were instructed it was a good strategy to wait rather than run for the flag first, and I guessed the other team was told the same as no one went for the flag early on. Someone had to make a move and we started by raising the flag, soon after the blues raised theirs which dropped ours. Somehow James was out and the instructors started counting down from 20. The blue flag was still raised and none of our remaining team members were making a move! I had to go for it.

10, 9, I ran from my cover and was relieved to be upright rather than crouching as I had been for the last 10 minutes,

8, 7, I headed towards the middle of the arena,

6, 5, I felt shots around me as someone was trying to pick me off,

4, 3, I raised my arm out towards the rope,

2… HIT. I felt the pound against my upper arm as someone had hit their target. I was out. I slouched forward in frustration at just missing the rope. I raised my wounded arm and left the arena.

The instructor praised my run as I left and James said I did well. If only I’d taken up running a little earlier in the year and maybe I’d have made it! I was happy with what I’d done though especially as no one else was making a move.

The final game was an all out brawl. No more hit and your out. If you still had ammo at the end it was a waste. This game was designed to have people feel the pain of paintball, and yes we certainly did! This game is about getting the ‘bomb’ out of your side of the arena. The ‘bomb’ is a football and it was just a case of locating it if it was inside your half and kicking it across. But with pain.

At first we struggled to find the ball, it had made its way into our half but no one was moving. The Sarge went for it first and kicked it into their half. On running back he complained of being ‘too old for this’ and told one of us younger ones to go. The ball rolled back to us and I cheered on James to go and reluctantly he did and kicked the ball back over into their half. At this point most of our team, including myself, were out of ammo and had nothing to defend ourselves with. The opposing team had an awful lot left and were happy to stand just at their side, shooting at the fools who came toward them, and kicked the ball back with ease.

James hadn’t even made it all the way back to cover before the ball was in our half again and I ran past him as I took my turn to take the hits. Now, as a child, I spent many a Saturday afternoon kicking a football around with my brothers, I even attended a football training weekend run by coaches at West Ham and Leyton Orient, but I was out of practice and this football wasn’t fully inflated. I kicked it once and it wasn’t far enough. I was already being hit but couldn’t head back without finishing my task. I ran forward and kicked it again. This time it headed sideways. ARGHH! I went after it and kicked it across, still being pelted with paintballs, then turned back and went to meet James. After one final teammate ran to kick it back we had won!

I was knackered, covered in bruises and too confused to figure out how to put my gun back into the rack, but was proud to receive praise from James and the Sarge for my run. I always knew the pain wouldn’t bother me, but getting stuck in was my biggest trouble but I managed to take it on. Perhaps being anonymous in as much as wearing a mask helped. But I really enjoyed it, and if we return next year Paintball will be the top of our list.

IMGP0059 - Copy (2)

P.S. This does not show off the full amount of hits we acquired!

New Year’s Resolutions – 2014

I always like the idea of a fresh start, trying new things and improving myself. So this year I have a list of accomplishments I hope to achieve and if I note them here hopefully this will encourage me to complete them.

1. Keep running – Over the last 6 months I have taken up running and have reached my 30 minute goal. I don’t have aspirations right now to go for a longer time, but I will attempt to go faster and therefore cover more distance. Running for 30 minutes, with a 5 minute warm up and 5 minute warm down, is the perfect amount of time to fit into my busy week. My aim is to run at least twice a week.

2. Learn new things – I have recently found out about Universal Class. This is a online database of informal courses teaching in a vast range of subjects. Lessons consist of reading text on the subject, links to relating material, and an assignment and exam. Your work is marked by the instructor, some classes run polls on topics and some have forums to discuss the subject with ‘classmates’. I found this through my local library who issue its members with free classes. You can only enrol on up to 5 classes at a time and must complete it within 6 months. Courses tend to be between 10-20 hours of work. The subjects are so vast and include career development subjects, philosophy and religion, crafts and hobbies, writing and child development.
My plan is to complete 5 courses. Two courses to help develop my career, two courses to boost my skills at Brownies and one that will just be of interest to me.

3. Become a Peer Educator – As a Senior Section member in Girlguiding I have a few opportunities that are not open to other adult members, one being Peer Education. This involves attending a weekend training where I will learn to run sessions on issues that affect children. Bullying and Body Image are two common topics. I would then be able to go into other Brownie, Guide and Senior Section meetings to run these sessions as a leader of a similar age to the girls. Being 24 I only have 2 years left to attempt this and run sessions so I must complete this in 2014.

4. Keep on blogging – I love seeing this blog evolve and grow and I know only I can make this happen. Coming up in 2014 – clay pigeon shooting, PortAventura in Spain and possibly some final Merlin activities before our passes expire.

I realise this post will get lost down the pages the more I write so to inspire me I write my goals on stars and pin them around my bed so they will always be in my thoughts. Maybe I’ll even remember to report back on this in a year’s time! See you then!

What you’ve read about Girlguiding may not always be true

In the follow up to my recent post ‘Girlguiding is not and never was a Christian Organisation’ I am writing this next post about the medium that inspired this series – The Online UK Newspaper. It comes as no surprise that newspapers go for sensationalist stories and for some reason many seem to be against Girlguiding in no matter what they do. But my main issue here is when these articles misinform the public about Girlguiding when a little bit of research can put the facts right.

Since my previous post The Daily Mail updated this article, but I will start with the original;

Girl Guide group told to ditch God or be expelled

I’ll start with the headline, which in full is: “Girl Guide group told to ditch God or be expelled: Troop faces removal from national body after leaders rejected new rules”

Sensationalist headline. Literally yes, we do not say the word ‘God’ in the promise now but we do still include God in the line ‘develop my beliefs’. They have not been asked to ‘ditch God’ in the way many people will read this.

Unusual wording: Troop. The term Troop is commonly used with Scouts and American Girl Scouts, I am yet to meet a Girlguiding unit refer to themselves as a troop. The official term in the UK is Unit, as per the Guiding Manual.

When putting together a pen pal exchange with some Girl Scouts in Florida I was often emailing their leader and she referred to the American group as a troop, when I presented the pen pal exchange to my unit I accidently called our unit a troop and the girls were much confused! It is unusual for my area, I don’t want to jump to conclusions because perhaps this unit does refer to themselves as a troop but I doubt it as when the unit’s name is mentioned in the article it is followed by the word ‘unit’ – something that would come from the leaders themselves. I would conclude that the journalist still has some research to do.

“It means that the unit, which includes more than 100 girls in Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers from a variety of different faiths, will now have to meet as an independent group”

So perhaps this is where the confusion between ‘troop’ and ‘unit’ comes in. “‘Unit’ is the name given to a group of Rainbow Guides, Brownie Guides, Guides or members of The Senior Section and their respective Leaders.” – Girlguiding Manual. These units, all from one area, form a district. The 100 girls from Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers (Senior Section) are a district.

“The Girl Guide promise had been changed after over 100 years of tradition”

I’m unsure what the article refers to by 100 years of tradition, yes it is tradition for Girlguiding to move and evolve over time. This line misleads readers into believing this change is the first in 100 years, as per the Outcome of the Promise Consultation: FAQ: “Over the past 100 years the Promise has changed a total of 11 times before this consultation. These changes have occurred to reflect the views of our members and the changing attitudes within our society.” In case you are interested the original and current promises are listed below.

The original promise was:
I promise, on my honour, to be loyal to God and the King, To try and do daily good turns to other people, to obey the Law of the Guides.

And the current one is:
I promise to do my best, to be true to myself and develop my beliefs, To serve the Queen and my community, to help other people and to keep the Guide Law.

So this is the updated article, it has been moved to the ‘Femail’ section of the site which appears to be aimed at women.

So the headline has been cleaned up a little. In full it is: “The Girl Guides who refuse to give up on God: Troop who face disbanding because they don’t believe in a new secular motto” No more ‘ditching God’. But still using unusual term ‘troop’.

The first major difference is the image; the girls are now smiling. I can imagine this was to show that these girls actually do enjoy Guides and Senior Section and aren’t just being used as props.

This article starts with a Ranger Guide (a Senior Section member) discussing a Guiding activity. This is great! Finally newspapers are happy to show the more interesting side to Guiding with what we actually DO! But what follows is this statement: “Will they be getting an extra-special badge from HQ for representing the organisation in such a glowing manner?”

No, but neither will any of the other Guides taking part in standard activities, they may receive interest badges or event badges, but this is a common standard. Of course this sentence is included to lead the readers to believe this is an extra special unit to make their plight more heart-breaking. This puts another downward slant on Guiding as readers may believe this sort of activity is not normal for Guides to take part in, not what they can expect their daughter to achieve in their local unit.

So how did this sorry saga begin?” – I can tell you, following plenty of articles like this:

This may be a Scouting story, but it had a knock on effect on Guiding in my own life. So I’ll briefly cover this.

Another sensationalist headline, half way into the article it reads: “George began attending… in January. But to become a full member he must now take the Scout Promise.” This is not being banned, he was not asked to leave, but could not become a full member.

Again this article refers to a ‘Christian Movement’ but with little to base it on. At the time, when Baden-Powell was developing a training programme for youths over 100 years ago Christian beliefs were common place in the UK. But as the movement quickly grew around the world the spiritual aspect of Scouting was adapted to all faiths. I find no evidence on the Scouts website to call it a Christian movement.

Though the headline and the first line of the article include refusing to swear allegiance to the Queen there is no further reference to this in the article. Possibly something dropped later when the journalist realised the child was wearing a badge commemorating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee?

The next Girlguiding related story is on a similar vein, a child who cannot make her promise, a story that predates the recent consultation. But during research I found many different versions of the same article. I’ll start with the original and we will see how the story progresses:

Fair headline, the family are upset. The story is this:

“Two atheists are considering pulling their daughter out of the Brownies – in a row over whether she should have to make a vow to God.”

This is an article in a local newspaper of a local family who are upset over how Brownies is run. Their daughter wants to make her promise just like all her friends have done, but doesn’t want to include the line about God. She asked to change it and was rightly told no by the leader. One Guiding tradition that has never died is that all Brownies, Guides, Senior Section Members and Leaders make the same promise, the only adaptation previously could be changing God to a word of their faith.

This article makes no false claim that the unit have asked the girl to leave, and the parent’s quote shows they may choose to take her out of Brownies because the girl says she feels left out.

“The couple are keen for their youngest daughter, 5, to join the Brownies when she turns seven”

My instinctual thought was why is this 5 year old not joining Rainbows? I hope parents are aware that their daughters can start their Guiding adventure at a slightly earlier age. It could be there are no Rainbow units in the area, I never had the opportunity to be a Rainbow either, but if there is a lack of volunteers this article could have helped boost opportunities too.

“Nobody from the … group wished to comment this week.” – No Guiding member has to deal with situations like this alone, as volunteers we do our part to help the development of young girls and there are people within the organisation who are asked to deal with journalists.

“But a Girlguiding UK spokesman suggested that she should have been allowed to change the wording.” – If any research had been done previously the parents and the journalist would already be aware that the word ‘God’ could be altered to a word of the child’s faith to make the Promise more meaningful, but by not expanding on this it gives the impression that it is this unit leader who is wrong, and this is not the case.

The story is picked up by a website promoting the separation of religion and state, with the same quotes from the parents but using a slightly different stance.

Not a very offence headline, but without reading the article you may be lead to believe it was Girlguiding who would be asking the girl to leave when it is actually the girls parents who may choose to take her out of Brownies.

“But now her membership is threatened because she doesn’t want to take a religious oath.” – Again, the sentence is not complete by explaining that the child’s parents are making this decision.

It seems to be a common misconception that girls have to make their promise to become a Brownie, this is not the case. Articles like this one continue to give the public misinformed information.

In both articles it is mentioned several times that the child is enjoying herself and likes being a Brownie, and the only reason the parents may take her out of Brownies is because while she is happy she also feels left out.

Then things escalate;

The parents have now changed from upset to angry. If you go back to the original article’s quotes there is actually no mention of the parents being upset or angry, the mother is bothered, the girl is upset, but who mentioned anyone being angry?

Next. of course, is ‘forcing the praise of God on their girl’. Well that is a whole different story! Imagine the shock as parents discover that hidden amongst the game at the start of the meeting and a singsong at the end was leaders demanding children to declare faith over and over as the poor Brownies wept between each word. Well that clearly is not the story here.

“is in danger of not making the cut – for not pledging faith to God” – Again, no reference that is it the child’s parents who wish to remove her form the unit.

“The troop has declined to comment but Girlguiding UK said there was no reason why the Brownie pledge could not be altered.”

– Troop again?! And from a different paper. I’ll come back to this in my misconceptions post. Now this journalist has read the previous article and took their own conclusions on the Promise without any research themselves, making false claim that the ‘pledge’ can be altered without explaining exactly what part can be changed and to what. Very misleading sentence. Also the spokesman has changed to a spokeswoman.

And then the story made it across the pond;

“Girlguiding UK (their version of the Girl Scouts) is telling a seven year old that she needs to pledge an oath to God is she wants to remain in the group.” –

Just no. The story has now been changed so far and has been misleading in so many articles that it is now being reported wrong. This is now scandalous. People are now taking an opinion on an organisation based on a lie.

” As far as I can tell, Girlguiding UK is a private organization and it’s allowed to discriminate as it pleases.” No discrimination against atheists, any girl between 7-10 can be a Brownie should there be a place in a unit. If a girl does not feel comfortable making the promise, for any reason, she does not require to do this to become a member. (I’m sure many have the same thought, what about discrimination against boys? In my eyes having a girl only space is very nurturing and I feel there should be a equivalent all boys organisation, maybe I’ll go into detail on this one day.)

If she decides she’s an atheist, does the Girlguiding group really want to tell her she’s unworthy of joining?” – No research into the organisation by the journalist, just a sensationalist sentence.

There may be more articles on this story and the words may have further been destroyed. I wonder now whether the recent change has kept this child in Guiding and her parents are happier. But these articles really do leave my faith in journalism at a new low. Not one appeared to do their own research and took the word of parents and a quote from a spokesman as all they needed to spread scandal on a volunteer organisation and charity.

I add this final article as it brings up some common misconceptions from those who have only read the new Promise and related articles published online:

“Indeed, it now stands revealed as being actively discriminatory, and far from pulling down any (mythical) barriers to joining the movement, the Guide leaders are actually putting them up.” –

This journalist doesn’t appear to read her own paper, referring to mythical barriers that have been sensationalised within its own articles.

“Having dumped God and country altogether, it is now actually forbidding Guides — on pain of excommunication — to promise to serve anything beyond themselves.”  “So the new Guiding promise is all about being true to me, myself and my beliefs, whatever they may happen to be.”

– God is still referred to in ‘develop my beliefs’ and country is still referred to in ‘serve my Queen’. We still promise to help other people, and to think of others before ourselves, so how is this not serving anything beyond ourselves?

“Churches should deny the Guides use of their premises.” –

A common comment by those with little knowledge of everyday guiding. Would the Churches kick out karate clubs who do not pray at the end of each session, how about parties for youngsters who have not brought their bibles? As a Christian I have never once said I’ll do you a favour because you are a Christian, I would say I’ll do you a favour because you are a person (or cat, I like animals too.) And the change in the promise does not mean we suddenly stop supporting our linked Church with donations during service, helping take collection and reading of prayers, and gardening in the Church grounds. This doesn’t appear to be the attitude of a true Christian.

This article appears to be more an attack on society as a whole for the secularism that has become common place, but uses Girlguiding as a reason to write about it. Unfortunately this leads to more misinformed statements flooding the Internet.

It isn’t all bad though, some journalists get it right and help restore faith in community by writing articles such as these:

There are many more of these too, especially in local newspapers.  And, of course, there is plenty more information on Girlguiding on their website that can be relied on.

The comments on these articles, including the positive ones, further show how poorly misconceived Girlguiding is. This is the second of 4 posts about Girlguiding, next I will go further into how the public may not understand what we do. And my final post will go into detail on the adventures and experiences I have had during my time as a Brownie, Guide and Leader.

A little Christmas post

Just a quick post to remember the funny things. We had a great Christmas with the family, lots of food, lots of gifts exchanged and Doctor Who on TV. In the evening we played Articulate and I was teamed with my boyfriend James and my brother. Articulate is a game that shows how much you are on a wave length with someone, and James and I really are on the same wave length.

James: It’s a big dry part of America.

Me: The Sahara Desert. (My family scoff and chuckle).

James: Yes.

James: A baby frog.

Me: Newt.

James: Correct.

Me: Is it?

James knew a newt wasn’t a baby frog but that must be what comes into both our heads, which helps in a game like this! But the Sahara Desert one, that is just our poor Geography skills. I knew it wasn’t in America, but please don’t ask me anymore! That was our worst category last year, except last year we were on a team with my Uncle (who has appeared on old game show 15 to 1 several times and won it). He was not impressed with our complete lack of knowledge!

Me: (Describing Shanghai) It’s a big city in India.

When James and I get our own home we will need to put a massive atlas on the wall and study hard. I did only get a C in GCSE Geography.

Girlguiding is not and never was a Christian Organisation

On reading the Daily Mail Online this morning I came across the following article:

Girl Guide group told to ditch God or be expelled

And this has lead to my views on the matter coming to the forefront of my mind once again. As I start to write this post I’m unsure if my purpose is to give the opinion of a Christian Leader who embraces the new Promise. Or whether to give a little more detail from the inside about what Girlguiding in modern day is like for those with no experience, or whether to just mock articles like this and the misinformed comments it produces.

I’ve spent the past few hours reading about the backlash Girlguiding has received since 44,000 people were consulted on the wording of the Promise and a phrase was changed.

For those of you unfamiliar with Girlguiding the phrase ‘To love my God’ was changed to ‘To be true to myself and develop my beliefs’.

In the lead up to this consultation there had been much talk on the Internet about Girlguiding discriminating against atheists via the Promise. You couldn’t make it without promising to love a God. This didn’t sit well with many atheist adult members who were required to make the promise to become a full adult leader. There was also an influx of articles about 7 year olds being turned away from Guiding and Scouting as they had no God they believed in to love:

Atheist Family upset over Brownie Promise Claim

Athesist schoolboy, 11, banned from the Scouts as he refuses to pledge allegiance to God and Queen

So it was no surprise that a consultation was announced to get the views of members and non-members alike on the Promise.

I took the survey and gave my opinions, of which I am open in saying that as a Christian I opted for the ‘develop my beliefs’ option. I realise there are many more atheists in modern day UK compared to when the organisation was launched in 1910 and don’t understand why the values we hope to instil into girls should be stopped at those with a belief.

But despite the change Girlguiding now receives backlash again from within its own community. Like the initial article above, some units want to keep the old Promise. The leaders are trying to be reasonable by giving their girls the option of the two promises but this will go against one of the five Girlguiding essentials – ‘To commit to a common standard’. The Promise has always been that ‘THE’ Promise, there can only be one. The only change that had ever been allowed was to replace the word ‘God’ with their faith’s own word for God e.g. ‘Allah’. But every member makes the same Promise, so this pick and choose option would not be supported.

Christian organisations have also criticised the move:

God and country ditched in Guides and Brownies’ promise

Christians ‘should applaud’ Girl Guide unit over religious Promise stance

Girl Guides ‘should not be allowed to use church premises’

Though I do not understand their judgement. It seems that Christian organisations had the misbelief that Girlguiding was also a Christian organisation  but as quoted from the ‘Outcome of the Promise Consultation FAQ’:

Do these changes mean that Girlguiding is no longer a Christian organisation?
Girlguiding is not and never has been a Christian organisation. Girlguiding is open to all girls and adults, whether they follow a specific religion or not. Spiritual development is part of the Girlguiding programme, but this is not limited to one or any specific religion, or indeed any religion.’

Outcome of the Promise Consultation FAQs – For those of you who may have other questions

So where does this leave leaders who wish to continue with the old promise? They have the choice to embrace the new Promise and can continue using the same Promise activities they have always used under the new wording or they can disband as a Girlguiding unit and rebuild their own organisation. As a blunt statement that sounds negative but if Girlguiding is not what they believed it was then why not start something new?

I feel this is just the start of a much longer article but I will break down my thoughts into some further posts. I would like to give my findings on how Girlguiding is perceived from the outside and I would like to go over some of the above articles in more detail to show the misconceptions of Girlguiding. Plus a final post about the joys I have had through Girlguiding and some of the amazing moments I have shared with the girls, because despite all the backlash and misconceptions we mustn’t forget what Girlguiding is really all about.

Our First Center Parcs Adventure

I was going to call this ‘Our Center Parcs Adventure’ but as we already envision a sequel to this Winter Wonderland trip I’d better make this post title less generic to distinguish against next year’s.

This post is also be an ambitious one as I try to capture our entire trip in one hit. I started this post on the Friday evening of our return so that all the memories were fresh. However I decided as I wrote to go into more detail on some activities in separate follow up posts, but still ambitious in my eyes!

And so I start the tale with our arrival. We are a mere 1 and a half hours from Elveden so arrived around 11am on Monday morning. The postcode Center Parcs gave for Satnav users sent us straight past the gates. “Look, it says Center Parcs there,” a welcoming sign with the well known logo covered in fake snow. James flies past listening to sally Satnav, “It says it is a little further up, it should be just….here…ah.” We circle around and second time lucky make it into the gates.

We were ready with our written up registration form, I was sure I’d done this online but didn’t want to be caught out. Along the motorway as I filled this in I realised I had no idea of James’ car’s registration number and neither did James. So as we queued in our car at the arrival lodge I jumper out to take note. With the form in hand we pulled up to the happiest employee on Earth to find we had done it all online. Being in the hotel we were advised to park up close to the bottom on the car park and it would only be a short walk.

Our first morning consisted of table tennis, our home made cheese sandwiches, a debate over paintball and the eventual booking of it, and a wander around the village. I came across this yellow tree which mesmerised me, it stood out amongst all the green and brown, James thought I was crazy but I needed a picture of it.

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At 2.40pm we thought we’d chance by the hotel to see if our room was ready. Lucky for us it was and after only a morning walking around in the fresh, forest air we were knackered!

We had an early dinner at Huck’s, an all American burger bar. Early dinner means surrounded by children, and being school term time the majority of kids were toddlers. We still managed to enjoy our meal though, most of it, I loved the Portobello Mushroom Sandwich but James was disappointed with the Classic Burger. I also tried a great Jam based cocktail. Being referred to as a Jam Jar cocktail I was disappointed to see it come up in a regular tumbler but could taste the strawberry jam all the same.

By night you get to experience the beautiful Christmas lights. These twinkle lights were scattered around the park with many small displays in hotspot location like this one outside Starbucks;

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“Which Starbucks?” You wouldn’t sound stupid to ask. There is one in the sports plaza, one by the swimming pool but this one is by the lake. If we missed any Starbucks please let us know!

Day two began our pre planned activities. We had Field Archery booked for 2.30pm so started the day at the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. This amazing indoor water park consists of a wave pool, three varied water slides, hot whirlpools, a cold plunge pool, water rapids and a full theme park style water ride with vertical drop and high speed. The water ride is the same as what you would get in Florida but my favourite was the rapids. You had to brave the outdoors to get to them and if a bunch of people were all at it at the same time it could get ugly but aside from that this super fast super bumpy experience was so much fun.

With damp hair and cold skin we had a wander around the site after swimming and took on my biggest challenge of the week – a hot drink! I am not a hot drink drinker. “Even hot chocolate?” I hear my colleagues ask each time a new person becomes aware of this shocking revelation. Well, this Tuesday I attempted a hot chocolate. James was more excited than I was. It took close to an hour for me to drink it. It was too hot at first but the cream on top did help lure me into it.

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For lunch we headed back to the hotel room and devoured our sandwiches before heading out again for Field Archery. This version of Archery uses 3d targets that are shaped like animals which vary in size and distance. I think I’ll go into the activities in more detail in individual posts but I’ll say here that Field Archery was fantastic even for complete beginners like myself. In our group of 7 I scored the lowest but it didn’t matter I just wanted to shoot the arrows. I got one target in the kill zone too so I was happy with that one!

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For dinner we had the Indian Restaurant Ranjinda Pradesh. This was probably the least welcoming of the restaurants and was aimed more at the adults. I felt out of place in my hoodie with my hair in a scruffy ponytail but being at Center Parcs how could you look any different? (Except by using the Aqua Sana which I’m sure you can guess isn’t a place you’ll be finding me!) We had our standard Indian order, Korma for me and Tikka for James with rice and naan, after poppadums and a platter of starters. This happened to be a set menu for £20.95 per person including a drink- a great deal – but as we hadn’t specified that we had ordered these same items under the offer we were charged £10 extra. This was corrected but we were made to feel we had mislead them when all we had done was order the food on the offer that other people would receive at the cheaper rate. Anyway…

Day Three we had a lazy morning getting to the Segways for 11am. I was slightly nervous of this as I had a bad experience with Quad Bikes as a child. Not that I was hurt or anything, I was just so rubbish that the instructor had to help me around and I was so embarrassed. James reminded me I now drive a car. So off to the Segways we go! These were very easy to master and very strange to ride. It is almost natural in a way that it just took the slightest lean forward and backward to control them. We were kitted out in very fetching helmets, elbow pads, knee pads and orange high visibility jackets before parading around the forest to the confusion of many toddlers. The max speed was 8mph so we couldn’t really race but I felt adequate that I could keep up with the instructor. Going up and down slopes was the biggest challenge on these monsters and this was mastered by the end of the session.

We had badminton in the afternoon. One thing we learnt, which we felt we already knew but didn’t want to risk, was that you do not need to book badminton or table tennis in advance. Just turn up. The bookings people were fine with us adjusting the time of our session and we had a sweaty 45 minutes playing badminton. By playing badminton I mean myself whopping James’ backside at badminton. I used to play a lot with my friends so this is probably one of my best sports. It was only fair I beat James as he is a pro when it comes to table tennis. Notice I avoided table tennis altogether on this blog so far?

Before dinner we headed down to the firework display by the lake. It was a great show using some lovely Christmassy music. I’ll admit fireworks aren’t really my thing but I’ve seen a lot in the last few years and this was a good show.

We couldn’t get a seat in Bella Italia after that so we headed next door to Café Rouge. This is a restaurant I wouldn’t usually go for but was pleasantly surprised with my garlic and thyme chicken (when I wasn’t throwing all my chips over the table, of course). Over dinner we discussed our plans for the next day and got into the Center Parcs spirit – we had put together an itinerary.

10:30am – Paintball. This was a lot more fun than I expected. Though my aim was rubbish I wasn’t afraid by the end to go charging into the middle of the battlefield, full post coming soon.

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1:00pm Table Tennis. This hour session really showed James’ skills. We had a few games, all won by my pro boyfriend, but we were just having a laugh with it by the end.

2:30pm Bauble Painting. This was something we had read about before arriving but was unsure how it would work and if it would be a room full of babies. The pottery painting studio is located within the hotel so we passed by on several occasions and found a range of people taking part. While there were plenty of children colouring in animal models there was also mothers and daughters, boyfriends and girlfriends and parties of  8 plus adults all working away on designing and painting so we decided that this would be a great way to add to our bauble collection. You pay a standard fee of £5 for use of paints and then choose what you want to paint for additional cost. My bauble was based on the forest and I turned the yellow tree from earlier this week into a Christmas Tree. James went for designs of holly, a cracker and a tree with a very cute (I mean manly) Father Christmas and reindeer flying in the distance.

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4:00pm Swimming and Water Slides. Another dose of indoor watery fun.

6:00pm Time for a drink at the bar.

7:00pm Bella Italia. After being turned away the night before we got our table booked and had the best meal of the week. Antipasti to start, a Calzone each and a chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream on top to finish. Yummy Yum.

Which leads onto Friday, and the finale of our Winter Wonderland adventure. We started the day with another dip into the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. We took several turns on the ride in the hope of a good photo (and ending the ride with James facing forwards) but at a cost of £8 we were against buying the souvenir.

For lunch we had Starbucks, a cold drink for me and we both had a Panini and cake. This was followed by collecting our finished Baubles and a final wander around the village. We took the opportunity to go camera happy and here are a few of the sights we saw.

The reindeer, while a beautiful animal we weren’t too impressed with the girl who was due to give a talk about the creature. “We normally do a talk at 2pm but… well…its just you two…so… but if you have any specific questions I can answer them…” Not exactly as advertised.

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There were ducks. Our neighbours would feed them their leftover bread every morning so we would watch as an army of ducks would waddle past. At the duck pond the ducks are very happy to see humans despite us not having any bread ourselves. I was a bit freaked at them charging at us, but to prove I was there here is a duck:

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We also saw lots of squirrels. On the last day we tried to get lots of photos but this required being quiet and moving slowly. We caught a couple of nice close ups. Next year we will have a competition to see who can take the most squirrel photos!

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There was also a lot of beautiful winter decorations. My favourite photo, amongst the pretty lights and festive greenery, was the Nativity with the Water Ride in the background. The true meaning of Christmas.

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And it wouldn’t be a British holiday with a trip to a cold, miserable beach. While it was deserted by the humans it was nice to see the ducks enjoying the sand between their webbed feet.

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We left the village at 2:30pm and while we were sad to leave we felt content with our adventure. Especially as we spent the journey home planning our return visit. Paintball and Archery are a must, more table tennis and badminton sessions, and a full week planned itinerary!