Monthly Archives: September 2013

24th February 2013 – No.70: Become a Girlguiding Leader

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Lou (Purple Bird) and me (Blue Bird)

Lou (Purple Bird) and me (Blue Bird)

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a Brownie. My mother was a Brownie and my grandmother was a Brown Owl. My mother always said that when I was old enough I could join Brownies but when I actually turned 7, she said I couldn’t. We couldn’t afford for both myself and my twin sister to go and it wouldn’t be fair for one of us to go and not the other.

When I grew up and had my daughter, I pictured her being a part of Girlguiding. It’s a lovely way for girls to socialise and to learn new skills. Because of her diagnosis of autism, her father and I enrolled her in a school for children with autism and/or speech and language disorders. It became even more important to me that she learn how to socialise with non-autistic children, since the majority of people she meets in her life will not have ASD.  I put her on the waiting list for Rainbows, which is Girlguiding for 5-7 year-olds.

When Emiko turned 5, she joined the 15th St.Leonard’s Rainbows, run by my friend Lou. I spent several weeks sitting at the side of hall observing her sessions, during which time I slowly reached the conclusion that I still wanted to be part of Girlguiding, even as an adult. So, I volunteered to be a Leader, adding it to my list. I handed in my application, completed my CRB check, bought my t-shirt and picked out my Rainbow name. All the Leaders take on a nickname for the kids to call them by; in my unit there is: Purple Bird and Orange Bird (Adult Leaders) and Piglet and Tigger (Young Leaders). I decided to be Blue Bird.

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Purple Bird, Me, Woodpecker (Brownie Young Leader) and Piglet

To become a full Leader, you must complete a qualification, although you are referred to as Leader even before you have finished it, as long as you have made your Promise. Whenever anyone joins Girlguiding and on various other occasions, you make a Promise. The wording differs slightly for Rainbows, Brownies, Guides, Senior Section and Leaders but essentially carries the same meaning.

I made my Promise on the 24th of February 2013, four days after my 25th birthday, on World Thinking Day, a day when different units of the local area come together and participate in various fun activities. At the end of the event, everyone remakes their Promise together and anyone who is making it for the first time comes to the front of the group and says it before everyone. There was another woman making her Promise, so we stood and recited it together. When I joined, the Promise was:

I promise that I will do my best to love my God, to serve the Queen and my country, to help other people and to keep the Guide Law.

Although now the promise is:

I promise that I will 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.

Having completed my promise, I received my necker (triangular scarf), woggle (ring to hold ends of scarf together) and tabard (thing you pin badges on).  I should have got a promise badge too (to show that I had done it) but I had to wait a bit for that because the guide shop had run out and were ordering more in.

Now, in September 2013, I have been involved in Girlguiding for a year. I have nearly finished the qualification. Recently, I started helping in our Brownie unit too, where I am called Sunflower. Next year Emiko will move up to this unit and she can’t wait to be a Brownie. She is fourth generation Girlguiding (even though she was the third of us to join, me being the last) and she loves it. We both do. I may not have got to experience guiding as a child but I get to experience it with my child and that is so much better.

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05th October 2012 – No.23: Ride a Camel

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Linda the Camel

Linda the Camel

My October visit to Fethiye in Turkey had originally been planned so I could attend my long-time (since we were 10 actually) friend Jess’s wedding to her fiancé. Unfortunately this event was then postponed due to the complexities of inter-continental marriage laws; but since I already had my plane ticket I came out to visit them anyway for four days. While I was in Fethiye, I bought a beautiful book to use as a diary. It is directly from this diary that I take the story of how I crossed ‘Ride a Camel’ off my list.
05/10/12 – Cuma (Friday)
This morning the first thing that happened was that I discovered a rather large mosquito bite on my elbow. Thankfully it isn’t itching. I went for breakfast at around 9:30 and actually met another guest of the hotel (I was beginning to think I was the only one!) He is from Holland (we didn’t exchange names) and is here on business. We had a rather nice conversation over breakfast, although I suspect I did the majority of the talking.
Breakfast consisted of melon, cucumber, olives (none of which I like) tomatoes, boiled egg, bread, cheese, butter, jam and tea (English, black) all of which I do. Then I went to find Jess, who wasn’t quite awake yet, so I took her dog Sosis (Sausage) for his morning walk while she sorted herself out. Once she was ready we went to get some more money out and exchange it as most of the cash I had on me went on the hotel (£60 for five nights is very reasonable though).
Jess bought some chicken and we made a chicken curry for Jess’s fiancé, who was staying behind to work (he sells tours and excursions and does jeep safari with the tourists, who all call him Captain Jack Sparrow, to whom he bears some resemblance). Lunch was dolma (stuffed cabbage leaves) with yogurt, made by Jess’s fiancé’s mum, very nice. Then we caught the Dolmuş (bus) up to Kaya village where the ghost town and camels can be found.  The camels were lying down at first so I didn’t actually realise how big they are compared to me. Jess mounted her camel first and it seemed quite bad-tempered about it, so I was mildly apprehensive about mounting mine. Fortunately mine was much more docile.

Me on Molly

Me on Molly

I have to say being on a camel when it stands up is a very strange experience, it lurches up at the back end first and then the front and when standing they are very tall, at least from the perspective of a person such as myself who has never ridden an animal of any sort before. The camel man told us that Jess’s camel is called Linda and mine is Molly, although why they don’t have Turkish names is a mystery to me. He hitched Molly to the back of Linda’s saddle so she could follow and put a pink beaded muzzle on her so she wouldn’t bite Linda.

Jess on Linda

Jess on Linda

Once we were all ready the camel man led Linda off at a sedate pace, through the winding paths of Kaya village (the inhabited parts and some of the ruins) and the surrounding farms. There seemed to be an awful lot of goats. Passing through some of the narrower paths, a problem became immediately apparent in that being high up on a camel puts you in the way of overhanging tree branches which you then have to dodge or move so as not to get smacked in the face, and also bushes and brambles which the camel happily ploughs through without the slightest regard for the fact that your legs and bare feet (I was wearing flip-flops) are trailing through them.
I kept wondering how people manage to ride such long distances on them in the desert, for while it was a pleasurable and very entertaining experience after a while I imagine it would be rather uncomfortable. The thought also crossed my mind that it would be quite easy for the camel to throw me if it really wanted to, a thought reinforced when it came time to dismount. Again, Jess went first. Then camel man instructed her to hold on and lean back, at which point, Linda dropped to her knees so forcefully that Jess was nearly hurled from the saddle and only the camel man catching her saved her from faceplanting in the dirt.

Me on Molly

Me on Molly

Having learned from Jess, I leaned well back and was therefore able to dismount with some measure of grace. We paid the camel man, then afterwards Jess and I bought Çay (Turkish tea) and pancakes at the village, seating ourselves on one of the raised wooden platforms strewn with cushions that are dotted around the restaurant. Jess did tell me what the Turkish word for them is but I forgot it. We also shared a drink called Ayran which is a frothy, watery salted yogurt (I think). It sounds disgusting but tastes ok; I imagine it’s an acquired taste.
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There ends the extract; the diary entry does continue for the remainder of the day but none of that is relevant to the camel-riding experience. I had a thoroughly enjoyable adventure and I got to share it with one of my best friends, which is always better.

22nd of July 2012 – No.27a: Get One or More Guinness World Records (Pirate Day)

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In 2011, our record was beaten by Penzance, Cornwall, with 8,734 pirates. It was too late for us to do anything about it that year but we were all determined to get our record back. People from far around pledged their support. So in 2012, Hastings once again prepared to be a pirate town. Earlier in the year, an attempt at the record had been made by a group of people in North Carolina which, sadly for them, was unsuccessful. We were optimistic. http://www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/news/avast-me-hearties-pirate-day-festivities-under-way-1-5016635

On the 22nd of July, Emiko and I once again dressed up, and headed into town to find our friends. It soon became apparent that the world and his wife were out for the day, swashbuckling buccaneers enjoying the glorious sunshine. The area we had used at the last record attempt was too small, so the pirates of Hastings were assembling on the beach. We met up with Barrie, Emiko’s father and a little while later were joined by my fiance Elliot, who was dressed in the most ninja-like pirate costume he could pull together, because he thinks ninjas are better than pirates.

My fiance, Emiko and me waiting while they counted all the pirates.

My fiance Elliot, Emiko and me waiting while they counted all the pirates.

It was apparent to everyone even before the total had been announced that we had beaten the record. While we’d been busy taking photos and videos and marvelling at the outfits, the number of people on the beach had swelled immensely.  We could no longer hear the band over the sounds of people’s voices and beneath the midday July sun we wilted in the packed crowd. It was a relief to everyone when silence was called for and the results were announced -we’d smashed the record! A staggering 14,231 Pirates had gathered in Hastings, winning us back our title, which to my knowledge, we still hold to this day.

http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records-4000/largest-gathering-of-pirates/

http://www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/news/local/hastings-smashes-world-record-on-pirate-day-snatching-crown-back-from-penzance-1-4084532

My friends and me Pirate Day 2013, (not a record attempt, because we still hold it)

Sue, Lou and me Pirate Day 2013, (not a record attempt, because we still hold it)

Oh, yes and on the 18th July 2015, I took part in the successful attempt to break the Guinness World Record for ‘Largest Number of People doing the Charleston’previous record 319 dancers (Australia), our record 503 dancers (Bexhill, East Sussex, UK), making it my third group World Record. Although, I believe it was subsequently broken in October of 2015 by a group in London with 975 dancers. I’m still trying to think what to do for a solo World Record.

23rd March 2012 – No.33: Have a Go at Falconry

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My fiance Elliot’s birthday was coming up and I wanted to get him something a bit unusual. Elliot is very hard to buy gifts for because he doesn’t really like getting presents. What he does like, is animals. Elliot loves animals of all kinds and I thought, hey……falconry! I can do two things here; give Elliot an experience he’ll enjoy every time he remembers it and cross something off my list at the same time. So I started researching falconry experience days online. The best one I could find locally was at Knockhatch Adventure Park in Polegate; for £180 the two of us could have an all-day one-on-one with the falconers. We would get to handle a variety of different birds and even fly them.

On the day of the experience, the 23rd of March 2012, Elliot and I got on a train to Polegate. We were both quite excited and I was happy that Elliot liked his gift. At Polegate station, we got a taxi to Knockhatch Adventure Park. Once there, we told the man at the front desk what we were there for and he went to fetch the people running our day.

Elliot holding an Owl

Elliot holding an Owl

There were two falconers, a man and a woman. They introduced themselves as J and N and started by showing us around the area of the park where the birds were kept. We saw kestrels, hawks, owls, falcons, vultures, parrots and a whole host of others. As we walked they told us all about them; what they ate, how they stayed hydrated (by bathing in water), where each bird was from and all sorts of interesting facts. Finally, they equipped us with tough leather gauntlets and after some advice on what to do, what not to do and how dangerous the birds could actually be (they can cause major damage with their talons and beaks), we walked out into the training ground and came face to face with the first bird we would hold.  N took Elliot to one side of the field and I stayed on the other with J and the falcon. N told Elliot to raise his arm and falcon flew to it. J told me to do the same thing and the falcon flew back to me. We took it in turns to do this a few times while N and J told us about how falcons hunt and fly and how they look after them. Then N gave Elliot a fake rabbit on a string and told him to run with it as fast as he could to see if he could outrun the falcon. He gave it a pretty good go but the falcon swooped after him and pounced on the ‘rabbit’. It was amazing to watch. After that we held a variety of owls and got them to fly between posts and each other.

Elliot and I holding Harris hawks.

Elliot and I holding Harris hawks.

Next, we went on a Hawk Walk. We each were given a Harris hawk to hold and we took them for a walk in the woods. N and J explained that the hawks considered that it was our job to flush out prey as we were part of the hunting pack, so we followed their lead in approaching potential hiding places. N said there probably wouldn’t be any prey as they would know the birds used the area to hunt but we should look like we were doing our bit anyway as the hawks would get cross if we shirked. Occasionally our birds would respectively return to us as if reporting their progress. The hawk I had didn’t like men and would only come to me or N. She stayed well clear of Elliot, who seemed perfectly content with his own hawk. Lunchtime arrived so we returned the birds and headed off to the barn to get our lunch. Our meal was included in the price of the experience. While we ate, we chatted about our day so far and looked over our pictures and videos. Following lunch, we were invited to the lunchtime show done by N and J, which they did every day for visitors at the park. The show involved some birds we’d worked with, others we hadn’t and animals such as polecats and meerkats. Once the show was done, we helped N and J return the animals to their homes and even got to play with the ferrets and polecats. Meerkats, however are fiercely territorial (which is why they don’t make good pets) albeit very social towards members of their own group. We were not members of their group, so N and J put the meerkats away themselves. N and J take them home at night and they sit on the sofa together and watch TV. Apparently the meerkats really like watching ‘Love Actually’ and will sit and hug each other while they watch.

Me with a Turkey Vulture.

Me with a Turkey Vulture.

In the afternoon, we helped N and J exercise a few more of the birds, including a Turkey vulture, which looked enormous on my arm but considerably smaller on Elliot’s. The whole time we’d been calling the birds to us, N and J had been giving the birds small pieces of meat to reward them. I wanted to try, so I asked N if I could. She looked a little surprised and told me most people don’t want to handle the raw meat (which was little bits of a chick) but I could if I wanted to. She showed me how to discreetly remove the meat from the pouch and slip it into my gloved hand without the bird seeing (otherwise it might go for my unprotected hand looking for food). Elliot wanted to try too and soon we were both calling and rewarding the birds without assistance. N and J then told us we had worked well enough with the birds to do something they don’t let everyone do; take a falcon through its exercises all by ourselves. We attached pouches of dead chick to our waists and took the falcon out on the field. Working together, we lured him from post to post and between ourselves while N and J watched from a distance. It felt amazing to have even that brief connection between us and the bird, and humbling to witness the beauty and majesty of the falcon as he took flight at our request.

When we were done, N and J told us they had apprentices who came every week who didn’t do as well as we’d just done, which was a huge compliment and the cherry on the cake of an incredible day. It was the first thing I’d ever done off my list with Elliot and that made it even more special. The memories and the photos I have of Elliot’s face lighting up with joy will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Elliot with an owl and me with an American kestrel.

Elliot with an owl and me with an American kestrel.

12th January 2012 – No.21: Start Morris Dancing Again

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For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a morris dancer. According to my Mother I was two. That is when she first took me to Hastings Jack-in-the-Green, a yearly celebration of the beginning of summer, which attracts morris dancers from all over England and occasionally other places in the world. When I saw the morris dancers, I said “Lizzie dance!” and never looked back.

My Mother and I dancing 'La Moresque'

My Mother and I dancing ‘La Moresque’

In Hastings, none of the sides allow dancers under the age of fourteen, so I had to wait twelve years to join. At the time I started dancing, there were actually several Hastings sides, Mad Jack’s Men, Mad Jack’s Women and Daisy Roots. The summer I turned fourteen, I joined Daisy Roots, a women’s border morris side. Border morris is a style from the Welsh border and is typified by the wearing of rag coats and exuberant, wild dancing. When I was fifteen, Daisy Roots separated in two sides, Oojah Kapivvy (Border morris) and Hannah’s Cat, which is Cotswold morris, a style from the Cotswolds typified by the wearing of waistcoats and elegant, precise dancing. I thus became one of the founder members of Hannah’s Cat. At sixteen, I left my morris side to focus on my G.C.S.E’s. I meant to go back after my A-level’s but when I got pregnant it became much harder to go back because I couldn’t afford a babysitter on a regular basis. Still, I made it my goal to return someday.

Dancing 'Poor Fiddler' at Hasting's Castle.

Dancing ‘Poor Fiddler’ at Hasting’s Castle.

After a few years, Barrie, my daughter’s father became in a position to have Emiko overnight on his days, rather than coming to my house to see her. This meant my Thursday nights were now free, so I arranged rejoin Hannah’s Cat in the January  of 2012. It had been seven years since I last danced and I had forgotten most of the dances and missed the introduction of some new ones. There were members I had never met and I was now the second youngest member of the side instead of the youngest. It took me about three months to catch up with everything but before long I felt as if I had never left. I got my waistcoat, in our signature colours of pink and purple and began dancing out with the side at various events. At the 2012 Jack-in-the-Green, I danced Poor Fiddler, my favourite dance, on the stage at the Castle. When the Olympic torch came through Hastings, the last bearer of the torch was the husband of our foreman ( who teaches the dances) and we escorted him as a morris guard of honour to the torch’s final stop. We danced in many places for many occasions, in all sorts of weather (even snow).

Being part of a morris side is a big part of me; a long-held dream and a love for the national, traditional dance of my country. We morris folk are a certain breed that comes from all walks of life to share our enjoyment of something that resides deep in our bones.

Hannah's Cat the day the Olympic torch came to Hastings. the child is my daughter Emiko and the lady on the far right of the photo is my Mother.

Hannah’s Cat the day the Olympic torch came to Hastings. the child is my daughter Emiko and the lady on the far right of the photo is my Mother.