St Lucia celebrations

Last year I had a surprise visit from the Rover scouts. This year I had offered to drive the Challengers, but as it turned out my services weren't needed. Exept for some motherly support, as my oldest son had been chosen to act as the focus festivities: St Lucia. This isn't at all strange accually, if you know anything about the origins of the festivities: Before religious groups introduced the Light Maiden into the earlier heathen traditions (that were rather wild and boisterous) the first Catholic convent schools used to dress one of the school boys up as an angel at the end of the autumn term choir concert. When I arrived at the scout hut there was a flurry of activity: The Christmas tree was finishing his costume in one corner, Rudolf was improvising on his guitar, the Pressie was decorating her costume. I got the full report today at the meeting (Challengers challenge silly things like end of term). After a couple of visits in the cold winter's night they had stopped for a pizza break. Unfortunately, the thermos flask with the non-alcoholic sweet mulled wine had leaked all over the Christmas tree, who got rather sticky, so a slight remediation was needed before the group got back into the two cars and continued their tour around the town and the houses of the group's leaders. At one house the inhabitants were very slow waking up, or perhaps the singing wasn't loud enough, but the neighbours apparently were woken up and curiously watched from their window. At 2 am they came past our house, still looking fresh. The dog found them very interesting, but returned inside after having had a quick sniff. We got to enjoy four more or less traditional carols before they turned to go home and to bed. We enjoyed it enourmously, and I can imagine that they are more tired than me.

Sorry about the poor quality of the clip. Wasn't sure in what format to save it... But I hope you get the picture ;-)


End of term

Tonight the group celebrated end of term by a torch lit walk from the town centre to the scout hut, were Markus, our Scout master, held a lovely speach where he summed up the year. It has been a trying year in some respect, having to deal with the scout hut being vandalised almost every week periodically. But it has also been an inspiring year, working towards our centinary, landing the deal to arrange next year's major scouting event in Sweden, new leaders aboard, new scouts of all ages...

We're still the biggest and most prosperous group in the district, although in the second smallest town. Albeit that it's a small district, only seven groups, but still.

Markus concluded his speech by saying how proud he is to be apart of the group, and how proud he is to be a part of the world wide community of scouting. It was truly awesome, standing there in the dark winter's night, lit up by carosene lamps with the International Peace Light in them, and fires, listening to the scouts giving their Promise, some for the first time.

After the ceremony the leaders, the Challengers and the Rovers gathered for a coffee, chat and lottery drawing. The prizes were left over from the market the other week and consisted of mainly sweets. The takings went towards the painting and decorating of our cottage in the woods that the Rovers are undertaking. They've been sponsored with paint from Beranders Färg, a local paint shop, who has donated 20 litres of paint. So the rooms in the cottage has changed from being seventies algy green, murky brown and greyish-not-sure-if-it's-dirt-or-design to fire engine red, basil green and all sorts of cheerful colours!

Everyone at the meeting got to by raffle tickets, and everybody won, at least something. The Rover mascout, Efraim, was really lucky, winning on all seven of his tickets! I'm sure he'll share the takings with his friends, the Rovers. They deserve it! Efraim, the Rover mascout

All in all, it's been a lovely scouting year, and the next will be challenging but even better!


Industrious scouts

Funding is always an issue as it seems you can never get enough money. Some scouts in Scania applied for funding from the EU Offices and got a grant for developing the sustainable thinking around their activities. They will also arrange a "green" camp this summer.
For those of you who have a translation tool on your computer you can read the article here.


Peace Light

The Peace Light reached Sweden on November 25th, but noone from the group was able to meet it, but today we had a special delivery: Gjermund, the treasurer from Varberg, drove down with the flame and I met him in an unceremonial parking lot.

It is always breathtaking recieving the Peace Light. This little flickering flame, that is said to have been kept alive for thousands of years in the Birth Church in Bethlehem, that has travelled time and time around the world in the caring, careful hands of scouts and others.

I'm not a religious person, and the Peace Light is not formost a religious symbol, but a wish for peace among all men - like you can accidentally blow out a flame by treating it carelessly, friendship can die; like you accidentally can loose controle of the flame and it will destroy all in its way, your actions and opinions can have disasterous effects on the world and the people around you. Therefor, I enjoy sheltering the flame, caring for it and sharing it with all around me who are ready to care for it too.


Centinary emblem

Marcus Agbrant, the new DC as it happens, has just finished the design for the Centinary emblem. It will be printed on our stationary and made into badges, and hopefully other collectable items too.

Our chairman finished his latest e-mail with "... Falkenberg Scout group, something I'm very proud of being a part of." So am I.

Ps. Nick, I'll send you one when they're done


In Santa's kitchen

The Challengers have been promised their own stall on the first of Advent market in town. The group has been there for ... as long as can be remembered, selling tombola tickets, sweets and hot dogs for the group. The Challengers are going to sell x-mas cakes and biscuits and all the money will go the the Challengers's own account, to finance among other things the Great Bath Tub Race in April.

So, at 11 on the Saturday everyone got together with ingredience donated by helpful parents and grandparents, to practice their baking skills under the supervision of Christian and myself. Hard toffee, butter fudge, sweet Lucia buns, swiss rolls.... The scouts worked extremely hard.

Oops! Not everything went according to plan.

I left them at seven in the evening. After that they were going to wrap everything nicely and decide on the prizing. And then play the X-box and watch a couple of films, the standard Challenger sleepover activities :-)
Not the common uniform, but very stylish!


Summer adventure

I just filled in my oldest son's application for this comming year's big adventure: Explorer Belt. For three weeks he and one of his scout friends are going to explore Italy. For about 10 days they will walk about a hundred miles in unknown terratory, with a limmited budget, having to rely on their wits and their good manners to get shelter for the night. Then they will travel around the country together with a larger group, mostly by bus or public transport. Neither of them know any Italian. Yet. But perhaps this will be an incentive and motivation to start learning a language again.

Both of them are studying at 6th form, both specializing in Drama. They're one year apart, Victor being the older of the two, but Ida the one who has the most experience. She went to Island to a scout experience on her own initiative when she was 15, not knowing any one in the group. Last summer she took part in a three week hike, in part on a raft on a big river. I'm happy that they've chosen to team up, knowing that Victor will be in good hands.

Now the most important part of the project will start: The financing! The experience cost quite a bit, and us parents agree that they will have to get some of the money together by working. But they are both inventive, industrious and I am sure that they will have great fun getting the funds together.

I'm so greatful that my children are a part of a movement, that enables people of all ages to grow and experience adventure in this way! I wish that everyone really knew what possibilities lie in scouting and were able to participate!


National conferrens of the Swedish Scout Association

At the last minute I decided not to go after all and save my energy for the Christmas market weekend next weekend. My son and his friends from the Challengers went along and had great fun.
On Friday evening they hung around the Challenger's café and mingled with young scouts from all over Sweden.

On the Saturday they looked at the exhibition and took part in a compitition where among other things Geocaching and counting lampposts on the biggests shopping street in Gothenburg. They took part in a games swopping: writing down the intruction of their favourite games and playing new ones, they took part in a seminar discussing what is scouting. The team won second prize and were awarded lime green stainless steel thermos flasks.

In the evening there was a great banquet with an Italian buffet. All the delegates and exhibitors were there. The banquet finished with the scout band Simply (Scouting) playing and everyone dancing.

This morning they had a look at the democratic negotiations, took a while on the town and then caught the train back.

The group also promoted next year's meeting in Falkenberg, which have grown from a meeting for the Scout Association with 300-500 participants to a new Scout Forum with an expected 800 from all the Swedish associations!


Training weekend 2009

Last year saw the district's first Training Weekend. Then three people tried the first BASE training course. We were the first District Training Team that ran the course. Although not many participated, we believed in the concept of running a whole weekend, with a smorgardsboard of training courses.
Annica explaining the importance of the Scout's code of conduct, yellow card, our social responsablility for children's wellfare and what to do in a crisis situation.

This second annual training weekend took place in Varberg's scout hut. It's an absolutely lovely place, at the end of a birch wood planted at the turn of the last century for the leisure of the people of this little coastal town. In the wood is also planted some rarer trees, which is marked out with plaques, little paths crisscross the airy forrest floor and larger, tarmaced paths make the beautiful wood accessible for everyone.

Your scribbler demonstrating the organisation of the scout movement locally, nationally and internationally.

The hut is more of a chalet. In it's hayday it must have been a wonder of luxury! The Cub's den in the attic has 9 little cubbyholes along the wall for the sixes to hide away in and at least 40 sq. meters of open floor, there are dens for at least 20 scout patroles on the bottom floor (which are now mostly used for storage, as the group is considerably smaller now than in the late 50's), and in the boy's toilet the remains of an urinal with an optic flushing system, which started when someone (taller than 110 cm) walked through the door. Of course it has been painted and decorated during the years, but all renovation has been very lovingly and carefully done, which has left so much of the old charm and atmosphere.

The Safe Outdoors group cooked lunch for all on the Sunday. A yummy noodle wok made on a giant murrikka, the Same frying pan.

We ran the weekend on a drop-in basis, as the new courses are built on modules that you can collect. On the Saturday we had 12 participants in the workshops, most from Varberg, which could be considered a growth from last year with about 400%! As last year we had a chef from Swedish Gilwell on loan, who held a workshop on outdoor baking and also cooked our evening meal, that was followed by the Camp fire workshop participants holding a great camp fire in the pouring rain. Next year we will be in Falkenberg, my home town, and our aim is to do BASE, SCOUT1 (next step for leaders) and PATROLE1 (training for scouts age 12-16) + lots of fun workshops!

Your humble narrator learning to do rope tricks, overseen by Stefan, who confesses himself to be more of a pine-cone-and-twig-kind-of-guy than a sailor.

All in all the weekend was a great success! Thanks to everyone who helped make it so, by just being their lovely selves! This time photos are taken by Thomas Forsman, which means that I am in some of the pictures.


Outdoor Cooking Challange

How many 15 to 17-year-olds cook comfortably at home? How many 15 to17-year-olds cook confidently with out a cookery book? It was time for the Outdoor Food Challenge.

It gets very dark very quickly at this latitude at this time of year. At five PM it was already very dark when the Challengers gathered. After the opening ceremony the Challengers showed eachother the secret ingredience that they brought. There were apples, chocolate, a few variaties of pasta, sweet corn and salty biscuits. And on top of that, there was a whole table with other ingredience to choose from.

The task was to present a three course meal in 60 minutes; to work together to decide the menu, the way of cooking and divide the labour.

After about 10 minutes of negotiating, weighing the pros and cons of each way of cooking, and then finally deciding on using the Trangias. The other options were murrikka, the Laplandian, three-legged fryingpan, and a reflector oven.

The scouts worked focused and efficantly, but got slightly stressed as the pasta wasn't completely done when the time was up, and the starter was still to be put on the plates, but they did really well!

The starter was a cordon bleu style dish with a mushroom and a strand of asparagus, fried in garlic butter, served with warmed up fetta.

Chef is laying her last hands on the main course.

We had laid a table with a white (paper) cloth and candles.

The main course was Spaghetti Carbonara with Crème Fraische.

And for dessert: Chocolate dipped apple vedges.

Except for all the washing up, it was a brilliant evening, though Alice was slightly cold. The meeting ran over almost an hour, but nobody minded.


Scouting at Halloween

As you might remember a while ago I wrote about the difficulty in letting scouts be independent. This weekend the Falcons of Falkenberg finally hosted the Halloween party they had planned for weeks. The setting was pretty horror film: A group of happy youngsters arriving at a small cottage in the middle of nowhere for a party, decorating the place with jack-o-lanterns, skulls and ghosts; dressing up as zombies, squirting fake blood every where; A car that seemed to have given up the ghost on parking; A little jet black cat showing up from nowhere, miauing desperately, trying to crash the party...

I left the scouts to their own devices, worrying about the state of the car: If I were to be the responsible adult with a car, ICE, I thought it might be an idea to have a functioning one. There seemed to be a hose leaking in the cooling system, and Marie was going to arrive at six anyway, to keep me company over night.

The little black cat showed up out of nowhere when I was sitting outside on the stoop, having lunch. I had bought some ready made Swedish dolmas in gravy that I had heated in the microwave oven. The cat almost threw herself into the gravy, crying with hunger! It's so sad, how some people get a kitten for the summer holiday, and then, when the season is over, they leave their summer house, and the cat, and go home.

The cat was skin and bones. It wasn't bothered about the dog, but the dog was very vary about the cat, not wanting to leave it when I left the house to set up camp. All afternoon the dog ran back and forth between the house and the camp site. I think he was worried about the cat. I made a few phonecalls, but noone was interested in taking it, and there isn't a rescue center anywhere near, so I'm afraid we finally had to make the decision to just leave it.

Anyway, the guests arrived at 6, and was met down by the road by a couple of zombies with lanterns who guided their way to the cottage. Marie and I withdrew to the hilltop, and had a very pleasant evening, grilling gourmet sausages and dunking Italian chocolate rusks in mascarpone. We had a good natter in front the fire, and crawled into our sleeping bags at about 10, gazing at the starry skies in the moonlight. The dog curled up by our feet, and our breath rose like smoke in the cold evening.

I'm not a very well equipped scout leader. Whilst Marie has all the gear to get up Mount Everest, I have been stingy, making do with budget stuff. But I've rarely suffered. You just have to be a little bit inventive. My first sleeping bag from the 1980's, and a budget bag, designed to manage freezing point, some wolly socks and a sleeping bag liner did me just fine in -4. I had also a good mat, and a warm dog. I woke up at 8, not realizing I was sleeping outdoors!

We had a lovely breakfast, cooked on the Trangia: Scrambled eggs, bacon, mushrooms and a tomato relish. We pottered about for a couple of hours, before we went down to the house to see if the scout had woken up and started clearing up yet. They had and they were. They had had a wonderful time, even though they didn't get the film projector to work. They had finished all the food (except the veg, and a bag of potato crisps). Marie and I made sure that they locked up everything and then we all went back to civilization: The mothers relaxed and invigourated, and the kids very happy and pleased that their project had come together as they had hoped.


Why couldn't I go too?

Thomas delivered my son and his friend from sleepover this afternoon. Our dog Trouble, who is a real outdoor dog, was very upset that he hadn't been invited along to any of the scout activities this time, and took the chance to get into Thomas' car. He was not going to be left out of the fun this time!

It was two very tired and happy boys who came back, full of anecdotes and laughter. My son's friend had to go back early last time, as he had sprained his ancle and missed his investiture, so they had arranged a special ceremony for him this time.

Back to civilization

The Challenger Scouts have kept me updated, using MMS. It's been slightly wet and cold, and they ran out of meth, but got some soup into them. I suppose the eggs and bacon for breakfast used up a large amount of fuel.
It was one of our Challengers' first hike, as he joined only a few months ago, and it will be great fun to see what he thought of it all!

Leader and experienced scout (one of my first Cubs!), 3 km from pick-up point, slightly wet and cold.

Fun without parents

One of the aims of scouting is to make young people independent and selfsufficiant. We do a great job for the most part, but it is so difficult to let go and let them try their wings and fly unsupervised.

At the moment I'm reading the Famous Five books aloud to my 10-and-a-half-year-old son. Enid Blyton is so scouting: The children are resourceful, brave and have great social ethos (even if they're very middle-class and sometimes stinking perfect) My son loves the books where they are out camping on their own, or as in this last book, with a supervising adult who lets them do what ever because he trusts them to do the right thing. The Famous Five always stay 11-15, which isn't true for our scouts, who grow from 6-year-old Beavers to 15-year-olds with spots and hormones. As leaders we're their to lead them in the right direction, to guide them gently into adulthood, and to safely let them try their wings and fly under supervision. But when is it time to let them fly on their own?

My soon 13-year-old daughter is tall for her age, has the vocabulary of a 25-year-old and lots of integrity. She is a dream, and a nightmare. All parents want their children to be independent and selfsuficiant. She is that, and she wants to fly on her own. Together with her slightly older friends she has organized a Halloween sleepover, booked the cottage in the woods, sorted a digital projektor, made a budget, a menu, a program and invites. Already a good few people in the group has confirmed. It will be a great sleepover, I'm sure.

As a scoutleader and parent I have very few qualms about letting the kids do this completely on their own. I have offered to be around as back-up, as invisible as I possibly can, as the cottage is a good 45-minute drive from town, and IF something happens it might be a good idea to have someone around who has a driver's licens. Now, my daughter and her friends have decided that they'd like to go to the cottage already on the Thursday, to prepare (and have a bit of fun as well I'm sure). As I'm not prepared to spend three days invisable in the woods, I've said that I'll be joining them on Saturday. They are definatly competent enough to take the bus and hike the last 5 km to the cottage along the country lanes (The Swedish country side is very desolate and peaceful, on account us having a country twice the size of Britain with only 9 million people in it!)

B-P encouraged "his boys" to explore and hike on their own, to practise their skills and to make independent decisions. Some parents might argue that they were different times, more peaceful, and safe, and they are right in some respects, but perhaps our fear of something happening is more crippeling than the accual risk of something happening? Sooner or later we have to let our children go, and if they haven't practised flying on their own at all, they are bound to crash into whatever lampost at some point anyway. What we need to teach them is to risk assess, to listen to their instincts, help eachother out, and to keep to their good values - that goes a tremendously long way!

But nevertheless I'm going to offer a compromise: They'd go on Friday morning, and I'll join them on Saturday afternoon. First flight shouldn't be too long.


Challengers on the go

The Challenger group - 2 are on a two day hike this weekend. Their other leader, Christian, took them on his own, as I'm practising the art of balancing my diary and saying no, but I couldn't resist driving them the 90 km (60 miles) to the drop-off point just on this side of the Scanian boarder.

The Halland Trail is part of the national walking trail system, and part of it is also The North Sea trail. The trail offers reasonably comfortable walking, mainly on paths in the woods, but sometimes along roads.

The Challengers aren't walking very far this time: Saturday they are recconing on doing about 17 km (10 miles), stopping off for sightseeing along the way. The weather wasn't brilliant, but I'm sure that they will enjoy themselves.

At two I had this MMS. The group had stopped for lunch: Ravioli on Trangias. I hope that Ida's dog Svipp will have some too. With his little legs he's walked much farther than anyone else!