Tag Archives: scouts

Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle, bicycle … rack

A splendid summer evening

Yesterday evening the boys went to Pitsford with the Scouts for the annual 7-mile cycle round the reservoir followed by a barbecue.  Until recently, the boys’ bikes have been small enough to get both of them into the boot of the car, but they will persist in getting taller, and Boy the Elder’s bike is now bigger than mine.  I was forced to buy a bike rack.

A couple of months ago I bought a large tent in the sales and a bike rack, with the intention of attempting a brief camping trip with our bicycles in the summer holidays.  I hate camping with a passion I find hard to express, but I figured that if I had a tent I could actually stand up in and a covered area for cooking if it rained, it would be marginally more tolerable.

Naturally, there is always a part of me which is utterly convinced that our holiday will be like a Famous Five novel, pedalling gaily down country lanes, picnicking on sardines, heaps of tomatoes and ginger beer.  We will then retire, tired but happy, to our tents pausing only to climb into crisp winceyette pyjamas before sleeping the sleep of the innocent.  Will it bollocks.  But I digress…

I had forgotten about the bike ride and, just as it started to rain, I realised that I needed to assemble the damned bike rack.  I opened the box and pulled out a large piece of metal and a couple of bags of straps and metal bits, which I laid out neatly on the grass by the car.

I have never owned a bike rack, and because I haven’t needed one, I haven’t paid the slightest attention to the assemblage of such items on the cars of others.  I instructed the boys to go far away from me, with the gravest of threats should they utter a single sound, and set to work.

I always read instruction booklets and never fail to be amazed at how easy it is to do things when you already know how to bloody do them!  I dutifully followed the booklet, step by step, strap by strap, ratchet by ratchet.  Then I undid all the straps and re-assembled them in the correct wotsanames.  I turned grippy things with one hand whilst trying to balance an unwieldy array of metal tubing exactly two inches above my bumper, whilst avoiding another metal tube which hovered exactly one inch in front of my right eye..

Having finally got the rack in the right position with all the metal sticking out at the correct angles, I crawled under the car in search of a hole in which to hook the bottom straps.  I drive a 12-year old, hag-ridden Ford Escort which I have decorated to look a bit like a Spitfire – the underside is not a pretty sight, particularly on a muddy, stony track, just as it has started to rain.

In all honesty,  neither was I a pretty sight by this time; dirty from the proximity to my car, sweaty with exertion, my long skirt tucked into my knickers, my wet hair plastered to my head and now covered in mud and gravel from crawling under a pseudo-Spitfire.  But England wasn’t built on glamour and competence! No sir!

After an hour of swearing, cursing and ratcheting, the thing was done, the bikes were strapped on and we were going to be 20 minutes late.  I had no time to change my clothes and we headed for Pitsford.  As the rain became increasingly torrential, badgers and rabbits started appearing in the hedgerows in pairs, holding paws and looking expectantly at the rising puddles.

I parked the car and the boys set off at top speed to catch up with the others.  I squelched across the car park in strappy sandals, my rain sodden skirt clinging to my legs in the fashion of an unpleasantly mis-shapen mermaid.

‘At least there’ll be hot dogs’ I thought, but the barbecue was wet and the Scout Leader was manfully erecting a tent in a desperate attempt to bring the spitting, smoking pile of charcoal under canvass.  I stood sullenly with damp, corned-beef arms wrapped around my dripping torso in a futile attempt to fend off certain consumption and probable mildew of the extremeties.

Eventually, thanks to the good spirits and efforts of other people, the barbecue was lit and the heavenly scent of sausages and burgers wafted through the air, just as my boys hove into view.  Boy the Younger claimed to have had a heart attack half way round and Boy the Elder had torn his trousers.  Despite my misery, I was terribly proud of Boy the Younger who has never cycled 7 miles in one go before, and I patted his soggy head and wiped the rain from his little pale cheeks as he munched on his hotdog.

‘Enough of this,’ I said ‘I’m going home, and if you want hot cocoa you had better come at once.’  They jumped into the car whilst I wrestled the bikes back onto the rack.  We drove home with all haste, wipers struggling to hold back the rain and narrowly avoiding a large wooden boat parked at the side of the A508, small animals gratefully ascending the gang plank…


Filed under Children, General DIY, Leisure, Outdoor Activities, Wildlife

Hiking it up – or should that be camping?

I have to be up at a disgustingly early hour in the morning because Boy the Elder has decided, at the last minute, that he is going for a day’s hiking in Wales tomorrow.  This activity was offered by The Scouts last month and he initially declined because he was worried that it would be too demanding, but then a friend rang and said “Oh go on!” I also suspect an added incentive is the presence of a certain Girl Scout who is much admired by BTE and his chum.

My sons love being outside and are very active – show them a tree and they’ll be up it like a squirrel after his nuts, but they are not sporty.  Boy the Younger has attained a greater degree of mastery over his limbs than BTE, which helps, and he approaches sport with rather more vim and vigour than his brother, but they are both devoid of any competitive edge whatsoever.

One of my favourite examples is when BTE had his first Sports Day and one of the races was a Fancy Dress Relay.  The children ran along, stopping every so often to put on a hat, then a waistcoat then some trousers etc.  My son ran to the first pile and put on a hat.  He sauntered nonchalantly along the track to the pile of waistcoats, decided that the one on his pile didn’t co-ordinate with the hat, so he went to the pile in the next lane and took that waistcoat instead.  The same happened with the trousers and the scarves.  He arrived at the finishing line looking like a 5-year old Beau Brummell, but he was not popular with his team mates.  I ignored the smugly sympathetic looks on the faces of the fathers in running shoes. 

I had high hopes that he might be gay, but his earlier, fastidious approach to personal grooming has vanished into the mist.  His Scottish cousins call him Swampy. Q.E.D.  I offer him plenty of motherly advice to guide him safely into the world of mutual attraction, for example:-

You’ll never get a girlfriend/boyfriend if you don’t:-
 keep your knob clean and fragrant
clean your teeth
change your socks / pants / ways
spray something on your hair to make it look as though it’s deliberate
stop walking/running like a tangled marionette

A male contemporary of mine once said that he wished his mother had told him things like that, but he seems to have turned out perfectly fragrant and upright without her help.  BTY is a far cleaner child in that he will spontaneously wash on a weekly basis without any threats or growling from me.

Still, at 06.30 on Saturday I will be depositing BTE in the Minibus of Hope for a journey to savour the delights of  “the famous Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall in the Welsh borders for a demanding day hike in the Berwyn Mountains, to the summits of Cadair Berwyn (830m) and Moel Sych.  Scouts will walk in accompanied groups, with the opportunity to practise navigation skills and work towards the Hillwalking Activity Badge.”  

I confess that I’m slightly worried that he won’t be able to manage it and will end up holding the others up  but I hope I’m proved wrong.  The Girl Scout may well prove to be the incentive he needs to build up his stamina.  Let’s hope he’s washed his……….


Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Children, Family and Friends, Health and Fitness, Leisure, Life in general, Outdoor Activities


Sorry for the lack of blog today – the Boys have been down in London this week with Sister the First and we had to arrange pick-up at Sister the Second’s in Buckinghamshire.  Bad night for travelling, Friday.  Boy the Elder is then off to Summer Camp in North Wales with The Scouts at 7.45 in the morning, so early nights all round.  Forgot to get a packed lunch so have just had to do an Emergency dash to Saino’s.  Ho hum.


Filed under Uncategorized

Volunteers are the backbone of communities

Join the Neighbourhood WatchAs I mentioned on Thursday, in my article about Baking Cakes for Fetes, I was asked to bake for a table top sale to raise money for Haiti. The sale had been organised in a great hurry by some members of the church, who desperately wanted to do something to help. When I walked in with my tray of cakes at 9.45 this morning, I was astonished at what they had been able to achieve in such a short space of time. The donations were incredible and the tables were groaning with cakes, clothes, china, giftware and toys. I hope they raised a decent amount of money, but what was really good to see was how many people had got behind it and had worked together to make it happenVolunteering at your local hospital

This is what communities are best at.  There was an experiment done a couple of years ago in a small town in Sussex, I think, where all the volunteers, in every aspect of community life, went on strike for day to draw attention to the contribution that they made.  This meant the school, hospital, care of the elderly & handicapped, meals on wheels, drivers, community groups; all stopped.  The result made the national newspapers.  Communities need volunteers and there are so many things that one can do.

In our parents (and certainly grand-parents’) day, if a woman stopped work because she got married, as the middle classes invariably did, she didn’t just spend her day cleaning the house and baking fancies.  There seemed to be an understanding that she would get involved in some sort of community activity.  It might have been the WI, the church, the local school or hospital, and it also had a social dimension as well.  Men would have their own social activities that would often have a charitable dimension or at least the odd fundraising jaunt.

Helping out at School

I’m not suggesting that everyone should be hot-footing it down to the WI or the Rotary Club – these organisations are not for everyone – but there is usually something we can do, even if it’s only a couple of times a year.

Most of us actually have very comfortable lives.  We may not be rolling in asses milk, bathing in caviar or eating Lamborghinis, but we can be pretty sure that we have a lot more than many.  At Boy the Younger’s school, parents (mothers and fathers incidentally) go in to hear children read, help out in cookery or art classes, or accompany the children on school trips.  Because lots of people do it, one is not asked that often and it’s therefore not too onerous.  The Scouts are always asking for help on an ad hoc basis as well as needing leaders and this can be really good fun as well as supporting an organisation which gives so much experience and confidence to young people. 

The point I’m making is that you don’t have to be turning up at some draughty village hall, full of 90-year olds talking about broccoli and cardigans every week in order to ‘do your bit’.  A lot of people, myself included, work long hours and have many responsibilities, but we also have plenty of opportunity to cast a glance outside our own lives from time to time.  Several friends sponsor children in poor countries.  The Aged Parent gives £2 a month to The Lifeboats. Another friend plays the piano at a music group in a prison.

Have a look at the link to The Lunchbreak Philanthropist.  She is going to do a piece each week on what people can do in their lunchbreak at work.  What a brilliant idea!  I shall be very interested to see what she comes up with.

All I ask is that you think about it, it doesn’t have to be massive.  And just because you’ve done something once, it doesn’t mean that you have to get sucked in to doing more and more, you have a perfect right to say no in a clear, steady voice.  But just occasionally your presence could be very welcome indeed.


Filed under Community and shopping, Family and Friends, Indoor Activities, Leisure, Outdoor Activities

Scouting for Scones

We will do our best

We will do our best

On Friday, the elder of The Boys went off to camp with The Scouts.  A small troop of Scouts have come over from Belgium and are spending the weekend with our troop, which will include games, an English High Tea and camping in the field behind the Scout hut.  The following day they were hiking in The Peak District .  Many of these children have met before and a good relationship is building between them.

My sons are not sporty. They are tall, thin people with vivid imaginations and a passion for books; they do not excel on the football or the rugby field and they are not competitive.  Boy the Elder once took 10 minutes to run a 50yard fancy dress relay because he felt the clothes in his lane didn’t suit him, so decided to try on those of his competitors instead. But put them in a field with trees, bits of wood, mud and unsavoury things in hedgerows and they are quite happily occupied for long periods of time, with only a portion of their day dedicated to fighting each other with sticks or heavy objects.

Boy the Elder joined the Cubs and then graduated to Scouts and it is the activity he cares about more than anything else.  We are blessed with unbelievably dedicated Leaders, who give an astonishing amount of their free time to The Scouts, taking them climbing, hiking, swimming, making up games, teaching them practical skills and teamwork and all done in an atmosphere of support, encouragement, humour and no nonsense.

It seems to be one of the few organisations left for young people where, although every care is taken over their safety and happiness, they are pushed to achieve; not in a horrid aggressive way, but for themselves, to find the best in themselves.  The values inherent in Scouting are about respect, kindness, loyalty, independence and self reliance, good behaviour, courtesy, structure and tolerance, things that seem regrettably lacking in many areas of modern life.

In the past year, scores of new Cub, Scout and Explorer troops have been set up all over the countryto cope with the increasing demand from parents who are becoming aware of the value and impact of Scouting for their children.  You may not know that most Scout troops now have equal numbers of boys and girls and this creates a very healthy and jolly atmosphere.  Boy the Younger can’t wait.

So last week, to give the Belgian Scouts the experience of a good English High Tea, the Wartime Housewife volunteered to make a big batch of scones to be eaten with my sister’s home made jam and thick cream.  The Belgian’s defected on the spot. 
Here is the recipe which is made of storecupboard ingredients.


Large mixing bowl
Palette knife
2 x  12×8″ baking trays – greased and floured
Rolling pin
2 ½ ” cutter
Cooling rack


15 oz / 450g white self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
4oz / 120g butter
4oz / 120g white sugar
4oz / 120g raisins or sultanas
9floz / 280ml milk or half milk/half yoghurt


Pre-heat the oven to 230 / 450 / 8
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl
Cut the butter into little pieces and rub into the flour until it is no longer visible
Stir in the sugar and dried fruit
Mix the milk into the mixture a little at a time, either with a palette knife or your hands, until a loose, sticky dough is formed (this may take less milk than you’ve measured out)
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll gently to about 1″ / 2.5cm thick
Dip the cutter into some flour and cut out the scones. 
Gently roll remaining dough into a ball, roll it out again and keep cutting
It should make about 17 scones
Brush the tops with a little milk to glaze
Place the scones on the greased and floured baking trays
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown
Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

Scones 31.08.09


Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Children, Family and Friends, Food, Indoor Activities, Outdoor Activities, Recipes, Storecupboard