Scout Network Gathering 2008

For the Milton Keynes Scout Network, the Network:MK, this is the one time of the year we can expect to see all our members. Whether it be University, work or disinterest that stops a member coming to the weekly meetings they are almost sure to turn-up for the Long Easter weekend in West Lancashire. It’s hard not to understand why; drinking, food, adventure, fun, friends and tents what more could you not possibly want from a weekend?

As such there is usually a major effort to co-ordinate transport, this year 8 cars full of people, equipment or both made the expedition. My chariot, the Aluminium Falcon, would be transporting the cheerful Faye, the cherubic Lisa and the tempestuous Kat. Originally I would’ve had Matt as well but a reshuffle meant I didn’t so there was more room for everyone else.

With my trusty Sat Nav I set off for Great Tower Campsite, however that is not where it was taking me! Luckily I corrected this problem mid journey however the arrival time I had told the passengers was much earlier so I had to bare the brunt of their dissatisfaction. I probably would’ve been able to get away without a sully to my character if I hadn’t lost faith from passenger doubt on the last leg; I turned the car around and asked for directions! Yes, I know, a bloke asking directions, but if I had just kept going for 100m I would’ve made it and no-one would’ve thought the less of me.

Most of the first day we just spent catching up with each other, you know how it is when you’ve not seen your closest ‘old skool’ friends in months. We kept to our own little site on the first evening, with beer flowing, good music and old friends why would you need much more? Although we weren’t on our usual site with our own private ‘lake’, admittedly we couldn’t fit on it anymore but it really was a nice site, the new tenants certainly seemed to be enjoying it.

Saturday, Day Two

The second days tends to be a lazy one, I was originally going to do Wii games in the morning just because it would be nice to play against some similarly aged Scout that most likely play a lot more than me, I figure even if I get my butt whooped at least I might pick up some tips. In the end I opted against this for a lay in instead, Saturday night always has the big band that you stay up for.

My afternoon activity was Horse riding, I can’t remember ever doing it before so this would be something new. I was expecting a quick introduction course, a trot journey seeing the local countryside then perhaps a little cantering or galloping back at their pasture. With a quick get to know you we went for a trot around the local village and we were done. It was a pleasant experience, I was riding a 15 hand tall Stallion called Father Ted (there was a Dougal in the herd too). He was well behaved and I enjoyed several conversations with him during our time together.

During the wind-down before dinner, we gathered wood and relaxed around the campfire waiting for our hiking team to return. There was a slight unease in the camp as the whether can gotten colder than expected on the hilltops and winds were picking up. They made it home safely and with a few picture of them hiking on snow laden footpaths. To distract ourselves there was some larking about, particularly with my camera, which is why I’ve got some awfully bad artistic shots, but you have to take some bad shots to learn what your doing wrong!

After dinner and a quick change into our fancy dress, between us we had a Traffic Warden, a Jedi Knight, Pirates, Optimus Prime, a 90s Scout, a Pilot and a whole lotta in between. The costume seemed to get us a lot of attention at the Bield, were the band was playing. The band are rather awesome, I particularly look forward to their With or Without You and I’m a Believer each year.

Sunday, Day Three

Every year we make our own little trip offsite, we did consider going further a field than Ambleside Park but considering how late it was when we finally got our arses into gear the journey time just didn’t leave us with long enough there to be worthwhile. We had a lot of fun in the snow, making snowmen, chillin’ our drinks, climbing the mound and in the children’s adventure playground (naughty us!)

I pretty much handed over my camera to Abby that afternoon, she wanted to get some practise in taking shot with an dSLR camera before she starts her course in the autumn. Her shots weren’t half bad, she tries as hard as me to get some artistic ones, I think she does a little better, not sure if that’s luck or me being over critical. I don’t think I’m a natural for that sort of thing, I’m naturally oriented to take photos with purpose not creativity so go for her and her raw talent.

With the full moon this weekend I was hoping to get some lovely campsite landscape photos, particularly from the top of Tower rock, but I didn’t want to go all that way on my own just for some photos and nobody made a point of going up all that way so I didn’t. I did get this cracking shot from our site, I’ve embellished it a little with photoshop but its a nice one nonetheless.

Monday, Day Four

We wanted to make a quick getaway with a meetup at the M6 services, I wasn’t too keen on this as I’m not one for driving fast which meant I was likely to be getting some stick for everyone seeing my car occupants walking in rather than us watch everyone else.

We did alright for time on the journey home, taking a scenic route around the first part of the M6 out of Lancaster, a longer route but with a higher constant pace. I’d rather be driving slowly for longer than crawling for shorter. Overall the return journey was the same as the full voyage time home.

This was another fantastic Gathering weekend, unfortunately I pushed it this year being ever so slightly too old to attend but luckily the organisers didn’t mind so much seeing it was my farewell to Network event. I’ve got the option to go next year as staff but I’ll make my mind up on that one closer to the time.

Liverpool “Crystal Maze” SSAGO Rally

Last year I was a student living on “less than thirty Altairan Dollars a day” and up for an elected ‘job’, this year I’m going to see my replacement elected just as I’ve started a career. It’s kinda ironic I guess, I’ve been a little uneasy about the whole process as I’ve done a lot for the SSAGO Publicity role and I don’t want it ending up in ruin. I thought the only truly happy outcome would be someone to fill in the voids I purposely didn’t address as it wouldn’t so much be a replacement of my work but a continuing in the direction I left it heading in. Luckily a charming lady got elected, the wonderful Heather Coupe, the sister of a previous PO. I look forward to seeing her exploits over the coming year, hopefully the rest of the exec won’t be a roller-coaster ride.

As for the rest of the rally, if the Crystal Maze has been set in fields and woods with a low low budget I imagine it would be very similar to this, the activities were varied and numerous with a strong focus on teamwork. The costumes in the evening were spectacular, so many home brew Crystal Domes and a plethora of Golden and Silver Tickets everywhere! I think what certainly made the Rally a lot more enjoyable is having more in your pocket than lint, it was a real pleasure to buy a round for the friends I’ve made whilst in SSAGO at the Ceilidh bar.

Additionally this was originally going to have a new Rally Booking system, the intention being to add the booking system onto the blog I hacked onto the SSAGO message board but unfortunately due to a communication error my work was in vain. It was a pleasant learning experience nonetheless and I learnt a few things about the admin area functions of WordPress. Shame though, would be nice to have all the login details in the same place with the ability to create an archive of who did what and when over the years.

So here truly endith my life as a student, all loose threads coming to an end, only thing really left is to handover to my successor. I doubt this will be my last Rally though, I’ve known people to hang on for a few but I don’t think I’ll be doing this too many more times. Thanks.

Scout Network Gathering 2007

This was to be my first independent voyage to the land of West Lancs. In previous years I’ve hitched a ride with almighty Neil a couple of times, and indeed Jon Ellison once but this year due to academic demands I’m arriving unexpectedly late home into the Easter Holidays and so I depart alone.

The Millennium Canary should be upto it, we’re going to be breaching the 50000 mile mark at some point, either on the way there or on the way back so this is a rather important milestone in the cars history. I know I’m going to wish that I had something more than a radio and tape player for this presumed 5 hour drive but at least I get to listen the the local stations and listen to their accents.

Arrived early expecting to be one of the first on site, I was infact around the last! Most had arrived the day before to assure our usual pitch!

Saturday was quite docile, we spent most of the day in Ambleside in the park playing Frisbee and chilling, fortunately we didn’t have a run with 2 little kids wanting to watergun us. In the evening we played some Guitar Hero, Div and Kelly both did there stint on Dead or alive.

To be concluded

Loughborough “Down-under” SSAGO Rally

This is of course the Rally of the SSAGO AGM, this was to be the big one, the rally where everything that had gone wrong (and the few things that went right) over the previous year I would have to face upto. I wasn’t reluctant to go, infact I was eager, I couldn’t wait to see the outcome because I knew at heart what I hadn’t done, I hadn’t done for a reason.

Either way this was certainly going to be a memorable Rally for me, my last as an Executive member or the beginning of another year on a vastly different governing committee. Standing uncontested I figured my chances were pretty good but knowing how controversial the entire election process was going to be with the new (broken) rules, the political mess that had been brewed and the importance of the 2007 year I expected a lot of action at the AGM.

I didn’t get off to a good start, after a slightly bodged travel arrangements I arrived at a respectful time of 8pm, not my earliest, not my latest (1am!) I missed the Rally last summer through automobile mechanical failure; attendances are never as big as the Spring ones, especially with the locations being the center and extreme of the United Kingdom, respectively so I missed out on seeing quite a few people for 6 months or so since they weren’t at the autumn Rally.

I sat in the mess hall for quite a bit, Muriel’s Wedding (1994) was on. I knew this was the “Down Under” rally but couldn’t they at least put on Mick “Chocodile” Dundee?

With Rallies being only 3 times a year and few members managing to make it to the external national events it can be quite a while between being each other. Talking on MSNM is fine but you learn alot about another person through their mannerisms and inflictions that you could learn through typing on messaging facility. So whilst chatting with Mary and Colin about how their journey had gone (without me!) Faz and Emily walked in, luckily M+C knew how much I was going to have to mosey around the crowds tonight to scope the scene for the AGM on Sunday. Not so much for my own survival but that of another unfortunately re-election that had the possibility of stagnating SSAGO.

In the 2005-6 year Exec snowballs had been set into motion for monumental changes that would raise the status of SSAGO beyond any status it had had in the last 20 years. (Edit: What happened to these snowballs? They melted, as of May 2007 it turns out the people that could’ve kept the momentum going dropped them either through passing on the project to someone else or because they weren’t re-prompted by the new SSAGO Exec, so really there is no-one to blame but ourselves.) I had hoped to be a catalyst in the change but unfortunately my hands were tied because without action I can not react!

There were 3 levels of interest I found in people not running, either people were apathetic, unbeknownst or carefree. Which meant that more time was spent on the more interesting subjects such as jobs, club activities and member suggestions.

As you can see in the photo (right) the reps meeting on the Saturday was a hoot (end sarcasm) but there was a rather humorous Policy Document put forward about Pigeons. And a rather serious event which has produced ripples that are still felt today, in a way there good but it would’ve been better if an unfortunately incident hadn’t have to happen for it to be realised.

In an act of rebellion I choose to do the pyjama party with 28 other girls. I had planned to do this ever since it was going to be an Anne Summers party as boys aren’t supposed to go to them but SSAGO is all inclusive. Anyway, due to criticism it was made into a harmless PJ party which I fully intended to go dressed a la Arthor Dent. Seeing as I don’t usually have any PJs I went and brought some rather fetching blue striped ones for £10 at Matalan.

Having woken up thinking it would be silly to get dressed then get undressed for the PJ party I spent the entire morning and lunch in my PJs and dressing gown. So by this point I had managed to rally (:lol:) many others into getting their PJs on and doing the party thing properly.

I expect there would be a sofa somewhere and the projector setup for us all to watch, what we actually got exceeded these expectations. Chocolate fondue for Bananas, Marshmallows and strawberries, all the cheesy board games you can imagine and a movie!

The evening was possibly one of the best Ceilidhs I’ve been to in a long long time. We were right next to one of the Loughborough Student Union Bars which meant much cheaper liquid refreshment than the usual bulk brought bottles and a great sound system.

I felt especially good about myself for being able to buy a round of drinks for my fellow Exec members, something I haven’t been able to do because of the financial restrictions of studentdom. Being able to properly relax with good chums (photo above) that you just ‘click’ with is a rarity so I just took a load off, talked, played and danced until it was time to go back to the campsite on a good old double decker bus.

When we got back on site I collected my raffle winnings (funnily enough I suggested the raffle idea to the people running it!) which was a choice of 3 crates of lager, not being a lager drinker I decided to offer them to anyone that wanted one, which funnily enough few people were, apparently the majority of SSAGO men are bitter or cider drinks.

At last the AGM, suffice to say it was rather whimsical, the minutes can (or will) be found here, obviously they don’t convey the full atmosphere of the moment but they useful. Highlights include; a pigeon flying here or there, a few groups getting permission to do stuff, a (well deserved)vote of no confidence and the return of the Golden age of SSAGO through a phenomenally cosmically powered Exec consisting of myself, Daz, Ilona, Paul and the suitably re-elected Matt.

And so it begins again.

Equality

Gloucestershire police force could face a “flood” of compensation claims after it admitted illegally rejecting white male job applicants.

By trying to enforce ethnic minority representation to professions are we not infact shifting the focus from the majority which should have the focus to the minority? A reverse racism if you will, removing ‘white’ people because a larger diversity is required, surely this isn’t democratic? A small number of people have a large say because they are a slight minority?. Why can’t it just be the best or most suitable person for the right job?

Surely for race to not be an issue in any way, shape or form it shouldn’t matter, no more of this “to ensure equal opportunities we would like you to answer the following questions on religion, race etc” if it really doesn’t matter then we shouldn’t have to keep statistics on it. Okay it might help in 100 years or give Guinness an easier job of working out things like who was the First woman space tourist but I would be happier with not knowing who was the first/last/next person to do anything and a person’s race not being mentioned and thus the best person for the job getting it.

It is unfortunate that somehow the idea to increase ethnic minorities in Gloucester Police was raised and that the encouragement to be equally representative wasn’t dismissed because of the fear of being labelled racist towards minorities, instead now we are not allocating representative of the majority which in this country is caucasian despite the growing influx of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.

Perhaps if there weren’t as many scandals with negative results negative actions wouldn’t cascade through procedure and result in similar events?

Full Original Article: Force may face ‘flood’ of claims

Belchamps Party

Yesterday I was extended the honour of attending a gathering of fellow EuroJammers at the Belchamps Campsite in Essex.

Okay, its a fair trek for something so simple as a party but its certainly something to get my mind off tormenting thoughts. Knowing the Laindon Rangers, it would be drinks, dinner and cake, who could say no to cake?

Continue reading Belchamps Party