Shameless Self Promotion and a Question!

Just a quick reminder that any podcast I do is available through iTunes, so please take a look and have a listen!

And now the question. If a review or a rating is left on iTunes do you get any notification?

The reason I wonder about this aloud is that as I access iTunes through the UK store (naturally), when I look at the PTC Media shows, for example, none have any reviews or ratings. I know these shows do have lots feedback (& quite rightly so). This makes me wonder that if any of my friends in the USA have left any feedback etc. for me, how do I know?

This isn’t a ‘please leave me lots of great reviews’ type thing, but just a genuine interest to see if the UK and US iTunes stores are ‘separate’ when it comes to free podcasts.

If anyone knows the answer please let me know (feedback, contact form, email, carrier pigeon……).

The Group Annual General Meeting (podcast)

Podcast number 12. On this one I talk a bit about some of the stuff the Group has done over the last month and then about the Group Annual General Meeting.

Some Photos from Last Night’s Awards

Here are a few photo’s from my Group’s AGM last night. The rest can be seen here in the Group’s photo gallery.

One of the things we have to do is to elect a Group Executive Committee and each of the committee members got given a hat to show who they are and what jobs they did. I ended up wearing three! Group Scout Leader, Group Chairman & Group Secretary. I’ve been relieved of one of these already.

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Then I got my Award for Merit.

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It was a very good evening and a lot of parents turned up. You can read a bit more about the AGM on the Group’s Site.

Lots of Awards at the Group’s Annual General Meeting

Tonight we held the Group’s AGM and I’m going to do a podcast about AGMs soon.

But one of the things we did was give out some awards. The first, and most important, was the Cub of the Year Award. This is given every year to one of the older Cubs who will be moving on to the Troop soon. The award is given to the Cub who excels in all they do throughout the year.

The next award was a surprise as the Cub Leader was given her 25 Years Service Award. The District Commissioner gave her the badge and certificate and the Group gave her a bunch of flowers, a framed photo of all the Leaders and a bottle of wine! The flowers were presented by my Dad who recruited her to be an Assistant all those years ago, the photo was presented by the Cub who got the Cub of the Year Award and the wine by me as Group Scout Leader. She was most surprised we’d done anything!

Next came our Assistant Scout Leader who was presented his Woodbadge. This now means we have 5 Leaders in the Group with their Woodbadge – the most we’ve ever had!

And then it was my turn! As I said at the beginning of the month, I’ve been awarded the Award for Merit, which is a real honour!

I have to say I’m really proud of all my Group’s Leaders and especially those who got the awards tonight and the Cub who got his.

Well done and thank you to all!

I’m going to put some photos up later when I get my hands on some.

Scouting Resources

I’ve just come across an excellent site called Scouting Resources. This site is run by an Assistant Cub Leader from North East London and has LOADS of useful information and resources on it (hence the name). And while it has a UK slant, there is lots of stuff on there which will be of use to Scouts and Leaders all around the world.

Take a look, it’s great!

Father’s Day

Yesterday was Father’s Day. To be honest,  I’ve often thought that it was nothing more than a ‘Hallmark Holiday’!

This is because it doesn’t seem to have any historical context, unlike Mother’s Day, which is based on the Christian Church’s Mothering Sunday (at least in the UK).

However, although I’m not a father myself (ok, technically I am, as Carol is 14 weeks pregnant, but I guess it doesn’t count yet!), I now understand the need to have a day for our Dads.

My Dad has been a constant guide in my life and I am grateful for this. When I need answers to questions, I always ask him (I hope I can live up to this).

In my role as Group Scout Leader, I kind of fill the father role of the Group. I steer it in the right direction and when people need help it’s me they ask.

Of course, BP is the Father of Scouting and for this again I am grateful.

So a belated Happy Father’s Day to all fathers of all kinds!

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Me & my Dad

Old (ish) Photos

I’m in the process of sorting out some of my photographs so they are better organised and backed up in more then one place, which is always a sensible precaution.

Doing this, I’ve come across some of the oldest digital photos I have of the Scout Group, so I’ve put them into our Gallery. Some were already there, but in worse resolution and a lot smaller size.

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A Bridge built without rope at our Group Camp in 1988

(I’m the one in the green cap!)

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Our trip to London in 2001

(I’m lurking at the back on this one!)

So now we have some photos of the Group Camp in 1988, the Scout’s London Trips in 2001 and 2003, the Group’s Family Evening in 2003 and the Scout’s camp in  July 2004.

It’s always interesting to look back over our recent past and some of those camps don’t seem that long ago!

Interestingly, the picture from London was taken with a digital camera / web cam that I had recently bought. If I remember correctly, it cost me over £100 and was considered at the time to be of high quality! My mobile phone takes better quality photos now (even Carol’s iPhone does!). Shows how technology has moved on!

Beavers & Cubs Sponsored Walk

The Beavers and Cubs have spent this evening walking round Westport Lake to raise money for the animal charity the PDSA.

Of course, there was a bit of concern doing this today in light of the tragedy on Tuesday, where a Beaver drowned in a river. We were walking by a lake on one side and a canal on the other (in some places).

However, we had the correct amount of Leaders and a number of the parents said they would join in as well. We have a standard risk assessment for walking and so we had all the safety areas covered.

No matter how much you plan, things can go wrong and it can be a case of ‘there but for the Grace of God, go I’.

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The Beavers walked around the larger lake and then the small one and then played some games while the Cubs walked around the large lake four times.

We’re not sure how much money the Beavers and Cubs raised yet, but we’re sure they have raised a considerable amount. It is nice to think that we have been raising money for a charity other than ourselves. I believe the Beavers and Cubs chose the charity themselves.

We all had a great evening out.

The Worst News

I’ve just read the awful news that a Beaver Scout died last night while walking along a river in Suffolk with the rest of his Colony.

There is no news on how this tragedy happened at the moment, and I will make no speculation or comment.

See here for more info – it will be updated as more information becomes available.

My thoughts and prayers are with the poor boy’s family, friends and fellow Beavers.

A New Member of the Troop

This in itself is not a very unusual news item. Indeed we invested three new Scouts at the weekend on camp.

However, our newest member won’t be joining us every week as it is a bit far for him to travel! He is a Scout from Catalonia in Spain and is staying with one of our Scouts who is a friend of his. He was able to join the Scouts on their recent camp at Gradbach.

Therefore we decided to make him an honorary member of the Troop and gave him a red necker, all the investiture badges, a one Nights Away badge and an Outdoor Challenge badge.

A welcome addition to the Troop.

Stereotypes

As a movement we are very prone to stereotyping in people’s minds. Some people still believe that Scouts dress in the traditional Baden Powell style (some do, but most don’t), we are lying in wait to help old ladies cross the road (again nothing wrong there, see the BSA ad!) and we are always saying ‘DYB, DYB, DYB, DOB, DOB, DOB’ (Do Your Best and Do Our Best – not that we’ve used these abbreviations for over 40 years!).

The Scout Association is very good at promoting Scouting as a modern and relevant movement for the young people of today, and they do a very good job of it. Bear Grylls becoming the new Chief Scout is a fine example.

But then we have to put up with adverts like this –

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Phones4U is a mobile phone retailer who originate in North Staffordshire, where I live. They don’t have the best of reputations round here for their business practices and sales techniques. Indeed, a friend of mine worked for them for a while when he was at university told me that his colleagues kept getting their work mobile phones cut off as the bills weren’t paid! Not too clever.

Obviously a lot of Scout Leaders have been annoyed by this (me included), despite the fact the company have been very careful to use an old style uniform and no current badges. The Union Flag badge is current, but I doubt we could claim copyright on that (Her Majesty may be upset if we did!), but the District badge does look like it could be a current one – can’t really tell.

It would appear a Cease and Desist order has been sent to Phones4U, the ad has been withdrawn and they have issued an apology of sorts!

What is it with these people and the image of Scouting? It was only just over a month ago I saw the political cartoon using the image of Scouting in an appalling manner.

Perhaps we should think of the ‘creative types’ as always knocking back their champers in the trendy London wine bars? Not really, as I know some people in advertising are also Scouts and are just as appalled! The last link goes to the Escouts discussion on the matter and people are not happy. There is also a Facebook page with over 1800 members who are not happy with this ad!

However, if nothing else, Phones4U have shot themselves in the foot and a large proportion of Scout Leaders wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole now and it gives the SA another chance to publicise the positive.

A final thought. Here is a poster made by Chris of the Be Prepared blog (thanks Chris) in response to the Phones4U ad. I think his is better!

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Good News & Good Publicity

With all the recent good publicity that’s been generated in the UK from Bear Grylls appointment as our next Chief Scout, it’s been quite interesting to see the reactions generated. Looking at the forums on Escouts for example, the views from here in the UK are very positive (of course not everyone agrees, but why should they?). And talking to members of my Group, both adults and youth members, the reaction is again positive.

Looking farther afield (ok the USA, but that’s only where I’ve looked so far), there are positive comments from SM Jerry, Commissioner Keith and Scoutmaster to name just three.

The BSA are very good at producing videos to promote themselves and now thanks to Twitter, I’ve come across a couple of other interesting videos of the heads of the Canadian and New Zealand Scout Associations (thanks to Chinook Council & Scouting New Zealand) promoting their programmes either on YouTube or on TV. Take a look as they’ve all got the same positive message as Bear, despite being many miles and time zones apart and it proves that we’re all not that different!.

Watch New Zealand National Commissioner Stuart Fleming on NZ breakfast TV.

Seeing what Scouts around the world are up to (in these cases all English speaking, sorry Lotta!), is to me a fascinating experience and gives me a greater understanding of how other Scouts do things.

Knives, Axes and Other Sharp & Pointy Things

Over the last few weeks I’ve done a lot of work teaching our Cubs, Scouts and another Troop’s Scouts how to use knives, axes and bow saws correctly and safely (strange how it all happens at the same time!).

It is traditional that when you join the Scouts (I mean the Troop here), you get a knife of some kind. Most of our Scouts have Swiss Army Knives or cheap copies. It is our job to ensure they know how to use them properly and to realise that they are tools and not toys.

The first thing we have to consider, unfortunately, are the legalities. There have been too many occasions of young people carrying knives and using them to stab other people. The law in the UK regarding knives is –

  •  it is illegal for any shop to sell a knife of any kind (including cutlery and kitchen knives) to anyone under the age of 18
  • it is generally an offence to carry a knife in public without good reason or lawful authority (for example, a good reason is a chef on the way to work carrying their own knives)
  • the maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife is four years in prison and a fine of £5000
  • knives where the blade folds into the handle, like a Swiss Army Knife, aren’t illegal as long as the blade is shorter than three inches (7.62 cms)

You can read the full explanation here.

We then teach the Scouts how to use the knife safely and with respect. It is common that all Scouts enjoy using their knives, especially whittling pieces of wood to produce shavings for fire lighting. It also keeps them good for hours as well!

We also go over the correct use of axes and the bow saw and ensure the message has sunk in by watching them using the exes etc.

It has been interesting to note that all the Cubs and Scouts I’ve taught recently have paid careful attention to the proper use of these tools. Sometimes when going over ‘less interesting’ subjects, attention seems to wander, but not with this subject!

By ensuring the Cubs and Scouts know how to use these tools, especially the knives, correctly, we ensure that they will be used safely and that also they won’t feel the need to carry knives around with them.

It is comforting to think that we haven’t had a serious accident with knives, axes or saws, to my knowledge, since around 1985! This was when one Scout was sawing a branch with a bow saw and wasn’t holding the saw correctly and hadn’t secured the branch he was cutting securely. The branch was bouncing, so the saw bounced and he cut himself across his knuckles. He needed to go to hospital for three stitches in his hand. He was ok and came back to camp, but never forgot to treat the saw with respect and to use it properly.

This story does act as a useful teaching tool as when I have told it, I can show the scar I have on my right hand. Yep, it was me!!! However, they all remember how to use the saw correctly (so do I!), so I guess it was kind of worth it.

The knife and axe part of camp craft is an essential one and one that has been in the programme since the start of Scouting. Indeed BP himself writes quite a bit about axes in Scouting for Boys – see Campfire Yarn Number 8.

One Good Turn….

Over the last few months we’ve been building up a good relationship with another of our local Scout Groups. They have very kindly let us use their climbing wall and use their Scout Hut and grounds to camp at overnight. This has come about because our Assistant Scout Leader has been doing some climbing training with their Scout Leaders.

As part of one of their conversations they had, they said that they didn’t know too much about the use of axes and knives, making fires and knotting. They do know a lot about archery however!

So last night 4 of our Leaders, including myself, went to their Scout Hut to show the Scouts and Leaders how to safely use knives, axes and bow saws and how to light a fire. We also took a hurricane lamp for them to light as well.

We all had a good evening and both the Scouts and the Leaders learned a lot. We were happy to go and show them and it was even better to note that everyone went home with the same number of fingers as when they started! They learned how to use everything safely, which is what it was all about.

Their Scouts will now be joining ours on a camp at the end of August where all their new skills will be put to good use.

It’s great to be able to help each other out like this as we all get to use new resources, learn new skills and make new friends. That’s Scouting!

Awards

The Scout Association has a number of awards that it presents to Leaders and adult helpers for long service, good service and gallantry.

The only awards given automatically are those given for long service. So, for example, I have my Chief Scout’s 15 Years Service Award, which was presented to me in 2007. My Group’s Cub and Scout Leaders both have the Award for Merit and the Chief Scout’s 20 Years Service Award. The Cub Leader is getting the Chief Scout’s 25 Years Service Award at our AGM later this month, though she doesn’t know it yet!

The good service awards have to be nominated and a case put forward as to why the recipient is worthy of receiving it. I often wish I was in a position to do so when my Mum & Dad retired from Scouting as they got no official recognition after over 25 & 30 years service each, although we did make a big thing of it at Group level.

Now the point of all this is that I got an email from my District Commissioner last night saying ‘Congratulations on your award’. My reply went along the lines of ‘thanks Steve, but what award????’

Well, the reply came back. But here I must point out that I don’t want  to get big headed, but it seems that I’ve been awarded the Award for Merit!

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This is given for –

outstanding service of not less than 15 years. It implies keen, conscientious, imaginative and dedicated service over a sustained period.

So I’m quite chuffed to be honest!

It’s nice to think that someone (I’m guessing it’s the DC) has taken the time to nominate me for this.