Brownies are Wide Awake


On Saturday we went to a friend’s birthday party.  He wanted a party on the theme of “feeding frenzy”, which sounds like a terrible idea at first glance.  It turned out, though, that he was just looking for an excuse to go to the zoo.

We went to a number of the animal feeding time talks – gorillas, penguins, giant tortoises, and so on.  And we fed the lorikeets, which is always fun.

Photo Credit: Jenni Rogers

Photo Credit: Jenni Rogers

Later, we went out for curry, to feed ourselves.

You’ll be wondering by now what this has to do with the title of the post.

There were quite a few of us there, and a number of our friends had brought their children.  About ten minutes after they arrived, one of the girls came up to me and said:

“I like your hat.”

Observant Girl had noticed, of course, that it was a Centenary Sparkle bucket hat.  This apparently meant that I was now her best friend, and we spent a large amount of time talking about what her Brownies did, what mine did, how her Brownies were much better than the Beavers that she used to go to…


What does “finished” mean?


Originally, I was going to start this post with “I’m finished!” or “it’s finally done!”.  But of course, I’m not, and it’s not.

The item in question is this:


I’ve been off work this week, having a “stay-cation” with my husband. As well as long walks and meals out, I’ve been catching up on some sewing.

I’ve done it. I’ve finally cleared the backlog of badges that I needed to sew on to my camp blanket.


It feels good; to be finished. To have achieved something.

The thing is, it’s only a month until the county Big Brownie Birthday finale camp. I will be shocked (and horrified) if I don’t get given any more badges on that camp.

So, while I am finished, I’m also not.

“To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow, the coup de grace for the painter as well as for the picture.”

~ Pablo Picasso

In many ways, the camp blanket can be seen as a metaphor for life.

It’s never finished, although sometimes it gets too full.

You’re always comparing your blanket to other people’s, to see who has the best collection of badges.

You’re always trying to acquire another badge, to make your blanket just that little bit better.  Perhaps this one will be the one that makes you finally happy with your blanket?

If you spend all your time obsessing over how good it looks, you forget to enjoy having it.

The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss. ~Thomas Carlyle

I’m on Flickr


I’ve recently joined Flickr. For those who don’t know, Flickr is a photo-sharing social media type thing.

I’m mostly using it as backup photo storage (you get a whole terabyte free and can make photos private so only you can see them), but as I upload things I’m setting some of them to “public”.

You can check it out here:

Here’s a little selection of things I’ve uploaded recently.

We found a lot of old photos in the cupboard during a clear-out one day, and I had them digitised. This tree is still there:

1978-06 - Tree Planting Clifton Churchyard 1


From a trip to see the HMS Belfast in 2009. We slept on the ship!


2009 again – we got locked in a Police van during a visit to the station.


And some of our recent activities:


The hills are alive


With the sound of kiai.

Last weekend, I took part in “The Welsh Experiment”, the first Shorinji Kempo training seminar of its kind (in the UK, that we know of).

Around 25 of us took to the Welsh mountains, shakujo in hand, for a weekend of training and mindfulness.


We split our time between learning the basics of shakujo (that’s the big sticks we’re all carrying in the picture) and some of the more complex kata, and various forms of meditation and mindfulness practices.

The weather (amazingly) behaved remarkably well. Stereotypes of Welsh weather, and the weather forecast, agreed that we were likely to get wet. Some people got slightly sunburnt.

The first day did have some very dramatic looking panoramas, the sort you get in training montages from the 80s, with rows of students disappearing into the mists.

The mists didn’t photograph well, so here’s another kind of drama:


On day 2 we climbed Pen Y Fan before breakfast, then did some more training.

The afternoon was devoted to seiho, which is “correcting methods”. In its simplest form, it is pressure point massage, but it’s actually so much more.

We spent a lot of time over the weekend thinking about our connection to the universe. Every moment, every action or inaction we take affects not just ourselves but others. Every thought or word affects not just others but ourselves.

The mountains are one with the sky.


Girlguiding consent forms: 3 myths busted!


If you are a Leader with Girlguiding, the chances are that you have heard at least one of these complaints, probably all of them.  Consent forms, while necessary, are often regarded as a pain in the mik’ta *.

A lot of people have trouble opening them.  It’s not just the technically incompetent, either.  Some people can open them on one computer but not another.  The complaints range from

“I can’t update to the latest version of adobe, I’m on a work computer and I don’t have admin rights.”

Which, alas, I can’t do anything about, to

“I have a Mac, so I can’t open them.”

Which is just wrong.

What’s the problem?

Girlguiding use forms with expandable boxes for Adobe PDF forms.  I believe the technical term is “dynamic XML”.

This means that you can fit in as much information as you need, but it also means that a lot of non-adobe “PDF readers” can’t cope.  If, as we do, you email out consent forms to parents and ask them to print and return, you will inevitably get a lot of complaints from parents.

3 myths debunked

1. I have a Mac, which means I can’t open the form.

Wrong.  I have a Mac, and I can do it just fine.  This problem arises when people use the mac Mail app’s “quick look” feature.  Quick look isn’t intelligent enough to cope, so people panic and assume there’s a problem with the file.  However, if you save the file and open it with Adobe Reader it works perfectly.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 20.36.20

There are very clear instructions on the Girlguiding website (members area, under “Forms”).

2. I only have an iPad, which means I can’t open the form.

Same problem as the Mac – people see the quick look “please wait” message, and assume that they can’t do it at all.

For added fun, the “Adobe Reader” app can’t read the files.  That’s the point people usually give up.  I gave up for a long time, myself, but I recently discovered the solution, and I’m so excited that I just have to share it!

CloudOn LogoSolution:  Download “CloudOn“, a free app.  It connects to anything that supports the “Open in…” dialogue, including email, dropbox, and so on.  You can open, edit, and save Microsoft Office files as well as Adobe PDF forms.  Anything that you create or save can be uploaded to Dropbox or emailed directly from the app.

It’s a bit fiddly on the iPhone, because of the screen size, but I imagine it’s ok on an iPad.

Other apps may also be able to read the files, but once I found this one I stopped looking.  If you know of any others, please mention them in the comments.

3.  I only have an Android tablet, which means I can’t open the form.

Actually, I’ve never heard this one, but since I recently acquired a tablet that runs Android, I thought I’d test it out.  The answer turns out to be the same as for the iPad: the standard Adobe app can’t cope, but CloudOn can.


So there you have it!  Never again do you need to complain about struggling to open Girlguiding forms.  Tell all your friends, because they will love you for it!


* Stargate joke.  Sorry.

Special Edition Goal Update


I originally said that I would only mention my 2014 goals once a month, unless something important happened.

I had exam results.

I took two exams back in April, and the results came out last Thursday.

I passed one of them!  Yay!

But I also failed one.  Boo.

For a while I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.  I think I was more nervous about these exam results than I’ve ever been about any results before.  I knew that the results of these exams would determine whether I qualified as an actuary or not.

If I passed both, then yay, I was going to be an actuary.

If I failed both, I was giving up.  I clearly wasn’t good enough (this was not, as you might recall from earlier posts, my first attempt at them).  And I would have been sad, but also relieved to be off the merry-go-round of studying and waiting.

Passing one and failing one is perhaps the worst outcome.  Now, I only have one more exam to do, so it seems silly to give up.

But I’m so fed up of studying.  And the last few months, with no studying to do, I feel like I’ve really got on top of some other things which were slipping, like Brownie admin, Kempo, and general tidiness of the house*.

Actually, once I allowed it to sink in, and started looking at specifics of when I can take it again, what there is to do, and so on, it’s not so bad.

I wouldn’t say I was looking forward to it, but I’m no longer horrified by the whole prospect of studying again.

Did I need an excuse to use this picture again?

Did I need an excuse to use this picture again?

I’m going to take the Institute’s Exam Counselling service, where they look at your exam script and put together personalised advice for you.  And I’m going to be doing lots of past exam questions.  Hopefully with only one exam to focus on I’ll be able to pass it.

I’ll keep you posted, of course, but don’t hold your breath – the exam results for the September sitting don’t come out until Christmas.


* although I will admit that my husband does most of the work on that last one.

Party Time


The end of last week was a bit party-tastic.

After the picnic fun on Wednesday, I had the Division Exec BBQ on Thursday.

That was good fun. We’ve got a pretty good team in our Division, and any “meeting” which involves BBQ, wine, and guacamole dips is alright by me.


And then Friday was the last Brownies of term for my other unit.  We played a lot of party games, and revisited our code of conduct to see if everyone had been sticking to it.

Just like on Wednesday, I tried to talk to each girl.  It’s pretty difficult with 30 Brownies to get to know them all, and I don’t think I make enough effort in that regard.  The last meeting of term is not the best time to start trying – but you’ve got to start somewhere, right?  And it might mean they leave for the holidays more eager to come back, which can only be a good thing.

We also did prizes for the best Brownies of term, and there was much giving out of badges, too.  Sadly, one of the Brownies is leaving us (to move to Kenya!), so we had some goodbyes to say too.

It’s always sad to lose girls, but I understand she’s already signed up for Kenyan Girl Guides, so I’m pretty happy with that outcome!  I hope she follows through on her promise to send photos.