Why bikes are better than cars

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I’m sure there must be hundreds of posts on the internet about this subject. I wouldn’t know; I’m not obsessive enough about cycling to search them out.

However, having just got back from picking my bike up from the shop, it seems an appropriate time to mention my reasons for cycling.

1. Speed

Yes, speed.  Especially in city traffic, bicycles are often faster than driving.  I would never claim that they are faster over long distances, but for day-to-day use, the bicycle wins.

2. Convenience

Most people assume that cars are very convenient.  You can go where you want, when you want, in any weather, without waiting for busses or relying on someone else’s schedule.

What people forget to take into account is the side issues.

If you have a car you need to find somewhere to park it – and around my house that might mean parking several streets away from your destination.

My bike lives in the house.  There are bike racks basically everywhere I would ever need to go.

If you have a car you have to stop and refuel, which means you need to keep an eye on where all the petrol stations are, and how far down your tank is.

My bike never runs out of fuel.

3. Cost

Oh, the biggie.  I mentioned that I’d just picked my bike up from the shop.  The air intake valve on one of the tyres had sprung a leak, and one of the brake cables was a little rusty.  I could have done it myself, but it would take me longer than it was worth.

Here’s what I spent:

  • New inner tube: £5.99
  • New brake cable: £2.50

The approximate equivalent prices for a Ford Fiesta, based on five minutes with google and no knowledge of car mechanics:

  • New tyre: £50-60
  • New brake cable: £20

I also spent about £16 on new brake pads this year – equivalent car price £60.

So, including labour costs (which I could have avoided if I could be bothered), I’ve spent around £40 on my bike since January.  The same things on a car would have cost around £130 plus labour.  And then there is the petrol, tax, insurance, MOT…

4. Exercise

I don’t ever go to the gym to exercise (Kempo happens in a gym, but I’m talking about using running machines and so on).

I commute to work on my bike, and that keeps me active.  It’s a good job, too, because I don’t have time to go to the gym!

5. Environmentally Friendly

I shouldn’t have to explain this one.

Yes, the bike has to be manufactured, which means it’s worse than walking, but anyone who won’t agree that cycling is better than using a car needs to learn a little more about how the internal combustion engine works.

I’m not claiming that riding a bike is all sunshine and roses.  There are days when I would like some kind of invisible force field to protect me from the weather, and there is the danger of being run over (which, fortunately, is not a large danger as long as you pay attention to the world around you).

But, overall, bikes definitely win.

Where do you fall in the great car vs bike debate?

Good Guiding Is… Learning

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I recently acquired a copy of the Guiding Handbook.

A recent copy, that is.  I’ve had a copy for ages – so long in fact that it was quite out of date.  Since my leaders-in-training keep asking to borrow it so they can look things up to discuss with their mentors, I thought it wise to get a more modern version.

It took me a while, because they were in the middle of revising the text, so it was out of stock in the Girlguiding shop.

But I have a copy now, and I thought before I passed it on to the leaders-in-training I would have a flick through and see what has changed.

I’ve learnt a lot.

I’m now leaning towards the idea that everyone should be forced to read this book at least every five years, just to remind them which rules are actual rules and which are more like the Pirate’s Code*.

For example, I was involved in eavesdropping on a conversation a while ago about moving from Guides to Rangers (goodness knows why, I’m a Brownie Leader!).  One party was asserting that it was impossible to be a Guide and a Ranger at the same time, so if the Guide wanted to finish her BP she couldn’t start Rangers yet.

I think the other party was agreeing (I wasn’t really paying attention), but asking if an exception could be made just this once.

The Guiding Handbook says:

Some Guides like to move on to The Senior Section over a period of time, attending meetings from both sections … be flexible in your approach to supporting each Guide through this move.

I did not know that.

I would suspect it to be a change in the rules, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m pretty certain I was a Guide, Ranger and Young Leader all at the same time when I was 14.

When was the last time you read the Guiding Handbook?  If it’s more than five years, read it now (it’s not that long) and leave a comment with an interesting fact you learnt.

* the Code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” – Captain Hector Barbossa, Pirates of the Caribbean

Monday Musing: Friends vs. Sisters

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The fourth Guide Law is:

A Guide is a good friend and a sister to all Guides.

As with some of the other laws, this one has evolved slightly over the years.  The original version was much less politically correct:

… no matter to what social class the other belongs.

Appropriate in the context of 1910 society, but these days I suspect it wouldn’t go down so well.  Mind you, the sentiment is still true – it’s just that it’s more politically correct to assume that when we say “all Guides” we do actually mean all Guides.

A Good Friend

What does it mean to be a good friend?

Arnold H Glasgow (a US psychologist) said two things which I think are relevant at this point.  Firstly,

“A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.” ~ Arnold H Glasgow

A good friend is supportive.  They don’t stand in your way and say “no, you can’t do that, don’t be silly”.  They encourage you in your dreams and help you achieve your goals.

Unless your goals would cause you pain in the long run, and here is where the problem lies.  How do you draw the line between encouragement and blind faith?  Between being unsupportive and preventing disaster?

How do you know who is right?

Sometimes it would be obvious – if your friend has taken to drugs and thievery you should probably do your best to stop them.  But what if they have a bold new business idea which they are really passionate and excited about, which has the potential to be amazing, and you are convinced it will fail?

I would hope that if any of my friends thought I was making a mistake they would come and talk to me in a calm and rational manner, and explain why they were worried.

The second thing that Mr Glasgow said is this:

“Live so that your friends can defend you but never have to.” ~ Arnold H Glasgow

I like this.  Live your life well.  Live honestly and reliably, so that your friends can be proud to call you friends.  If you cause embarrassment to your friends, I don’t think you can truly call yourself a “good friend”.

A Global Sisterhood

I don’t have a (biological) sister, but I get on well with my brother.  We aren’t extremely close – he lives in another city so we don’t see each other often – but I would regard him as a friend.

A lot of people say the same about their own siblings.  Brothers and sisters are a lot like friends.  Just what is the difference?  Call me crazy, but I think there must be one, otherwise we wouldn’t need to specify that we were both a good friend and a sister to all Guides.

I turned to the dictionary as a starting point.

Friend, noun

1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement: friends of the clean air movement.

I’m interested that a friend can be someone you know, like and trust and also someone you merely know.  Perhaps that is the difference between a “good friend” and a “friend”.

Sister, noun

1. A female having the same parents as another or one parent in common with another.
2. A girl or woman who shares a common ancestry, allegiance, character, or purpose with another or others, specifically:
a. A kinswoman.
b. A woman fellow member, as of a sorority.
c. A fellow woman.
d. A close woman friend or companion.
e. A fellow African-American woman or girl.
f. A woman who advocates, fosters, or takes part in the feminist movement.

A sister defined as a “girl or woman who shares a common… character or purpose”.  That sounds a lot like Girlguiding to me.

I’ve also spotted the feminist aspect – and of course Julie Bentley described Girlguiding as “the ultimate feminist organisation”.

I can see a lot of similarities in these definitions – support of a cause, close woman friend.  The one thing that the definition of sister lacks, at least explicitly, is “a person whom one likes and trusts”.  Can you have common character or purpose, or even be close companions with someone, without actually liking them?

A lot of people fight with their siblings.  The one thing that most of them have in common is that they do love them.  They may fight, but if anyone threatens or demeans them they will defend each other.

Perhaps the difference is that you’re supposed to like your friends, but you are only required to love your sisters.

What do you think?

Ambivalence

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ambivalence, noun
uncertainty or fluctuation, especially when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.
 

I feel ambivalent about holidays.

On the one hand, there’s no Brownies, which is sad because I enjoy it. I love seeing the girls each week, watching them grow and having fun with them. I even enjoy the paperwork (sort of), which probably says more about me than I would like.

On the other hand, there’s no Brownies, which means that I get to go to Kempo.

Shorinji Kempo, for those who don’t know (which is most people, it’s quite obscure), is a Japanese martial art. It has a lot of emphasis on self-defence, working together, and building a better society by improving the quality of the people in it.

We do “hard” forms – punches, kicks, and blocks – and “soft” forms – pins, eludes, joint reversals, and throws. We also do acupressure massage, to put each other back together again afterwards. And meditation, and philosophy. It’s very eclectic and well-rounded.

I used to train at Shorinji Kempo twice a week, but several years ago one of the Brownie leaders in our area retired and I was the only one willing to take on the unit. Unfortunately it clashes with one of the Kempo training sessions, so for the past few years I’ve only been training once a week and twice in holidays. Well, any holidays that don’t have Brownie Holidays in them, that is.

As I said, I’m ambivalent about this.

Originally the idea was that I would train up someone else to take over, so my exile from Kempo would be temporary. Two things conspired to make this difficult:

1. We live in a very student-heavy area, so a lot of our leaders are students. I can’t, in good conscience, leave the unit entirely to a student who I know is going to leave in two or three years. It wouldn’t be fair on the girls.

2. I found, much to my surprise, that I actually like being the one in charge. It’s different from the role I used to play – that of the “fun, younger leader”. Before I took on the new unit, I didn’t think I was ready to be the serious one, the one that does the telling off. It turns out that I didn’t need to worry. It is possible to be both fun and serious, both a friend and a respected authority figure. And I love it.

I still miss Kempo (especially the social side, which mostly happens on the day I can’t make), but I wouldn’t give up my Brownies for anything.

Ironically, working for the good of society is one of the ideals which Shorinji Kempo tries to instill in its students, and it is just that ideal which forces me to choose Brownies over training.

Learn more about Kempo: Visit the BSKF website.

High Intensity Fun

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Last weekend we packed our bags and headed off to PGL Tregoyd for a couple of days of high-intensity fun.

PGL is very different to a traditional Brownie Holiday.  There’s no chores (apart from keeping your rooms tidy), there’s no rest hour, and it’s all very high energy.

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Over the course of the two days we did archery, abseiling, climbing, orienteering, aeroball, fencing, and raft building, played a wide game, and even found time to complete some badge work.  We did Brownie Holiday, Brownie Holiday Advanced, and Water Safety (which went quite well with our raft building session).

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Memorable quote of the weekend (about fencing, in case you were wondering):

I felt like I wanted to hit someone, but I knew I wasn’t going to hurt them because of the funny helmet and the suit thing.
EL, 7 years old

Our PGL groupies, Bree and Charlie, were a lot of fun.  They kept everyone happy and active between activities, and were constantly playing games and singing songs.  They deserve a very big Thank You!

The wide game we played was new to me.  It was called “Ambush”, and is probably best described as a cross between hide and seek and sardines.

The girls were divided into two teams.  One team had to hide (everyone in the same place, like in sardines), and the other team had four minutes to find them.

Both teams had to stick together as a team, not split up.

If the seeking team found the hiding team, they won.  If the hiding team stayed hidden for four minutes, they won.

If the seeking team walked past the hiding team without finding them, then the hiding team could leap out on them from behind and yell “ambush!” – which meant they won that round.

Definitely worth trying if you have access to a suitable area.

PGL always goes down well. One of the girls, as we were leaving, asked when we were coming back. She was quite disappointed when we told her we hadn’t planned that far ahead yet!

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Have you been to PGL (or a similar centre)?  Do you prefer that, or a more “traditional” Brownie Holiday?  What do your Brownies prefer?

Monday Musing: Facing Challenges

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This week’s Guide Law, number three, is:

A Guide faces challenges and learns from her experiences.

I love this one, although I think the older version has some fine qualities which are lacking in the current wording.

Facing challenges

A Guide faces challenges.  This, for me, is one of the key points of the entire Guiding movement.  A safe environment to face challenges and overcome fears.

If a Guide is faced with a challenge, she should face it, and do her best to overcome it.  She shouldn’t hide from it, or hope it will go away.

“I laugh in the face of danger.  Then I hide until it goes away.” ~ Xander Harris, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

It doesn’t matter what the challenge is, only that it is a challenge for that person.  What is a challenge for me (potholing, for example – I’m a little claustrophobic) might not bother you.  What is a challenge for a Brownie (tying her shoe laces, or abseiling) is not a challenge for me.

Is this a challenge?

Is this a challenge?

I would also suggest that it’s important that the challenge isn’t too hard.  A challenge should be challenging, but it shouldn’t be impossible.  I would never challenge a Rainbow to organise a sleepover.  That’s not a challenge, it’s just cruel.

Learning from experiences

The other half of the Law is equally important.  A Guide who faces a challenge but doesn’t learn anything from the experience will stagnate.  She will find the same things challenging for the rest of her life.

I used to find organising a Brownie meeting a challenge.  Sometimes, I still do.  But most weeks I look forward to it.  It’s relaxing, and fun, and that’s because I faced the challenge, overcame my fear, and practiced a lot.  I learned what worked and what didn’t.  I learned to delegate and to accept help.  I learned that sometimes it doesn’t go according to plan, and that’s ok.

One of the things I love about the Brownie age range is how much they change in the three years I have them.  They grow from small, timid girls who find everything a challenge to confident young ladies.  I need to really stretch myself to keep up with what they find challenging.

Attitude is key

Earlier, I said I like the older version of this Law.  Why is that?

The older version, which was active from the late sixties, goes like this:

A Guide has courage and is cheerful in all difficulties.

A Guide is cheerful.  Not only does she face those challenges and learn her lessons, but she does it with a smile on her face.  She doesn’t gripe or moan.  She just gets on with it.

If only more of the world was like that.

Accounting for Guiders

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Everyone knows that accounts are necessary.  And (almost) everyone hates them.  But fear not!  It doesn’t have to be as stressful as you think.  Here are my five top tips for stress-free accounting.

1) Keep EVERYTHING.

Literally.  Keep your receipts, keep your cheque books, keep that note you wrote to yourself last week about the £2 that Little Suzie paid for a new promise badge when she lost hers.  Trust me, it’ll be important later.

2) Keep everything SAFE.

Get a folder, or a tin, or some other method of keeping everything together.  Get into the habit of putting everything in there.  If you lose it, you can guarantee that you’ll need it later.  It’ll surface in three years time at the back of your craft drawer, covered in glitter.

It doesn’t even matter if you don’t keep it in the right order (although it’s easier if you do) as long as things are dated.

3) Write stuff down.

You won’t remember.  Don’t even try.  There are too many other, more interesting things going on in your life.

Invest in a notebook so all of your notes are in the same place, and whenever you do anything involving money, write it down.  It’s hard, with parents and children both clamouring for your attention, but they can wait.  They’ll understand.

I have a notebook with plastic dividers in, with tiny pockets, just the right size to store cheques and cash.  When people give me things, I write them down and immediately slip the cheque into the little pocket.  Later, when I’m following step 4, I transfer the cheques to more secure storage.

4) Keep on top of it.

Whatever method you’re using to record your accounts (a spreadsheet, the Girlguiding package, a paper accounts ledger), don’t wait until the end of March before you fill it in.  Do it as you go along, before you’ve forgotten what that cryptic note means.  I do mine every week (I have two units and the division, so I’d get very confused if I didn’t), and it takes ten minutes, tops.

Whenever you get a bank statement, check it matches what you think you should have.  It’s easier to find the problem if it’s only a month since the accounts were last balanced!  Which brings us to:

5) Ask for help sooner rather than later.

If you’ve spent more than an hour worrying about why your accounts don’t add up, ask your local Accounting Guru for help.  The chances are it’s something obvious that you’ve not spotted because you’re too close to the problem.  If you leave it until six months later, it’ll be harder to find and your Guru will grumble.

I hope these little tips have been helpful.  Does anyone have any more to add?  Leave them in the comments!