The annual Boys Brigade camp was held this year again at Blakehurst Farm, Arundel, West Sussex from July 24th. As usual it was a joint camp between 5th Kingston and Merton and 2nd Trowbridge companies. This year two of the younger boys with special needs attended the camp for the first time and as one of the boys needed extra support and supervision I was allowed to go too! The first time in living memory a female officer of the company has attended the camp.
I must admit before I went I had very mixed feelings about how things were going to go. On one hand I was really excited as over the years during my time in Anchors and Juniors section I had heard such fantastic stories from the Company section that I really wanted to see and experience it all for myself. On the other hand I was a bit anxious about whether I’d fit in, now it would be and of course the facilities!
My camp started by collecting the boys from our Company at the Church at 8.30am and driving down to the campsite. The Company leaders had arrived the day before and set up camp so when we arrived it was all done and dusted except for the boy’s tents. The 2nd Trowbridge boys had also arrived that morning and we were all thrown in at the deep end putting up their tents which was fun and chaos all at the same time! I must admit it was the first time I’d wielded a mallet!
Many of the boys had of course experienced camp before and were aware of the rules and cam procedures but I and the “newbies” were given a camp tour and an appraisal of the do’s and don’ts. Everything was extremely well organised, with its proper place and function, and for a campsite there were some nifty features including an automatic sensing tap for hand washing in the latrines to hot water supplied by a boiler. Most importantly and much to my eternal gratitude there was a separate toilet just for me!!
Once we had all settled in camp began in earnest aided and abetted by faithful Mildred (my pet name for the minibus), a rollercoaster of games, activities, outings, non-stop fun and action. Just to whet your appetite we went swimming, on a nature trail, made nature collages, played crazy golf, made kites and rockets, played cricket, football, volleyball, frisbee and much, much more. On Tuesday we had a pirate themed day where both staff and kids dressed up, including the Girl’s Brigade, who joined us for a lovely afternoon in the beautiful, quaint Arundel for some quiet, restful boating (aka a rather wet and frantic ½ hour) and a historical treasure trail around the town. Bruce, Chris and Avril had come down for the day and I was fortunate to have Chris on my team offering help and advice and buying me a much needed coffee!
The pace was terrific and we were on the go form morning, reveille for the boys was 8am (so staff were up at 7.30am) until night. Sustaining us through all this energetic fun was the fabulous cookhouse that provided us with the most mouth watering food. It’s hard to pick a favourite but for me it has to be Simon’s lasagne and Ross’s cheesecake. I even liked the porridge! Helping us to keep going too were the times set aside for reflections and thoughts where we could take stock, look forward to or review the day and relax. Each morning and evening time was set aside for devotions and reflections on different topics. This year some of the topics included fair-trade, working as a team and the effect of diabetes. This time was especially poignant during the evening when the whole company would gather in the twilight around the campfire to listen and reflect. This time was truly magical and spiritual with a feeling that we were really close to God. It was at these quiet, peaceful evenings that I really felt and understood how the combination of well placed discipline and routine combined with fun and laughter helps our boys to become well rounded, well adjusted young men.
All too soon camp was at an end with the last activity, “The Big Fat Camp Quiz” and the conclusion of the Squad competition between the boys.
I had survived, unscathed (well apart from a few cuts and bruises) my first camp. But I didn’t just survive it, I thrived on it. It was a fantastic week, exciting and exhilarating. I had never been camping before (unless you count my Mum’s back garden when small) and I loved it. All the things I had worried about before going never happened. I was truly made to feel welcome, one of the lads, an equal but special too. I now understand what the “camp feeling” is all about but understand too how it’s one of those feelings that you can never quite describe as well as you can feel and that you have to experience it to understand it. Making camp happen is an amazing mission but Simon and the guys make it happen every year to give anyone that goes that “camp feeling”. I can’t thank them all enough for letting me come and catch the “camp feeling” and pretty please can I come catch it again next year.
P.S. I would just like to add my congratulations to my son David for winning the squad competition jointly with Kieran from 2nd Trowbridge and for enduring manfully the gentle teasing that comes with your Mum coming to a boys camp!