I feel like the title of James Bay’s album totally sums up the last three weeks of camp. There have been moments of silence where all you can hear around camp is the birds singing followed immediately by days where there are 300 children running around and you have no idea whether you are coming or going.
3 weeks of school groups have been conquered and Spring Crew has officially come to an end. It’s sad because it feels like the end of an era but also exciting as summer is really beginning. It has been pretty crazy over the past few weeks as there have been so many kids coming and going it’s hard to keep up. For 24 hours I was spending my time with the kids from Yorkhill and getting on really well with most of them (most being the operative word) then bam! Charles Gordon and John McRae kids turn up and it’s bye Yorkhill kids and hello Charles Gordon. I have to admit I wasn’t particularly sad to be saying goodbye to Yorkhill. Most of the boys were great; one of the kids was so cute when I gave him extra Pokemon points and made me remember that I don’t hate all 13 year old children. On the other hand there were 2 girls who made me realise why I’m not such a fan of that age group, especially girls. They referred to me as ‘the British Staff who hated them’ because I yelled at them on the fishing docks: apoliogies but they nearly took one of the boy’s eyes out with a hook. After that I was glad to move over to the other school even if I had heard interesting things about their reputation…
John McRae were supposed to be a boisterous school with potentially ‘difficult’ children but this was so false. I had them all afternoon the day they arrived and they were hands down my favourite kids of all the school groups we’ve had so far. The first two groups were all boys and apparently they’d been told they were the “problem group”. First of all why would you tell a bunch of kids that in the first place?! And secondly they were not a problem at all: yes they had a lot of energy but if it was channelled in the right way they were great. I think it helped that they were all obsessed with my accent so every time I spoke they all shut up. Plus this week we have s’mores making facilities and there is no better way to bribe children than with marshmallows. There is also nothing I like more than smelling like a camp fire and being covered in ash. Teaching kids to build fires is so much fun and it always makes me laugh that no matter how many times you emphasise the importance of small twigs there are always kids who bring back a tree the first time they go off looking for wood and then expect you to light their fire straight away…size isn’t everything boys.
What I was most excited about with this particular bunch of kids was that it was the first time I have ever slept in a cabin with them and it will probably be the last. Not that I didn’t enjoy being shouted at to turn my head torch off at 11:30 because apparently it’s not an appropriate time to update my travel journal. I equally enjoyed being woken up at 5:30am, especially as they’d all been complaining that 8:00 was too early. But hey that’s all part of the fun and the conversations they had at that time of day were hilarious. It also meant I didn’t have to feel guilty about getting up to go for a run. Unfortunately that would be my last run for a while as not only did I sacrifice my sleep for the enjoyment of these children I also sacrificed my right ankle. I played my first game of ‘Capture the Counsellor’ but instead of hiding I decided to be a runner, thinking it would be safer than attempting to hide up a tree. Unfortunately I forgot about the tree roots and ended up rolling my ankle and hobbling back to the dining hall. I was then carried to the camp fire for a sing along because I physically could not put weight on it. The next morning I was limping pretty badly, which made running sessions pretty interesting. Thankfully my first and only attempt at running a low ropes session was with the Harbourfront crew. This is a group of staff from their camp in Toronto who come here for training so I didn’t have to walk around a lot and they were sympathetic to my plight.
We waved a fond farewell to those kids who were quickly replaced by the 160 kids from Winona. They were my first school group last year but there was a lot more of them this year and I really struggled. Getting a conversation going with them felt like trying to get blood out of a stone. Although a couple of the groups who came down to fire building were great; one of the girls spent 25 minutes trying to light a fire using only a magnifying glass (the sun made an appearance for about 10 minutes). She actually did get a flame going which would have caught if the wind hadn’t got to it first and I was so impressed. The highlight of their stay was the incredible game of Quidditch- I embraced my inner Lee Jordan and commentated both games purely for my own enjoyment. I think I may have had more fun than the kids but when it comes to Harry Potter I really don’t care.
The last week of school groups felt weird and disjointed because so many new staff members have arrived and I only had 3 sessions of fishing with them on their first day and that was it. I sat with them at a couple of meals and found them so much easier to get on with than the last lot. Even the girls which for me is actually unheard of- I swear I like children I just don’t deal well with 13 year old girls and all the hormones. I also had a 15 minute conversation with one of the boys about how to pronounce certain words. He was highly offended at the way I say banana and the fact I call it banana skin rather than banana peel, apparently that’s a horrendous thing to say over here. Everyday is a school day.
For the rest of the week we were back on maintenance, which was good especially as there wasn’t a lot left to do. I was back on the painting team which is always entertaining, especially when it involves me going up a ladder. I’m pretty clumsy at the best of times so propped against a wall holding a long roller trying to reach the highest spots on the dining hall is a sight to behold. We also made the hockey palladium look respectable and had some time to do some activity specific planning. We’ve had a large amount of stuff donated to Outdoor Rec from a camp in Michigan which closed down. As an activity we probably came off best; I am especially excited about all the new cooking equipment and the massive telescope. It looks quite complex but hopefully the rain will stop eventually and I’ll have to time to play with it. Toby and I went for a visit to the overnight site to see what needed to be done- there is so much water it’s actually ridiculous. The thunder box was still there so I think we’re going to burn that as there’s no way the kids (or anyone else for that matter) will want to sit on a rotting wooden box that’s been sitting out all winter. It’s still a pretty special spot; I can’t wait for the first sunset.
The most exciting part of maintenance for me was getting to go fishing. I’ve never had the chance to go before as I spend most of my time helping the kids or detangling their fishing line. The boys have been going a lot throughout maintenance so I decided I would crash the party and try my hand. I showed them up big time it was so great! Less than 5 minutes after dipping my rod in the water I had caught my first ever fish. I’ve never seen Nick and Andy move so fast from one side of the dock to the other. It was brilliant! I was successful a second time shortly afterwards and then I called it a day as I was being eaten a live by bugs. I’ve always loved the expression on the kids faces when they’ve caught fish but now I’ve done it myself I truly understand the excitement.
There have been a lot of changes over the past week and I’m not sure how I feel about it. We had one last night out just the Spring Crew which was obviously spectacular. We may have overwhelmed the restaurant slightly with our numbers but it all worked out for the best as we ended up in Kelly’s again. I won’t say how much I had to drink but the fact I got up and did karaoke 3 times should give some indication. Thankfully the next day I was reunited with my one true love: pancakes and bacon in Nick’s Diner. This place is one of my favourite things about coming back to Bracebridge. It’s a proper family run diner and although it feels like the waitresses hate us (I would if that number of people showed up expecting a table without a booking) they always recognise us. A milkshake and pancakes is the perfect cure for a night on the town.
This last week there has been an even bigger influx of people with the arrival of head staff. Not a lot changes for us as we are still painting and scraping. It is always a bit weird though because Spring Crew is so tight and then we’re just split off from everyone. It’s all very strange and not something any of us really enjoy as far as I can tell. However, it did feel less divided this year, possibly because I knew more people and because there were more people not on head staff training. Change is scary but we’re not here to rake pine needles and paint cabins (as fun as that has been). We are here for the kids and the time of their arrival is getting closer. The summer is almost upon us…I just wish the weather knew that!
TOP TIP FOR SCHOOL GROUPS: Watch out for those tree roots. They come out of nowhere!