The day started like any other. I was expecting it to be cold but the sun had its dial tuned perfectly. The warmth it generated was just enough to remind me that the best time of the year is here. The daffodils are fading, my tulips are starting to look forlorn but the bluebells are waking up nicely. I find a white bluebell in the garden and later read that it is genetic mutation of the blue flower. My drive to the hospital is a short one.
Parking is not an issue at my new workplace and for the last couple of days there is a security guy slumped in his chair near the entrance. His mask will be in place in the morning but by evening it will be firmly tucked away under his chin. The deserted corridors do not feel haunted anymore. I feel cheated. The days when I’m the last person to leave the building and to walk through the deserted walkway to the car park which at that time of the night is just an empty vast space is not going to be frightening anymore with the security guy sitting there spoiling the spookiness. I did wonder how quick his responses were going to be though. If there was an emergency, by the time he gets his act together and prises himself away from that chair there won’t be much left to do.
In the end it was not just another day but the day the Queen lost her husband. He didn’t wait to turn 100 and get that special birthday card from his wife but decided that it was time to leave. The Duke of Edinburgh will not only be remembered just as the Queen’s consort but also for the award scheme he set up in 1956. Not all schools participated in the scheme but Kavitha’s did. It was an innovative way of helping children and young adults gain entry into a confident future. A future where they can look back at their 15 and 16 year old selfs and think that if they were able to achieve what they did at that age then anything is possible with a bit of grit and determination. It was purely voluntary and a personal development plan set to help develop all aspects of ones self. The duration and levels increasing as you go from bronze, through silver to gold. Kavitha stopped short at the silver mark. Her friends dropped out and she didn’t have anyone to do the expedition with for the gold level. She helped out at the local library, the residential home and learnt to play tennis. The highlight of the year was their expedition. For the bronze it is two days and a night and for silver three days and two nights. I didn’t know till then that there were shops geared just for camping enthusiasts. The school provided the tents, stove and pots. The children had to get the weather proof clothing, sturdy footwear, backpacks, food and utensils. If I remember correctly mobile phones were not allowed. They had to plan ahead, find their own way from A to B in the Yorkshire Dales using just a compass and reach the campsite before nightfall to pitch up their tents. There were three or four students in each group and they had to help carry the tents along with their backpacks. They worked it out so that each carried a fixed percentage of their body weight in their backpacks. Swarms of midges attacked them the first night rendering the food they had cooked uneatable and they had to rely on their energy bars for sustenance. The next day a pack of bulls/cows charged at them as they crossed a field. The electric fence marking the boundary trapped them blocking their escape route. A quick decision to throw the backpacks on the fence and climb over them saved them that day. I’m not sure if it was as dramatic as that, but that is how it was described and Kavitha still stays firm with her version. I have read newspaper articles of ramblers being killed by cattle. The hills were steep which they could barely climb on their own and yet they did it with the added luggage on their backs. The blisters they came back with over the shoulders and feet, proof of their endurance. Some of her friends were reduced to tears and ready to give up, the rest gave them the support to carry on. What better way to instill the importance of teamwork and leadership skills. We picked Kavitha from school the next day. The child who wouldn’t even go into the garden as she was frightened of bugs and spiders has now returned after a weekend in the Dales with stories of bravery and endurance.
On the Duke of Edinburgh awards website there is a section where you can add your memory and share your D of E story. There will be thousands of stories like this on the site from children and young adults who’ve had the opportunity to partake in this event. A lasting legacy which has enriched countless lives and the memories will live for a very long time.