Pre-Pandemic Ponderings

Hello and welcome to October's Chiefs’ Chat!


We asked our Region Chiefs' to write a letter to themselves, as if writing on Thinking Day, 22nd February 2020, before we were hit by the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Dear Julie,

Happy Thinking Day! You will spend today celebrating with over 100 members learning about leadership on the Army Skills Builder day at Fulwood Barracks in Preston and some inspirational Army leaders - never imagining that this would be the last event we hosted this year. When asked in October, it will feel that the year started on March 12th – a date you won’t forget for two reasons now; Granda Hodgson’s birthday and the day Trinity School closed after confirmation of the school’s first coronavirus case. We all think we will be back after Easter but cannot believe that it will go on indefinitely and change ‘normal’ life - possibly forever? Schools will open again in September but with very different arrangements and always the potential of local lockdowns – one of the new words added to the everyday dictionary – along with “you are on mute!”. You will get very good at Zoom and Teams and even delivering training via Webinar.

You are about to experience a defining moment in your life and that of everyone in the world, and at times this will be completely overwhelming, it will change your view of everything in your whole life and especially at this time of fundamental change for you personally. You’ll decide to retire from teaching and will be excited about all of the opportunities available beyond Trinity School where you have spent the major part of the last 28 years; however things will change - you will, despite it being what you absolutely feel you didn’t want to do - you will be teaching two days a week at Trinity and looking at other schools for supply. There are still some other options that you will explore as you move forward but other things will be much more important. You will be spending 24 hours of every day for a while with Simon(!) and establishing new routines of daily life that funnily enough you will really miss when things change again and you go back to school and to some face to face Girlguiding in September.

At the Ops Board meeting in September, despite all our good plans to go to Lorne it will be virtual. One of the sessions will be called Brave New World, and that is what it is all about, what we will call Blended Guiding – offering a mixture of virtual meetings, outdoor and indoor. Adventures at Home, virtual camps and music festivals will become more the norm than every Tuesday from 6 o’clock to 7.30 in the village hall! We’ll all need to be more resilient and flexible - being resilient means that though we can’t always choose what happens to us, we can often choose our own response to it, you need to open up to people and talk about what you are feeling, not just respond with “I’m fine, thanks!” - be honest!

A move to the seaside will happen despite everything and bring you so much closer to Katy, Dave, Rory and Teddy and they will form a large part of your new life. Likewise a walk by the sea, to breathe in the fresh air and admire the view will be a vital part of every day – and you will be in the perfect spot to do that – enjoy, it is good for your resilience and mental health, and - like you have tried to deny when Simon told you this in the past - for your energy levels, physical health and overall wellbeing. Dad used to say “Just do it” and remember the message from Yesman to say Yes to more things and give them a try, you will be surprised by the good things that come your way, even during a pandemic!



Dear Kathryn,

Happy Thinking Day!  This has been a special weekend with a lot of Guides spending a day with the army to achieve a skills builder badge and also see some new role models in action as the weekend was led by two senior female officers.  This has been your ‘first’ Thinking Day since Julie became the new region chief and so is a milestone on that journey too.  The year has already had other highlights including a day with the Rainbows – complete with starry neckerchief as well.

It is about to change, and no science fiction novel will come close to this experience. Planning and strategy will be replaced with flexibility and adaptation. This will not all be bad – though at times it will be hard to remember the achievements – we will do things we had not considered before. We will hold online unit meetings and learn a whole new language (‘zoom’ will take on a totally new meaning and a new phrase you will need is ‘you’re on mute’)

People will need support as never before but will also be generous, caring and understanding as never before. Dickens perhaps summed it up as ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’

It will take time – more than anyone wants or hopes - but we will find a way through, together

Look after yourself – then you can look after others.



Dear Emma,

The 22nd February. Wow. That seems like a lifetime ago as I’m writing this, but in reality it’s not even ten months ago. Right now you’re writing an essay about how different world leaders are responding to the new health threat for your ‘Leadership in Action’ unit. You probably think that the reports about the bus load of holiday makers who are being brought back to the UK to quarantine is the only piece of coronavirus related news that will directly affect the UK, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Over the next month every single aspect of your life will change, all leading up to the start of a big nationwide lockdown on the 23rd March.

On the 8th March you’ll head to London for the International Women’s Day rally. You’ll be a little bit more wary about the cleanliness of the tube than usual, but you definitely won’t give a second thought to the big crowds of people. This will be the last time you go to London. All of the events and meetings you are looking forward to in March, April and beyond will be cancelled or held virtually instead, so please take an extra moment to appreciate the buzz of the city while you’re there on this day.

On the 13th March you’ll go to uni as usual, sit with your friends in the lecture, then leave saying ‘See you Monday!’. Only you won’t, as that afternoon you’ll receive an email explaining the decision to move to online teaching. You didn’t know it then, but that dreary 9am Immunology lecture was probably the last time you’ll see your friends all year.

On the 16th March you’ll head to Guides, as you do every Monday, but this time armed with plenty of hand sanitiser for the bus journey. The colander campfire will go down a treat, and later you’ll reflect back on how special an activity it was for your final face to face meeting. Yes, you heard that right, because when you check your emails at the end of the night you’ll see that all unit meetings are now suspended. You’ll quickly resort to Zoom meetings which are a fantastic substitute for ‘the real thing’, but I doubt you’ll realise virtual meetings will still be your reality as far down the line as October!

On the 21st March you’ll pack your suitcase and move back home. You’ll wave goodbye to your uni housemates saying ‘See you after Easter’ as that’s honestly when you expect all this to be over by. In actual fact it will be exactly six months later when you finally move back to Manchester, with the knowledge that you’re not allowed to visit home at all because of local restrictions, and with a question mark hanging over the Christmas holidays.

This letter makes it sound as though the coming months will be all doom and gloom, but just because life is different it doesn’t mean it’s bad. You’ll spend your time doing all the things you always say you would do if you had the time! You’ll learn new skills, invest more time in friends and family, join interesting meetings and take part in exciting events. The world is definitely a very different place now than it was back on the 22nd February, and who knows when or if we will ever get back to pre-pandemic normal. However, as long as you continue to ‘do your best’ and ‘be true to yourself’, rest assured that you will get through whatever life throws at you with a smile on your face.


We hope you enjoyed catching up with us again this month. As always, you can find us on Twitter, where you can ping us any questions or simply share all of the incredible work that you are doing. 

JulieKathryn, and Emma.