The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men…

…gang aft a-gley

These words, written by Rabbie Burns in his poem “To a Mouse” in 1785, and used to form the title of John Steinbeck’s 1937 Novel “Of Mice and Men”, rings as true to that subject matter as it does to a Jamboree.

His Excellency, Sir Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington has a quote attributed to him too, “no plan of action survives first contact with the enemy”. Whether the enemy is the French at Waterloo or the queues at the Jamboree the principle is the same.

Personally, I am a meticulous planner. I plan what I want to do, how I want to get there and how much time it will take to get there. I will then have a fallback plan or plans, just in case.

Others (Matty included) like to make everything up on the fly and see what happens. “She’ll be right Bruce” as our Australian friends would say. Others still combine these attributes.

Truthfully, at the Jamboree and indeed whilst travelling, Plan A rarely works, and we all have to be agile and responsive to the environment around us.

To give an example, last Saturday, when Matty and I arrived in New York, we had a plan. We were going to run the bags to the hotel, get some food then head for Times Square and the Empire State Building.

Except, as our J train pulled into Manhattan it stopped. And didn’t move. We were sat at the platform for about 15 minutes before we were told there were power-outages across Manhattan which had affected the Subway. We were stuck on the Lower East Side, and our hotel was on the Upper West Side. We had to cross the island and climb nearly 70 blocks to get to our hotel.

We were travelling with some other IST, and their hotel was close so together we made the decision to go to their hotel and dump our bags with them. That meant we could find food and see what was happening with the power.

In the end, at about 2100 local time, having been up from 0300 local time, with maybe an hours sleep, we made the decision that we had to get to the hotel. We left our bags with our new friends near Times Square and walked to West 101st St where our hotel was. The next day we had to go back and sort the bags (well, Matty did…)

None of us had planned for that eventuality, honestly, I hadn’t expected the power to go out across Manhattan, but, I can now sing along with Billy Joel in complete honesty when I next hear “I saw the lights go out on Broadway…”

Similarly, on the Jamboree site, things will not go to plan. I can guarantee this as a veteran of several of these events.

Things will not appear in the right place at the right time. Activities will be delayed or even cancelled. There will be times when you are sat round waiting. The army uses a phrase “hurry up and wait” and this is probably going to be the case at the Summit Bechtel Reserve.

As I’ve said elsewhere, you have two options in how you can deal with this.

  1. Gripe and Moan
  2. Make the best of the situation

Back in 2013, at the World Scout Moot in Canada, things absolutely did not go to plan. When we arrived on site we were supposed to be led in some team building games, but the IST member assigned to us never showed up.

We grumbled a bit, my patrol and I, then we sort of just got on with it. Each of us ran a team building game from our home country and had a bit of fun.

Similarly, and possibly more relevant to the Jamboree, the site was shut down on Culture day back in 2013 because of a thunder storm. We were sent back to our base camps to wait it out. Some folk went to bed to catch up on sleep, others gathered to plan the next few days activities and events.

I ended up in a cooking shelter with some of my patrol, several folk from the UK and Melissa, a Canadian Beaver Leader. We sat in a circle and sang campfire songs from around the world. We each led a song and learnt from each other.

This was the first time I met Melissa, and that chance meeting in a mess tent in a forest in Quebec has led to a transatlantic friendship where Melissa came to visit me and my Scouts in Scotland, and an open invitation to head out to Vancouver to visit Melissa.

So, to wrap this up, because this has been finished on the bus to the Summit, here’s some closing remarks.

We’re often told that failure to plan is planning to fail, but rigid plans don’t tend to work particularly well in the dynamic environment of the Jamboree. If an activity is closed, another will be open. If a certain choice of food is out of stock, there will be others.

When you are planning your activities or programme or meals, do have a Plan B, and maybe even a Plan C, it will take a few extra minute, but it’ll save you a lot more in the long run.

As I’ve said, things will go wrong, but we’re all Scouts (and Guides) whether we’re Leaders or Participants, we can all do our bit to make this Jamboree amazing!

One Reply to “The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men…”

  1. It isn’t the plan, it’s the planning.
    In making a plan, you consider possibilities and the likelihood of mishaps. So when they happen, they’re a surprise rather than a shock, and your subconscious has already got some ideas of what to do next.

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