When I was 15 years old, I graduated from Scouts. Hold the applause.
While most associate the legacy of B.P (that's Robert Baden Powell people) with dorky scarves and quasi-miltary organisation, it was actually pretty damn cool. We did cliff forward run-downs, midnight abseiling, multiple day canoe camping trips, lashed together barrels and posts into rafts we sailed down the Swan river, hiked a fair portion Bibbulmun track and spent so much time in tents that we couldn't sleep at home unless we tucked a rock into our bed to achieve the same level of discomfort. Oh and we wore dorky scarves and adhered to a quasi-military organisational structure.
On my final night, I was awarded a genuine Swiss army knife with my name and the year engraved on the largest blade. In the years since, that knife has proved it's worth time and time again.
It's travelled with me around the world and every place I ever lived and has done everything from opening cheap bottles of wi,e, to slicing fresh salami to trimming my (perennially) overgrown fringe, even giving me the feeling of protection, nestled safely in my palm as I wandered foreign streets at night.
Such a ubiquitous part of my daily life I almost forgot it.
So a few weeks ago, when I went through gate security at Charles de Gaulle airport for a weekend of chilled-out beaching, and the security man gently informed me that I was attempting to bring a knife with not one, but about 12 pointy ends onto the plane, I got pretty upset.
I dallied and dithered, and even teared up a bit, but I was due to board and knew to surrender it was the only real choice. So surrender I did, into the plastic case along with other assorted weapons of mass destruction, where it looked sad and lost.
I had been in this exact situation before. Each other time, I had just managed to get it either into my checked luggage or picked up by a sympathetic member of my family. I didn't have these options now, and I guess in some way I knew this day was coming- it was only a matter of time.
When I was a Scout, I was lucky enough to have fanatstic, inspiring leaders who cared for us, but also knew to push us to and beyond the limits of what we thought we were capable of. That makes it sound like some kind of weird boot camp for kids but it wasn't- although it's a cliché, they knew it was character building to make us hike over one more hill before we rested, or to set up the campsite properly, even if it was pouring with rain.
As a result of all those years, the movement has had a profound impact on who I am, and what I know I am capable of. I might not remember how to tie a double clove hitch, but I know that if the chips are down I can go without a shower for days and push through fatigue to apply myself to difficult problems.
So as I sat sulking in the departure lounge, I realized that although the knife was useful and sentimentally special to me, it's real value was it what it stood for: my years of Scouting and all the adventuring and traveling it has inspired since. Scouting taught me the value of what you can't hold or have, and also that although 'things' make life easier, there is always another way.
Yes, I am sad that it's gone, and every time I need to make lunch on the go or dig a splinter out of my foot I miss it, but attempting to recheck my luggage or take other desperate measures to keep it safe would have been contrary to Scouting values of resourcefulness and economy. And expensive.
But I still need to honour that proud item and all it stands for so here we are.
Thanks swissy. You were the best knife a girl could have. May your blade stay bright and sharp, and your parts bring aid to those around you, wherever it is that airport confiscations go.