Sunday, February 26, 2006

I promise that I will do my best...

When I was a small person, I was in the Brownies.

On the surface, the Brownies are innocent enough. The name conjures up an image of well-to-do, rosy-cheeked youngsters having bags of fun in a healthy, Enid-Blytony way. Camping, and Gang Shows, and good old-fashioned team spirit. Well, bollocks to that. In my humble opinion, the Brownies fucking sucked (I mean that figuratively – we didn’t get round to that sort of thing until we got into the Guides). My stepsister and I were packed off to the Village Hall every Thursday evening at six thirty, to join twenty or so other unfortunates in an hour of enforced jollity and thinly veiled threats. For the princely sum of twenty pence a week subs, we could immerse ourselves in such joyless activities as working towards our badges, our “path” awards (to this day I don’t get that part of it. Why does it matter whether or not I can tie a reef knot? Or improvise a triangular bandage with a tea towel?), or playing games that mostly involved sitting on the floor while other Brownies stamped on your legs. Fabulous. We also had to walk home in the dark past the scary bus shelter. If I think about it now I can still see the imagined shadow of a man with a Very Big Knife that my head would conjure up for me.

The ceremonial side was a little sinister too. To be inducted into the Brownies you had to take part in a strange little vignette which involved pretending to be a child who learned the hard way that the only person in life who would tidy your bedroom was you, in a pretend wood, by a pretend pond, while your parents watched. And as for the god-bothering and general fawning…if I wasn’t promising to “do my duty to god” I was entering into a contract of servitude with the Queen, or standing at a freezing War Memorial on a November Sunday wishing I was at home doing my Spirograph. It was like being in a cult, only without the fun stuff – stealing, religious ecstasy with the aid of hallucinogenics, that sort of thing. I was bullied both by my peers and one of the helpers, but it’s alright because I’m over it now. Obviously. I attended one (one was enough) ill-fated Brownie camp which saw me struck down with crippling hayfever even as I was coaxed off the side of an abseil tower or tied empty barrels together with hairy string in a collective delusion of the power of hope over physics (to say our raft was doomed to fail would be something of an understatement. Anna Welch is probably picking pond weed out of her hair to this day). It wasn’t all gloom though – I attained the heady heights of my Hostess (serving a cup of tea and a biscuit to Brown Owl and Tawny Owl without tripping over my feet or bellowing “motherfucker” instead of asking if they took sugar), Jester (pathetic, embarrassing dance and thirty second monologue shamelessly stolen from Pam Ayres) and Country Dancing badges. I impressed the other Brownies with my in-depth knowledge of banned horror films, and went canoeing in the local swimming pool. And for reasons that are still not clear to me, I went on to join the Guides. The Guides are a little more fascist than the Brownies – I was disciplined on a truly horrendous camping trip to Derbyshire (sunstroke, the promise of wallabies and a prolific nosebleed into the cauliflower while serving lunch) for wearing a blue t-shirt (everything had to be blue. Everything. There is no room for individuality in the Guides) with white stripes on it. I just didn’t fit in (really?) and was finally asked to leave at the age of thirteen, whereupon I filled the ensuing gap in my leisure time with fags, cider and underage sex. Hurray!

So why, despite my scarring memories, am I so keen on Small Person joining the Brownies?

I must be stopped. Oh, and MC Hammer has a blog, apparently. Weird*.


* Please note - "weird" does not necessarily mean "interesting".

21 Comments:

Blogger Universal Soldier chimed in with...

In this day and age small person has so much more choice - she's allowed to join the cubs and Boys Brigade as well - what is all that about?

26 February, 2006 18:32  
Blogger DavetheF chimed in with...

Don't do it. Direct her towards the arts, or drama or something. Or ballet. or give her a pony. Or all of these things.

I was in the Cubs, and hated every second of it, and my parents for insisting. I never joined the Boy Scouts. As what passsed for a school wit observed: "I was a boy scout till I turned 13. Then I became a girl scout."

Bite me, Arkela.

26 February, 2006 19:50  
Anonymous kyahgirl chimed in with...

oh dear god, I hated Brownies too and I went to Guides as well. I hated every freaking minute of it. Being bossed around by a bunch of fat old hags and going on self torture adventures at every opportunity.

Don't do it to small person. I beg you. If you want something that will teach her useful skills and build character, enroll her in TaeKwonDo!

26 February, 2006 20:31  
Blogger patroclus chimed in with...

No surly, don't do it! It's all so horribly militaristic. I was conscripted into the Brownies against my will, because my Mum was Brown Owl, and as for the Guides, well, the Hitler Youth would probably have provided more scope for individuality and self-expression. Horrible.

26 February, 2006 21:02  
Blogger funny thing chimed in with...

NOOOOOOOOoooooooooo!

It's how parents get rid of kids for a couple of hours.
Tie SP up, tranquilise her and put her under the bed. Tell her she'll thank you in the end.

26 February, 2006 21:57  
Blogger mig bardsley chimed in with...

What everyone else said.
I wouldn't do it (even though Dad thought I ought to) and I wouldn't let my children do it even though all their friends did. I'm not sure they ever forgave me but I know I was right.

There's wood craft folk....I'm told they're fairly nice and socially acceptable and do good things for old people without the fascist stuff.

27 February, 2006 00:12  
Blogger Huw chimed in with...

I took a some pleasure in being one of the most under-qualified (read: least badged) Sixer to ever lead a Six in my cubs troop. I still have my woggle.

27 February, 2006 01:05  
Anonymous caroline chimed in with...

Thank-you. That was very, very funny. I think it was the trying not shout Motherfucker at Brown Owl that finally rendered me helpless.
I was kicked out of the Brownies for flushing another toe-rags beret down the loo. Obiously a masochist even at that age I later joined the Guides where my terrible Brownie sins were remembered after a term and I was kicked out them too.

27 February, 2006 03:43  
Blogger Kellycat chimed in with...

I never did anything like the Brownies or Girls Brigade as a child because my mum always thought the brownies were somewhat sinister. I think she thought they were akin to the Masons or something.

Duck was a bully in boys brigade. He still laughs at how they used to put pennies on the heaters in church, then put the hot coins on the bare legs of the little kids so they'd scream during prayers. Thats what these sort of organisations do to you.

You know that SP's talents would be better suited to drama don't you?

27 February, 2006 07:25  
Blogger crisiswhatcrisis chimed in with...

So you weren't supposed to bellow 'motherfucker' at the leaders? Fuck it. That's where I went wrong, then. I was wondering.

Both my SPs go to one form of Baden-Powell's unhealthy organisations or another. Child 2 is a beaver. Who the fuck thought that was a good name?
"What's your favourite thing, little chap?"
"Beavers."
"There's no need for that. Kids of today, etc."

The cubs' Akela is the most dysfunctional person I have ever met that wasn't actually mentally ill. And she's morbidly obese; her tits hang down to her knees. They do a lot of healthy eating activites, strangely.

I'm beginning to doubt the wisdom of the whole idea.

27 February, 2006 09:48  
Blogger Smat chimed in with...

Oh God, I'm really ashamed to have to admit that I'm a part-qualified Brown Owl (although we don't go any more as the only Baby Smat of the right age would rather play in her music group). My only positive experience of dealing wih 24 screaming brats is that I made the litte so-and-so (who bullied Middle Baby Smat when they first started school) cry on several occasions.

27 February, 2006 09:56  
Blogger don't chase it chimed in with...

I remember standing by a pretend pond!! (it was made out of tin-foil)

I also remember Spirograph, and the fact the biros we used to draw patterns with it ran out of ink all too quickly - really good patterns used up a hell of a lot of ink, didn't they?

if only my mother had invested the 20p a week "subs" for Brownies in more biros for the Spirograph, I might be slightly less bitter and twisted now. . .

27 February, 2006 11:04  
Blogger First Nations chimed in with...

DO. NOT. DO. IT.
former 4-h den mother here. the kids are horrible, the organizations backing these things were horrible (we networked with brownies, girl scouts, tiger cubs, boy scouts,ect; oh, what a sick, money-grubbing farce they all are.) the parents are extra horrible-i had one father commit suicide, though i don't think it was anything to do with his daughters being in my chapter...still. don't. please.

I used to own a pair of hammer pants and i wore them in public. muahahahaha!

27 February, 2006 16:16  
Blogger claire chimed in with...

when i was a kid, i was put in the Brownies (started as a wee one in the "Daisies") totally expecting i would earn badges and go camping and whatnot.

All we did were stupid arts and crafts. We never got any badges or learned a damn thing about the outdoors. Maybe we went to the circus once, but the whole experience was total shit.

I was so disappointed. But i still have the little xmas ornament i made with a needlepoint ring and a very small white bear stuffed into a red pouch.

Priceless.

27 February, 2006 17:09  
Blogger 30-Something chimed in with...

All the Brownies ever taught me was how to wash up. I gave the Guides a miss as I couldn't ever see me picking anything up other than perhaps moving onto how to clean the bathroom.

27 February, 2006 18:15  
Blogger surly girl chimed in with...

in summary then, enrolling small person in the Junior Freemasons is a really bad idea?

Hmm. Where do we stand on majorettes*?


* this is a joke. honestly. small person has both my grace and physical co-ordination. plus, majorettes are creepy. and there's always a fat one - maybe it's a requirement?

27 February, 2006 18:51  
Anonymous Whinger chimed in with...

Brownies: Horrible. I had very similar experiences to everyone else here, but also might add that my mother stated that any moment she gained by my being out of the house at those ridiculous activities was lost later in having to sew on the stupid patch.

27 February, 2006 19:04  
Blogger the Beep chimed in with...

Cubs was absolutely fantastic. I really enjoyed it. Sadly the modern equivalent is an anodyne and poor immitation. Where is the fun in 'touch' British Bulldog? A sprain was the minimum requirement for a good evening at Cubs and the really great evenings were marked by a blood wound.
The heath and safety executuive has ruined a rite of passage for small boys (I grew up in a house where I was the only boy among *counts*, yeGods, several females of the species. More than four anway. I NEEDED cubs)

Politically correct Cubs? Bah.

27 February, 2006 19:45  
Blogger frangelita chimed in with...

Was forbidden to do Brownies (see mig bardsley comment above). Tried to do the whole good deed a day thing once when my mum was poorly and washed the floor. With washing-up liquid. I was discouraged from such initiatives after that.

27 February, 2006 22:20  
Anonymous loml chimed in with...

Pond, paah, we had a red and white spotted mushroom. We were all fungies to be with.(wa,wa,waaar)

28 February, 2006 09:36  
Blogger Jemima chimed in with...

'motherfucker', rolling all over the place laughing at that! Love it.

I was an excellent brownie, sixer for the pixies and rapid gainer of badges. I lasted one session in guides. D'you see how many rules they gave you to learn? Evil. Oh and I'd discovered anti-monarchist/communist thought processes by then.

I did once get totally ostracised for saying I didn't like a particular hymn. You'd think I used the font as a toilet the dirty looks I got.

And camp was horrific, akin to slave labour! Although I did win a prize for the best cakes. they gave me a denim pencil case. But then a dirty girl stole my hairband. Swings and roundabouts and mixed fruit jam.

28 February, 2006 21:55  

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