|Getting enrolled to 4th Spondon Brownies by Brown Owl in 1986.|
"I promise that I will do my best, to do my duty to God, to serve the Queen, help other people and to keep the Brownie Guide Law."
I adored Brownies. I loved the uniform (bobble hat and all). I was meticulous about the special items that all Brownies had to have with them at all times (a big old-fashioned 10p piece, 30cm of string, a clean handkerchief and a notebook and pencil) I loved that everyone has special names, just for Brownie night, and that we belonged to a 'pack' and a 'six'. I was sold on it all.
Tuesday night or 'Brownie Night' was one of the highlights of my week. 4th Spondon Brownies, in the old Guide Hut on West Road, with its melamine surfaces and musty smell was the place to be. Perhaps because I was so much smaller then, or maybe because we spent a lot of time sat on the floor, I remember the carpet particularly well. The rough, scratchy grey/green carpet with its splodges of spilt candle wax, from marshmallow toasting or christingle making, hardened into mysterious black pools.
badge that I proudly
I was a proud Leprechaun and I was so pleased when I joined to meet my 'Sixer', who I continued to embarrass greatly by announcing her title, rather pompously, whenever I saw her in the street. It is only in retrospect that I can see the gulf that exists between the barely 7 year-old new recruit and the oh-so mature, and responsibility-weary, 10 year-old Sixer. At the time, I was as enamoured with her as I was Brown Owl, Tawny Owl and Snowy Owl - all of whom I decided, immediately, were brilliant.
My time at Brownies taught me so many things. I earned badges in subjects as diverse as dance, orienteering, animal care and sugarcraft. I learned about Brownies all over the world, raised money for different causes, furthered my knowledge of history, formed close friendships with girls I would never have otherwise known and laughed and sang and danced my way through so many evenings of my childhood. From formal Remembrance Day marches through town, once as flag bearer, to watching enthusiastic district Gang Show 'Flying High' - I devoured all that came with Brownies as well as my treasured Tuesday evenings.
Perhaps one of the best memories of a Brownie event, which really demonstrates the supportive spirit of
|The mysteriously carpeted Guide Hut in Spondon.|
|My hard-earned Brownie Swimmer|
Sadly, my progression to Guides was not one I found particularly satisfying. As they progress beyond 10 years old, girls do become that degree bitchier and crueller and I found myself dragging my heels that little bit more as I made my way to meetings. I missed Brown Owl, the endless summer evening games of rounders, the responsibility of being a Sixer and the frantic games of 'cat and mouse'. Guides was more about baking, crafts and, most significantly in my memory, the importance of making a shoe-rack by lashing together sticks with string... when camping. It wasn't really my scene.
Fairly quickly, I made the shift to becoming a Young Leader - the scheme set up to encourage those who've been in Guiding to move to volunteering as leaders themselves. I immediately loved it and
|My Young Leader badge,|
awarded on completion of my
Young Leader training.
'My' Brown Owl, Anne Brownhill was an amazing woman. Always enthusiastic, keen to hear our news, able to control a room full of over-excited young girls with a few quiet words - she was the most patient of people and the most adventurous of souls. We used to listen in admiration as we
|Anne and her husband George, receiving|
an award from their running club in
2008: Link here
I left Guiding when A-Level exams called and the prospect of University peeped over the horizon. At the time I was busy studying, going to parties, obsessing about bands and falling in love for the first time. I don't think I realised at the time what I was walking away from.
Modern day Guiding still remains as relevant and important as ever, in my opinion. The celebrations for the centenary of Girlguiding (as it is now called) in 2010 brought to light again the importance that this movement has. It remains as popular with younger girls and has moved well with the times, with Brownies now working towards badges such as Communicator, Crime Prevention and Disability Awareness. Despite a dislike of same-sex education streaming, I can see a real value in clubs and societies such as Rainbows, Brownies and Guides where girls can spend time with those of their own gender. The chance to experiment, romp, laugh, be silly, make-believe and develop skills in the
|The current motto for the movement -|
a fantastically positive message.
I can't honestly say I've stuck to my 7-year old solemn Brownie Guide promise. In adulthood, I don't have any religious faith so I suppose my 'duty to God' went out of the window, somewhat. I also have absolutely no intention of serving the Queen, in any way. However, the Brownie Guide Law is something that I think I shall always abide by and it will hopefully continue to be a motto close to my heart throughout my life.
"A Brownie Guide thinks of others before herself, and does a good turn every day."
UPDATE - I was very pleased to read that GirlGuiding have added their voices to the campaign to end the inclusion of topless photography on Page 3 of tabloid newspapers in the UK. Yay, go Girlguides!