And show me the elf,
I looked in the water,
And there saw...
Anyone else remember that?
"We're Brownie Guides, we're Brownie Guides, we're here to Lend a Hand"
A brown dress, a brown hat, a yellow tie. 10p for a phone call, a notebook, a pen, a rubber band and a stamp in your top pocket. Various assorted Owls for leaders, and games only ever played at Brownies, on a scarily polished church hall floor.
Well, the uniform's changed, the Motto has gone, the Promise has been altered somewhat too. It's about loving God, not duty towards Him, serving both queen and country now, but the essence is pretty similar. No toadstool and no mirror, and a big yellow brooch rather than a tiny brass pin which needed regular polishing.
Tonight, Mog made her Brownie Promise and joined my old Brownie Pack
Not the best photo; better ones had other girls in. Her Buddy marched her through the Brownie Arch, past the flag (I'm sure we had a strange leather triangular penant instead) and up to her Brownie Guider who held her fingers in a salute as she pressed her switch and repeated the promise recorded on it.
Head held high without her collar (anyone who sees fluffy brown and yellow socks please let me know; her regular stash definitely do not match), lined up between her Buddy and her Sixer, Promise badge gleaming and shiny new uniform worn with pride, Mog linked fingers to sing Brownie Bells. Mouth open wide, she sang as loudly as the rest of them, and came fizzing home again high on all the excitement.
And so, more than when she made her Rainbow Promise, Mog became a part of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Perhaps that doesn't mean very much these days. But it does to me. When I was a Guide, we celebrated "75 in '85"; 75 years since the day a group of girls turned up to a Boy Scout rally. Now we're celebrating 100 years of Guiding , and Mog is just as much a part of that as I was and am.
It's been a very Guidey day today. I spent this morning booking tickets for our Guides to go on a Centenary Adventure; come April next year, we'll be camping on the lawns of Alton Towers before spending a day at the Theme Park. I saw we; although I've booked the tickets it'll be the other leaders camping with the Guides; the girls and I will be tucked up cosily in the AT hotel enjoying comfy beds and central heating.
It's a nice connection, this. Little Fish goes to my old school, and if she wants to, then I'm sure she'll also do the whole Brownie thing. But there are fewer places where Mog's childhood and my own can coincide.
And, although I don't especially enjoy being a Guider at the moment (mainly as I'd rather be here at home in the evenings than just about anywhere else), I wouldn't have missed my own Guiding and Scouting experiences for anything. I have abseiled off our church roof and down towers in Oxford, camped on mountains and in fields full of cows and sheep and slept in barns and gone pot-holing and canoeing and built great vast rope bridges, sung to Old People and with Young People and on stage in Gang Shows. I have seen sunrises in Korea and painted lanterns in Japan and learnt from people around the world, made instant friends in California and taken part in Thinking Day celebrations in London. I have seen shy girls put aside their timidity and belt out campfire songs, and I have seen overly sophisticated girls forget themselves and roll around laughing in the mud once there were no boys around and so no need to keep up the act. I've seen groups of pre-teens organise themselves and others into doing amazing things, and I've met adults who have given years to make things happen for the girls in their care. I have listened to older, wiser, retired Guiders talk about their experiences of inner-city Guiding in the 50s, and seen, over and over again, how although the outside appearance of the meetings and activities may change, the core values and core experiences for the girls remain the same, time and again.
I have a lot to be thankful for. I loved my own experiences as a Brownie, a Junior Girl Scout, a Guide, and a Venture Scout. Being chosen to carry the flag for church parade, marching through town on St George's Day, a neverending stream of experiences, both new and so comfortingly old and familiar. And of course, I owe my very existence to Guiding and Scouting, my parents having met at a Student Scout and Guide Club.
So here's to Mog the Brownie, and here's to the next hundred years of Guiding.