Little people something something something steeple.

LT and I were reminiscing after dinner, as we often do, about our earlier days long before we knew each other.  It takes a few jumps to this but I’ll start from the beginning, about how I joined the Brownies.

I think that there are more specific age groups nowadays and I’d have joined the Rainbows and Brownies have a Panda instead of Brown Owl, but my own children didn’t get involved in any of this sort of worthy and enjoyable sort of thing because I’d hated it so much.

So much, in fact, that I blocked the memory of how I came to join for at least two decades.  And then I mentioned to my mum something disparaging about Brownies and she reminded me that I’d insisted on joining.  And I remembered that she was absolutely right.  One day, looking out of our kitchen window, we’d seen a group of little girls go past, all in brown uniforms, and I asked her who they were.  And they were Brownies and they were out on a nature walk.  The thought of a nature walk was Very Heaven to me and I forced my bewildered mama – because I never wanted to do anything much that didn’t involve a book – to go out and accost Brown Owl there and then, to enrol me so that I’d go along the very next week.

I hated it.  I went weekly for several years and I hated it.  There were several little groups – gnomes, elves, Little People and so on and they each had a red-and-white dotted artificial toadstool to dance around and sing their little song and then we did god knows what, but it had no attraction to a shy and introverted child who didn’t really *do* little girls of her own age.  Brown Owl was a worthy woman, I’m sure, but she had a way of boomingly asking if I was “still shy?” which is a surefire way of rendering any child silent and tongue-tied.  I gather there were badges to be earned but I was never offered a way to any of them and wouldn’t have cared anyway; I had no competitive edge and was dismissive of trivialities.  I wasn’t easy, I realise.

When I was 11, I was finally too old for Brownies and ascended to the Girl Guides.  I didn’t understand that any the better, but my ordeal was nearly at an end.  The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a new programme and it was shown on – I think – a Thursday evening.  And that was the same night as Guides.  No contest and my parents were reasonable people who quite appreciated priorities.

More than fifty years on, I still am furious that we never went on a nature walk.  It had apparently been a one-off.  It was the only reason I joined and we never did it.  I don’t usually hold grudges, but this is the one.

I wasn’t one of the Little People, I think I was a Gnome.  But what our ditty was has vanished from my memory.

8 comments on “Little people something something something steeple.

  1. Diane Bunyan

    I too hated the Brownies, but you had greater staying power.
    I left when I was made a gnome – our rhyme was ‘Here we are the helpful gnomes, helping mother in our homes”. I wanted to do something much more exciting like be a kelpie.

    I think though it did start my commitment to working for women’s equality so maybe not all bad!

    1. Z Post author

      Crikey, I can’t have been a gnome then, I know I didn’t have to say that. We didn’t have kelpies though. I’m sure google will have the answer, I must have a rummage.

      I could simply have said to my mother that I didn’t want to go any more, but I never quit anything and I have no idea why. I can only think that it didn’t occur to me that it was an option, that I was somehow obliged to see things through.

  2. LẌ

    I was not a Brownie, but was a Boy Scout for a little over two years. I mostly joined for the camping and nature hikes. I had only one merit badge (Pioneering!) that was easily earned during summer camp.

    1. Z Post author

      I’d have loved camping and nature hikes. I can remember very little about what we actually did in the village hall, just that I didn’t enjoy it.

  3. Allotment Queen

    I went to Brownies for about three weeks but left because it was so boring. Didn’t get as far as having a uniform. All my children (including my daughter) went to Cubs/Scouts which was much more fun – they got to climb trees, light fires, dig latrines, do archery, etc. I’m not sure whether it is the Brownies or the Guides but one of them has a badge for making and serving cups of tea.

  4. Z Post author

    It was alien to me too, Mago. And, as AQ says, boring – though I don’t suppose every group of Brownies was. Looking back, I just can’t imagine why I didn’t simply say I didn’t want to go any more. I don’t think it occurred to me. You’d have thought my mother would have realised I didn’t like it, but I had the very opposite of a child-centred upbringing, loving though it was, and I was a biddable child.


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