Here To Lend A Hand

16 Dec

Two decades ago I was a Brownie. I don’t know how widespread this is, but in the UK the Brownies are pretty popular and little girls from 5 – 10 dress up in mustard yellow and cowpat brown and trudge off once a week to a chilly church hall somewhere to do good. It wasn’t really a choice but something that everyone did.  To not be one you were missing out on quite a social event every Friday night, so both me and Little Bean went off to slowly freeze in the hall.

“We’re Brownie Guides, we’re Brownie Guides we’re here to lend a hand. To love our God and serve our Queen and help our homes and land. We’ve Brownie friends, we’ve Brownie friends in North, South East and West. We’re joined together in our wish, to try to do our best!”

The reason I got thinking about the Brownies is I sat in traffic on my way to work this morning and I stopped outside a lovely old house. It cast my mind back to knocking on the door with my Mum a good twenty years ago, all excited to earn my reading badge. I had to visit this little old lady once a week and read to her, and after a certain amount of hours I got my badge, for my Mum to sew on my sash with all my other shiny ones. It made me a little sad as there was a shiny Audi on the drive, and she was frail twenty years ago so probably isn’t there anymore. She was such a nice old lady.

The Brownies seem to me to be one of these cons for young girls. The concept is quite competitive and therefore gets everyone interested; the more badges you get on your sash, the better than the next girl you become. The kids are divided into tribes (I was an elf with visions of being a pixie. No such luck) and therefore more competition is added, with prizes to winning teams in ‘fun’ games. Parents think it’s like church, when actually it’s more like dodgeball. Vicious. The con is that really you are just acting as unpaid help all over the place (I know, helping people out!) but the amount of cups of tea I had to make and ironing that I had to do for my Mum to earn one particular badge makes me think that actually I was doing a maid a disservice, as I was taking away valuable work! Not that we would ever have had a maid. My friend’s family had a cleaner once a week when I was a child, and her mum was always hilarious with it. The girls would have to clean their rooms and she would run the hoover round the morning before the maid came, so that she didn’t think they were messy. I think all the maid had to do was put some bleach down the loo, spray polish in the air so that it was fragrantly clean and then put her feet up on the coffee table and watch morning tv while dunking biscuits in her coffee. For ten pounds an hour.

Once a year, we went off to brownie camp. We were divided into different tribes and given different duties (cooking, cleaning, bed making etc). We went to a tiny village hall, in the little village where The Holiday was filmed, and for three nights we lived in a little community, trekking round the woods and building things in a wholesome and helpful fashion.

I don’t remember liking it very much.


On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

Five Gold Rings! And Dazzle Rebel. His voice is so cool. Go forth, and listen!

My four calling birds favourite was: Go Guilty Pleasures.

My three french hens fav was: The Byronic Man

My two turtle doves were: Brooke and McKenzie

My partridge in a pear tree was: The Redneck Princess

The five gold rings post of mine is: Wanderlust and Itchy Feet ; a post on how my inbox tempts me with travel goodies!

Happy Friday!

‘Belle xxx

19 Responses to “Here To Lend A Hand”

  1. becomingcliche December 16, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    We have Brownies here, too. My daughter was confused and thought she was joining the army. She wondered why they didn’t give her a gun.

  2. shoes December 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Your description of being a Brownie – the cowpat brown, the chilly church, the visits to little old ladies to earn badges – is spot on! That was my experience about 30 years ago in Washington State. Great post and thanks for the memories. 🙂

  3. Marvin the Martian December 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Scouting builds character! I’m glad you did it, because obviously it worked.

  4. madtante December 16, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    Your Brownies sound like several of the Girl Scouts’ levels. Unlike everybody else in the world, I didn’t join because Papa said, “If you want to go into the forest and build a fire, go into the forest and build a fire. Be sure to take your knife.”

    Growing up in the Ozark Mountains meant no need for “camps” or whatever BUT from what I hear of “everybody” who does GS-based activities, it’s always about singing songs, doing crafts and NEVER anymore about charity work. I think even when I was a kid, they’d stopped doing that. It’s basically a child-slavery business for selling over-priced cookies (biscuits). I’m sure people will clobber me for saying that but since I have no experience, I’m basing it on what EVERY coworker has ever said and what I see with my 3 nieces. ::shrugs:: I’m sure some groups “do more” than others but I don’t know of one who does.

    To the contrary, our Boy Scouts seem to “do” the stuff GS used to do (prior to my generation). I don’t know where it went wrong. 😦

  5. Redneckprincess December 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    I was never a brownie…I am not even sure why 🙂 sounds like I didn’t miss out on anything though, heheheeh…thanks for the shout out beautiful xoxo

  6. 1smiles December 16, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    Oh my goodness… here’s a memory from the archives of my mind! I loved being a brownie.

  7. prenin December 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    I was ordered to join the scouts by my father only to be beaten up frequently because the guy who was supposed to be there kept disappearing leaving a thug in charge.

    I was thrown out for biting the guy who was left in charge after he beat me up.

    I NEVER went back and my dad battered me for bringing his name into disrepute…

    Love and hugs!


  8. Dazzle Rebel December 16, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    Oh bless you. Thank you so much Belle.

  9. Kay aka Babygirl December 16, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    I used to be a brownie a long time ago. I never went further because I started becoming interested in other things and my mom took me out.. but it was the best times of my life. Wonderful post

  10. coachrahul December 16, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    The things adults made us do as kids!

  11. nelle December 16, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    I was never a Brownie… I’d like to have had the experience, and if I did, wonder what I’d say about it now. Thanks for sharing!

    BTW, I love the noun ‘hoover’, but I love it more as a verb.

  12. Katie December 17, 2011 at 12:58 am #

    I was a Brownie and made it all the way to a Cadet. My daughters started as Daisies and only made it to Juniors. I loved Girl Scouts — loved getting those badges and doing something. I wasn’t crazy about selling Girl Scout Cookies and calendars – but it got me out of the house for short amount of time. I think Girl Scouts teaches girls to be competitive and it’s a darn good thing — since that is the way the world is! It also taught me that I don’t look good in cowpat brown (great description!) and our ties were orange — so we looked like trees with orange fungus growing on us! At least with Juniors we were able to wear green — which only meant we looked like trees which had finally gotten their leaves!

  13. racheldeangelis December 17, 2011 at 2:05 am #

    I was in Girl Scouts as well….I was a Brownie in elementary school and a Junior in middle school! I could never really earn very many badges though. It always seemed like the tasks were ridiculously difficult, like to earn the animal badge you had to assist a veterinarian during surgery or something. Plus I was doing double-time, as my church had a similar program called Missionettes with Daisies, Prims, and STARS. I think I finally dropped out during the “T” level of STARS, but I’ll always remember the “crowning ceremony” they would have us go to when a girl had completed all of the levels and received all of her badges. She got to wear a formal dress, and a little red velvet cape, and she would walk down the aisle (almost like a wedding!) and sit on a throne at the front, and someone would dramatically place the crown on her head while some inspirational music played in the background. It’s a shame I never got my crown…

  14. jannatwrites December 17, 2011 at 4:20 am #

    I was a Brownie, too. I think I had a sparsely decorated sash…I didn’t get into the badge earning thing. About the only things I remember are: 1) making Shrinky Dinks and 2) selling (and eating) cookies.

    My son is in Scouts. I see some free labor on our horizon, too. (ha, ha)

  15. Ronnie Libra December 17, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    I fucking HATED that. My dad did the same thing. We had a maid but he wanted us to clean up before the maid got there. Needless to say it sparked many debates about, “Sooo… If we have someone coming to clean the house, why do we have to clean first? What’s the point in paying a maid to do it?”

    Anyway, I was thinking maybe the reason they needed you girls to compete viscously against each other is because the cream at the top, (Were they pixies? Was that the top? Or was there some higher status like Imp or Sprite?) probably had to go and battle against the girl scouts.. Or are girl scouts just older brownies? And I always thought Brownies were more like dwarves or gnomes and less like pixies and fairies…

    See how confusing all this is to a man?

  16. Carola December 17, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    That Sounds pretty similar to the girl scouts here in the States, minus the religious component. Good memories.

  17. Sandra Bell Kirchman December 18, 2011 at 12:18 am #

    I was in Brownies in Canada when I was small, many decades ago. I was in the Fairy tribe (there were fairies, pixies, elves, gnomes, and something else that I don’t remember, but not dwarves anyhow).

    I don’t remember doing all this child labor, and my time was long before Belle’s. We did have to do crafts and good deeds, but it was all a planned part of the program. When we were halfway there, we received our tribe pin (mine was a copper rendition of a sassy fairy – I loved it).

    When we were all the way there, we “flew up” to become a Girl Guide. This was a much-anticipated ceremony that involved flapping of wings and taking a turn or two around the hall whilst imitating an eagle trying to take off while stuck in glue.

    Basically, a Brownie (girls 6-10) was an “uneducated” Girl Scout (girls from 11 and up). I think I enjoyed it, but it was so many years ago, that I’m not sure. The fact that I can still remember it must mean that it made an impact on me, hopefully a positive one 😛

    Later, being a Brownie was replaced by something called Canadian Girls in Training (CGIT). The outfits were a little more esthetic color-wise (crisp white and navy blue). It was a interdenominational church-run organization which was very popular with young Canadian girls. Funnily, even though I was much older (13-14), I don’t remember too much about CGIT. I tend to think I didn’t have as much fun as in Brownies, but who really knew?

  18. gojulesgo December 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    Ha! Oh yes, we have Brownies/Girl Scouts in the States, and I was one! Like you, I joined because everyone else was doing it. Although I don’t remember having to do chores for badges, just crafts and learn camping skills, LOL. I think the first year we wore blue smocks and were called Daisies, and we graduated with a candle ceremony. I was never really into it, and quit after about age 10, but not before having to sell Girl Scout cookies door-to-door. Talk about a competition! My dad wouldn’t bring the order forms to work, so I used to get clobbered by the girls whose dads would – they’d sell like 500 boxes (to my 80)!

  19. drewpan December 19, 2011 at 3:07 am #

    You mean in all your years of being a Brownie, you never went on an adventure with an old man and his balloon-lifted flying house?

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