Thursday, September 23, 2010

Girl Guides, Brownies, God, and the Queen

I was never a Girl Guide or even a Brownie. There were three things wrong with the Girl Guides, in my parents' opinion. One was God, another was the Queen and the third was the uniforms which my parents described - accurately, in those days - as "militaristic" and their memory of the Second World War was still too strong for them to countenance any such thing.

They didn't have anything against all the activities and the camping, but swearing allegiance to God and the Queen ruled it all right out in our house.

This was tricky for me, in an old-fashioned girls' grammar school where God and the Queen were brought into most things anyway, and almost all my friends were always talking about Brown Owl and Tawny Owl and going off to Guide Camp.

The Communist was particularly anti-God. This was perhaps strange, since his way of life followed the Ten Commandments far more closely than many people who would call themselves believers. I'm proud of the fact that he did this from a sense of what was right and not from a fear of what would happen after he died if he did it wrong.

Anyway, there was no way I was ever going to join the Brownies or the Guides, and that was that. My parents would probably have approved of the Woodcraft Folk, which was - and still is - a kind of non-God non-Queen alternative movement, but nobody I knew belonged to it and anyway I thought - and still think - that its name was impossibly twee and this alone would have kept me well away.

I've just been watching a television programme about a hundred years of the Girl Guides and it made me wonder what I missed.

Camping in the countryside? - yes, I would have loved that - - though not in the big groups that Guide Camp consisted of. How about working for badges, and doing big group games, and singing round the camp fire?

Well, sitting round a fire, perhaps, out in the countryside - - but only with a few other people.

That's it, I think. That's the problem. I'm just not, not NOT a joiner-inner.

Of course, my mother is the ultimate joiner-inner and has never been able to understand that I'm not. I know jolly well that if it hadn't been for God and the Queen my mother would have had me join the Brownies the second I was old enough, cheerily saying "You'll enjoy it once you get there" as I protested all the way to the draughty church hall (oh yes, I'm not keen on church halls, generally, either).

Apparently fifty per cent of the women of Britain have been in the Guides or Brownies or both. Watching the programme, I felt a strong sense of regret. But it wasn't regret that I didn't join. It was regret that I don't seem to have that joining-in gene. I'd like to have it. I know it has made me miss out on things that many - perhaps the majority - of people enjoy.

But I don't have it. Big social groups fill me with panic and make me want to flee or to hide. People who know me in other circumstances are often surprised by how much fleeing and hiding I do at big social occasions.

There is, of course, an argument that if I'd only joined the Guides then perhaps I wouldn't feel this way now. But I don't think so. I think it's just how I am: and I wish I wasn't.

6 Comments:

Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

I would have loved to be a cub or a scout but in my East Yorkshire village the opportunity didn't exist. I'm not too keen on joining things either though I am in National Breakdown. Fortunately they don't have many socials!

1:05 am  
Anonymous Kate said...

I was in Girls' Brigade, which is similar to Guides but more churchy. It was an experience not to be missed though - they encouraged us to be strong women and taught us not only handcrafts and camping skills but handy women stuff as well. Like basic car maintenance and building kitchen shelves.
But I do empathise with the "not a joiner thing" as I'm not a joiner in person much either.
BTW it's a funny thing with the word verification thing blogger uses - the captcha word is always based on your comment in some way. Makes sense, I suppose. :)

6:51 am  
Blogger Jennyta said...

I was never in the Brownies or Guides either and can't say I've ever had any regrets. Mind you, I'm not a 'joiner-inner' either and can, at times, take perverse pleasure in NOT joining in! So there! ;)

8:19 am  
Anonymous Annie said...

I wouldn't worry to much about not joining the Guides as i seem to remember spending most of my time trying to jump out of the window as we were told to practice marching for another church parade. It wasn't the most dynamic of youth groups!

10:08 am  
Blogger Michael said...

Youre in good company. Alan Bennett says he was never a joiner-inner. I joined the 32nd SW Leeds Cub Scouts (I still have my certificate somewhere) but was expelled by Grey Owl for throwing my cap in the air. I didnt learn my lesson - I joined the Royal Navy and was also made to feel persona non grata for not being the right type. Now, like Groucho (or was it Karl?) Marx said, I wouldnt join any club that would have me...

12:27 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

I was a Boy Scout but couldn't attain first-class status because I never learned to swim. But I did play the troop's bugle.

10:04 pm  

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