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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Going for a song

One of my favourite activities as a child was Brownies.  I loved Brownies.  I loved the uniform (who could blame me, it was a stunning piece of couture?), I loved working for badges, I loved - frankly - having more badges than anyone else (apart from Swotty Susan, who literally had about 70 badges.  It's a good job she was a bit chubby or they wouldn't have all fitted on her uniform).  Most of all, I loved it when I finally became Sixer of the Pixies.  This meant I was nominally in charge of five other girls.  What this meant in practice was I was supposed to tick their names in a register and collect their subs each week.  The novelty wore off after about two weeks and I used to let the others take it in turns.  That's the kind of firm but fair leader I was.

One of the other things I loved about Brownies was when we would all go on a Pack Holiday.  This was exactly like a family holiday: it would generally involve at least six arguments, substandard accommodation and at least one visit to a church you didn't want to go to.  It did have the added advantage though of planning midnight feasts (which would never happen as everyone would fall asleep first) and pretending you had a sore throat at night to get a throat sweet from Brown Owl (whom I suspect was sneakily swigging neat vodka from the sheer awfulness of being responsible for 20-odd seven to ten year olds).

Pack Holidays were always held no more than about fifteen minutes from home, which took the glamour out of the location a bit.  But we did get to sing songs.  There was one song which was massively politically incorrect about being Red Indians ("All of us are red men, feathers in our head men, down among the dead men, pow wow, we're the men of the golden cow" were the lyrics I can remember.).  There was also one about yodelling on a mountaintop, and one more about a kookaburra living in an old oak tree.  This seemed unlikely in the East Midlands, but I was eight; who was I to question it?

I do remember one particularly disturbing song we learned one Pack Holiday (to the tune of John Brown's Body):

I wear my pink pyjamas in the summer when it's hot
I wear my flannel nightie in the winter when it's not.
And sometimes in the springtime and sometimes in the fall
I jump into my little bed with nothing on at all.

That's the time you ought to see me!
That's the time you ought to see me!
That's the time you ought to see me!
When I jump into my little bed with nothing on at all.

There are several reasons why I find this song so disturbing.  Most obviously that a group of eight year-old girls are encouraging people to watch them whilst they're naked in bed.  But more infuriatingly - why on earth would you wear pink pyjamas to stay cool in the summer and wear nothing at all in autumn or spring, when presumably it's cooler?

It's just insane.  I mean, the pink pyjamas would have to be made of some sort of thermal cooling material to make them cooler than the naked body, or at the very least to have some sort of battery-operated inbuilt cooling system.  And yet there is no reference to this at all in the song.

It's very wrong to teach eight year olds such terrible logic.  The Girl Guides Association ought to be ashamed.


Anonymous said...

Do you remember telling us that the Brownie Pack Holiday was going to be in Switzerland?
'Are you sure ?'we asked
'But Switzerland? Abroad?'
'YES!We are going to Switzerland.Brown Owl told us '
Then the following week we got the letter.
Brownies were going to Swithland.
A village about 5 miles away.

Sara said...

It could be that the song was from Australia (like the kookaburra song), in which case the summer IS cooler! I never thought any of the songs made sense, but I did enjoy the whole Brownie experience! I was one of the super cool girls who also became a Girl Guide! lol

Jack said...

Alicia used to sing 'Kookaburra sitting in the old gum tree...laugh kookaburra..'

She thinks your song sounds like a bad English bootleg version where they've just stuck in 'oak' tree to make it seem original.