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When my knees were brown.

Posted by Big John on January 7, 2007

The other evening I watched an entertaining programme on TV all about the Boy Scout movement, for this year sees the centenary of it’s founding by Sir Robert Baden-Powell.

I was never a ‘cub’ or a ‘scout’ because even as a kid I was not much of a ‘joiner’ and I’m certain that I would have been embarassed by all that “dibbing”, “dobbing” and “ging gang goolieing”. I expect that my uniform would have been the only one in the troop without a single badge and I am sure that I would have lost my ‘woggle’ on day

However I was persueded by my best friend Derek to become a ‘Life Boy’, as his big brother Bernard was some sort of officer in what was then the junior section of the ‘Boys’ Brigade’. I can remember that Bernard used to strut down the street wearing his ‘Glengarry’ and carrying his stick under his arm in a very military manner, to the great amusement of all the neighbours.

The rest of us Life Boys were not quite so smart as our uniforms consisted of a sailor hat and a badge which was pinned to a navy blue jumper, the style, colour and quality of which depended on what your parents could provide as wartime clothes rationing was still in force at that time. Perhaps that’s why I’m not wearing any socks in the brownie.jpgphotograph on the left.

My career as one of this ‘band of brothers’ did not last long as I hated doing ‘physical jerks’ and forming ‘human pyramids’ in a cold and draughty school hall while being dressed only in my ‘underwear’. Even more I disliked getting smacked in the mouth in a ‘character building’ exercise known a ‘blindfold boxing’. This activity involved two boys wearing boxing gloves being blindfolded before beating the shit out of each other. I also let my fledgling atheistic tendancies show by going ‘AWOL’ from church parades and skipping the Sunday school at the local ‘mission’ hall. I guess that I was not as “STEADFAST” as I was supposed to be.

My only other experience of a childhood group activety was when I had dreams of becoming a musician and enrolled as a member of the ‘Brixton Boys’ Silver Band’. I did try to learn to read music, but about the only thing I could ever play on my cornet was the National Anthem. I tended to ‘mime’ everything else. In the end I decided to hand over my instrument to a boy who, unlike me, was not tone-deaf.   

My wife was a ‘Brownie’ (right) and my daughter joined the ‘Girl Guides’. She looked very smart in her uniform, but alas, I regret to report that she followed in her father’s footsteps …

…   and became a deserter at an early age.


4 Responses to “When my knees were brown.”

  1. Terri said

    You both look so cute! And I especially love those shoes your wife is wearing.
    I’m ashamed to say….I’m also a “Brownie” and “Girl Scout” drop-out. I tried it….but it wasn’t for me. And going door to door selling those cookies…lets just say I do NOT have a “salesperson” persona.
    Come to think of it…guess I wasn’t into all that childhood interaction either. Even now…I love my own company.

  2. Oscarandre said

    In contrast to your deserter status, Bigjohn, I rose to the lofty rank of Sixer – my smalltown Cubs equivalent of an officer and a gentlemen. I led Mauve Six which had the distinction of being the only Six designated a non-primary colour – a fact that only strikes me now as mildly interesting! Did I miss some subtle social engineering going on in Cubs. Now I think of it, my group were a decidedly odd mob compared, for example to the sporting elites that consituted Red Six or the intelligensia of Blue Six. Perhaps Mauve Six was the eleven year old “Dirty (Half) Dozen” and I their misfit Captain. Oh well, we all survived although I only attended one Scout meeting before a friend and I decided to desert to form our own group called “The Vulture Patrol,” a ragtagk, ad hoc assemblage that lit a lot of fires and farted in sleeping bags, from memory.

  3. Ginnie said

    Those pictures are priceless, John. I can see great resolve and sweetness in the expression of your “brownie” bride and can see why you two have achieved more than 45 years happily married.
    (now don’t pout. I can see a loving nature in your expression too!)

  4. Fred Wotsit said

    ‘blindfold boxing’ was a great favourite of our ‘pack leader’ who tried to mould us into a church choir / Hitler youth type pack .. being a tough kid I missed my mum when on our first camp and didn’t bother anymore.

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