Written by Dotty Winters

Lifestyle

“I was a Brownie and I bloody loved it”

Remember doing forward rolls in a church hall in return for a badge with the word ‘Agility’ written on it? Recovering Brownie Dotty Winters does. Now, she says, the time has come to revive such simple pleasures. The time has come for… GROWN-UP BADGES.

'We Can Do It' pose in a brownie uniform

Illustration by Laura Swaddle.

Back when I was in school, if you looked up the word ‘square’ in the dictionary you’d find… a description of regular quadrilaterals. But while you did that I’d be pulling my white socks up to my knees, writing up my homework neatly and going to Brownies.

These days the Girl Guiding movement is all about civic engagement, adventures and smashing the patriarchy, but back then it was much more about dusty church halls, colouring in pictures of pixies and making pledges to gods and monarchies I was ideologically opposed to. I bloody loved it.

I think the most exciting thing we ever did at Brownies was cooking pallid pancakes on an upturned beans tin with a tealight under it. It was like witnessing an actual miracle: real, almost edible pancakes in just three to four hours.

If proof were needed that Brown Owl was a bona fide genius, a favourite game was hedgehogs, in which all the lights were turned out and everyone crawled about ‘being hedgehogs’ in total silence in the pitch black. To this day the gentle clink of ice in a glass and the faintest smell of gin reminds me of this game. Good Work, Brown Owl.

“You can sod your soggy biscuit with a cup of tea; to earn a Hostess badge these days you should be forced to compete with me.”

But no amount of pancake-eating hedgehogs could take the crown for best thing about Brownies. That honour was reserved for badges. From the moment I received my uniform I was fixated on filling every available bit of sleeve with badges. I pored over the Brownie handbook, working out a strategy for maximum badge success. As soon as I got my first badge I was hooked and I needed more and more badges to stay on the high. Years later I’ve had a good hard look at my life and decided that I miss those simple pleasures. The time has come for grown-up badges.

The titles below remain the same, but the qualifying criteria have been updated slightly (NB: changes to qualifying criteria are entirely to ensure that I get all the badges, immediately).

Thrift

Back in the day you gained your thrift badge by being an expert in make-do-and-mend. A laudable pursuit, clearly, but my thrift superpower is ‘Finding Misspelled Items on eBay’. I am a massive fan of my Kath Kidston mugs and the kids adore their BOUCY castle. I was gutted to note that Barclays have recently included this as a tip in a TV advert, proving once and for all that bankers are to blame for ruining everything.

Hostess

You can sod your soggy biscuit with a cup of tea; to earn a Hostess badge these days you should be forced to compete with me. And that means… emergency last-minute cocktails in large quantities and all the beige food you can eat. If you catch me on a good day I might even whip up something for you to dip your goujon in. I can cook proper food, with vegetables in it and everything, but special occasions call for canapés, and everyone knows that’s French for chicken nuggets.

“Before I improved my agility I would regularly end my evening by getting twatted in the face with a garden implement, or nearly taking an eye out on the pointy end of a gnome.”

Agility

I vaguely remember that this used to involve walking along a bench adorned in bean bags, but my ability to accessorise has improved dramatically since then, and I have new agility skills.

You know when master criminals have to contort and balance to avoid the laser beams and steal the diamonds? That’s me, coming home from a gig. The path to my house is entirely unlit and the sensor for the security light is precisely calibrated to turn the lights on just as you faceplant in a flowerbed, and not a moment sooner.

To add to the peril, the children like to decorate the garden with upturned rakes and spiky things. Before I improved my agility I would regularly end my evening by getting twatted in the face with a garden implement, or nearly taking an eye out on the pointy end of a gnome. Nowadays I have it down to a fine art. I simply close my eyes, use the force, and origami myself round the obstacles. I haven’t been to A&E for weeks.

I’m glad the guiding movement has modernised. I am all for feminism and adventures – as long as there will also be badges and pancakes cooked on tins.

@DottyWinters

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Written by Dotty Winters

Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.