My career in the Girl Guides was fairly short and savage, as indeed was I at that age. I never really got to grips with the whole idea. The notion of young girls dressing up in quasi-military uniforms, complete with caps, shoulder flashes and secret little salutes was all a bit right wing for me.
I did like the bit in the pledge to serve the Queen. In my head this conjured up images of revolutionary mobs storming the gates of Buckingham Palace, whilst I and the Blue Tit patrol fought them off, having neatly sewn Defending Palaces with Small Arms badges onto our tunic sleeves.
Yes, I do realise there is an ideological contradiction there, but I was only 12 and hadn’t read Marx yet.
Unsurprisingly, I was a rubbish Guide. My natural inclination to bolshie behaviour towards people in charge, or rather, people who think they are in charge, reared up, and my career began to take an all too predictable turn. I had already been thrown out of the Brownies. The Guides were next.
The crunch came on Exhibition Night, where Guides were meant to display their ability to be good future housewives with their command of semaphore, neat embroidery and cake baking. I could do none of these things.
Anyway, presenting a beautiful Victoria sponge on a delightfully decorated tray cover, then popping out to signal the fleet about the dangers of lurking U-Boat 475 struck me as an odd set of talents for a future mother of the Empire, and yes, such phrases were still used in 1960s Lanarkshire.
I was bunged in the formation marching team. They put all the rubbish Guides in two rows, and then forced us march about the hall in time to music, in our case the trendy sounds of Glen Miller.
We were supposed to create fancy patterns by weaving in and out of each regimented row, and wow the audience with the display of impeccable timing and control.
This didn’t happen. I was leading March Row 2, as Brown Owl liked to call us. To be fair, it was not all my fault. Yvonne Baxter leading Row 1 lost it.
At least, that’s what I would tell the court martial. She had a look of complete panic in her eyes the minute the St Louis Blues started up, and marched her row straight at mine.
Mindful of potential impact damage, I stepped up to defend my troops, and promptly barked about turn, which they did, bless them, and marched them smartly out the door, leaving Row 1 to wander about the hall and Brown Owl looking like Stalin receiving the news of the collapse of the German–Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.
Row 2 milled around the foyer for a bit, I marched home, took off the uniform and figured my days in the trenches of Guiding were over.
You’ll get your marching orders
Of course, now I realise the whole Guiding ruse was to prepare us for withstanding the sieges and battles of the collapsing Imperial project, and now the British Army has broken cover to confirm this. They’ve signed a deal to sponsor what’s now known as Girlguiding. I’m not sure what it is they have in mind. Badges for Incoming Missile? Tank Polishing? Formation Marching?
Naturally, some people are concerned about teen girls being lured into Army careers by an undercover recruitment campaign. Online petitions are saying the guides are a pacifist outfit. To be honest, any organisation featuring uniform, rank and badge already has a distinctly military overtone for my taste.
My fear for the Guides is not for the young hearts and minds. No. It’s for Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. I’ll bet there are a lot of Yvonne Baxters lurking in the ranks. Worse, there’s bound to be a sneaky wee socialist or two, and we all know what trouble they can cause.
Come on, NHS – rip up the stacks of paper and save yourself some cash
Dear NHS, I love you. Should you ever come under attack, I shall don my old Guide uniform and head straight to a barricade. I shall light my Molotov cocktail with the glowing end of my fag to lob at your enemies.
But why are you obsessed with paper? Letters, leaflets and maps are piling up. One map is handy, I’ll grant you that. There are people drifting around the labyrinthine corridors of the Western General with an almost Theresa May-like inability to reach the exit.
You love a questionnaire. Please fill this in, prior to your appointment. Right oh, and then it’s put neatly to one side whilst the nurse takes you through the same questions on the same form on her clipboard.
Letters at least are on recycled paper, but would it not be cheaper, dear NHS, to use email? You could ask us. Some people might still like letters, but an option to use a few less stamps might be an idea? Just a thought.