Brown dress, brown socks, brown shoes, yellow hat, yellow tie, shiny polished pixie badge, badges neatly sewn on as she met the challenges for helping others, sewing buttons, bandaging a broken arm. All the girls looked more or less the same. They learned the same Brownie oath, and the same Brownie salute – two fingers with the thumb folded over the palm, held up facing Brown Owl as they chanted together ‘I promise to do my best, serve god, the queen and my country’. She was allowed to join when she was seven and expected that she would move into the girl guides when she was ten. There would be camps and adventures that she would embark on with other girls and she liked the games they played together and the Milo chocolate drink that they shared in the brownie clubhouse. She was allowed to walk there on her own on Saturday mornings and to walk back home afterwards.
It was a bright clear day, when the girl and her Brownie friend decided to walk the long way home through the Main Street of their town. They came along the lane way at the back of the Town Hall, the tallest and most important building in the town. There were wooden steps leading right up the outside of the building at the back, a fire escape for the cinema. They decided to climb up to the top of the steps to see what they could see from up there. Once they got to the landing at the top they saw that it was only a little way further and they would be able to see over the top of the building into the street at the front. They would just have to step onto the tin roof, and carefully make their way along the ridge. She had done this at her grandparents house and wasn’t scared of being so high.
Once they came near the edge, they laid on the stomachs and wriggled forward to peep over the façade. The people were so far down, looking so important as they went to the shops and the library next door. Ladies in hats carrying shopping bags, and holding the hands of small children. Men in suits. They looked so small and funny from on top that the girls began to giggle. People on the street had no idea that the girls were looking down on them. One of the girls picked up a small stone and dropped it down, pulling back quickly. Then another, and another. They suddenly noticed small stones were all over the roof. They felt so powerful, dropping the stones from above, laughing and shushing each other, trying not to be heard, wanting to hear the people’s reactions on the ground, when they realised something was different.
Then suddenly they saw a man standing on the landing at the top of the steps, not a policeman but in a uniform. The girls were scared, now they felt like crying. He would tell their parents, the Brown owl would know. They couldn’t walk across the roof now, they didn’t trust their legs anymore. They crawled awkwardly, feeling so ashamed. Knowing it was so much worse because they were in the brown uniforms and yellow hats that said to the world that they were Brownies.