Follow every Rainbow

2nd May 1997 at 01:00
It was a Wednesday ritual in my final year at university. "Right, I'm off to the cubs," I'd announce. "Dib, dib, dib! Dob, dob, dob!" my pal Kendal McGuffie (real name) would shriek, an expression of mock glee at his original wit, arm outstretched in an exaggerated point. For my part, I would feign feigning mirth, slapping my thighs and clutching my middle.

Then it was off to Trainspotting country on my racing bike - more a Hovis advert with droop handlebars - to help with the 7th Leith Cubs.

I got into this by opening my mouth at the rightwrong time. I'd had a great time in the Cubs, Scouts and Ventures doing all sorts of outdoor things that I might never have otherwise discovered that I liked. One day, in the halls of residence when I'd been out of the movement for a couple of years, I casually mentioned that I was thinking about helping as a leader. I think I was trying to impress a girl I knew, a girl whose father happened to be in charge of a group. She had me fixed up before you could say "pleated-leather woggle".

This did not meet with the approval of a couple of politically active students from my floor in Edinburgh's Pollock Halls. One of them started out seeing no problem with Scouting until his brother in rhetoric arrived on the scene to fill him in on the party line. Apparently, I was innocently - they were kind enough to see me as merely unenlightened - supporting a fascist paramilitary organisation. How many black kids were in the Cub pack? None? That proved it.

Sadly, I was not quick witted enough to point out that statistically there should have been around 0.1 in that area, and should have highlighted that there was a mix of Protestant and Catholic kids. You never think of these arguments until it is too late.

I survived criticism and jokes and continued as a Cub leader until the end of my spell in the capital. When I entered full-time teaching I left the Scouts, claiming to feel that I'd see enough of kids during the day. I know enough colleagues who have kept up a commitment to the movement to be suspicious that I was merely lazy.

My daughter is in the Brownies now, having graduated from the Rainbows. She'll make Mother's Day presents, learn songs, cook biscuits, go on trips. Perhaps they will have another concert like the one they had last March when the Rainbows did an "animals" medley. I smiled through "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow-Wow", grinned during "Nellie the Elephant" and almost exploded during the "Animal Fair". "I went to the animel fay-arr . . ." sang 26 six-year-olds in broadest Lanarkshire. "The birds and the beasts were they-arr. By the light of the moon, the great baboon was combing his auburn hay-arr."

Then I was genuinely moved. The kids started to sing "It's a Small, Small World", and I remembered the events of the previous week. How many of us could not believe the horror of the news revealed on car radios as we drove home, increasingly and irrationally desperate to check that our own kids, though they went to school scores of miles from Dunblane, were safely home?

So don't anybody talk to me about the Scouts and their ilk as being paramilitary. The paramilitary or fascist, whether the lone inadequate or the member of an organisation, seeks power through terrorising, not nurturing, the innocent.

But did dib dib me all you like. That I can take.

Gregor Steele Gregor Steele made sixer of the yellow six.

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