What have they done to our song?

8th December 2000 at 00:00
A CHILLING tale from the past:security services feared that British Scouts who visited Germany before the outbreak of the Second World War would be recruited as spies by the Hitler Youth movement. Home Office files show MI5's concern about exchanges in the 1930s, though these were dismissed by Scout movement's founder Lord Baden-Powell.

His lordship would be dismayed at the decline in communal singing which his movement fostered round the camp-fire. At Britain's biggest annual competition for choirs, John Rutter, a leading choral composer, said we were becoming "a nation of silent couch potatoes". John Dunford of the Secondary Heads' Association said school assemblies had contributed to the decline: "They used to be a hymn, a prayer and a bollocking. Now they are just a prayer and a bollocking."

Nursery staff have been urged by a training organisation to mind their language. They are being banned from calling children "naughty" or "bad". Eucationists say such labels can

cause children's behaviour to deteriorate.

As spirits droop in these cold dark months there's hope for sufferers of SAD, seasonal affective disorder. German and American scientists have discovered two genes which are believed to trigger hibernation and could help humans to sleep out the winter season.

Meanwhile, the bump in the night is more likely to be a child falling out of its bunk bed than a burglar. Thousands of youngsters are injured because parents let them sleep on the top bunk. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reports a 10 per cent rise in accidents. "Bunks are becoming more like a sort of toy, incorporating chutes and dens," it says.

A London toy auction brought a surprise bid for a black "mourning" teddy bear produced after the Titanic tragedy in April 1912. A Swiss museum paid pound;91,750 for it. That puts Christmas shopping into perspective.

Diane Spencer

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