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What are they on about?

David Newnham wonders where Cubs, Brownies, Guides and Scouts went

Jane can't do Tuesday nights. "I have my Rainbows on Tuesdays," she says. "Brownies," her husband whispers, by way of explanation. "Not Brownies," says Jane. "Some of them will grow into Brownies - if they live that long. But for now they are Rainbows, bless them."

I have just twigged what it is that Jane does on Tuesdays when her husband makes a further attempt at clarification. "Beavers," he says. Quite so.

It was all much simpler in my day (fade in brass band music). Boys under 11 were Cubs, and then they were Scouts. Likewise, girls began as Brownies and grew into Guides (females used to be excluded from scouting for fear that physical activity might "upset a girl's internal economy"). In my day, Brownies did something involving a papier-mache toadstool in the village hall (most survived with their internal economies in full working order).

The boys met in a scout hut, vowed alliegance to the Queen, and played a downmarket version of the Eton Wall Game which left me mentally scarred for decades. Oh, nd we paid for windows. For twopence a week, we could contribute a window to Baden-Powell House, the Scout movement's new HQ. Had I known what a tangled web the top brass were weaving behind that glass, I'd have let them shiver.

"Oh that's not fair," says Jane."It's not really that complicated. Boys are Beavers from age six. Around eight they become Cubs, around 10 they become Scouts, and from 15 they can become Venture Scouts.

"The girls are the same, only it goes Rainbow Guide, Brownie Guide, Guide, Ranger Guide. I've got a leaflet somewhere."

Which proves my point. A girl over the age of five (four in Northern Ireland) can become a Rainbow Guide, says the leaflet. Ranger Guides can be Lone Ranger Guides or members of Ranger Guide Units. Then there are Young Leaders, Lone Young Leaders, Young Guiders, Guide Guiders and Guides who are female members of Joint Scout and Guide Units.

One thing we all agree on. By the time kids get their heads round that lot, they will be well and truly prepared for the modern world.

Isn't there a motto in there somewhere?

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