Saturday, 2 March 2013

The I Spy Tribe

Back in the early 1950s I was a Redskin in the I Spy Tribe.  Quite how I heard about this club I have no idea.  It was run by the News Chronicle newspaper but my parents were Daily Mirror readers.  Be that as it may, somehow or other they were persuaded to change their allegiance and move up market so that I could read the daily I Spy column.

Presumably we had to pay to join this not very exclusive club.  In return for said payment the members, who were known as Redskins - no such thing as political correctness in those days! - received a code book and (presumably) a badge.  The daily newspaper column included a coded message and we would have to look up the appropriate code to find out what important details were contained in the message.  But the newspaper column was only part of it.

The paper also published a set of books such as I Spy in the Country, I Spy in the Street, I Spy at the Zoo and so on.  Each book - they were small enough to fit in the pocket of a jacket and cost 6d (that's six old pence) - contained line drawings of various objects such as a telephone box, a policeman on point duty (both these being from I Spy in the Street) and so on.  The Redskin would note when and where s/he saw each item.  Points were awarded depending on the rarity of the item or the difficulty involved in seeing it and when a specified number of points had been accumulated, the book could be sent in the Big Chief I Spy.  He would then return the book together with a large, coloured feather, the feathers being coloured according to the book sent in.  I have a very clear memory of receiving a bright pink feather to put into my headband.

One book I remember very fondly: I Spy the Sights of London.  My mother took my brother and I to London for the day so we could  basically do an I Spy trail.  There was the Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park, the imperial measurements in Trafalgar Square (I wonder if they are still there?) and other interesting tourist sights.  But the one that lives in my memory was the lamp lighter we spotted in one of the Temples.

Some of the first I Spy books are still available through specialist sites at £4 upwards.  That's 16,000% inflation!  (I think - though it sounds an awful lot.)


Another cold and misty morning in France.

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