Monday, 5 September 2005

The Spy Who was Me

Does anyone else remember THIS?





(I'm gonna post this picture and that question here first, and then update with text later tonight... Something like a sneak preview of the post. Why? Because I'm trying to cut down on blogging at work... hehe...)

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(Update: 10:42pm)

Dammit. no one else ever read the book above ar? Dammit.

Anyway, this book is called The Usborne Spy's Guidebook, and is one book I have very fond memories of as a child. So fond was I of this book that when I saw it in Singapore MPH the other day, I could not resist buying it.

I first read it when I was still in primary school, having borrowed it from the sad little public library we had in Temerloh (which incidently, DID have a few gems in it. Looks can be deceiving, no?). I loved it so much that I kept reading it, returning it, and re-borrowing it over and over again.

Why do I love it so much? Why, because it teaches you to be a SPY, for god's sake!

When you're a kid, being a SPY is cool. It's UBER-cool. And even though I hardly kew what REAL spies were like, I wanted to be one.

This Spy's Guidebook taught you how to be a Good Spy, and how to confound the Enemy Spies. It was just too bad I didn't have any Enemy Spies to confound. Sigh...

Anywa, this book is obviously for kids. And what fun I had with it when I was one myself.

I loved playing with the 'games' and ideas the book had. In one page, they taught you how a Good Spy must learn to stalk an enemy spy properly. And how to contact a fellow Good Spy without the Enemy finding out.

It was cheesy as hell, but when you're a kid, you really didn't care. I spent hours making my own portable Spy Kit, which was essentially a 'disguised' matchbox complete with
  • Matchsticks and little bits of string for leaving codes
  • A little flapping piece of paper filled with secret codes
  • Tiny pencils for writing emergency notes to fellow Good Spies
  • Rolled-up dried leaves that one uses to disguise your notes
  • Tiny bits of candles for writing secret, invisible messages
It even had a cool secret thread mechanism that makes the contents of the matchbox 'pop-out' when you pull it. And To top it all off, you could even disguise the matchbox as a stamp collection! How cool was that!

Ok, it's sounds a little cheesy and tacky now, but when you were a kid, you didn't care about those things. Making your own Spy Kit was COOL.

I also loved the invisble message part. It taught you how to use juice or wax as invisible ink, and how to leave 'secret messages' for fellow Good Spies. Damn fun, I tell you.

Another part of the book that captivated me was the disguise part. Having grown up with Five Find-Outers and other detective books, I loved the idea of disguises. And this book taught you how to make your own wigs, your own false beard, and even how to make yourself look fat!

Ok, so looking 'fat' was just sticking cushions inside our clothes; the 'wigs' were made out of dusty unwanted baseball caps and looked really stupid with all that string stuck on it with the words 'Sekolah Menengah Abu Bakar' still embroidered on it; and the 'false beard' was a piece of wire with glued on pieces of cotton that kept falling off, but it was great fun at the time.

I think I even managed to persuade my brother to wear a disguise, and we had a contest with our family to see who had the best disguise. Yes, we were young and innocent then. But hell was it fun.

One of the most endearing bits of the book is that despite telling you that a Good Spy must be 'inconspicuous' and not 'attract attention', all the little cartoon spies in the book still go around in those funny little trenchcoats and federa hats (like you see on the cover of the book).

Now, as a 'grown-up', I find it really funny. But back when I was a kid, I wanted a trench coat and a Fedora too. It was COOL.

It's also funny how they assume that you are the 'Good Spy' and there are 'Enemy Spies' all out to get you. What we were actually spying on, I don't really know, but I didn'treally care at the time.

Anyway, there is also The Usborne's Detective Handbook in the same series, which I don't remember much of now (I liked spies more than detectives, see), so until I get THAT book, I won't talk about it much here.

But anyway, if anyone sees this book anywhere, buy it for your kid, or future kid. It's gotta be one of the fun-nest books for kids ever written. It certainly was for ME.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go finish my NEW portable Spy Kit...

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