There was brief time in my life when I flirted with the idea of being either a private detective or a spy. This would have been way back in the mid-80s, between the ages of about seven and nine. OK, so maybe it wasn't a serious career choice but it seemed like it might be fun at the time. The reasons for this desire? They were twofold - the Usbourne Detective's Guidebook and The Spy's Handbook.
These weren't just books - they were guides for living. Each had step by step guides on how to be sneaky and spy-like. Cool tips like how to invent your own code and plan out "dead drops" to leave your messages for other agents like the rubbish bin in the local park. How to read tracking signs in footprints and broken flora. How to use mirrors to look round corners. You know, all the standard spy and detective type stuff. Plus the Usbourne book had lots of cool diagrams of exactly how to deploy your various devices for snoopery - showing where to place the mirror over your office door so you could see who was lurking outside and so on and so forth. The pictured detective in the Usbourne book also had the traditional trenchcoat and fedora combination thus making him look shifty and suspicious and therefore cool.
The only problem with this was a problem faced by many seven to nine year olds - there aren't many top secret governmental plans or scandalous illicit affairs knocking about within your circle of friends. the most exciting information that could be imparted via dead drop method would be the arrival of a new consignment of fizzy cola bottles or the acquisition of a new computer game for the Amstrad. None of which particularly made for the promised life of intrigue and espionage that these books were offering.
The closest my friends and I ever came was making secret maps of the playground (cunningly marked out "SECRET MAP" and "TOP SECRET" and "DO NOT OPEN" in large letters to thus ensure that no one would ever have any interest in them). They marked out secret areas we could gather in - although once the maps had been secretly distributed in class and we'd all met up in the designated area, we were kind of at a loss as to what to do next. I'm guessing that we selected another area on the map, arranged to meet up there and then made our individual ways to said area (to begin the whole process again).
This period of clandestine yet mundane activity soon came to end when our teacher discovered me making one of the maps in class instead of paying attention and the secret suddenly became very public. Once revealed, the joy of the secret map was spent and they were created no more.
Still, for a brief time there, a life of subterfuge beckoned. It's probably not a likely option for me now that I've posted about myself on a public blog for the last five years. Ah well, just have to fall back on the other childhood aspiration - hoping science finds a way to turn me into a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It's good to have a plan.