Thursday, March 01, 2007

Umbrellas and Black Leather

Have you ever experienced the thrill of encountering your long ago first love again? The racing of the heart, the tingling of the spine? The breathless expectation as you glimpse them again? I've been experiencing all that over the past few weeks as I've watched the repeats of the first colour series of The Avengers on BBC4. Yes, you've guessed it - I've fallen madly in love again with Steed's umbrella. No, of course not. Whilst Patrick MacNee's John Steed remains the epitome of the true British gentleman spy of a certain age about town, it was - and still is - Diana Rigg's Mrs Peel who captivated me. Such grace, intelligence, coolness under pressure and style. And what style! All those great tight fitting sixties outfits! Not only was she beautiful and smart, but she could kick the shit out of all comers - elegantly! I can honestly say that Emma Peel was probably my first crush, when I originally saw The Avengers during my childhood.

Mind you, watching these episodes has also reminded me of just how camp it all was. A man in a bowler hat and a high-kicking posh bird bring to justice various naughty generals and mad scientists planning to take over the world (or worse, Britain) from large country houses. Only in the swinging sixties! Let's face it, that was the only period in history when a spy who dresses in a three-piece suit, conceals a sword stick in his umbrella and drives a vintage Bentley wouldn't be considered conspicuous. Sadly, when I worked as an intelligence analyst the nineties were upon us and such accoutrements were considered out dated. This was the age of those designer suits - you know, the ones you paid hundreds of quid for, but still looked just like the fifty quid ones you could get from C & A - BMWs and floppy hair cuts. Hats, of any description, were definitely out.

I often think that I should adopt the garb of Mr Steed for my present day job. What a fine figure I would cut, driving around various sink estates in my open top Bentley, Bowler at a rakish angle and umbrella close at hand. Gad, those rapscallions would instantly recognise my authority and grant me the correct degree of respect! Obviously, I'd need a female assistant. Perhaps I could try persuading my friend to take on the role - she claims to know karate (actually, I've never known whether she means that she's versed in the ancient Eastern martial art, or simply knows some bloke called Bert Karate). Cynics might suggest that this is simply a ploy to get her to dress in black leather. But I'd never do anything like that - I'm a gentleman in the John Steed mould, for goodness sake!



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