Winter and spies

The winter has arrived in Australia. Well, okay, so those of you in the northern states probably haven’t even noticed. But we down here in Melbourne certainly have, I can tell you. I’m glad I’ve already had my winter haircut. If I have a haircut after it starts to get cold, for the first few days afterwards my ears are liable to freeze off.

Not that it gets terribly cold. It’s not the icy bitterly cold thirty-below-zero freeze-your-balls-off Abominable Snowman weather they get in parts of the northern hemisphere. It doesn’t even snow. Well, not in the cities, anyway. It’s the kind of wimpy winter weather that gives Australia its reputation for having a warm climate.

I’m a parent now, so I’m obligated to start making stories up about walking to school in the dark to tell my son. It’s a shame I can’t think of any. I do remember some kind of social group we formed that involved meeting everybody in the same carriage of the same train every morning, but that doesn’t have a suitable amount of suffering. I can’t even make out that I had to walk six miles through the snow dressed in an old potato sack. Maybe I’ll just have to lie.

Last week I was reminded of some of the other aspects of my childhood. We once lived in a block of flats where one of the neighbours would use stale wafer biscuits to bribe all the kids to go play somewhere else.

But what I really remember was the spy clubs. After I’d got hold of every Usborne book that involved detectives, codes, invisible ink and schoolyard espionage, there was a phase of trying to recruit my fellow classmates for spy rings. It never worked of course. The walkie talkies always broke down, there was nothing that important that it had to be sent in code, and every time we tried to give our agents numbers like in Get Smart everyone wanted to be 007.

This went so far that when I got a new desk for my bedroom I carefully placed it so as not to have my back to the window. Imagine, ten years old and I thought I was head of ASIO.

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