Russian fly in the ointment


I was seven when The Man from U.N.C.L.E. first aired on the BBC.  I immediately wanted to be Napoleon Solo and sent off to become a member. A few days later, with membership card proudly in my hand, I believed I would be a master spy before I took my Eleven-Plus.

During the series I always had my concerns about Solo’s sidekick, the enigmatic Illya Kuryakin; consequently, I wasn’t really surprised when he popped up, dressed as a British RAF officer, in Colditz – but that’s why Russian spies are so clever and clearly have a variety of seamstresses working tirelessly in their Gulags.

As a seven-year-old the name of U.N.C.L.E.’s nemesis, T.H.R.U.S.H., meant nothing to me. I’d yet to buy my first Observer Book of Song Birds and was unlikely to contract any sexually-transmitted disease (mainly because my mother told me never to sit on any strange toilets).  Looking back, Napoleon and Illya were unlikely to quash their arch-enemy by rubbing a soothing ointment on them.  Although eradication was the name of the game, I guess.

The show which rivalled The Man from U.N.C.L.E. on ITV was Danger Man – I also wanted to be John Drake and would stalk the corridors of my Balham block of flats seeking out enemies of the state (I suspected most of the cleaners and believed that inside their mops lay a selection of east European munitions).

Danger Man would occasionally feature cameo roles from famous actors, one episode featured John le Mesurier; I never wanted to be Sgt Wilson, but in increasing old age, can identify with Private Godfrey and his constant desire for the toilet; today I am more great uncle rather the Man from!

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