I may have mentioned this before, but I love mystery. As a kid, most of the books I borrowed from the library or saved up my allowance for were about mysteries and the secret societies, clubs and gangs of kids who set out to solve them. Secret Seven, Famous Five, Trixie Belden, Lone Pine club, Encyclopedia Brown, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, the Buckinghams, Bobbsey twins, Five Find-outers, McGurk mysteries and more. Mystery solving 101 usually involved finding and interpreting clues, seeing strange objects or faint traces, parts of a whole, and then putting them together to solve the crime and catch the culprit. Of course, apart from clues, wearing badges and having secret meetings in sheds and eating afternoon tea were essential – I mean, what would the Famous Five have been without their ‘lashings of ginger beer’?
As a child some friends and I formed our own Famous Five. It wasn’t very sexy to have a cat as a fifth member, so I think we tried to coerce someone’s escaped pit bull pet who happened to lift his leg on our front lawn into being our ‘Timmy’. Some of the activities our Five (or Four) engaged in were lurking up trees and taking down the number plates of passing cars – I think this was supposed to hone our skills of observation, because I’m not sure what else it was achieving. There was a wedding reception venue around the corner from my friend’s house and I think we suspected some suspicious figures were attending, so we snuck into the grounds (in our school sports uniforms) – if that was your wedding and there were some strange kids in grubby school uniforms in some of your wedding photos, it was probably us. I think we’d seen two many 1940’s Hollywood noir films, because we got it into our heads that men who smoked cigarettes were suspicious, especially those who surreptitiously discarded the butts in shrubs and I think we tried to ‘shadow’ or ‘tail’ some likely suspects. in the end I think my friend’s mother discovered where we were and dragged us away for a scolding – like all those adults in the mystery books who refuse to believe the kids, I’m sure she caused some nefarious nicotine-addicted wedding guest to get away with a heinous crime. Like many a misunderstood crime-solving genius, our true value was never quite discovered.