The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

When people think about the sixties, especially the young of today, I think they imagine the world looked like the cover of Sgt Pepper and everywhere hip guys and gals were dancing on tables in coffee bars. I wasn’t born either, and so don’t really know what it looked like, but I love the sixtes, and not for any of those images. Judging by photos of people I know, there was not much in the way of this –



And far more in the way of this –


My daughter recently saw a picture of a lady with a blue rinse, and it blew her mind. It took me twenty minutes to explain the principles of coloured setting lotion, curlers, hood dryers, weekly trips to the hairdresser and even worse, sleeping in rollers, and how none of these hair colours were weird or ‘alternative’.


(I’m aware these pictures are from the early 70s, but Mrs Slocombe demonstrated a rinse like no other)

And that is why I’m loving ‘The Spy That Came In From The Cold’. It’s a 1960s where men wear cardigans under their suit jackets, making tea in the cup would have been unthinkable, and gas fires didn’t pretend to be anything other then gas fires. No log effect, no flickering flame, just blue heat. The same with electric fire and glowing bars you could BBQ your legs on. And that was posh as paraffin heaters were still a popular alternative to coal fires.



It’s also a great spy story, tense and economically written, and full of that Cold War era fear that even though I didn’t live through it, the idea of getting through a check point of the Berlin wall fills me with fear. John le CarrΓ©’s writing is timeless, it feels fresh and alive over fifty years later.


Richard Burton and Michael Hordern in the film adaptation. Note absence of groovyness.

That is the 1960s I like, not one where Cliff Richard misappropriates a London Bus.