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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, July 21, 2009
    On the pavement: a world of adventure
     
    A truly inspired blog from Mister Roy last weekend: one I cherish. It's a meditation on the 1961 book I-Spy on the Pavement. Complete with a generous set of page scans this is a reminder of a bygone world, in which I used to live as a keen I-Spyer myself back in the day. A world where small children are invited to walk the streets with an I-Spy book and a pencil in hand, looking for items to tick off - in the hope of finding everything in the book, gaining maximum observation points and thus receiving an award from Big Chief I-Spy. This reminder of how I passed my time back then makes me ponder how much this might explain my current obsessions.

    'EXPLORING', it says on one page. 'You'll find the pavement is packed with hundreds of things worth hunting for. An illuminated street map .... people working .... objects in iron, stone, concrete, wood, aluminium .....'. On other pages the roaming children are invited to 'watch a knife-grinder at work', 'have a chat with your flower-girl', and to look around building sites for notices on hoardings. The world of I-Spy is a festival of innocence. Roy's commentary on this is insightful:
    The idea of children being encouraged to wander around towns on their own, looking at things, seems quaint these days (and it is poignant that this should be so.) To my modern eyes, accustomed to seeing children as vulnerable beings needing round-the-clock supervision and enclosure, the I-Spy ‘redskins’ in the illustrations seem to move through a world of adult menace; it is as if the various tradespeople and mendicants they encounter are just playing roles of normality, like characters in a Hitchcock film. But the kids are in a world of adventure, junior psychogeographers seeing wonders in the detail of the city.
    Reading this makes me want to do two things. Firstly, to buy a copy of I-Spy on the Pavement (they're very collectable: twenty quid second hand online) and secondly to find an artist who might work with me on creating an I-Spy in Norris Green or I-Spy in Croxteth Park. I'll be out there using it with the kids. Seriously... for the children... let's reclaim the pavement! Let's reclaim the age of innocence!

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