Tag Archives: Len Deighton

July 14th 1975

“Started to re-read Spy Story” / ” Went down the Clock with Nig”

It appears the complicated tale in Len Deighton’s book had confused me to the point of starting it all over again. Or, was it perhaps so good I decided to immediately read it for a second time? Unlikely.

The Clock Inn – or “the Clock” as it was more colloquially known – was my local pub of choice at…erm… 17 years old.

It sat – and still sits – at the corner of Sandy Lane & Bishopstoke Road in Fair Oak. In its 70’s ‘heyday’ it sported a public bar (for the committed drunks to sidle up to the counter in), a ‘lounge bar’ and (quite a rarity in those days) an outside patio/garden area.

More often than not we gravitated towards the lounge, the quieter option, a room fronting Sandy Lane and decorated in ghastly ‘pub carpet’, vanilla walls, scant ‘frippery’ and a nicotine-stained ceiling. There was maybe little more than a cigarette machine to provide the sole distraction from sitting at melamine-topped tables supping booze and talking rubbish. (TV’s in pubs were unheard of back then)

Later in its life it became a pub troubled by hooliganism and a certain ‘football culture’ clientele, but when we used to go there it was quite a gentle little boozer run by a little old lady with a heavily-wrinkled face and brusque manner. I seem to remember her name was Rose? Not once was I refused a drink, the notion of underage drinking far more prevalent in those days. It was illegal to serve minors but didn’t come with the heavy fines (if caught) that accompany such behaviour in the 21st Century.

Last year, when I was back in England visiting my Dad and helping him celebrate his 80th birthday, we decided to venture down to the “Clock” to see what it was like after being bought out by the Hungry Horse pub/restaurant chain.

To my surprise – and nostalgic delight – it was actually quite enjoyable. The interior is now (almost) one big wide open space, set on several levels and resplendent in comfortable seating and a friendly vibe. We ordered some food which turned out to be terrific value for money (in the old days you were lucky to be able to get a bag of crisps!) and imbibed several of their drink specials. I’m not sure I would have recommended it as a ‘venue’ in 1975, but now I most definitely would!

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July 7th 1975

“Came 3rd in TD with 56%. Started reading Spy Story – not bad”

Len Deighton may have been one of the first spy fiction writers to have come up with what we now refer to as a ‘police procedural’ style, one which hones in – with exacting detail – on every aspect of a crime.

Deighton’s first four novels revolved around a popular anti-hero named Harry Palmer, later brought to life by actor Michael Caine in film adaptations such as “The Ipcress File

His 1972 novel “Spy Story” did feature some of the minor characters from his earlier works but had a new protagonist, Pat Armstrong, who also works in British intelligence, investigating Soviet warfare risks.

Needless to say I had to look that up as I can’t remember a thing about this book other than, for whatever reason, I held onto it for years (and years) afterwards, only getting rid of it when I was ready to ship my belongings to the USA in 2005. Maybe I thought it was a ‘belter’ or maybe I just thought it was cool to have it on my bookshelves. Who knows why we hang on to books?

In other news, a mere 56% was good enough to place me third in my Technical Drawing class. I’m not sure if that says more about me or my fellow students?

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