Old Dick Barton’s strip-off advice got cold shoulder

DICK Barton – special agent! Remember him and his stalwart sidekicks Snowy and Jock? Lads of my vintage will not have forgotten how in the early postwar years at a quarter to seven every Monday to Friday evening, the BBC wowed us with 15 minutes of intri

DICK Barton - special agent! Remember him and his stalwart sidekicks Snowy and Jock?

Lads of my vintage will not have forgotten how in the early postwar years at a quarter to seven every Monday to Friday evening, the BBC wowed us with 15 minutes of intrigue and action.

What you might term the poor man's James Bond, I suppose, although 007 was then not yet known to us, nor The Avengers, Danger Man or Callan.

Dick did good groundwork among my Dane School 2A mates. A lofty few sneered he was penny-dreadful kids' stuff. Most of us, however, rated Dick a welcome advance on Uncle Mac and his daily Children's Hour.


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I was never much tuned in to that, even when younger during the war. My foster-folks' wireless was largely reserved for the news. A battery job, which took time warming-up, it occasionally got switched on for the six o'clock bulletin and caught Uncle Mac paternally signing-off with his noted, "Goodnight children, everywhere".

No credit to me, the glee with which I read years later, how he'd once torpedoed that image by adding a grouchy, "You little so-and-sos", unaware he was still on air. He'd be hung out to dry now, but back then wartime's grim realities put such trivia in sharp perspective.

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Even so, it's a safe bet the Beeb had some prune-faced phone calls.

Dick's nightly hectic 15 minutes involved plenty of yelling and shouting, but never any cussin', despite story lines, which left the intrepid trio in desperate plight as the theme music faded them out each night.

That stirring music, bursting with crescendo drum rolls, was entitled The Devil's Ride, or Gallop, maybe - it's a long time ago!

It was a highly suitable accompaniment for dare-devil Dick and Co, not so for my dad one time.

Late home from work, he'd just sat down to his dinner when Dick's pulse-racing signature tune came on. It lasted only 10 seconds or so, but left dad grumbling that the accelerating tempo had him scoffing his dinner at the same increasing rate, and half had gone down without him really savouring it.

Last thing he needed after a hard day's grind.

It may sound far-fetched, but if you ever get to hear that particular piece, you'll know what dad meant all right.

Like the various Bonds we've had, there were several Dick Bartons.

One was real-life adventurer Duncan Carse, who had done some perilous polar treks.

His experiences came in handy plotwise, when Snowy and Jock faced a nervy frozen finale after falling into an ice crevasse.

To their - and our - horrified disbelief, Dick shouted urgent instructions down to them to strip off immediately and hug each other bare-skinned as the only way to retain body warmth, while a rescue was mounted. Good lads, they obeyed orders and duly survived, of course.

Decades later, Madam and me had an unforgettable week dog-sledging in Sweden's Arctic Circle.

It was March, everywhere was frozen.

The sky stayed clear, the sun shone and the dogs did the real work.

One freezing night we holed snugly up in a sturdy refuge hut deep in the forest. The stove glowed red-hot. The dogs were fed and content around their own fire outside and the Northern Lights blazed overhead.

Our guide Langen, a Queens Park Rangers fan, wanted to talk football, but we wanted to hear about him.

Pressed, Langen admitted he once saw a bear, just its backside, departing into the bushes.

He glimpsed that, he said wryly, only because the dogs, scenting the animal, had stopped suddenly.

Recalling Old Dick Barton's strip-off advice to Snowy and Jock, I asked Langen about it.

"Where d'you hear that, for God's sake?" he said incredulously.

Sheeplishly, I told him about Barton.

Langen led us outside where, minus mitts, we clutched hands for a few minutes before he grinned: "Any warmer now?" Point made.

Back inside, Langen said cryptically: "Anything happens to me and you need to be warmer, get down with the dogs.

"Plenty of body heat there - and they'll love it."

I guess, though, that wouldn't have been quite derring-do enough for devotees of Dick Barton.

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