It used to be considered the ultimate children's travel accessory, the one thing that would make the longest and most boring journey bearable, and it was the gift which kept on giving long after a holiday was over.
I am alluding, of course, to the I-Spy books.
It was a few years ago now, but at one time no family holiday was complete without one of these tiny paperbacks to thumb through in the back of the car. Train journeys, ferry trips, visits to town or country, there was a book for almost every occasion, each one of them sufficient to turn any bored youngster into a rapt sharp-eyed observer.
And with points at stake, along with the promise of a commendation from Big Chief I-Spy himself if I managed to complete the book (which if memory serves used to be a gaudily-coloured goose feather), eyes were alert at all times in the hope of spotting that rare Victorian signpost, or bin lorry, or pub sign, or traffic cone, or Honey Buzzard...
Now, I have a confession to make. I've been worrying slightly about my ability to sustain my fullest attention on the journey in hand over 29 long days of travelling. Will I really find that much to look at, to think about and, ultimately, to write about? What if my attention begins to drift? What if, by the time I am taking my 40th or 50th bus journey, the hypnotic whine of the engine and the rythymic thud of the tyres begins to lull me to sleep? What if I miss something genuinely interesting?
I found what I think is the answer on Ebay of all places, after a fellow bus traveller used an illustration from an old copy of 'I-Spy Buses and Coaches' on his blog to illustrate some point about bus design. Suddenly it was clear. There's the answer, I thought. Buy a copy of 'I-Spy Buses' and not only relive a rather delightful bit of my childhood but also use the book as a kind of manual of bus travel, and let it ensure that my attention stays firmly rooted on modes of public transport at all times.
I had hoped for a vintage early 60's edition, but these are becoming quite collectible so they are not easy to get hold of, even on Ebay. However, I managed to find a 1992 edition of 'I-Spy Buses and Taxis' so that will have to do.
I have to admit to a certain frission of excitement when it dropped through the Lynn family letterbox. In fact, I've had to stop myself from immediately rushing out into the street in search of a Dennis Dominant with Alexander coachwork, or a Plaxton Supreme on a Leyland chassis...
Oh, happy days. And to think, I'll have a whole month to fill it in.
Hope I don't miss the scenery, though...