Monday, September 05, 2005

Better than the movies

IWM's fab 'Great escapes' exhibitionCleared up this weekend's revelries, then off to the Imperial War Museum. Had time for two exhibitions - "Great escapes" (£6 each, until 31 July, 2006) and "Secret war" (free and permanent) - before seeing the brother-in-law on to his bus.

Both exhibitions start with dashing movie clips and displays of books and games, before telling the true stories that inspired the Hollywood myths. There's a wealth of information, and with my current spy-fever, it was great to have so much about the history of MI5, MI6, the Special Operations Executive and SAS. "Great escapes" especially had the kids in mind, so there was a fair amount of stooping to read the hidden information boards and take part in forging travel documents and listening to possible tunnelling... Glad it was quite quiet, to be honest.

If there was anything missing it was accounts of enemy escapees and spies. I remember my grandparents telling me about Germans who kept English money in their pockets when they came on bombing raids. If they were shot down, they had enough to survive on but never any change. The pubs were on the look out for young men buying single pints of beer with pound notes. That was a fortune back then.

"Secret war" did better, with details of a German spy ring foiled in the First World War, and brief mention of Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt. Still, it all seemed a bit one-sided - though I can't really be surprised if the Imperial War Museum shows some imperialist bias.

But stories of why Oxbridge's finest went over to the other side, and how they were eventually found out are just as thrilling as tales of our pluckly lads working behind enemy lines. And have inspired just as gripping films, books and drama serials.

If not, at least yet, any board games.

Speaking of imperialism, we saw Team America last night. Laughed and laughed - and won't ever watch Thunderbirds now without thinking of puppets that swear, explode, puke and shag. The Doctor, who chose this when we couldn't find Vanity Fair in the shop, inevitably liked the bit with the panthers best.

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