Ian McMillan: All-day Saturday fever over the coming of Emma Peel

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Here’s the young Ian McMillan getting more excited by the minute; his excitement is shown by the fact he’s talking even more quickly than he normally does and he’s spilling his Ribena down his shirt.

It’s the mid-1960s and it’s Saturday, which means that Ian is building up to watching The Avengers later on. It’s as though the whole day is funnelling towards that moment when the dramatic music starts and John Steed tips his bowler hat and Emma Peel steps onto the screen and Ian no doubt spills his Ribena again. Ian’s voice is starting to break, so at times he sounds like an untuned viola.

Saturday begins with a trip to the comics stall on Wombwell Market, where Ian and his mates will take DC and Marvel comics back to swap for more Marvel and DC comics. Normally Ian would be very happy because he’s managed to find a copy of Metal Men that he hasn’t seen before but the happiness is tinged with a brand of proto-adolescent sadness because he knows it’ll be several hours before he sees Emma Peel. Back at home, the Metal Men comic sits on the settee, unread, as Ian sits at the other end of the settee wondering what he’d actually say to Emma Peel if he ever met her. “Do you like Marvel or DC comics best?” isn’t much of an opening gambit but it’s the only one he knows.

Ian’s mam comes in with a coat on and whisks Ian off for the bus to Barnsley to buy some new trousers in what his mam insists on calling “a sensible young man’s style”. Ian sulks mightily because he thinks that somehow there might be a bus strike or a flood and they’ll be stuck in Barnsley and miss The Avengers. He buys the trousers sulkily and catches a glimpse of Emma Peel on the front of a magazine that his mam won’t let him buy. She tries to bribe him with a Beezer but he feels he’s beyond all that. They get home and Ian spends the rest of the day in a kind of sulk-slump, staring at the clock and willing it to go faster so that The Avengers can begin. His mam reminds him that he needs to go to the library to change his Biggles books but again Ian feels that he’s beyond all that and he chomps a biscuit angrily, making vast scatterings of crumbs.

He wishes he knew why he likes Emma Peel so much. He knows that she’s actually an actress but Ian thinks of her as a real person. Maybe it’s because she’s brave. Maybe it’s because she’s funny. Maybe it’s because she wears leather trousers, which as far as Ian knows have never been worn in Darfield, ever.

It’ll soon be time for The Avengers. Ian has a bath and in the steam he pretends he’s being rescued by Emma Peel from some unspecified danger. Ian puts his dressing gown on and goes downstairs to claim the prime Avengers-watching spot on the settee. His brother has bagged it. Ian goes into an industrial-size sulk until his brother moves.

It’s almost time. Ian is getting far too excited. He spills his Ribena again. He fastens and unfastens the cord of his dressing gown like a scout practising knots. He stares at the clock, muttering “Go faster!”

Now it’s time. Now the music begins. Now Ian is happy. Let’s leave him there.