8 April 2020 – Spy Wednesday

Today I’ve been writing to my future self using invisible ink as today is Spy Wednesday, aka Crooked Wednesday. While Spy Wednesday sounds like it should be all about Vera Atkins, James Bond, Spooks and the like, it is actually about Judas and betrayal. Strangely enough, I decided to go down the tinker, tailor, soldier route.

First up was another highly scientific Twitter poll to determine which classic spy movie is the best, and by extension which one I should watch. Although The Third Man has now shifted into pole position, at 2pm, North By Northwest was leading the pack. Watching North By Northwest is never a chore, although secretly I’d been hoping for a bit of Froy rhymes with Joy. To make things more interesting, I had a go at live tweeting the film. I’m not entirely sure how successful I was, I’ll let you decide:

Afterwards, I cracked open the lemon juice (with the full moon blooming this morning, I felt the lemon technique the most appropriate) and wrote out three wishes in ‘invisible ink’ on three separate pieces of paper. When dry, I sealed them all in an envelope, and on St Distaff’s Day 2021, I will choose one at random, reveal the wish and act accordingly. Just to give myself a bit of jeopardy, two are a treat, and one is actually a chore. 

So using lemon juice as invisible ink is one of the easiest ways to write secret spy messages. It’s been used in Europe as a way to protect information since C16th, and was actually employed in both World Wars to pass information. All you need is a cotton bud, or a skewer, or something similar, dip it in the lemon juice, write your message, and then wait for the paper to dry leaving it blank. The drying can take a while, I wafted for so long I had to swap arms. Then, when the geese have all flown north and you’ve slipped your contact the note, all they need do is warm up the paper and the information will become visible. 

But as it had been a while since I’d written any secret notes, I thought I should do a test. Which did not go well. I wasn’t really paying attention, and using my hairdryer as the heating agent, I managed to blow the leftover lemon juice all over my computer, soaking my first test message in the process. Test number two went better, although it took me another few goes to realise that I would have to hold the paper and not the camera. So balancing the phone on my Princess Leia Prayer Candle, I tried again. Spoiler alert: the hairdryer was rubbish, so I switched to fire. Which wasn’t:

And now I have something to look forward to at the end of the project. And after a year of honing my psychic abilities, I will obviously choose the best wish.

Obviously.


Resources

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/11/allied-world-war-2-female-spy-movies

https://www.bfi.org.uk/alfred-hitchcock-north-by-northwest

https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Spy+Wednesday

https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/magazine/under-cover-of-ink

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2 Comments

  1. Glorious Barbara
    9 April 2020
    Reply

    Was it three wishes, or was it in fact…ooh…erm…threee shlishes?

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