To most people, David Bellamy was a naturalist, a conservationist, a broadcaster and a man with a big beard. To me, he was the hero of the I-Spy books.
In particular, the I-Spy Car Numbers book.
His cheery face greeted me whenever I reached for the book, eager to add another number plate I had spotted from the back of my parents’ car.
It’s thanks to the I-Spy Car Numbers book that I knew David Bellamy drove a black 1977 Bedford Chevanne. I also knew that as a post-1974 car, the Chevanne was registered in Durham. Had it been registered before September 1974, it would have been a Sunderland car.
Curiously, I never added CBR 345S – the registration of Bellamy’s Bedford – to the central column on page eight, presumably because I played by the rules.
As a result of this honesty, I never completed the I-Spy book, so my copy wasn’t sent to David Bellamy to get his personal seal added to the Order of Merit printed on the inside back cover.
David Bellamy was an unlikely choice for a book focused on number plates. In my head, David Bellamy is knee-deep in mud, wearing a pair of old wellies, and speaking enthusiastically about a millipede running through his fingers. That’s the David Bellamy I will remember.
That, and the photo of him washing his Bedford Chevanne.
“If you want to make a car or bus journey fly by, then how about playing the numbers game,” said David Bellamy in the I-Spy book.
“One player starts at A and the other at X, and both try to get to the other end of the alphabet in order, using the letter at the end of the number. It can be very exciting because one starts off very quickly and slows down, while the other starts very slowly and speeds up.”
Such excitement would be lost on the children of today.
“I have always hoped that I would see DAV 1D,” he said with anticipation.
We’ll never know if he realised this ambition, but his faithful Bedford was last on the road in 1988. He outlived it by three decades, but died today aged 86.
David Bellamy, PetrolBlog salutes you for services to childhood and for introducing us to the joys of spotting random things on a car journey. You’re a presenter we can remember with genuine fondness and delight.
May you rest in peace and be carried to the other side in a black Bedford Chevanne wearing the number plate DAV 1D.