A North East man couldn't believe his eyes when a second-hand book he ordered online was delivered.

As a 10-year-old boy in County Durham, Tom Tolson knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up - a secret agent.

And that memory was sparked recently while watching a film - coming-of-age drama Belfast, directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Tom said: "There was a scene in the film with a little boy trying to get into a gang and it just triggered something.

"I remembered that when I was a kid I wanted to make a little undercover agent gang with camps, secret identities and that sort of thing."

Read more: County Durham couple's shock at meeting Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise on Lake District visit

Tom recalled ordering The Secret Agent's Handbook from a book club at Woodham Burn Junior School in Newton Aycliffe, where he grew up. Priced 45p, it was written by Peter Eldin.

The Northern Echo: The cover of the book Tom remembered having as a childThe cover of the book Tom remembered having as a child (Image: TOM TOLSON)

A guide for would-be sleuths, spies and private eyes, it included tricks of the trade like codewords, invisible writing and potential hiding places.

Tom, now 49 and living in Nottingham, said: "At the time I really loved it. I was a kid and into James Bond and secret agent stuff, it really sparked my imagination."

He did some research online and found a second-hand copy of the book on Amazon - now costing £2.80 - and decided to buy a copy.

He flicked through it when it arrived, remembering the 'secret' hints and tips contained within.

But it was when he turned to the inside cover that he realised something amazing.

In the space under the words 'This book belongs to...' was written in blue pen 'Top Secret' - in Tom's childish handwriting from more than 40 years ago.

"It was my book, my actual book - with my writing inside," said an astonished Tom.

The Northern Echo: Tom scrawled his 'name' in the book 40 years agoTom scrawled his 'name' in the book 40 years ago (Image: TOM TOLSON)

"I remembered writing 'top secret' inside, and that was my handwriting. I was shocked."

Although Tom, a musician, is disappointed that the book has not proved as useful in real life as he thought it would as a child, he's not letting go of it this time.

"As you get older, you want to cling onto past memories and this sort of thing really means a lot to me now," he said.

"I'm definitely going to keep it."

The Northern Echo: Tom holds the book, which he is definitely going to keepTom holds the book, which he is definitely going to keep (Image: TOM TOLSON)

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