Once. A long time ago.
Before I was lucky enough (cough cough) to land my current job in whose warm bosomy bower I have slept peaceably for the last 13 years.
Not sure what drove me to it. I remember seeing an advert in a national newspaper announcing that “the 5” (as those of us in the know call it; those of us not referring to it as MFI) were recruiting. And further more they were recruiting non-graduates which is precisely what I was at the time.
Perhaps my life was lacking excitement. It was certainly lacking travel, a fake Russian accent and a Parker ball pen that not only transformed into a MIG fighter but had a little naked lady in the end whose clothes fell off when you turned the pen upright.
I thought, sod it, I could be a spy. I could serve Queen and country. I could take photos of top secret documents with a mini camera hidden in my cravat or my diamante cufflinks. I could sleep with loads of gorgeous foreign women and rifle their leathery attaché cases whilst they slept afterwards in post coital bliss, I could. I really could, I thought. Blimey. I’ll fill in the application form right now and send it off.
I sent it off.
I heard nothing back from MI5 but MFI offered me a job selling bedroom furniture to couples who wanted to luxuriate in post coital bliss. I suspected they were sleeper agents so I told them to go and get stuffed. Ha ha.
Thus ended my career as a top British spy.
I watch Spooks now with a personal sense of chagrin. But also, it has to be said, with a sense of smugness. Because despite the wildly comic imagineering above I know that there is nothing very glamorous about being a spy.
From what I’ve heard (and I will never reveal my sources, damned infidel of the capitalist state) The 5 are as prone to budget cuts as every other Government department. The chances of getting a nudey-lady pen is about as likely as Cameron and Clegg sucking each other’s nipples live on national television. And quite frankly if the money was available I’m sure we’d all much rather take the pen.
Real spying is tedious, dirty, lonely and more likely to drive the spy into an anorak and uber-geekiness than into the arms of a busty Russian spyess whose name is so complicated to pronounce you end up with a tongue like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s left bicep.
And yet Spooks continues to captivate me.
Even though I know they are selling the dream of MI5 rather than the reality.
I love the gadgets. I love the fact they can seemingly tap into and control everything from the internet, mobile phone networks, weather satellites and the internal wash cycle on your Zanussi washer-dryer just with a little tap of their youthful upwardly mobile index fingers. I love the moral dilemmas they go through every week; how they justify not only risking themselves but others in their quest to keep the rest of us safe. I love the pained looks they give to camera just before they do something totally immoral and inhumane. Once again with feeling, dahling, once again.
And I love the glamorous women. We’ve had Keeley Hawes. We’ve had Hermione Norris. And now we’ve got Lara Pulver. All legs, lethality and brooding brunetteness.
Do I regret my application to The 5?
And nor do I regret that they turned me down.
Real spies are non-descript and anonymous. They are never glamorous. They catch the Tube and the bus. They catch pneumonia and the shits from eating crap food in dodgy bedsits. They are poorly paid and over-stressed. They have to beat their consciences into submission with alcohol, narcotics or the psychological disorder of your choice.
I’m happy to employ myself in the fantasy and leave the reality to the fish and the cold sharks of society.
But just remember: I do it for you guys. To keep you safe.
Now pass me another Vimto, bartender. Shaken, not stirred.