Big Cars and Bursting Bras
Notes on (not) becoming a spy...
I see that both MI5 (Domestic Terrorism) and MI6 (Overseas Operations) are openly advertising for new recruits via the internet and broadsheet newspapers, in a break from the tradition of selecting their new intake from public schools and top universities. I guess that it had to happen; if you keep plumbing the depths of only certain institutions, you eventually get to the dregs, and who really wants our security safeguarded by second-raters?
I always fancied being a spy, myself. Of course, I understand that the type that I would like to be inhabits a world where, despite being the byword in espionage to Kremlin goons and sultry beauties alike, I still manage to get a Walther PPK through customs without a hitch—rather than the real kind, who fetch it up in an impossibly-sealed sports bag in one of their own cupboards! I would be able to announce who I am—my real name mind, not some made-up moniker—in hotels, restaurants, immigration centres, and at the security stations of the enemy’s headquarters, and no one would bat an eyelid at me. I would be supremely convincing in my own ability to become a chameleon. I would simply look like I'm supposed to be doing whatever I'm engaged in, and look confident—rather like stealing TV sets from Curry’s or some such—and get away with it.
The main attraction, I guess, in wanting to be a spy is not the culmination of some hack-eyed and myopic desire to serve the crown in a completely invisible and thankless way, but more a passion to lead what appears to be a singularly dramatic lifestyle. It’s not so much about wanting to rid the world of evil-doers, and more a desire to smoke Morden and Isil hand-made cigarettes selected from a peccadillo-skin case, in smoky casinos. My aspiration to be a part if the spying community stems from my own egocentrism, rather than altruism.
However, I find my passage blocked—not an enjoyable condition, I might add. The journey from being a slightly well-known freelance writer to an international man of intrigue and deadly-but-controlled violence is, it seems, fraught. Not with danger, as one might suspect, but rather bureaucracy. Joining MI6, it appears, requires the passing of a series of tests, and being of a particular form rather than demonstrating the ability to kill a man with a cyanide-covered ball point pen, or driving an Aston Martin really fast.
Being six feet tall and naturally blond aren't, apparently, the service's core demographic. They prefer their candidates a tad shorter, and apparently a whole lot less attractive. I know this because when I applied through the official government website, I received a rather sniffy reply, that I would stick out too much for the purposes of trailing a foreign agent, or standing static post in some drizzle-sodden doorway, smoking a Morden and Isil cigarette. They opined that, while I might be able to look after both myself and the country's secrets, I am simply too much of a "flag" (their term) to be able to "tag" (another one of theirs) a "perp" (that’s a Judge Dredd one), and "run them to ground" (I think that's probably a hunting one). I told them that I could wear a wig, but they rather drearily thought that such a guise may make me stand out all the more.
To be honest, none of those pursuits sound like the kind of thing that I'd want to be involved in, so perhaps it’s for the best that I don’t join the service. If it doesn’t involve the fast Aston Martins or resisting the advances of some scantily-clad foreign agent (which is lucky, since I am in a loving relationship, after all), then I’m afraid that I’m simply not interested. National security can go hang if I can’t do it on my rather particular terms.