I saw the James Bond movie, Casino Royale, and recalled the words of the French Securitť chief: ďAvez-vouz une bonne recette pour le poulette?Ē
He was saying that spies a la James Bond, were obsolete. Office-bound nerds behind computers were taking over.
I was in counter intelligence myself once and I recall a particular meeting with Bond. It was in Rome. Having a bath in fact. Bond had entered my suite by kicking down the door. We agents never knocked. It was just a little idiosyncrasy we all had.
Bond suspected Iíd gone over to the Soviets.
Bond said: "The name's Bond. James Bond. Double-O-Seven. Licensed to kill and all that."
I said: "The name's Clarke. James Clarke. 76598/337. Licensed to sell toiletries in the magisterial distr..."
He interrupted: "Where's Botvinik?"
I neither answered nor got up. I stayed where I was, in the bath with my little plastic battleship that was creeping up on the unsuspecting floating lid of the shampoo bottle lurking subversively among the soapsuds. I was surprised Bond was still chasing Botvinik.
Botvinik, I could have told him, had been switched to computers but proved too old to adapt and was now selling heavy duty coat hangers in Omsk.
I sat there tossing the soap from hand to hand to show my total indifference to the Walther pistol leveled at my head. Inevitably I dropped the soap and had the devilís own job grasping it again. Bond waited, arms folded, pistol cradled in the crook of his arm.
I found the soap and tossed it to him: "Catch!"
He automatically dropped his gun and caught the soap. Then it popped out of his hand. While he was thus occupied I nipped out of the bath, shaved, squirted a little Mum for Men under the armpits, dressed, got the fat end of my tie to hang lower than the thin end and leapt into my normally aspirated Fiat 1100.
Bond gunned his Aston Martin DB 116 in my smoky wake. Thus we burned up the back streets of Rome.
Bond had never scared me. I knew him too well. He was no better than those wimps who, now that winterís drawing near, are about to appear in TV cough mixture adverts and whose wives give them medicine and tuck them into bed.
Except Bond hasn't a wife. Ever thought about that?
Bond was gaining. Now my previous car had a special feature - at speed its hubcaps fell off causing the fellow behind to lose concentration. This car had no hubcaps so I tossed out of the window my copy of The Counter-Espionage Agentís Own Computer Colouring-in Book.
As the book disintegrated and the pages stuck against Bondís windscreen he hit 16 Alfas and three statues of Roman emperors.
I visited him in hospital. He was entirely cocooned in plaster and Iíd been chatting to him for at least half an hour before I realised the cocoon was empty and that Bond was behind me, his Walther once again leveled at my head.
I never carried a gun - the bang always made me jump - and the nearest bar of soap was in the bathroom. But I fooled him. I shouted, "Catch!"
His gun clattered to the floor.
I kicked it under the bed. "Iíve brought you flowers," I said.
He was touched. I left him clutching them.
They were timed to explode in 60 seconds.
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