I am currently reading "A Spy Among Friends", Ben Macintyre's fascinating account of the friendship between Kim Philly, Nicholas Elliott and James Jesus Angleton. It is a book which makes me want to return to my bookshelves and re-classify all my John le Carré books from the fiction to the non-fiction shelves. Reading this account of western and soviet spies in the 1940s. 50s and 60s, you discover that all those le Carré staples - tradecraft, Moscow Centre, moles and the rest - were not the product of the inventive mind of a novelist, but part of the real and often bizarre world of postwar espionage.
Not that I should be too surprised: even I have drifted close to this perilous world on a couple of occasions. As a left-leaning youth in the 1960s I was friends with a chap who turned out to be a long-standing MI5 agent, and when I worked at the Labour Party HQ in the 1970s, both my work and home phones were regularly bugged. I never used to believe this - despite, on occasions, the buggers (in the nicest possible meaning of the word) interrupting conversations I was having on the phone. Many years later the ex MI5 agent, Peter Wright, wrote in his memoirs how one of his jobs was regularly intercepting the telephone calls of Labour Party staff.
I would be of little use as an undercover agent and this is more than adequately demonstrated by the strange performance taking place at our house at the moment. I don't need to photograph the plans of a laser-guided peanut shooter with a miniature camera, nor do i need to hide from the enemy that I am converting spent reactor fuel into porridge oats: I simply have to hide from Amy the Dog that were are packing the suitcases.
Amy is suspicious by default. She can sniff out an upcoming holiday with the precision of a gas chromatography machine. And whilst she has difficulty associating the word "drop" with the action of letting go, she knows as sure as eggs are eggs, that holidays for us mean k-e-n-n-e-l-s for her. And so we have taken to hiding the suitcases and smuggling clothes into a rarely used bedroom in the hope of fooling her. She watches this strange behaviour with a sage expression and a knowing look that speaks of betrayal in a far more forceful way than any activity of Philby, Burgess and McLean.
But off we are going and if little appears on this blog over the next couple of weeks it is because either we are enjoying life under the Spanish sun or Amy has locked us in the bedroom along with our pea hay sea kaying.