Tuesday, April 14, 2015

We're Pea Hay Sea Kaying

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.


  1. Enjoy your trip...Poor dog and thanks for the book recommendation.

  2. Poor Amy.You may enjoy BBC Radio 4’s Great Lives on Guy Burgess recently - still available and quite illuminating. Have a lovely holiday and I hope you get the pea hay sea kaying done in time.

  3. Amy might be more convinced of the innocence of your actions if you went into the rarely used bedroom on a more regular basis.

    Did you see the thing about Philby on the BBC last night?

  4. Our smaller dog use to travel with us in the van every summer. When we were taking my father in law to a ceremony at a cemetery, the dog sneaked out the door and jumped into the open door of the van. We had the traveling chair with us and he was sure we were going on an adventure. We lost him and there he sat at the steering wheel ready to go. If I lived closer I would take Amy for you.

  5. Poor Amy. She will miss you! Have a fun time in the sun:)

  6. Anonymous1:12 AM

    pea hay sea kaying, pea hay sea kaying. Goodness. That is worse than any creep tick angry literature that I try to do Poor Amy.

  7. Enjoy! We look forward to another good game of I Spy with My Little Eye.

  8. Try as I do , I can't work it out. Must be the accent. Have a grey holiday and give Amy a hug. You can't fool an old dog.


Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...