I’m certain no-one would suspect I’m a secret agent

The name’s Lynne, Lynne Mortimer, oh-oh-57, licensed to drive. So near; yet so far. I was so close to forging an exciting new career but it all went horribly wrong. It started when I spotted a job ad in the Sunday Times which profiled the perfect candidate: “My perception spots situations. My focus makes connections. My patience waits for answers. My creativity breeds solutions. My discretion keeps this a secret. My qualities will keep you safe.”

As you know, I have long craved a position with Marks and Spencer. Could this be the one?

Er no. It was a slightly overwritten though elegant piece of prose from a Government department and continued: “Think you know what it takes to safeguard the nation? You may want to think again.”

It was MI5. That’s Emm eye five not the M15 motorway.

Attracted by the idea of safeguarding the nation, I went on to the MI5 website...

Wasn’t there a time when you couldn’t even utter “MI5” without being thrown into a potato sack, bundled into the back of an unmarked vehicle and driven at high speed to an undisclosed location before being deprived of sleep and interrogated for days until you confessed to being 128th-part French?

It’s all so different now. I expect you can get group guided tours of MI5 HQ. They have probably got a tearoom and a gift shop where you can buy invisible ink, a code book and X-ray specs.

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On the list of vacancies there were several jobs I had to immediately discount because they required a mastery of modern languages, thus ruling me out. Mind you, my linguistic skills might help me infiltrate a nest of East Anglian spies, or should that be spoies.

But what if I got rumbled? When I was 16, I auditioned to play an extra in the film Akenfield and was rejected because my Suffolk accent wasn’t good enough. Language-based jobs were definitely out. There’s not much call for comedy West Country.

Then I spotted a vacancy for intelligence officer. This was more like it – concealing a microchip in chewing gum and sticking it to the underside of a park bench, uncovering a mole or exposing the sixth man.

Just think, I could be the Miss Jane Marple of the home intelligence service. Granted, I’d be less of a honey trap more of a booby trap.

But the great thing about being a superannuated femme fatale is that you can go to a posh function and no-one will notice you. Still a femme but not terribly fatale. You won’t be seduced by a foreign agent and spend the evening playing verbal games of bluff and double bluff before going back to his room for a night of passion. On the plus side, the waiting staff will feel sorry for you and make sure your wine glass is topped up.

You might be able to nip out and take pictures of sensitive documents in the study. (There’s always a study, and the documents are always in the top right hand drawer of the desk.)

I would have the advantage of being a most unlikely secret agent. Who’s going to worry I might tail them through a labyrinth of empty warehouses somewhere in London with these knees.

Yes, the country could do worse than have a crack team of spy grannies in charge of home security. Think of all those lovely hand-knits they could make for the junior officers. A fleeing foreign agent wouldn’t stand a chance once cornered. They’d have him trussed like an oven-ready free range chicken and into the wheeled, tartan shopping bag before you could say: “Dine in for two for �10.”

Three days on the spy granny sofa watching back-to-back episodes of Murder She Wrote and Diagnosis Murder would have our foreign operative singing like a canary.

So, of course, I clicked on the vacancy for intelligence officer... yes, I know I’m under-qualified but I’ve never let that stop me before. And what was this? An “investigative challenge” to test my aptitude. I gave it a whirl and scored seven points out of eight, thanks largely, I suspect, to watching all 10 series of Spooks.

“Well done. You have clearly thought about the issues here. We recommend that you apply for the intelligence officer role particularly if you enjoyed this exercise.”

Well, I did enjoy it and I was just about to get rear view mirrors attached to the sides of my varifocals when I realised... I don’t have an unblemished record of good citizenship.

Only a couple of weeks ago, I contaminated the blue recycling bin. And it was a second offence. I had previously contaminated the brown, green waste bin with apple peelings, although peelings later came off the list of banned items.

My letter, received from the council last week, read: “Dear Sir or Madam (they got that right), During your last blue bin collection it was noted there was shredded paper in your bin. Although we emptied your bin on this occasion, we would like to draw your attention to the fact these item(s) cannot be recycled through the blue bin system and as such should not be in your blue bin. We would be grateful if you could ensure in future these items are not put into your blue bin. This would then avoid the possibility of your bin not being emptied.”

So that’s that. Shamed and with the council on high alert, I could hardly send my Top Secret MI5 documents through the shredder.

Happily, there was better news at the end of the letter which revealed that my fellow townspeople recycled 20,000 tonnes of waste last year, “the equivalent weight of 2,857 elephants”. It is also, I discover, the weight of an aircraft carrier such as HMS Invincible. Anyway, under no circumstances should you attempt to get a six-and-a-half tonne elephant in your blue bin.

Oh dear, and I’ve just spotted another problem with my rapidly fading chances of a new career as a spy. The MI5 ad concludes: “You should not discuss your application, other than with your partner or a close family member.”

Agent Blabbermouth signing off.

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