Lord knows I’m innocent of public spirit, but seeing all those veterans parading down Pall Mall last Sunday while being flower bombed by a Lancaster brought a tear to the eye and a drip to the nose. And I suppose that there comes a time when the finger of conscience points at the flabby bloke typing away at his blog and says: well, young fellow. What would you have done had you been tested?
I suppose the answers to that question can be partly determined by political affiliation. Lefties tend to be drawn towards D-Day, and visions of a mighty host liberating a continent from fascism. And as I understand it, righties tend to sniffle over the Battle of Britain, which harks back to the days of individual combat by champions and so sets British history in a pleasingly organic context.
Not me. I would have been a sleazy intelligence officer, baffling the jerries with double crosses, triple thinks and quadruple bluffs from my headquarters, the Office of Sleazy Intelligence.
As I see it, the Office of Sleazy Intelligence was located in seedy-genteel quarters round the back of Shepherd Market, handy for the Café Royal and subject to constant patrolling by Ladies of the Night with their fur coats, high heels and small dogs.
“Doing business?” they would ask as I sauntered past and skipped up the rickety stairs. Of a kind madam, of a kind. Very special business as it turned out, business involving gold bullion, exploding rats, inflatable tanks and secret pornography.
My own office, the head Office of the Office of Sleazy Intelligence, would be stuffed to bursting with bonded whisky, crisp reichsmarks, silk stockings and other items for the equipment and consolation of haunted ladies, destined for France and inevitable doom in the Cellars of the Gestapo.
Later, I would follow the victorious hosts of democracy to the Continent. Theirs would be the honour and the glory. I’d settle for half the German treasury, obtained in return for two crates of spam and a carton of Craven A.
And after the shooting stops? Let others return to the thanks of a grateful country. Sleazy Intelligence never sleeps, though it can be found lounging in a rumpled silk suit at the Circle Sportif in Saigon; sampling the sleeping dictionaries and opium dens of French Indochina; being mildly patronising to both quiet and noisy Americans; travelling to Antibes with a word of advice for old colleagues. No Graham. Forget all that Catholic stuff. No-one gives a monkeys.
Years of selfless service and a number of cash only businesses in out of the way parts of the world reward the Sleazy Intelligence Officer with a house in the country, a baroquely fascist political outlook, a number of consultancies and a face like Auden’s testicles. His lawn is graced with a Zulu kraal. He likes Zulus. They are fine, upstanding fellows. He likes to watch them while contemplating the decline of the West. Eventually he dies in bed. It is four days before he is discovered, his remains nibbled copiously by his pet armadillos.
A life well lived, I think.