1 July 2021
The Bus Stop Papers
By Robert Kilconner
Well, how did it happen? A pile of top secret papers found behind a bus shelter may be the stuff of the spy writer but it would take the ingenuity of a Stoppard or a le Carré to write the back story. Let’s have a go at it ourselves.
Scene, the Praesidium:
Present Vladimir Putin and the head of SMERSH
VP: Well, Colonel, how did it happen? The point was to get a secret insight into the thinking of the Royal Navy, not to publish it on the BBC. It is bad for our reputation too. To steal papers may be criminal but then to lose them looks like carelessness. The Motherland is made a fool of. Well?
HOS: No one knows we were involved.
VP: How is that better? Other agencies steal papers which could have been stolen by us. Outclassed by the Chinese or even, God forbid, the CIA. How quick does that make us look? Anyway we did steal them and then lost them. How?
HOS: It’s the result of the cuts Mr President. We had to limit cipher training and in Cyrillic script “in the dead letterbox” and “behind the bus shelter” are very similar. Our agent was in Salisbury for that section of the course and, after all, it is an easy mistake to make.
VP: That damned Cyril again. He is at the bottom of most of our intelligence failings. Can’t we send him to Siberia.
HOS: A bit late for that, Mr President. He’s already dead.
VP: Well done for that at least. Thank goodness someone is on their toes. Let’s send someone else to Siberia instead.
Present M and Agent English
M: You wrapped your fish and chips in the secret papers because the chippy had run out of newspaper! Idiot! And it still doesn’t explain how they got behind the bus shelter.
English: I finished the fish and chips while waiting for my bus and the papers had got very greasy so I put them where I usually put the newspaper, forgetting that this time it wasn’t newspaper, of course. How was I to know that a member of the public would pick them up? No one could have foreseen that. It wasn’t my fault.
M: Dirty beast. It may not be an offence against the Official Secrets Act but we need to protect the reputation of the service. Next time they must be properly recycled.
OR PERHAPS (EARLIER)
Boris and Vladimir
Boris: We need to milk the HMS Defender incident as much as we can for our respective publics. It makes you look macho and me courageous. How can we stop the football pushing it off the front page?
VP: A security leak may be?
Boris: We could catch one of your agents filching the MI6 briefing….
VP: Catch our agent? No that won’t win votes my end. What about having the papers found and sent to the BBC? I could then issue a denial so everyone would know we had been involved.
Boris: Good plan Vladimir. Maybe behind a bus stop or somewhere unlikely like that. Still we need to make sure that they get picked up by someone reliable.
VP: I think I could arrange that……..
Before long some spoilsport will find out how the papers came to be behind the bus station and will ruin the game. Until then the Shaw Sheet welcomes all theories, conspiracy or otherwise.