I have just signed the Official Secrets Act* and frankly that’s a worry. Firstly, because even the most cursory examination of my past will not only uncover skeletons in the closet, it’ll will also cast a embarrassing light on why most of them have four legs. And the general proportions of a goat.
What is equally perturbing is exactly how difficult it is to complete the form. Not because it is particularly complicated, more the almost endless repetition of name, address and date of birth. I started to think this was all part of the test, and the spooks were trying to catch you out by asking the same question in many different places. And I’m not sure I will pass – because completing it on the wobbly train this morning has hieroglyphed my entry into a code as complex as Enigma.
This isn’t the end of it either. I have been summoned to present myself to the security controller who shall doubtless be an ex-military type with waxed mustache and pefecftly shined shoes**. I fully expect to be given a dressing down on multiple points including poor handwriting, form completion outside the designated boxes and a lack of mirror presentation of the corporate brogue. I’ll be lucky if I’m able to run away before being shot.
If this invasion of my shady past wasn’t bad enough, I now find a second once-mighty-oak has almost broken my desk with it’s heft and girth. I don’t even know the answers to some of the questions on this 22 page form (with a similar sized document providing “guidance”) and it’s doubtful I’ll escape without the big rejected stamp and a citation for Lack of Moral Fibre.
It is mildy diverting to find all the forms must be completed by hand. There is absolutely no joined up process by which your details can flow between documents. So far I’ve been forced to remember how old I am a staggering eleven times. It does make you wonder exactly how efficient our Home Office is because you just know all this stuff gets re-keyed into five different systems, while the originals filed in some huge, dusty basement.
Is it any surprise that government officials lose secret documents on an almost daily basis? I mean there are so many copies in so many different formats, Why don’t we just open the doors to MI5 and invite everyone in for a look-see. And then we could interogate them or torture them or lock ’em in the basement along with my capacious files.
Still I’ll be alright. Because I know stuff now that I can’t tell you about. And no, it doesnt have anything to do with that goat, the tub of whipped cream and the spontaneous combustion of terrified ungulates.
* Has anyone signed the unofficial secret act? What’s in there then “Yeah try not to sleep with Russian Spies if you’ve a briefcase full of secret stuff, y’know?”
** And that’s just the women.