Spies like us

spies like us

Looks like we’re all being spied on these days. According to the 29-year-old whistle blower Ed Snowdon, speaking in today’s Guardian, “any analyst can access anything from anyone anywhere. All they need to wiretap anyone from the President down is a mobile phone number.”

I think anyone trawling my emails and texts would need to be on some kind of incentive scheme to stay awake, but still all this talk of spooks has got me interested in doing a spot of surveillance of my own. My friend Liz and I have got a new hobby – we call it eavesdropping on the hoof or ‘What on earth was that about?’ Our favourite so far is a drive-by snatch of world-weary exasperation from a middle-aged bloke on his mobile phone, “I looked at the fridge – I looked at her and…” he said, and that was all we got before we’d passed him.

What was going on there? Had the cat just made off with an entire poached salmon? Had he just come home to find his wife trying to heave the new American-sized fridge freezer up to their fifth floor flat? Maybe he’d got in from work to find his daughter had handed her no-good boyfriend his last long-awaited cold beer? We’ll never know, but guessing what happened next brightened up our trip to the dump.

Sometimes, however, it’s better to be spared the full conversation. We were on the bus on our way back from a 150th birthday party on Saturday night (don’t worry it was a triple party – you haven’t missed a medical breakthrough) and a man swapped his seat to one just behind us the moment it came free. No sooner had he sat down than he began explaining in laborious detail the merits of different seats on the bus to his long-suffering companion. “The thing is, with the newer versions there’s always more legroom on the rear seat, so I always try to get this one if I can. In the older version it’s not so far back – it’s to do with the emergency exit….” And on and on and on he went – it was as if he was flying to New Zealand and trying to avoid a deep vein thrombosis not nipping home from a night in the West End!

It was so bad that Katy and Liz began mimicking him in their not-so sotto voces. “I think you’ll find the second to last window seat on the Number 4 gives superior back support to its penultimate neighbour, don’t you agree Katy?” droned Liz nasally.

Jack and I got the giggles and began choking on our chips – it was like being stuck in front of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Thank God for a gaggle of teenage girls who burst on to the bus, all leggings and lippy, sitting on each other’s knees and generally enjoying the best bit of Saturday night – the post mortem. “What are you again?” called one to her friend sitting at the back, “‘Jammanese’?”

“Yes,” her friend called back, “Jamaican and Chinese,” before they all piled out of the bus again on their way home.

Now that was a bit of chat you couldn’t make up.

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

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