knighthood, exceeded them. Very few from his school, and comparatively few from his college, could boast a handle to their name.
And now that he had come up to scratch, and even beyond, he was going to allow himself the luxury of risk and the indulgence of his conscience. He had left this late and it was typical of him that he should only put his head above the parapet when there was little or no danger of being shot at. He was all for safety first and a quiet life, or had been for much of it. Now, at last, he was going to surprise people â even, he turned to stare through the gloom at his sleeping wife .â¯.â¯. even Monica.
Playing safe. He rolled the words round his mouth and savoured them. He was not a natural risk taker. Never had been, except perhaps on that one fateful occasion all those years ago when he had opted for the Special Investigation Department of the Board of Trade. Everyone he knew advised against it. Teaching, banking, even accountancy would have been sound, respectable and dull. Any of those would have paid the mortgage and kept him off the streets. He could have written poetry on the side. Or painted watercolours. Anything approaching danger could have been ring-fenced as a hobby which carried little or no financial implication. Instead he chose uncharted territory and entered special investigation, which sounded edgy and interesting, even if it was conducted for the staid old Board of Trade.
He sighed. Time to sleep, perchance to dream. Now, in the twilight of his career, he was going to surprise everyone, including himself. He was going to upset apple-carts and prime ministers, and having exceeded all expectations, most notably those of his former teachers and tutors, he was going to do all the things and take all the risks he would have liked to have done in the years of safety-first. At last he was taking the brakes off, changing gears and beginning to fire on all cylinders. Beginning with a visit to Spain.
He turned over, planted a kiss on the brow of his sleeping wife, and in a moment, had joined her in deep, noisy, but, alas, dreamless, sleep.
S ir Simon and Lady Bognor prepared for departure in a VIP lounge and travelled Club. Harvey Contractor took his chances in the terminal-at-large and flew at the back of the bus. This was, thought Bognor, only right. Time would come, and come faster than he would like, when he and his lady would be pensioners paying for themselves and relegated to below the salt, while Contractor took his turn at the high table and had legroom and sparkling wine. This was the way of the world.
Despite this discrimination they all had to pass through the same security checks and even Sir Simon had to remove his shoes and put them in a plastic box for inspection. Knowing something about security he recognized the rigmarole for the farce it actually was and accepted the fact that if a determined and professional bomber wished to destroy an aeroplane he would manage to do so no matter how many passengers removed their shoes. Nevertheless, it presumably made some people feel good and enabled various politicians to claim that they were doing their jobs. A life in Whitehall had made him intensely sceptical of politicians with their transitory ambitions and pretensions. He also believed that any old crook could make a nonsense of bureaucratic pretensions such as security and passport control. The man called Trubshawe was a case in point.
The flight was short and uneventful. Bognor read the Spectator which took a lot less time than it used to, but more or less, sort of, occupied his thoughts for the two or so hours in which they were airborne. Some of his thoughts, however, were on the job in hand. It was not difficult to think two thoughts at once, particularly when one line was provoked by a particular bevy of regular contributors for whom he had only the most perfunctory respect. Even so, he was mildly shocked to discover that he had seemingly managed to