(35) MI5 Clive (The Squirrel Has Landed)
Updated: Apr 10
Dear James Bond (the Daniel Craig one, probably), Tell me how you do it. How do you manage to lead your double life without anybody knowing? I find it hard enough sometimes to lead a single one under the radar. Small villages. If you don't know it, make it up. Make it up, pass it on.... Applecross, like any small village or town, is remarkably good at that. It is essential to remember this when hearing a story or news from anyone, even people who don't make things up, that at any point of telling or retelling, there might, and probably will, be some amount of creativity involved. Usually this happens along the way, but sometimes the initial lie is in the very first telling, from the mouth of the horse.
Fucktwaddle - I am hoping this will catch on - is my new word for made-up gossip. You can either let it bother you - I have in the past, when the exaggerated or fabricated stories were about me, my family, my life - or you need to find a way of laughing it off. Easier said than done though. Some of us are more prone to bothering about what people think than others. I don't even like it when fictional characters, on screen or in prose, are thinking the wrong thing about another fictional character. Is all gossip fundamentally bad? Absolutely not, according to Megan Robbins, in a 2019 analysis of gossip, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. Robbins and a colleague found that three quarters of gossip (which she defines as 'talking about people who are not there') was neither positive nor negative, but actually neutral. We spend an average of 52 minutes a day gossiping and only 15% of it is negative. In fact it is seen as an important bonding process; the passing on and receiving of such information is perhaps an evolved form of picking nits from each other, before our speech developed. Robbins found that a great deal of gossip among her 467 subjects was actually quite boring. Interestingly, some amount of gossip is deemed good for us. Matthew Feinberg, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2012, found that when subjects were allowed to actively gossip about a person's injustice, their heart rates actually lowered. Conversely, if they heard about such injustice or antisocial behaviour without being allowed to talk about it, their heart rates increased. Feinberg explains that gossip 'helps calm the body.' So, it's not the gossip itself I mind then. It is the 15% negative gossip that I dislike. I imagine even in the positive gossip, a certain amount is made up. We are human after all. It is when we exaggerate or gleefully pass on bad gossip that we forget to be humane.
I have been witness to the birth of many a fabrication. I have been at events, large and small, have listened to conversations, and have heard immediately after, the recounting of the event, the who said what and how it was said. I have been both shocked and amused to hear bizarre other witness accounts. It worries me that maybe, just as we are unreliable witnesses to crime, all picking up on different nuances, different important information, that this happens all the time and in general. While you might notice the unusual hue of the lipstick and invent the words coming off the lips, I might notice that there was a very large number mentioned, without remembering exactly which number. 1 million , 10 million. They kind of are the same. Isabelle is unusually good at noticing detail. At any point, if you ask where is the yellow felt pen with the shiny top, or the button that needs sewing on that was put in a jar somewhere, she has the eyes and the memory. She explains it as having great mushroom eyes, due to being the youngest of six and having to try really hard to find the Easter eggs before everybody else did. She spots cepes and yellow pens and buttons, from fifty metres away. Someone recently had been searching for twenty minutes for a dog that had run off. Isabelle turned round and spotted it in the distance, straight away. I think you would like to have her on your team, Bond-James-Bond. I certainly do. On the whole, we really are poor witnesses. Worryingly, Stephen L Chew, of Stamford University, says that 'according to the Innocence Project (https://www.innocenceproject.org/) 358 people who had been convicted and sentenced to death since 1989 have been exonerated through DNA evidence. Of these, 71% had been convicted through eyewitness misidentification and had served an average of 14 years in prison before exoneration.' Compared with sending people to their death sentence, a little bit of made up gossip is nothing. That said, I still think that if there hadn't been so much of it during my final teaching year here, my story might have been very different.
I checked up recently to find out the difference between the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and the Security Service (MI5). They (MI5) explain it on their own website (https://www.mi5.gov.uk/), saying that MI5 'is responsible for protecting the UK, its citizens and interests, at home and overseas, against threats to national security. SIS (MI6) is responsible for gathering intelligence outside the UK in support of the government's security, defence, foreign and economic policies.' Both are made up of 'ordinary people doing extraordinary jobs'. There might well be an agent living among us... By the way there is a quiz you can take on their website to see if you are MI5 ready. Four years BK (Before Katrina), when we moved up to Lochcarron, my role was obvious to people. I was teaching in the local primary school. Ian, however, was perplexing to others. People did not know what he did for employment or what he had done prior to moving. Several months down the line, he went out for a drink with a group of new friends. Conversation got round to what he did, after one person approached him to ask would he be able to do the electrics job on their house. No, he could not...... Somebody else at the table had heard that he was an author. I can't remember the other misinformed conclusions, but definitely a case of benign fucktwaddle.
Make it up, pass it on. Pass it on, know it.... Here's one. I was only ever masquerading as a teacher. I am actually the blonde at the pink piano, in a nightclub in the West End of Glasgow. I was sent here to gather information for a counter espionage sting. I have five secret children and a secret dog in Huddersfield. My real name is Clive. MI5 Clive.