13 March, 2006

Route master

Attempting a different route from work back to the Underground this evening, I found myself in Cambridge Circus, ostensible centre of Soho and sometime setting for the headquarters of MI5 in all of John Le Carre's novels. Indeed, the BBC filmed their adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy in the area, back when the titular circus wasn't merely a battered junction encircled by sex shops and was actually a pretty grand entrance to the capital's theatreland.

I read almost all of Le Carre's novels when I was in my teens. Now, almost twenty years on, it was all of a sudden quite exciting to be passing through one of spy fiction's most illustrious locales, and I made a point of casting my gaze right around the intersection for any recognisable traces of potential anonymous musty bureaucratic bulwarks behind which the stuffed shirts of the British Empire once sought to do battle with the spread of international communism - a place where the very defence of the realm was entertained by the most consummately dressed of the post-war elite.

Then I had to swerve to avoid a bunch of Australian male tourists shouting "where's the pussy?" at the tops of their voices, and the moment, not understandably, passed. As Stephen Fry once said, never go back.


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