But at night, they hit town, hard-drinking, joyriding girl gangs, a knee in a groin accompanied by a classical allusion, a lipstick-scrawled "Up yours, minister" on a Saville Row shop frontage.
Everyone in respectable jobs has subversive fantasies. Back in the Sixties, many of the mods who fought with rockers on the Brighton seafront at weekends were bank clerks and insurance executives during the week.
But your walk on the wild side as related to Camberwell Magistrates Court this week had a special piquancy. After downing a bottle of wine at lunch, you got into a New Scotland Yard underground car park, then into a Special Branch Ford Mondeo which still had the keys in the ignition, reversed into a Vauxhall Cavalier, then drove forward and reversed into it again for good measure before driving off at speed.
It gets better in reel two when, in a diverting sub-plot, you go to the police station and report a lost handbag. Soon, we are back to the main plot as you shout at a patrol car, are arrested, say you have stolen a car from New Scotland Yard, are not believed, have a scuffle with an officer, are deemed "unfit for interview" and are detained overnight.
This case would have had far less piquancy and far fewer cinematic possibilities if you were a civil servant at the Scottish Office or Department of Health. Transport would have given it a certain sub-text, certainly. But the Home Office brings out a new dimension.
As an aide in the private office of the champion of law and order, the Home Secretary Michael Howard, you had to fill in Mr Howard's appointments diary. An exercise in mitigation. I have walked through ministers' private offices and seen diary secretaries at work. It's a sobering sight. Heads down, eyes glazed as they stretch meetings just far enough not to give the minister any free time.
And all the time, the fruits of the diary secretary's labours wander in with seldom even a nod to the person whose creative abilities have made time for them to see the minister. In they flock, day after day - police, special branch, probation officers, prison officers. It could drive anyone to crime.
I suspect many a civil servant wakes up sweating at night after dreams of revenge and subversion. The grade two officer at the Department for Education who burns down schools, the Foreign Office official who goes on a National Front rally, the Ministry of Agriculture executive who lets his rottweiler run amok among the sheep.
But none of that really compares to a Home Office official crashing police cars. It's a dog day afternoon when a civil servant takes a walk on the wild side. Perhaps John Travolta will be playing permanent secretary in Tarantino's next movie.Reuse content