How I got done over by the SAS

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IT ALL happpened one morning last week. It had seemed fairly normal to begin with. I had sat down at my word processor. Then, as usual, I had gone through the little ritual without which I can seldom get myself started (reading a book, going for a bike ride, taking a shower, changing my clothes, having a lie-down, bursting into tears, declaring I would never write again, taking a call from my bank manager, changing my mind, getting back to the word processor, getting up, making a cup of tea . . .), and, finally, I started work. By which I meanI wrote the following paragraph:

'I now intend to ask the fearless question: just who is this woman that John Major is meant to have been involved with in Downing Street? Even more dangerously, I intend to answer the question and to explain the whole background . . .'

At this point something quite extraordinary happened. Simultaneously, the windows and doors of my room burst open and several men wearing balaclava helmets, khaki jerseys and blacked-up faces jumped in. They all pointed guns threateningly at each other, except for one who pointed a rolled-up sheet of paper at me. 'Mr Miles Kingston?' he said, smiling.

'Kington,' I said. It is a spelling mistake that many would-be assassins make, I find. He looked at the paper. 'Right,' he said. 'Ever been served with a writ for libel before?'

'Before what?' I said. 'Before breakfast? Before my very eyes? Before you could say Jack Robinson?'

At a signal from the man, two of the others came to me and gently got me in a grip which cut off all feeling between various parts of my body.

'Don't joke, laddie,' said the man. 'You'll find that men with balaclava helmets and blacked- up faces have very little sense of humour. Sad, but there it is.

'Now, have you ever been served with a writ for libel

before? It's quite easy. Just hold out your hand.'

'Hold on,' I said. 'Who have I libelled? When was this? What did I say?'

'About five minutes ago,' he said. 'It's still on your word processor. Something about the Prime Minister and a woman at 10 Downing Street, about whom you were making insinuations?'

'That was quick,' I said. 'How on earth did you know?'

'We've got a permanent libel tap on many word processor modem lines,' he said. 'As soon as our computer picks up a slur, we move in. Or use our computerised capabilities to erase it on your machine.'

'Is that why that piece I wrote last week about Norman Lamont kept getting wiped?' I said. He nodded. 'Blimey. Who are you, anyway? What strong-arm mob are you part of?'

'The SAS,' he said.

'Serving All Summonses,' said one of the men, and the others laughed.

'SAS? I thought you were an army group.'

'We're branching out a bit now,' he said. 'Bodyguarding . . . protecting . . . warning people off . . . making sure Jeremy Paxman and David Frost don't ask nasty questions . . . doing top-level legal work at the sharp end, that sort of thing.'

'It's all prior to being privatised,' said the man again. 'Can't sell off the SAS while it's so specialised . . .'

'They're selling the SAS to the private sector?' I goggled.

'You talk too much, Thompson,' said the leader. 'Now, we'll just serve this libel writ and be off.'

'Hold on,' I said. 'It's not libel, and I can prove it.'

'Oh, yeah?' said the leader.

'Do you remember my first paragraph asked the question: who was this woman John Major got so seriously involved with at Downing Street? Well, here's how the second paragraph would have gone.' I sat down again and tapped out this:

'The name of the woman with whom John Major was connected, we now know, was Margaret Thatcher. For many years she seems to have been employed at 10 Downing Street in a quasi-managerial capacity, running the meetings and dictating the agenda, and it is there she and John must have often met. Even now his thinking bears the stamp of her influence . . . .'

'Oh, very funny,' said the SAS man. 'Bit of humour, eh? Well, that changes things a bit. I'll have to check back at base and see how they take this. You'll be hearing from us.'

So saying, they burst out of the room and vanished. Since then I have heard nothing from them. I don't think I can take much more of this waiting.