They bugged phones for years, devoured our post,
knew more of our lives than we would desire.
We grew accustomed to that unseen ghost,
that malign noise down our telephone wire.
Double intrusion was MI5’s way,
that fault on the line, assaulting our lives.
‘Those buggers in blue on the phone today –
noting down names for their bloody archives’.
So, this is the State keeping us safe – but
isn’t that just how the Russians behave?
Whitehall’s spies, omniscient, lips sealed shut,
hunting Reds beneath beds, threat level ‘Grave’.
They followed us whatever the time, the cost,
leaned on lamp-posts in the snow-darkened street,
stamping their boots against the bitter frost,
waiting the time when the case was complete.
Each served the Secret State till they retired,
then slowly faded to a Home Counties retreat,
wrote memoirs, played golf, then slowly expired,
replaced by others in love with deceit.
(c) Richard Knott
The image is a detail from a painting by the artist and poet Clive Branson whose life is featured in The Secret War Against the Arts.