Li­censed to amuse

Alan Coren, who died last week, was one of Bri­tain’s best­loved hu­morists. In th­ese exclusive ex­tracts from his last book, 69 for 1, out this month, he imag­ines a glam­our-free James Bond work­ing for a cut-price MI5, and ex­plains why Angli­cans might want to

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AN­NOUNC­ING THAT MI5 would, for the first time, be plac­ing re­cruit­ing ads in news­pa­pers, a spokesman said: “The ser­vice is open to ev­ery­one. We are not look­ing for any­thing out of the or­di­nary” (re­port in The Guardian). Bond lifted his leg fairly ath­let­i­cally, for him, and buffed his left toecap be­hind his right shin. Then, hardly wob­bling at all, he did the same with his right toecap. This made his new £59.95 brown brogues by Lil­ley & Skin­ner of Brent Cross come up very nicely.

He glanced down to test whether he could see his face in them, but his gold-style Boots BOGOF spec­ta­cles had misted slightly from the stairs, so he re­moved them and pol­ished them on his old school tie.

A wry smile played about his lips as he re­flected that if the head­mas­ter of East Willes­den Com­pre­hen­sive had caught him do­ing it, he would not, th­ese days, have clipped his ear. Had he tried it, Bond, who had now reached page 18 of Teach Your­self Karate, would al­most cer­tainly have been able to give him quite a se­ri­ous push.

He knocked on the ma­hogany door, and en­tered. A plump wo­man be­hind the gleam­ing Ikea desk was at­tend­ing to a pim­ple. “The name’s Bond,” he said. “Jim Bond.”

There was a hat­stand in one cor­ner, and he flicked his brown John Lewis trilby to­wards it.

“Your hat’s gone out of the win­dow,” said the wo­man.

“I’ve got an­other one,” Bond quipped ef­fort­lessly, af­ter he had re­cov­ered. “Can I go in now?”

She folded her com­pact, got up, went through in­ter­com­mu­ni­cat­ing doors, came back a few min­utes later, and nod­ded. Bond coolly shot

his Marks & Spencer cuffs, but one stuck on his Timex. The other cuff­link broke.

“Ah, Bnod,” said M. “Wel­come to MI5. Con­grat­u­la­tions on be­ing one of the 1,000 short, plain, and very or­di­nary agents we have, as you ob­vi­ously saw in our re­cent news­pa­per ad­ver­tise­ments, de­cided to re­cruit.” “Not Bnod, sir,” said Bond. “Bond. B-O-N-D.” “It says Bnod on your ap­pli­ca­tion,” said M, wav­ing it. “I’ve only just started com­put­ers,” ex­plained Bond. “Two fin­gers. But any day now I ex­pect to be able to do that thing where I re­pro­gram one three sec­onds be­fore it blows the Earth up. I bought a book at Dixon’s.”

“Moneypenny tells me your hat’s in the street,” said M.

“It’s all right,” said Bond. “My mum sewed my name in it. Also ‘If found, please re­turn to MI5 and oblige’.”

M looked at him for a time. “It’s a pity you’re not Bnod,” he said fi­nally. “We were rather hop­ing you were Rus­sian. Do you speak it?” “Not en­tirely,’ replied Bond. “But j’ai un GCSE in French, sir. M’sieu.”

“Let’s go and see Q,” said M. “He’ll kit you out with an MI5 hat.”

“Will it have a gun in it that fires when you blow your nose?” asked Bond. “Or is it the sort you throw at bars and elec­tro­cute Chi­na­men with?”

“You’re not li­censed to kill,” said M. “You’re li- censed to jot stuff down in your MI5 ex­er­cise book. If at­tacked, you’re li­censed to shout ‘Help!’. Do not throw things or we’ll have Health & Safety all over us.”

In the base­ment, Q said: “Hello, Bond, we’re just fit­ting out your car.”

“With rocket launch­ers and a pas­sen­ger ejec­tor and re­tractable wings?”

“No, we’re just push­ing the seat for­ward. You’re rather shorter than we’ve been used to. What sort of dan­gle-dolly do you use?”

“Dice would make sense,” said Bond. “They would im­press the bet­ter casi­nos, when I’m off to play chemin-de­fer with glam­orous in­ter­na­tional women spies so’s I can bed them for se­crets about where Mr Big is etc.”

“It’ll have to be bingo,” said M, “on our bud­get. You might run into a cleaner who’s found some­thing in a bin. Can’t pick up ho­tel bills, mind.”

“They could do it in the Lada,” sug­gested Q. “One of the seats goes fairly flat. By the way, here’s your spe­cial MI5 pen.”

“What does it squirt?” en­quired Bond. “CS gas? Ni­tric acid? Cu­rare?”

“Ink,” said Q. “We can’t crack it. Wear a blue shirt, is my ad­vice. And this is your spe­cial MI5 dis­pos­able cig­a­rette lighter.” “Con­tain­ing a tiny satel­lite phone?” “Con­tain­ing fluid for 200 lights, in case you’re stuck in the dark. When it runs out, don’t just chuck it away, bring it back here and sign a chitty.”

“And don’t use it for cig­a­rettes,” put in M, sternly. “Re­mem­ber, smok­ing can harm you and those around you.”

“I was rather hop­ing for a gold Dun­hill fag-case, sir,” said Bond, “that I could slip into a pocket next to my heart to de­flect bul­lets.” M pressed the lift-but­ton. “In your dreams,” he said.

PHO­TOMON­TAGE OF ALAN COREN AS JIM BOND: BLAKE ZITZ

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