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I Spy

[I guess I'd better apologise to all Russians / people who aren't spies - nobody loves putting on your accent and fooling 'the locals' more than I do...]

Lunch today was at a small Italian - after a request for moules - yes you'd be in the same boat as I if you thought we should actually be going to a French restaurant, but I'm rambling. Off we went and for a while were the only guests. Not because it's a bad restaurant, although my first impression, garnered from a disapproving glance from the waitress as the two of us jammed a wheelchair solidly in the door, but rather - I think - a sign of the economic times (and maybe not many people many people lunch indoors on a 15 degree C and sunny Tuesday?)

As the first customers "through"  the door we had our pick of the tables - we chose a window one - to avail ourselves with both the amusement of people watching when the conversation went a  little dry and to pretend to take companionship in the street walkers and populate our surroundings.

After we'd ordered and much to our delight, a couple walked in with the most British of accents they asked for a table for four and it was to be  someones birthday. The eager (and English speaking - turns out the reason the other waitress was giving me the beady-eye was that she doesn't understand English) waiter pounced on the situation "would the signorita like a cake?" The table settled on a glass of Prosecco and a dodgy birthday song. The couple then sparked up a conversation in what I first thought was Italian (and initially found it a little rude that the poorly-fluent-in-English waitress had had to scuttle backwards and forwards for the fluent waiter to interpret.

However it turned out that they weren't speaking Italian, but an Eastern-block language, possibly Russian. A language they continued to speak when the Miniature Guitar Playing Member (MGPM) of the group arrived. She was followed by the birthday girl and a rather scruffy friend. They all continued to natter away until the MGPM began to caress the strings of her miniature guitar and in an extraordinarily high voice sing a song - what I assume was 'happy birthday' in "Russian".

I got a good listen to this song - the waiter had turned the background music off (never good to have two conflicting high voices) and with only  nine people in the room, including staff our audio capabilities weren't exactly pushed.

With a slight lack of conversation at my table, but a definite vibe from theirs my imagination began to wander and snippets of the cold war escapades I've watched over the years came to life...

None of the group looked particularly "Russian", and in fact when they spoke in English you'd be hard-pressed to know they weren't British. The restaurant was oddly unbusy - maybe it was known as a good quiet spot to meet and enjoy some cannelloni and gelati with your comrades before heading back to have high tea and watch East Enders.

On further thought I wondered if perhaps only some of them were spies. The scruffy one - although she didn't make much of an impression and would therefore "blend" easily - wasn't quite n the same level s the others (no Anna). If I had to choose three (I'm letting the birthday girl off the hook here) I'd definitely say MGPM (especially after she nonchalantly rubbed her nose at me as we left the building in a distinctly pig-like pose - was she still hungry? I'd seen her eat at least two courses and she was rather tiny. Or maybe she was just stimulating her cop-radar?) The other two I choose are the couple who arrived first with their one-derfully British accents ont zen vit zee perfekt Russian.

My illogical and irrational manifestations were confirmed when the female of the pair left early, checking out with her coat and British accent - the use of which had a remarkable effect on her facial features. All of a sudden she looked like a different person - off to collect Johnny from school and prepare dinner for her MI-working-husband. Ensuring his martini is "prepared" just as he walks through the door. She exchanging beverage for briefcase...

What we don't know is that the male of the couple is her handler (initially I thought Russian husband, but he was also very close to MGPM, so I scrapped that idea.) Actually he handles both of them - and I'll let your imagination run with that.

So we'd finished our lunch and were walking back I'd not spoken a word of my suspicions, but when a rather plain but burly Russian (she was on the phone - the kind with an earpiece) woman followed us from a safe distance I wondered if the spies had put some kind of mind reading substance in our cuppaccino's? Without panicking I held back at an intersection, both waiting for there to be no traffic around and kindly allowing my shadow to continue ahead on her own path... Needless to say she did, along with the infantesque-like small child - I'd failed to notice - clinging to her hand. I guess I have to give it to her - great decoy!


PS. No Russian spies were hurt during this afternoon - illegibly


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