Thursday, 20 December 2012

Sleeping Ambitions


Historical research shows that, before industrialisation and its consequent introduction into society of regular jobs, artificial light and alarm-clocks, people would normally have had a ‘first sleep’ and a ‘second sleep’ separated, in the middle of the night, by an hour or two of refreshed, wakeful activity which, although limited in scope due to a lack of modern conveniences such as lighting and heating, would surely have been compatible and harmonious with life’s then natural rhythms.

Those of us who experience this ancient pattern of sleep nowadays (for it is not extinct) may not recognise it’s provenance but can certainly benefit from embracing it, especially as we have many more options for intermission activities, some of which might involve actually getting out of bed. The modern-day torment of nocturnal bouts of agonising over small details and assorted trivia while all the time willing ourselves to go back to sleep can be banished in favour of the two-sleep system: go with the flow and use the time between sleeps profitably.

During one of these sleep-intermissions I was mulling over the newspaper advert placed by MI6 for the position of Spy. The traditional title is Intelligence Officer but, now that they have decided on a broader, more democratic approach to recruitment by adopting the populist terminology, I imagine that their HR department will be overwhelmed by spurious applications from all sorts of unsuitable individuals. In my case, however, I could see that my key qualities of perception and discretion might be invaluable to MI6.

In fact my conviction grew as I noted that the advert was carefully worded so as not to exclude any applicant (apart from non-British nationals) and that there was no stipulation of experience, qualifications, age or gender. They even emphasised a need for operatives of all kinds and at all levels – not just the gun-toting, photogenic athletic type. Perhaps this indicates an ominous shortage of Officers and desperation to encourage every wannabe to apply, in which case they would surely jump at the chance to employ someone of my experience and maturity: after all, I have seen every one of the Bond films. Before drifting into my second sleep period I determined I would take the matter up the next day.

I should have made a note because I completely forgot about it until some days later when I read about another piece of research, the implications of which could seriously strengthen my application for the position of Spy in Residence, Central Manchester. Researching linguists at Manchester University claim to have discovered that more languages are spoken in Manchester than in any other place - except New York City. Quick as a shot I deduced that there must, therefore, be an awful lot of foreigners living here and that, simply by hanging out and listening in to their conversations, I could garner masses of information which would keep my back-office team fully employed sifting and filing for years. It’s true that I am not fluent in any of the 153 languages spoken by the foreigners but it’s also true that most of them speak English as well so it shouldn’t be a problem. My next step was to visit the MI6 website and take the on-line aptitude test, as recommended, prior to beginning my application process.

I was a little disappointed when I failed it, although I had no right to be surprised: it did require a precise and timely recall of vital facts and figures, whereas my speciality is actually the opposite - a vague and untimely recall of non-vital (some would say inconsequential) facts and figures.

How could I have so misinterpreted the brief and my ability to fill it? Maybe I should just sleep on it next time.

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