Sunday, March 20, 2016

Role Models for the Male Trailing Spouse

Role Model: Hugh O'Brian as Lockwood in Search

The world is full of adventure for a Male Trailing Spouse. I should know because I've had my fair share as an "accompanying partner" for the last dozen years or so.  Can you, dear reader, wherever you are on planet earth, say the same? Maybe not.


Role Model: Robert Conrad in A Man Called Sloane

Romance! Excitement! Danger! Intrigue! Femme fatales! Official functions! Exotic locations! Immunity from prosecution! Yes siree, upping sticks to trail the Contessa was more lively than working short contracts for the Daily Telegraph and waiting on the New Statesman to give me a low-paying column (Ed. Note: it went to a fat comedian off the TV instead). Back then, aged 33, I effectively sabotaged my career as a news gatherer to become the accompanying partner of a UK diplomat posted overseas. Now aged 46, do I regret it? What, leaving England? Nah. Fucking place. It's a dump. Don't make me laugh. Grey, grimy, sooty. What a shit hole. What a toilet. Every cunt with a long face shuffling about, moaning, all worried. No thanks, not for me. Bollocks to that.

Adding to my skill set at Rompo Gym, Bangkok, Thailand  (2006)

But what do you do when you pack up and become the Trailing Spouse? Given that we live in an age of advanced information technology, you can probably carry on with your career/job, or, perhaps, use the time overseas to add to your skill set, like doing a educational/vocational course, or learning the lingo of your particular posting. Most British people, in my experience, are too lazy to accommodate a second or third language, but it is not beyond the ability of an idiot Brit to learn. Speaking foreign/take away talk is handy for taxis and shopping, it impresses visitors from the homeland, and you will know when the locals are running you down or ripping you off. So there.


my old UN ID

Caution: if you are the Male Trailing Spouse of an official, who seems to do nothing all day, people will think, rightly or wrongly, that you might well be a planted grass (spy). Some guys love the idea of this but it does create problems. One pal of mine in the oil and gas biz, who does a lot of work in Siberia, has banned all spy jokes and references in that area office because of local scrutiny from Russian counter-intelligence units. "They think all foreigners are spies," he once complained. In real life, getting followed by strange dudes in the street and having your phone tapped/hacked isn't that cool. So, if you are the accompanying partner of an official on Her Majesty's Service, secret or otherwise, you might want to turn down the James Bond posturings. 

James Bond as realized by artist John McLusky in the 1960s strip for the Daily Express

But some guys can't play it down. Some guys got it natural, see. A hot chick (who looked like Ali MacGraw) down at the local gym thought that I had "a Bond vibe". Most guys would pay a beautiful women to say something like that to them, but the Male Trailing Spouse made his excuses and left. Then again, James Bond is a pretty good role model for an Englishman overseas. In many ways, pretty much all round, he is the ideal chap to be. James Bond is hard, but he doesn't mouth off. He drinks, but he doesn't get drunk. And, minus the "semi rape" bit, he knows how to handle the ladies because, minus the semi-rape bit, he's a gent who actually likes the company of women.   


Role Model: Gene Barry is The Adventurer

Nonetheless, the comparisons to James Bond have been coming through thick and fast from readers and observers of my exploits in the Press. "You are more Bond than Bond," said one from the USA. I pointed out to him that I would rather be Gene Barry the Adventurer - coz he is a blasé multimillionaire playboy who only does intrigue when bored stiff or between tax returns. My poor reader had never heard of this short-lived ITC action-adventure show about a Hollywood actor/Wall Street tycoon/MI6 spy (what a combo!) I told him to not bother watching (it's awful!) but to check out its cool assed theme tune by John Barry instead.  That said, it's been a while since I binged it and geriatric Gene Barry in the fight scenes always kills me with laughter.


A book by a "super spy journalist"

There was more fanfare to come for the Male Trailing Spouse. "You are a super spy journalist," said an avid reader from Argentina.  Another from London, a bigwig TV producer from October Films, told me I was "unique" and "doing James Bond type of stuff that no one else has the bottle to do". I didn't let any of this stuff go to my head, I hasten to add. Believing your own publicity leads to pride, and you know what they say about pride (Ed. Note: it leads to the fall). One thing's for sure, I'm blown for any-and-all undercover jobs in the future (Ed. Note: the Contessa and my Mum are very pleased about that!) Et c'est la guerre, it's also worth noting that 00 agents in Ian Fleming's books face mandatory retirement at 45. The Male Trailing Spouse just turned 46.


The only Bond film that I like.


But, seriously, who would want to be a real life James Bond? Not me. No way. My standards are much, much higher than that. Besides, I always liked Kingsley Amis' dismissal of Bond as an establishment serf, with the bourgeois tastes of an accountant on a business trip to the continent. He's not far off. Moreover, there are better role models in popular culture than James Bond for a Male Trailing Spouse to take after. 


Role Models: The Persuaders!

Watching the Persuaders as a child in Liverpool, I wanted to do exactly the same job as them when I grew up. Then I grew up and discovered that Lord Brett Sinclair (Roger Moore) and Danny Wilde (Tony Curtis) were a pair of multimillionaire playboys blackmailed by an eccentric, gout ridden Judge, to occasionally fight crime and dabble in espionage. When I got posted to Thailand in 2003 by HMG, I packed a DVD box set of the Persuaders in the old kit bag. In that first year overseas, far, far from home, I learnt much from revisiting this childhood gem.  


Curtis and Moore 

What's great about the Persuaders is that they are talented amateurs. Traditionally, this detail is very important for an English adventurer. Being a "professional", like James Bond for instance, is complete and total bollocks. "Professional" denotes service and work, and a true gentleman adventurer from England does not really need to work, nor serve, because that would get in the way of jolly larks. For clarity on this position, look no further than Robert Baden-Powell. In 1884 Baden-Powell published Reconnaissance and Scouting, in which he declared “the best spies are unpaid men who are doing it for the love of the thing”. I think Baden-Powell would have approved of the Persuaders. 


Role Model: Jason King

Writer! Adventurer! Lover! Jason King is another great action hero of 1970s UK TV. Like Gene Barry in the Adventurer, Jason King is a louche playboy who does what he wants, when he wants. Being an alcoholic writer, he is mainly interested in finishing his books, and, when he is busy on a best-selling novel, he always has a bottle of champagne and a bowl of strawberries on the go next to the typewriter. Between hangovers and trashy blondes, King is often tasked by HMG to do a spot of international trouble-shooting. Why? Because he is a super cool genius - not an establishment servant, bowing and scraping to M and the bureaucrats like James Bond 007. And King has something Bond would kill for: a blonde secretary in a bikini. For the record, down the line, I am working on getting the very same accessory for my office in the USA.


Role Model: the XYY Man

If you are a bit of a commoner, ugly, sleazy, and completely incapable of being classy, cultured or sophisticated, you might wish to refer to Stephen Yardley as the XYY Man. Based on the cult novels by Kenneth Royce, this short lived 1970s ITV series mashes up Whitehall spooks and East End villains. Yardley plays William "Spider" Scott, the eponymous XYY Man, an incorrigible thief with an extra Y chromosome, who is recruited by the Secret Service, every so often, for a spot of deniable skulduggery. He soon learns that the Establishment is not be trusted but good old Spider, the cocky cat burglar, always manages to win out in the end.



I shall return to this subject matter at some later date. Ultimately, the Male Trailing Spouse has to be his own role model. And, lest you forget, when posted overseas you are supposedly an ambassador of your own kind. So try not to be the provincial shit house, the one with the ugly tattoos in the England football shirt, who looses his inhibitions in the pub after a pint or two of vodka martinis. You don't have to shout about it, old chap. Everyone knows that the English are best but it's a secret best kept to yourself. 

Until next time

The Male Trailing Spouse