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by: Jonathan Antony Strickland
Nogging the Nag
“So tell me. Have you ever nogged a nag?”
“Straight forward question my friend. Have you ever nogged a nag?”
“Have I ever nogged a nag! I don’t understand what you’re going on about?”
“That’s the point.”
“What’s the point.”
“The point that you don’t know what I’m going on about. Indeed, I too don’t know what I’m going on about. It’s just got to make enough sense that the two of us can have a discussion over it.”
“Let me get this straight. We’re sat here, drinking coffee and discussing… well nonsense! That is what you’re saying? And it’s also the reason why we’re here?”
“Isn’t it obvious!”
“We’re here because I’ve been given the job to train you in the art of espionage. Correct?”
“So I’ve been informed.”
“Good. So why might we be sat here, in this restaurant drinking coffee with me asking you a nonsense question?”
“I’m afraid I really don’t have a clue.”
“Hmmm… Well think of it this way. As a spy you’re going to have to eavesdrop now and again to gain information. Such spying will more than likely take place in a public setting. One such setting might be a restaurant filled with people like this.”
“So what’s that got to do with the nogging the nag thingy you asked me about?”
“Well, think about it. We can’t just sit here in silence, bending our ears as we listen to our quarry divulge secrets now can we. No. That would look far too suspicious. You’ve got to blend in. Look as though you’re just an everyday geezer come for a quick cuppa and a chitchat.”
“Well that all sounds reasonable enough but why ask me a nonsense question. Why not ask me something simpler… err… what’s the weather like or the football scores for example.”
“It’s so you don’t get too into the conversation. For example if I was to ask you if you saw the football last night and then the two of us got into discussing it, then it might detract us from our mission. You need to look like your having an interesting discussion even though you’re not, that way your attention won’t slip.”
“I see… I think!”
“Look, you see that guy over there?”
“You mean the guy wearing the grey overcoat, dark glasses and false moustache?”
“Yeah him. His actually a plant.”
“Listen wise guy. Soon as I give the signal, his mobile phone will ring and on answering it he will start having a conversation. Your job is to try and hear as much of that conversation as possible, without being too obvious that your listening in. You’ll do this while simultaneously yakking to me. You got it?”
“Good. Now as you can imagine, I’m an expert in this type of protocol so I too will be listening in and trying to get as much information from mister inconspicuous over there. The point being that after the two of us compare notes I think you’ll be surprised by what I picked up on that you didn’t. Like I have already stated though, I am an expert at this, and it takes lots of practice to get good at it. So anyway, you ready for the test?”
“Let’s do this.”
(THE SIGNAL IS GIVEN)
“So tell me. Have you ever nogged a nag?”
“Nope. I’ve never nogged a nag. In fact the whole process of nogging the nag is a little above me. I’ve never seemed to be able to get my head around it. Perhaps you could explain to me how you would go about nogging a nag.”
“Good answer, now you’re getting it.”
“Why did you just put your hand over your sleeve?”
“What! Erm… Doesn’t matter… So you asked me how you go about nogging a nag. Well, it’s a hard thing to explain but I suppose I could start by telling you that you first take a firm grip of the nag, then being very delicate you insert your…”
“Excuse me… No not you… You there. Yes you, the guy with the dark glasses and false moustache. Could you speak up just a bit. I can’t hear a word your saying, and with this being a test and all I’ve got to…”
“Shhh… What are you doing? You’re not supposed to speak to the enemy agent.”
“But I can’t hear what he’s saying, what with you talking and him mumbling into his phone.”
“Well I can hear him perfectly well.”
“Yes. But you’re sat closer to him.”
“O.K… Look I’ll ask him to speak up a bit but no more talking to him. If you’ve got a problem then say it to me. Is that understood. You speak one more time to the enemy agent over there and you’ll fail the test. You got that?”
“I fully understand.”
“Good. I’ll just inform them to inform the enemy agent to speak a little louder and to restart the test.”
(HE THEN GIVES THESE INSTRUCTIONS INTO HIS SLEEVE AND THE TEST IS RESTARTED)
“So tell me. Have you ever nogged a nag?”
“How did you do that?”
“You spoke into your sleeve and the man in disguise started over again and what’s more is now speaking louder… That’s amazing. How did you do it.”
“It doesn’t matter how I did it. Just get with the programme and answer the bloody question will you… Have you ever nogged a nag?”
“No, I’ve never nogged a nag. Nor do I know how to nog a nag but I do suspect that nogging a nag has something to do with talking into your sleeve and magically being able to give out commands!”
“If you’re not going to take this seriously then… Look, I have a microphone in my sleeve that lets me talk to other people involved in this test. It’s not even anything special. Practically every security guard, every bouncer, every bodyguard and especially every undercover agent in the business has at some point a microphone up his sleeve so that he can communicate with his fellow colleagues. They’ve been around for bloody years.”
“Wow… Years you say. And will I get one if I pass the test. That would be the best thing ever!”
“That’s it. I’ve had enough. I’m going to stop this test and you’re going to fail.”
“WHAT! Why? I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“You’re clearly taking the piss.”
“Eh… How come?”
“How come… HOW BLOODY COME… You’re in training to be a top secret agent and you want me to believe that you’ve never heard of microphones up the sleeve!”
“It must have slipped me by.”
“Look you bloody buffoon, you need to concentrate. In fact we both need to concentrate… Tell you what, let’s start over one more time. No more buggering about.
(HE AGAIN SPEAKS INTO HIS SLEEVE AND THE TEST IS RESTARTED)
“So tell me. Have you ever nogged a nag?”
“No never… I’m still amazed by it.”
“Amazed by what? Oh for God’s sake, stop pointing at my sleeve.”
“I just find it amazing.”
“I’m not restarting the test again you know.”
“So have you…”
“No I’ve never nogged a nag.”
“Hmmm… Would you like me to explain how you can nog a nag?”
“Isn’t the word nog an offensive word used to describe black people?”
“Eh… I Don’t know. Is it?”
“And a nag. A nag I do know can be a term to describe a horse.”
“This is true, I have heard the word nag being used in such a way.”
“Ah… Then I suspect then that seeing as you didn’t know what my description of a nog was, but you do agree with me on what a nag is, then I fully suspect that nogging a nag has something to do with horses.”
“Hmmm… Yes, I see what you’re saying but I’m using the word nag to describe something completely unrelated with horses.”
“I see. Oh, could you pass me the sugar.”
“Why certainly. Now when I talk about nogging a nag what I mean is… Hey, what are you doing?”
“Nothing. I’m just mixing the sugar into the coffee.”
“Be careful for God’s sake will you! You’re getting coffee all over the place.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“OWWW!!! What’s wrong with you. Are you some kind of nutcase. You nearly burnt my face off!”
“Look, I’m sorry. I was simply trying to mix the sugar into my coffee.”
“Look at the state of me. This was a brand new shirt. My wife only bought it for me last week.”
“Seriously. I apologise. Here, you can use my napkin to clean yourself up with.”
“What the hell were you thinking.”
“I was just trying to dissolve the sugar into the coffee and…”
“What… By placing a saucer over the cup and shaking it?”
“Why like that. Why couldn’t you just use a spoon to stir it, like everyone else does?”
“Ah yes… I find it ruins the texture of the brew. Makes the coffee a bit too smooth.”
“A BIT TOO RUDDY SMOOTH?”
“Yes. I like it to be frothy.”
“WHAT!!! FROTHY!!! What the hell are you going on about? And how come I get splattered with steaming hot coffee and you don’t even get a single drop on you?”
“Hmmm… Guess I was lucky.”
“Well I’m not starting it again.”
“Not starting what again.”
“THE TEST MAN! The test. Why do you think we’re sat here in the first place.”
“Oh… You mean the nogging the nag talk. What was it again you were saying, something about it has nothing to do with horses.”
“No… Of course it has nothing to do with horses. It has nothing to do with anything you ignorant fool. I explained this already.”
“I thought we were still pretending. Or is the test over?”
“It may as well be. Look at my shirt. It’s made of purest silk. It must have cost my wife a small fortune and now look at it… ruined!”
“You could always take it to a dry-cleaners.”
“I ought to take you to the bloody dry-cleaners.”
“Why do I need to accompany you to the dry-cleaners?”
“You don’t you idiot. It’s an expression.”
“Hmmm… An expression you say. Got to admit, like the sleeve microphone, that one must have slipped me by!”
The Nag Get’s Nogged!
Later that day, in a very important building situated somewhere within the centre of London, three people, a woman and two men sat within a small office. Both men waited in silence as the woman made to speak.
“What on earth was going on in there Vicker’s? Perhaps you’d like to explain.” She said as her icy gaze flashed first to the younger man then rested on the other.
“This clown… This joker… This complete and utter blockhead…”
“Steady on old chap”, the younger man said interrupting the rant of Vickers. “There’s a lady present.”
“I’ll not bloody ‘steady on’ you… You half-witted twit!”, Vickers said, turning angrily towards the smug half grin of the infuriating persona beside him, then remembering who else was in the room he quickly composed himself before saying: “Beg your pardon me Ma’am but as I was saying, he was acting like a complete arse!”, Vickers’ face had reddened slightly as his gaze slipped from his superior then back to the man.
The woman shook her head.
“I still don’t have the faintest idea. Could one of you please explain to me how a simple test could escalate into a public brawl?”
“Excuse me Ma’am but it was hardly a brawl. This chap here, for some unknown reason, decided to throw a punch at me. All I did was simply evade the blow by catching his arm, twisting it around while simultaneously pinning him to the table to restrain him.” The younger man then shrugged his shoulders before continuing by saying: “And that’s all there was to it. At the time I suspected it was perhaps part of the test.”
“He was deliberately winding me up! Sabotaging my test! Trying to weasel his way out.”
“Ah yes the test. Or should I say your test.” The woman said with a shake of her head. “Bit of an odd test isn’t it. I mean we’ve never used it before. Indeed, up until today I’d never heard of such a test. And not only me by the way, everyone I’ve spoken to. And yet here you are Vickers, putting one of our trainees through it without first discussing it with any of your superiors.”
The redness in the man’s face suddenly drained on hearing these words and the anger that moments before had etched itself into every one of his words was now replaced with a slightly shaken worried tone as he replied: “I’m sorry about that Ma’am but I was trying out something a bit different. You’ve always encouraged that we should surprise our new recruits now and again to see how they respond in uncomfortable situations. After all, they’re supposed to be the best of the best.”
“I agree. But what I don’t encourage is for the instructor to lose his head and to start a fight. I don’t know if it’s just me but that comes across as being a bit unprofessional, don’t you think?”
With this Vickers opened his mouth to reply but on meeting the eyes of his superior the words dried up into incomprehensible mumble.
“If I’ve got this correct, the test was for the two of you to strike up a nonsense conversation while sat near an enemy agent who was talking on a mobile phone. Then, while the two of you talked rubbish you simultaneously had to eavesdrop on any information that he may give away. Correct?”
“That’s pretty much how I understood it as well.” The younger man said as he slightly slouched in his chair, his posture totally relaxed, the complete opposite of the man he now knew to be called Vickers.
“Is it? For according to Vickers here, he claims that you purposely messed up his test. This has raised my suspicion levels about you.”
“Really! I’ve raised your suspicion levels?”
“Oh yes. My suspicion is raised like an assassin’s loaded and cocked gun and pointed straight at you! So I’ll ask you outright. Did you purposely try and wreck poor Vickers’ ridiculous test!”
However, before the man could answer, Vickers piped up. “Yes… Yes he ruddy did. “Erm… Pardon the French Ma’am but that’s what…” He stopped mid-sentence realising that his superior had slipped in the fact that she thought his test ridiculous. Thinking fast, he decided to make his pause into something else, thus turning to the younger man and questioning: “What is your name by the way?”
The younger man slowly eased himself upright in his chair. As he did the calm exterior fell away to be replaced with a stare that reminded Vickers that he was not just sat next to your average Naval Commander but to one of Britain’s most finest and promising elite.
“That’s confidential information for now!”, the woman interrupted quickly.
“But I’m not going to tell anyone Ma’am. I mean, we’re all on the same side and everything.”
“I fully agree with you Vickers”, she said with a slight smile as she registered the hurt in his last sentence. “The fact is that if you were ever taken hostage by certain unwelcome parties… Well let’s just say that information could be extracted.”
Vickers gave a gulp and nodded his head as he considered the lady’s last words, then said: “It doesn’t matter anyway what he’s called, what matters is the fact that he obviously tried to ruin my test. I mean I explained it clearly enough to him.
“It does seem that Vickers here has a point. And although there can be no excuse for his physical attack upon you, I am fairly certain that you did play your part in the whole sorry incident.”
At these words Vickers hung his head as the woman’s eyes sailed from one man to the other, the younger man however met her gaze square on, and when she held her gaze on him he didn’t show the faintest sign of uneasiness. This actually angered her slightly and she decided that a new form of attack was needed to bring the young upstart into line.
“You do know we have high hopes for you don’t you?” she said slightly narrowing her eyes and giving him her coldest stare. Still the man remained calm and statuesque. “So far only six men have proven worthy, if you’re to be the next then I expect you to follow orders. Britain can’t have mischief-maker’s and scoundrels representing her now can she?”
“No Ma’am”, the man answered with a slight shrug and raise of the eyebrows that suggested that she’d just stated the obvious.
She looked for the slightest sign of weakness, a glimmer of doubt in the eyes, the faintest trace of uncertainty from an unwanted twitch but he remained as cool and calm as ever. At this moment an uncomfortable silence spread as she watched him, however, only Vickers showed any uneasiness of the situation, his eyes darting from one to the other as sweat began to build up on his brow. He decided that the awkwardness needed an interruption… His interruption.
“The test was simplicity itself. You simply had to be involved in a nonsense conversation while listening in on the enemy. That was the premise and if he’d stuck to those rules then I would have been happy.”
“Oh Vickers, for God’s sake, stop being a nag”, the woman said with a sigh.
“Believe me, you don’t want to mention the word nag around our friend Vickers here, do you old boy!” The younger man said with a slight smile.
Vickers had to bite his tongue to stop himself from calling the man something that would be highly inappropriate for the current company he found himself with, and when he did think of a clever reply to give back, he was cut off mid sentence as the woman interrupted him by saying: “Ah yes, the nog and the nag. Vickers’ report has explained it clearly.” She then opened a drawer from the desk she was sat behind and pulled out some papers.
“This here is your report”, she said to Vickers, tapping her finger against the papers.
“Yes Ma’am. I wrote it but a few hours ago.”
“Hmmm… It explains the whole thing I see.” She then shook her head as she glanced it over. “It seems too ridiculous for words. I mean you expect that anyone could seriously be able to pick up on the answers to these questions while simultaneously talking gobbledygook… What colour coat will the man carrying the red briefcase be wearing? What colour are the eyes of the cat owned by the criminal mastermind known as Argent Silverthumb? What is the name of the voluptuous though deadly blonde assassin who is believed to have killed Mr. White? And finally, where does the one eyed man with the stutter live? I mean really Vickers!”
Vickers again made to speak but on seeing the look in her eyes he decided instead to once more hang his head.
She then let out another sigh and said: “I suppose what’s done is done. This time only I am willing to forget the whole sorry situation, and I fully expect that nothing like this will ever happen again.”
“Yes ma’am”, Vickers said ashamedly.
“And as for you”, she said turning to the other man. “I expect a LOT more professionalism. Is that understood!”
The man just smiled and nodded, before replying: “Of course.”
“Right then. The two of you can leave. That is unless either of you have anything else to say.”
The two simultaneously shook their heads then each stood up and made for the door leading out of the office.
As the younger of the two men grabbed his hat from the stand that he threw it upon when he’d first entered, he turned round to the woman and said: “There are just a few things actually I’d like to say before I leave. That is if I have your permission to Ma’am?”
“Go ahead”, she said watching stone faced as the man gave her a smile.
“The coat was blue. The cat’s eyes red. I believe the assassin to be a Ms. Boobshaker. And finally the one eyed man with the stutter lives at 62 Horsen Ferry Road, London S1.” Then placing his hat on his head he turned and swaggered out of the room past the open mouthed Vickers.
“Chin up old boy”, he said as he passed him.
When both men had left the office the lady smiled to herself. Although she suspected that the man would no doubt be trouble she also suspected that he would make a damned fine British Secret Service agent.
"So tell me. Have you ever nogged a nag?" Although it seems a simple enough question, it makes no sense! So what does it mean? And what would anyone make of such a question if asked when in training to become a government spy?