Recruiting for HM Secret Intelligence Service used to be a subtle, stylish business. One afternoon in term time, a promising undergraduate at Oxford or Cambridge would find himself invited to tea with the eccentric classics don known to everyone, from master to cleaner, as the college talent spotter.
In the quiet of an oak-panelled study, the potential recruit (right school, right family) would be subjected to gentle interrogation over crumpets, before being asked (clink of spoon on china) if he had ever considered 'official work'. If the encounter proved satisfactory, the candidate received a letter inviting him to an interview at an address in St James's. The interviewer would beat about the bush for a while, before clearing his throat and coming to the point.
Fast-forward three years and there is our man in crumpled linen suit, sitting in a Lisbon café sizing up his target, a Czech military attaché.