Omand I met on a leadership course. I always tell my trainees they can call me any time, and some do. Like Putin and Obama, who've been driving me nuts (click here). So after the usual preliminaries- how are his kids, shame about the fraud charges, sure the jury will see sense, count on me to help with an appeal if they don’t, and so on- I ask him straight what he wants, and poof it’s like a cork popping. And it’s all about Snowden. Snowden this, Snowden that, Snowden, Snowden, Snowden, Snowden. So I put him on the loudspeaker and look at the crossword for a bit while he rants on.
‘Some betting is corrupt and contemptible (11)’. Anagram of some betting obviously. Probably begins IN, or maybe MIS. Think a bit. Chew pen. Write the letters MISBEGOTTEN in the little boxes. Meanwhile he’s still ranting Snowden, Snowden, Snowden, Snowden. So I nudge him along a bit and he gets to the point: ‘Had I seen anything unusual in the China traffic?’I’ve made no secrets about my war of nerves with the Chinese government hackers. They’ve only got themselves to blame. A couple of years ago they tried that cyber attack on the website I do for the parish council, so I bring down one of their systems every now and again just to remind them not to be so stupid in future. I’ve also planted some eavesdropping code in their intelligence network, the output from which is what Omand means by the ‘China traffic’. No, I tell him. Nothing to suggest that Snowden’s leaks have set hares running in Beijing. So in the end he says thanks, I promise to tell him if I hear any news, and we sign off.
So far so good. Back to the crossword you’d think. But I’d hardly read another clue when the phone goes again. A Mister Edward Snowden for you, Professor. For a minute I thought it was a wind-up. Unbelievable. Ok, put him on.
Introduces himself. Got number from Russians. Needed someone with influence. Heard that might be me. Putin's suggestion. Had I seen Omand's comments. Was it hopeless case. Could I oil wheels, open doors, smooth a way. Might bridges be built. Russians supportive. Would offer money, but know I don't need it. Pentagon over-reacting. Public duty to expose truth. Guardian bungled. Dropped him in it. And so on, and so forth.
In the meantime I've got most of the top left corner of the crossword done. I tell him I'll see what I can do. Effusive thanks follow. I say it's nothing, least I can do, give regards to Putin, and so on, till the phone goes down. What is it with people nowadays? They all seem to think you've nothing better to do with your time than sort their problems.
Anyway. Third letter M. 'Spooner's misandrist prefers Eros to Narcissus (8,5)'.