An extract from the diaries of Twattersley Fromage MBE
Travelling incognito from London to Havana with a live mallard duck at the very height of the Cuban Missile Crisis was never going to be that easy. Moreover, that duck according to my Lords and Masters represented the only realistic chance of averting World War 3.
To explain! It was October 1962 and an American U2 spy plane had spotted that the Soviet Union had begun to install nuclear missiles in Cuba. Plainly the Yanks were none too chuffed about this threat to their very being upon their own doorstep. President Kennedy had made his point to Chairman Khrushchev that unless the weapons were removed forthwith then he would be rather miffed. Neither Kennedy nor Khrushchev wanted to be seen to lose face by backing down yet both leaders were keen to find a way to untangle the mess they found themselves in. An impasse ensued. And thus it was that I, Twattersley Fromage the most senior of intelligence agents working out of Thames House, Millbank had been assigned by MI5 to carry out this most unlikely secret mission to save the world!
I had been briefed to the effect that the Cuban leader Fidel Castro was particularly partial to filling his face with Peking Duck yet, long since there were no ducks in Cuba. You see the CIA on hearing of Castro’s all-consuming fodder passion for crispy duck had, a couple of years previous culled the bloody lot in a ‘that’ll learn him’ fashion. Kennedy had taken the view that if we, the British, on a ‘no names no pack drill’ basis sweetened Castro’s mood with a bit of his favourite nosh and a promise of more of the same to come then maybe, just maybe he’d have a discreet word in Khrushchev’s ear and the matter would be sorted. A very cunning plan in my book I can tell you!
With a mission like this stealth was all. Having purchased a healthy looking duck in London’s Chinatown and a suitable wire mesh cage for it in Poundland I then commissioned a rowing boat and set off paddling away like billy-o across the wild Atlantic Ocean toward Cuba. Such was the effort I put in that in another less clandestine time I would surely have had Norris McWhirter all over me like a rash for his Guinness Book of World Records!
Regardless, both mallard and I reached The Bay of Pigs in Cuba in good time. Moreover and importantly I had avoided detection. Plainly I was dressed for the part, what with me wearing the standard local cladding of Guayabera shirt and black trousers as I hitched a lift to Havana and more importantly Castro’s favourite bar ‘The Hemingway’ situated in the Old Town. Sure enough, upon entering the bar there was Fidel himself knocking back a Chivas Regal on the rocks and with a cigar Velcro’d to the peak of his trade mark patrol cap. Sat at his table with him was a sultry, curvaceous beauty I instantly recognised as being none other than top Russian spy simply known to friends and foe alike as ‘Svetlana’. Our paths had never crossed yet she was a legend in espionage circles. Bollocks, just what could she be doing here was at the forefront of my mind.
As I sidled over to their table I heard Fidel announce that he was just off the water the horse. That left Svetlana alone. Noticing I was carrying a duck in a cage she caught my eye and beckoned me to sit down.
“Soze if zit zisn’t zer vaymouse Twattersley Fromage…vhy zer duck?”
Found out as I was I decided to explain the nature of my mission to her guessing that she too had been sent to Havana with a view to breaking the deadlock in negotiations. Indeed she intimated that she thought it an absolutely spiffing plan that might just work! Additionally she thought it best if she put the idea to Castro as he had an utter contempt for us meddling imperialist Brits. It seemed like a plan to me. After all, as she put it, “Fidel vid me.” I misunderstood her at first saying that an Englishman gentleman would do no such thing upon meeting a young lady for the first time however desirable she was – and Svetlana really was!
Anyway Fidel had been sometime in the lavvy leaving me to presume that he must be having a number two rather than the self-proclaimed watering of said horse.
“Ven zis is over I vont to make mad passionate love vid hugh.”
“Sorry Svetlana as you well know my name isn’t Hugh. Indeed I don’t know a Hugh…lucky chap that he is and all that. If you give me his full name it might just ring a bell.”
“Ah hugh fool.”
“Hugh Fool. I’m guessing here that he must be one of the Fools of Bury St Edmunds. There’s a lot of Fools there you know.”
Svetlana was still shaking her head when Fidel returned. She introduced me as her Russian oppo and duly explained that she thought it a sound idea if he agreed to trade long range missiles capable of delivering nuclear bombs for a constant supply of Peking Duck served, obviously, with scallion, cucumber and sweet bean sauce with pancakes rolled around the fillings along with options such as pickled radish and hoisin sauce.
As for Fidel he was well and truly hooked on the idea and said he’d ring Khrushchev straight away with the good news that we could all get back to the sanity of The Cold War, although not before whisking the duck away from me as he left. A sad moment really as I was becoming attached to the little critter – I can only thank God I’d remained the true professional throughout and had refrained from giving him a name for then his departure would surely have been less than sweet sorrow.
After he’d gone Svetlana, a furtive look about her said, “I veerly meantit ven I zay I vont to make love with hugh.”
“Crikey Svetlana this is bloody torture you going on and on about this Hugh chappie…I only wish I was him, good heavens girl you’re an absolute corker you know. Bloody Hugh this, Hugh that! Whatever I must be off – people to see, places to go and all that. Maybe I’ll see you around?”
“You noze hugh can see all around me anytime hugh zike.”
I left Havana a frustrated man and cursing this Hugh Fool fellow!