In The Ipcress File, Michael Caine plays Harry Palmer, a British intelligence operative. He is deprived of sleep and exposed to loud repetitive noises by enemy agents trying to break his will, erase his memory, and make him believe that he is a traitor. His defensive mantra in the film—“My name is Harry Palmer”—was, like most catchphrases, turned into something he didn’t say—“My name is Michael Caine”—and repeated by people doing impressions of him until he ended up saying it himself as a joke. The crowning irony is that he is one of the few truly famous people in the World who use their real names (in his case Maurice Micklewhite) rather than their stage names in private so, even if he had originally said it, it would have been doubly untrue.
Over the past few weeks, a gas company—or rather its small constellation of contractors—has been digging up my road. Half of it has been closed to traffic and pedestrians for days at a time. Now, the building next door to the one my flat is in is being gutted. Its occupants have moved out for the duration. Do you know what it sounds like when someone removes an entire window from a wall and throws it into the street? I do. The place I live in is pretty well insulated and the double-glazing isn’t bad—there’s a newborn baby living upstairs and I never hear him—but it’s what passes for summer here now and I have to open the windows from time to time. The noise is hellish, so bad that even my Mossad handler, a veteran of the 1982 Israel-Lebanon war, refuses to drop by any more.
Anyway. For my own future reference: “My name is Damian Counsell.”