‘Have you noticed Achilles, whenever I seem to be getting close to the identity of Gerald the mole, how often the subject of my failed marriage comes up?’
Smiley had taken off his glasses and was polishing them absent-mindedly with the fat end of his tie.
‘George…’ I said uselessly.
‘Oh I don’t mind,’ he beamed through the big lenses, ‘I’m not going to buckle at the knees, on the contrary, it means we’re on the right track.’
‘Karla attempts to discredit your investigation,’ I agreed, ‘just like the Scottish Question.’
‘How so the Scottish Question?’ asked Smiley, studying the photo in the folder before him.
‘Well, whenever that subject is mentioned, some tame wrangler from the LSE is rolled out to tell us it will cost a fortune…’
‘So what if it did?’ interjected Toby Esterhase. ‘What price self determination?’ The dapper little Hungarian liked to affect the experience of a life lived under a foreign yoke.
‘Well I wonder sometimes if it isn’t some Establishment red herring.’ I said, turning to Smiley in supplication.
‘Well George?’ prompted Esterhase.
Smiley closed the file on Operation Testify before looking up.
‘Lacon and the minister say independence would cost the Scots 12 billion, or roughly the same as the London Olympics. Frankly, I don’t agree. I think the Olympics will cost more.’ he said impishly.
‘And if the Scots stay in the union, there are all those English subsidies to sweeten the pill?’ I asked.
‘Danegeld.’ said Smiley.
‘I don’t buy it.’ said Esterhase, tilting his little hand this way and that. ‘If the Scots are that expensive, why keep them? Why not turn off the tap and teach them a lesson? Why not…divorce them?’
Smiley either didn’t notice or more likely chose not to show that he had heard Esterhase’s Freudian slip.
‘Perhaps we should thank our lucky stars that England is still throwing bundles of twenties at us.’ I suggested facetiously, more than anything to lighten the mood in the room.
Esterhase was having none of it. He pointed an accusing finger at me, saying:
‘You are a beggar nation with your hand forever out to London. Face it, what have you ever done for us? You are like the banks, when it rains you take back the umbrellas. You cheered Costa Rica in the world cup which is a total failure of the Tebbit Test. Total! So we stole a few horses together, good times but that was then. Now you hate us yet we keep working our fingers to the bones and give you all the money. Why? Why would we do that?’
‘For auld lang syne!’ I shouted, unable to hide my shameful Scottish tears.
‘Achilles,’ called Smiley softly, ‘Achilles, come down. Finish your sherry and calm down.’ He took up the Testify file, ‘We were talking about Kirov, Alexei Alexandrovitch…’