Sex, Spies And "Truth Drugs" In Post-Revolutionary Romania

Part political intrigue, part comedic travelogue, “The Accidental Diplomat” recounts what happens when an ordinary lad from Hull unexpectedly ends up working for the Foreign Office.
Publish date:
Social count:
Part political intrigue, part comedic travelogue, “The Accidental Diplomat” recounts what happens when an ordinary lad from Hull unexpectedly ends up working for the Foreign Office.

This excerpt is taken from the chapters on my first posting to post-revolutionary Romania in the early 1990s. Romania was, at that time, a mysterious land struggling to emerge from the Cold War and the crackpot Ceaucescu dictatorship.

When I first arrived in Bucharest, I was installed in a sixth floor apartment in a centrally located block. It was there that my early weeks in Romania got off to a false start. During my pre-posting security training course I had my first inkling that Bucharest might not be quite as grim as predicted. I had expected the course to be a less than enthralling exercise in learning how to seal diplomatic bags properly and such like, which mostly turned out to be correct. But there was more to it than I had anticipated.

My job in Bucharest as a Registry and Communications Clerk would involve looking after classified files and operating a secure communications system between the Embassy and London. These responsibilities gave the registry clerks, in inverse proportion to their seniority, greater access than anybody in the Embassy to its state secrets and the means of communicating them. As our course instructor was keen to point out, this in turn meant that we would be of paramount interest to the notorious and still hostile Securitate.

After giving us a detailed briefing on the numerous Le Carré type technical and psychological methods that the Securitate would use to harass us into submission, the instructor made an astonishing revelation that perked us up from our mid-afternoon sloth. Apparently, the Securitate had somehow got it into their wacky Bond-villain heads that a couple of young Registry lads barely out of their teens might be susceptible to free drink and the charms of the most beautiful female spies Romania had to offer.

The free drinks from strangers in bars routine quickly lost its appeal, even to a Yorkshireman, when it was explained that they would be spiked with drugs that would cause us to blurt out every secret in our heads before collapsing in an unconscious heap.

The Mata Hari scheme was a different matter altogether. Our earnest instructor informed us that we must resist at all costs the temptation to invite into our flats the gorgeous, scantily-clad blondes who would inevitably knock on our doors demanding an English lesson. Apparently these highly-trained agents had no need to resort to dangerous truth drugs because they were able to elicit secrets, cypher codes and the keys to the kingdom from us by means of their sexual prowess alone.

And so it was that I spent my first month in Bucharest refusing all invitations to leave my flat outside of working hours. Sadly, though, the knock at the door never came and I was forced to accept that any adventure Bucharest would have to involve going outside.

“The Accidental Diplomat” is available from the usual outlets or direct from the publishers


‘An unexpectedly engrossing read about the adventures of an unlikely diplomat. Paul is a smart Yorkshire boy made good - if you count Humberside as part of Yorkshire. He is now an excellent writer on foreign affairs, whose insights from his Foreign Office career frequently put him ahead of the pack.’

James Brown, Editor-in-Chief, Sabotage Times

‘The hilarious and engrossing tale of how one ordinary bloke from Hull stumbled onto the world political stage by accident...’
Russ Litten, Author of Scream if You Want to Go Faster

‘Armed with five ‘O’ Levels and a fascination for other countries, Paul Knott managed to secure a job as a Foreign Office diplomat. This allowed him to export his typical Hull sense of humour to parts of the world where laughter was an endangered emotion. This is a book that achieves the rare combination of being instructive and funny.”

Rt. Hon. Alan Johnson MP