18 JANUARY 1975, Page 13

Crossed wires am plagued once more by the Post Office

and the Ministry of Defence. Some years ago some clown in the Ministry Of Defence gave the number of my house in Chelsea as the number of a department of the War Office. At all hours of the day and night my telephone would ring asking for some particular extension of this number. If It was at three in the morning or if it got me out of my bath my reply was short and tended only to have four letters in it. If I was feeling in a genial mood I would indulge in a tease.

For example, the day after the Royal Navy failed to stop a French tanker running the sanctions blockade into Beira in Mozambique, a voice asked for, shall we say, Extension 2097. I asked to whom they wished to speak on that extension and got the reply "Colonel Corbett." tiggled the receiver for a bit and then said: Corbett here. Is that you John?" It was a six to one against chance but it was a John. So I said: "my God, are our faces red. The FO is hopping mad. Oh, by the way, you are coming to that meeting this afternoon, aren't you?" To this John replied that he knew nothing about it. I said: "I know you are wanted. It is at 3.30." I then heard him on his intercom say: "Miss, Pringle, what about this meeting at the FO at 3.30 this afternoon?" To this she replied: "No, We know nothing about that." I told him that I knew he was wanted but that my other !elephone was ringing and could I ring him 'pack. I would love to have been a fly on the wall and See if he did turn up at the Foreign Office or this non-existent meeting! On another occasion a very snooty senior ale voice rang up and asked for Extension iu73. I replied: "I am sorry, young lady, I am r

a raid you cannot speak to that extension." Said Snooty Voice: "Put me through at once," I said: "But I'm afraid I can't. Of course, it is Top Secret at the moment but it must come out sooner or later." "What, what?" she said. I replied: "Well the whole of that department defected to the East last Wednesday."