August: Assange County

DRAMA QUEENIf you have not read the enormous and amazing Andrew O’Hagan thing on his long ordeal ghostwriting Julian Assange’s book, REALLY you must file it away to read on a long train journey or perhaps flight or period of incarceration. Poor stupid Julian Assange.

Julian would often refer to the places where he lived as ‘safe houses’ and say things like, ‘When you go to Queensland there’s a contact there you should speak to.’

‘You mean a friend?’ I’d say. One day, we were due to meet some of the WikiLeaks staff at a farmhouse out towards Lowestoft. We went in my car. Julian was especially edgy that afternoon, feeling perhaps that the walls were closing in, as we bumped down one of those flat roads covered in muck left by tractors’ tyres. ‘Quick, quick,’ he said, ‘go left. We’re being followed!’ I looked in the rear-view mirror and could see a white Mondeo with a wire sticking out the back.

‘Don’t be daft, Julian,’ I said. ‘That’s a taxi.’

‘No. Listen to me. It’s surveillance. We’re being followed. Quickly go left.’ Just by comical chance, as I was rocking a Sweeney-style handbrake turn, the car behind us suddenly stopped at a farmhouse gate and a little boy jumped out and ran up the path. I looked at the clock as we rolled off in a cloud of dust. It said 3.48.

‘That was a kid being delivered home from school,’ I said. ‘You’re mental.’

‘You don’t understand,’ he said.