Dame Judi Dench has told how she was once late for lunch with the boss of MI6 – because the driver sent by the Intelligence Service could not find where to pick her up.
The actress, from York, who famously played spy boss M in the James Bond movies for a 17-year span, had been invited along to the famous London HQ to meet her real-life counterpart, Sir David Spedding.
But in an interview for the BBC Radio 4 Today programme she explained that she was issued with a special driver whose bungling led to her being 45 minutes late.
She is interviewed by Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, guest editor of the programme this morning and a former head of the internal security service MI5.
Dame Judi tells her: “I did get to go to MI6 once – I was invited to lunch by Sir David Spedding.
They asked me for 12.30 for 1 and I said ‘Yes, my driver ...’ and they said ‘No, no, not your driver OUR driver.
“I said ‘but Brian has driven me for years’. ‘No, no he won’t know the way’. I said, ‘To the Lego building on the South Bank? He can’t miss it’.
“But they did send their driver – he couldn’t find me. So subsequently I was three-quarters of an hour late. I was so late for lunch – embarrassingly late.”
Baroness Manningham-Buller also revealed that during her spy training she passed with flying colours as a result of good fortune when she was picked up in a pub.
She had been sent to gather information as part of a challenge but after failing to find anyone suitable had been mistaken for a prostitute.
Eventually, another drinker turned his attentions on her and she managed to extract enough information.
The former intelligence boss –who bowed out as MI5 director general in 2007 – said: “The task was to pick someone up in a pub and learn enough about them that you had their date of birth and what they did and what their full name was.
“I was sent off to a particular pub and it was quite clear that the barman thought I was a hooker and he tried to throw me out and I was getting desperate because I knew I was going to fail this particular test.
“So I sat down in the corner feeling rather miserable and had a drink, and I was picked up by an American who was selling lasers, I think, to the Russians. I thought he was a plant – I couldn’t believe he was real.
She went on: “He was lonely – he told me his entire life history. I kept having to rush out to the ladies and write it down. I got sort of an essay on him and I got a distinction in that particular part of the test and I had done nothing except sit there.”