You know Bilderberg's about to begin when you start seeing the guns. The Taschenbergpalais hotel in Dresden is filling up with pistol-packing plainclothes security as the last guests are ushered out. The frowning gunslingers head up and down the corridors with their hotel maps, trying door handles and checking the lay of the land while, down in the hotel lobby, corporate goons gather in muttering huddles.
I don't know why everyone's so antsy. According to the local newspaper DNN, at least 400 police officers will be surrounding the venue for the three days of the talks. There's already a ring of concrete blocks around the entrance. Is that not enough? What are they expecting? The charge of the light brigade? The hotel is being trussed up tighter than Reid Hoffman's trousers. No one gets in or out without the right lanyard. As Ed Balls remembers only too well, from that awkward business in Copenhagen.
Inside the security cordon, the final nervy tweaks are being made by conference staff. They've got to make sure Henry Kissinger's curtains don't let any light in. A single ray could be fatal. A hotel manager has been cornered by a conference organiser who's firing off questions from an iPad:
"And the room for Mr Karp … is it a nice room?"
"It is nice, yes … but it has low ceilings."
"Hmmm. Does it smell of smoke?"
"It does not smell, but it is on the ground floor. Who is Mr Karp?"
"He's an American but he's on our board. He'll have to move higher up. Maybe the driver can have that room, he's a driver so it doesn't matter. You will please show me the other room now."