Frozen in an F1 Barbecue Summer

When I first started this blog a few years back I used to post pretty randomly but after reading up and subscribing to a few blogging experts I felt that I should decide on a regular time to post. I chose 10am on a Saturday morning. The great thing about having that particular slot is that I can focus my writing towards it, it’s almost like being a professional writer and having a deadline for a newspaper or magazine column. The flip side is that when I’m not so well or haven’t any ideas I start worrying. What will I write about? What if I cant think of anything? So far everything has gone pretty well, the deadline actually gets me motivated to write. Maybe I need a deadline to help me with the follow up to Floating in Space!

Just then the phone rang. I checked my mobile and it was my editor, Issy Readiyet.

‘Issy, how are you?’

‘Steve, I’m great, how’s your new post coming? Is it ready yet?’

‘Well, I’m still working on it Issy, it’s still in the err developmental stage. I’ve got a working title though.’

‘What is it?’

‘Frozen in summer.’

‘What? That sounds a little cryptic. Not sure the readers would go for that. What’s it about?’

‘Well, it’s still a work in progress but it’s summer, and it’s really hot and I’ve got this . . .’

‘What?’

‘Well, I’ve still got a sore shoulder. A frozen shoulder . .’

‘Oh Steve, you’re not still on about that trapped nerve and the shoulder pain? Haven’t you written about that already?’

‘Well, yes but I think there’s still a little mileage in there and I could do with a little . .’

‘Sympathy? Come on, snap out of it Steve. Call yourself a writer? I need some copy and don’t forget we’ve got to sort out the graphics and images and maybe search for some video links. It’s not easy being an editor you know! Get on with it and don’t forget to change that title!’

I would have said ‘bye Issy’ but I was already listening to a dial tone.

Up here in the north west of England it’s been a hot week and last weekend it was one of the highlights of the year for me, the British Grand Prix. Here in the UK Formula One racing can only be seen live on Sky TV. I do have Sky, the basic Sky but being a member of that ancient and revered order, the order of tightwads, I really cannot break my solemn oath and just go and randomly pay for an expensive TV F1 package. The only alternative of course is to watch the highlights on Channel 4, the only terrestrial channel that broadcasts F1.

The big bonus for the British Grand Prix though is that it’s live, yes, actually live on Channel 4, and not only that, they are showing the practice sessions, the qualifying, (my favourite part) the sprint race (something new) as well as the actual race live. It’s the only race Channel 4 are allowed to broadcast live so as I have done a great deal of moaning about only getting to see the highlights I should be happy, shouldn’t I? Finally seeing an F1 race live in this new 2021 season which has been a great improvement on previous rather dull seasons. The flip side to this is that just lately a lovely summer has settled down on us here in the north west of England. Do I really want to be sat inside watching F1? Should I just record it and watch it later? That would defeat the object wouldn’t it? After all, as a true F1 fan I should really be watching it live.

Because of Covid and now also because of my sore shoulder (did I mention the trapped nerve and my shoulder pain?) we haven’t used our motorhome much this year. We did have a run out to Yorkshire a while back and a pub stop over before that but otherwise the only trip was a run out to the garage for the MOT. Liz had bought a small portable gas barbecue ready for our travels and it was lying unused in the corner so we thought it was time to give it a trial run.

(Editor’s note: Barbecues? Where are we going with this?) I do like barbecues but the flip side is that they are dirty and smelly and greasy. I always start off with some dry wood, pack in the charcoal and light up with some firelighters. Sometimes we’ll get a slow burner barbecue so we end up supping too much wine while we wait for things to get going. Other times we’ll get the reverse, a barbecue that catches quickly and voom, goes off in a big hot burn. That’s usually when we are expecting a slow burner and are still finishing off the salad and so when we sit down I realise I’m going to have to slap all the meat on quickly before the coals burn themselves out. The really annoying thing is when we are in the motorhome and I realise that after the barby has finished, I am somehow going to have to clean this horrible, greasy mess and get it packed away so we can move on.

So how have things gone with the gas barby? Pretty smoothly actually. None of that messing about with the coals and lighter fluid. The portable job snaps quickly together, slap in the calor gas cylinder, press the starter and hey presto, we are ready to barbecue. The other great thing about this one is that there is a water reservoir that catches all the grease and fat. Just swill that away somewhere in a corner of the garden, a quick wipe with a paper towel and we are all ready for next time. Barbecuing with gas, I love it!

(Editor’s note: you’re not giving me much here that can be linked to a film clip or video. We need some visual content to liven up this post!) Ok Issy, calm down, how about this: Author Ian Fleming had some trouble with his back and actually incorporated the experience into one of the James Bond books, Thunderball. Bond gets sent to a health farm called Shrublands. There, the inquisitive 007 notices a fellow guest has an interesting tattoo on his hand and decides to contact headquarters to see if they recognise it. The guest overhears this and decides Bond needs to be taught a lesson. The opportunity arises when Bond is placed on a traction machine that is supposed to stretch Bond’s back, just the sort of treatment I need! Anyway while Bond is on the machine it is suddenly ramped up to high speed and nearly breaks Bond’s back. Luckily Bond is rescued in time but later gets his revenge. That traction machine clearly made an impression on Ian Fleming.

I was so engrossed in the easy preparation for our upcoming barbecue I forgot about the Grand Prix. At about 4pm, a full hour after it started I went inside to see what was happening. One of the great inventions in the world of TV has to be hard drive recording. Don’t you just love it? You can actually start watching the race or indeed any programme while it is still recording. I started with the race build up and fast forwarded through all the team baloney about how the mechanics and engineers and everyone back at the factory had done a great job, blah blah blah. Paused for a moment when I thought will anyone actually say anything controversial? No was the answer.

I did stop for a moment with Daniel Riccardo, the Australian driver. Looking at his race team fireproof top and all the advertising on there I started to wonder whether it actually does those advertisers any good, sponsoring an F1 team? I mean who or what is Splunk? What do they do? What product do they make or what service do they provide? I’ve no idea, so do all the millions they pump into McLaren ever get a return? Does anyone think: Daniel had their logo on his shirt, I’ll buy their product? Nah, doubt it.

Ok, they have got their name in front of the public but they need to do a little more to start making use of that.

(Editor’s note: So how was the Grand Prix by the way?) Sorry Issy. After fast forwarding through the usual baloney which I must admit I quite used to like, we finally got to the nitty gritty. The green flag was waved, the red lights went out and Hamilton and Verstappen dived straight away into a great wheel to wheel battle. When they reached Copse corner, the two went for the same piece of tarmac and Verstappen was off into the barrier and Lewis lost his nose wing but managed to continue. That left Leclerc in the Ferrari out in front. Fast forward through all the accusations and counter accusations -Max was too aggressive, Lewis was too aggressive- blah blah blah. Lewis was able to take the restart but Max sadly wasn’t, his car being a total wreck. The race restarted and Lewis chased Leclerc all the way to the end of the race, took a ten second penalty and still won. An OK race and despite fast forwarding through most of it, it was quite exciting although as soon as Lewis took the chequered flag I was off out back to the sun.

Yes, Grand Prix out of the way and it was time to relax. A bottle of merlot had been warming gently in the sun and now it was time to test the wine. Liz poured our drinks and we took a sip, yes it was a cheeky little Spanish number, easy on the palate and just right to serve with steak, sausages, burgers and small kebabs all of which were on the menu that day. The great thing about the small gas barbecue was that instead of having to get up and keeping checking and turning the meat, out new gas barby perched happily on the table top just by Liz so she could easily reach out and turn the kebabs.

Obviously, I would have liked to have done the barbecuing myself rather than be waited on by the lovely Liz, but sadly, being partly crippled by neck and shoulder pain I wasn’t able to assist in the way I normally would. (Editor’s note: Baloney!)


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Which Bond is the very Best Bond?

So who was the best Bond? That’s Bond of course, James Bond, licensed to kill.

I’ve had a little time on my hands this week, looking after my elderly mother. Nothing particularly exciting presented itself on terrestrial TV so I thought, the perfect time to pour a glass of red and crank up a few Bond DVDs.

Sean Connery.

The very first Bond movie was Doctor No starring Sean Connery as the very first Bond. Connery was excellent as the suave James Bond, former naval officer and now agent of M16, the Secret Intelligence Service. Bond gets sent to Jamaica to look into the disappearance of the local station head. It turns out he was killed for being far too interested in the very first Bond villain, Doctor No. Throw in some exciting sets, car chases, gunplay and pretty girls and you have the instant formula for a successful film franchise.

Connery plays a great James Bond and he carried on with his portrayal in three subsequent films. After Thunderball he decided enough was enough and packed the job in. Later he was enticed back to play Bond one more time in Diamonds are Forever.

Stevehigginsinslive.com Bond rating: #4

George Lazenby.

George Lazenby was an actor in a TV advert and was spotted by the producers to take on the role of 007. Lazenby was to me, the perfect Bond; rugged and good looking as well as smooth and unruffled. To me he was just how I imagined Bond after reading the Ian Fleming novels as a schoolboy. His one Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the best films in the 007 franchise. Diana Rigg is a great Bond lady who, unlike no other Bond girl before or after, actually gets to marry Bond. The film is a fast paced thriller with some great fight and chase scenes including a classic ski chase. Lazenby quit the Bond series after getting some bad career advice and it was such a shame that he did not portray James Bond again.

Stevehigginsinslive.com Bond rating: #1

Roger Moore.

Roger Moore is one of my favourite actors, good looking, smooth and someone who never takes himself too seriously. He was great as Simon Templar and Lord Brett Sinclair in two TV action series but as for James Bond, well I don’t know what went wrong but Moore just didn’t cut it as Bond for me. His first film Live and Let Die was . .well, not bad I suppose but most of the rest were just dreadful, more carry On James Bond than the Bond we, or at least I wanted to see. Sorry Roger, just not my cup of tea at all and as for that underwater car. . . Seriously?

Stevehigginsinslive.com Bond rating: #6

Timothy Dalton.

Relaxing in front of the TV the other day and The Living Daylights popped up on my TV schedule. I’ve never really thought much of this film but actually it was pretty good. Timothy Dalton was a welcome relief after the Roger Moore years; finally, a serious Bond film again. Good film, good music and a great Bond girl who had, unusually, more to do that just look nice. Dalton made two Bond films, the other one being the slightly tedious Licence to Kill. Great song but a film that needed a few kick starts along the way.

Stevehigginsinslive.com Bond rating: #3

Pierce Brosnan.

There was a 6 year gap to the next Bond film due to legal issues. Timothy Dalton declined to star as Bond and the producers gave the role to Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan’s first Bond film was the impressive Goldeneye, one of my personal favourites of the whole series. Brosnan’s Bond is as smooth and stylish as the previous incumbents of the role with the addition of some wry humour in the style of Sean Connery. Goldeneye was the best of Brosnan’s films and the only real dud was Tomorrow Never Dies but even that had its merits. His last Bond film Die Another Day did venture slightly into Roger Moore territory with an invisible car though. Brosnan’s series of films were made all the more impressive by a small company of regular co-stars in particular Judi Dench as a female M, and Samantha Bond as Miss Moneypenny. I have to vote Brosnan in as my second favourite Bond.

Stevehigginsinslive.com Bond rating: #2

Daniel Craig.

Craig made his Bond debut in Casino Royale, actually the first book in Ian Fleming’s series but the last to make it to film, well, in the official franchise anyway. Fleming sold the rights to Casino Royale separately to the rest of books for some reason which is why a comedy version was made in the 1960s starring David Niven as Bond. In fact Niven was Fleming’s personal choice for a film Bond!

Anyway, this series of Bond films brings us to the 21st century version of the British superspy with an accent less on gadgets but heavy on action. The Daniel Craig Bond films are tough and gritty but are all reasonably enjoyable, the best one by far being Skyfall. Craig’s Bond is noticeably more thuggish than his predecessors although he tends to drive a classy vintage 1960s Aston Martin. Interestingly, in the books, Bond’s personal car was a vintage Bentley.

Stevehigginsinslive.com Bond rating: #5


Floating in Space is a novel by Steve Higgins set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.

 

More about James Bond 007, and Me.

I spoke briefly about James Bond in a previous blog and thought I might write a little more about the UK’s most famous secret agent.

I started reading the Bond books when I was a schoolboy and unfortunately the very first one I read was the only one they had in our local library: ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’, one of writer Ian Fleming’s worst Bond books. Fleming used to write his initial drafts of the novels and then write a second one, adding in all the details which make the Bond books so interesting. Things like details of Bond’s clothes, (the Sea Island cotton shirts) his food, (Bond always had scrambled eggs for breakfast) his cars, his cigarettes (the special handmade ones with the triple gold band) and all that sort of stuff. ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ was published after Fleming had died and sadly he had not revised his original draft. I persevered though, did some research, found the proper order of the books and began to read ‘Casino Royale’, the first in the series. I have loved the books, and the films ever since.

004I didn’t see the Bond films until 1969 when I saw probably my favourite Bond film ever, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, at the cinema. It was everything I had imagined it would be and what I liked about George Lazenby, who played 007 in the film, was that he looked pretty much as I had imagined Bond. He had the authentic ‘comma of black hair’ as Fleming had always described Bond having and not only that, Diana Rigg was probably my favourite Bond girl too.

The Bond films were not then a staple of UK TV but there was always a Bond documentary, usually on TV at Christmas time which built up, as it was supposed to do, the public interest in Bond. It certainly built up mine. There was one documentary I remember which showed the viewer how Ian Fleming suffered with back pain and was sent to recuperate at a rest home where they put him on a back stretching machine which he later incorporated into ‘Thunderball’. Aha, I thought, this is how writers think!

Sean Connery was the first movie Bond and he did a great job in setting out the 007 ‘stall.’ The Bond movies are as much about Bond’s colleagues as they are about Bond and in the original films we had some great supporting actors, Miss Moneypenny, played by Lois Maxwell, ‘M’ played by Bernard Lee, and the long serving ‘Q’, played by Desmond Llewellyn. CIA man Felix Leiter was always played by a different actor in each of the movies, which never ceases to surprise me. A good Leiter would have been a pretty good idea for US cinema goers, surely.

George Lazenby was selected to play Bond when Connery tired of the role. However, he was new to the industry and advisers told him that the Bond movies were on the way out. Friction occurred with his movie bosses when he grew his hair long and sported a beard and eventually Lazenby was sacked. Connery returned to the Bond role in ‘Diamonds are Forever’. With Lazenby that would have been such a good movie but Connery played a tired and lacklustre Bond and after the serious and fast moving ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, ‘Diamonds’ perhaps appears a little tame. Worse was to follow however when Roger Moore was selected to play Bond. Moore plays Bond as a sort of smooth talking fashion icon and some dreadful Bond films were produced in the 1980s.

Timothy Dalton took over for two movies, ‘The Living Daylights’ and ‘License To Kill,’ and after that the film franchise was in limbo until it re started with ‘Goldeneye,’ which after OHMSS is my favourite Bond movie. Brosnan doesn’t overdo the comedy unlike Connery and Moore. He seems like a pretty tough customer yet looks good in a finely tailored suit and, like Sean Connery, he has a wonderful troupe of supporting actors to help him. Judi Dench plays a female ‘M,’ Samantha Bond plays the faithful Miss Moneypenny, and Desmond Lewellyn once again plays ‘Q.’

I was sorry to see Peirce Brosnan go because I can’t really say I’m keen on the latest Bond films although I have seen them all at the cinema except for the latest offering. The aim of the producers was to re-introduce Bond to 21st century moviegoers and to show Bond as the hard man he must really be. My feeling is that they have succeeded too well and the films have a hard edge that I don’t really care for. Let’s have another villain like Goldfinger or Doctor No. Not trying to take over the world perhaps but with a really clever criminal scheme for Bond to sort out. And give me some good espionage gadgets, please! Yes, I’m sorry to say that Daniel Craig isn’t my idea of James Bond. Fleming himself reckoned that Hoagy Carmichael was how he imagined Bond and he wanted David Niven to play the part, which he did although it was in the spoof version of Casino Royale back in 1967. And it’s my considered opinon that Bond was based on one man, yes, none other than Commander Ian Fleming of Naval Intelligence in World war II.

Anyway, it was nice to see that in ‘Skyfall’, a good set of supporting actors was established and instead of one actor departing and being replaced, the introduction of the new ‘M’ was handled well and an interesting element was the story giving some background to the Moneypenny character.

Spectre is the latest Bond movie. It was released in 2016 and although I always try to see the new Bond at the cinema, I somehow managed to miss this one. I have not seen it until now as I recently managed to pick up a cheap second hand DVD version for a few pounds. It’s a very well made glossy movie although it is a little lacking in the story department. Yes, the fights scenes are great, as are the car chases although in recent years the Bond films have stepped away from reality slightly. In one scene Bond and a young lady are having dinner on a train. A Spectre assassin comes to assault Bond and a frantic fight scene ensues in which a great deal of the dining car is destroyed. Bond eventually gets the upper hand but the next morning, Bond and his companion are dropped off at the station as if nothing has happened.

One good thing was the return of Ernst Stavro Bolfeld who comes complete with a backstory linking him to Bond’s earlier life. I suspect somehow that Blofeld will return in another Bond but will Daniel Craig?

One annoying thing about Spectre was I felt that the scriptwriters had somehow confused Bond with the character Jack Bauer from the TV show 24. As you will know, if you’ve ever watched the TV show, Bauer is a sort of maverick agent who disregards any instruction or advice from his superiors, even the President, his commander in chief. He always goes off at a tangent and is a complete loose cannon. That is exactly how Bond starts out at the beginning of this film, he is at odds with ‘M’ the head of the secret service but, just like Jack Bauer, he disappears going completely his own way and later he gets colleagues within the service, like Miss Moneypenny and Q, to follow him just as Chloe O’Brian was an insider for Jack.

Hello, Bond scriptwriter! Just remember who you are writing about, it’s Bond, former English naval officer turned secret agent and not Jack Bauer!

Final result: Enjoyable, good in parts but the next Bond would benefit from a more tangible back story.

 


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The Saint, James Bond, and a Rather Hot Afternoon.

The Saint and James BondI spent a lot of time last week trolling through my book collection and photographing the books for last week’s post about Marilyn Monroe. It wasn’t quite that easy because since my divorce my books have been boxed up in the spare room at my Mum’s house and it took me a while to search through the boxes and find the books I wanted. The other problem was that being a bit of a book fanatic, I kept coming across books I’d not read for ages or forgotten about and my original task was put on hold while I sat and started reading! I came across my James Bond book collection and as you will know from reading these posts I do love James Bond.

One of the Bond books I found was ‘Live and Let Die’. It’s not one of the best in the book series but it’s pretty good. Roger Moore played Bond in the movie version, in fact it was Moore’s first Bond movie and I have to say, Roger just didn’t do it for me as Bond. He just didn’t look the part unlike the previous 007, George Lazenby, who completely fitted in with the Bond of my imagination.

Live and let DieSadly, Lazenby listened to some poor advice which advised him that secret agent espionage films were on the way out: They weren’t, but it turned out Lazenby was. Sean Connery filled in for one more Bond film, Diamonds are Forever, until Moore took over on Live and Let Die.

Moore was a poor Bond. He looked like a sort of tailor’s dummy all the way through the film and was unable to present that hard edge that a real spy must have had. Don’t get the idea that I don’t like Roger Moore though because the fact is he’s one of my favourite TV and film actors and was great in the TV version of the Saint. His slightly flippant, happy go lucky personality was perfect for Simon Templar, the playboy cum adventurer of the TV series.

I have always loved that opening sequence in the Saint. You know, the bit where he meets some pretty girl, something happens like an attempted robbery or something, Templar saves the day and the girl says, ‘aren’t you the famous Simon Templar?’ Moore then looks up, raises an eyebrow, a halo appears and then we cut into the theme tune and the opening titles.

Funnily enough, The Saint is currently being reshown on ITV4 during the day and as I have come into possession of one of those freeview digital recorders it’s so easy to record all the episodes. Just a touch of the series link button and there they are, queuing up on the hard drive waiting for my viewing pleasure.

I started watching one today; it was an episode about an actress who is what they call today a ‘diva’. The Saint was invited to watch some filming by his old friend Lois Maxwell who would one day play Miss Moneypenny to Moore’s James Bond. The actress threw a bit of a wobbler and retreated into her caravan which was then hijacked right out of the studio and the actress held to ransom. I’m not sure how the episode ended because it was so hot (Tuesday as I write this) I had to get outside for some fresh air.

That’s the thing about the UK. You know how it is -once a year the temperature in Manchester is higher than in Barcelona and the newspapers suddenly revert from Celsius to Fahrenheit because 100 degrees is so much more exciting than 37.7!

The other thing is that in Spain, if it’s too warm you automatically go indoors, because indoors in Spain is so much cooler. In the UK it’s the opposite, it’s warmer indoors!

Looks like I’ll just have to wait for a much cooler evening to find out what happened to the Saint and the actress!


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8 Things You Didn’t Know about James Bond, 007

bondblogI’ve been a big James Bond fan since I was a schoolboy and you may have noticed a couple of other Bond posts that I’ve written previously. The first Bond book I ever read was The Man with the Golden Gun which is a rather poor entry into the Bond world. Author Ian Fleming wrote the first draft but died before revising the book. His method was to write a first draft and then on the second, add in all the little bits of detail, such as Bond’s meals, drinks, clothing and so on that made the books so fascinating. I persevered, found the correct sequence of the novels, and have been a Bond fan ever since. Anyway, I’m getting away from my theme, eight things you may not know about 007.

1: The Longest Serving Bond.
Roger Moore made the most Bond films starting with Live and Let Die in 1973 and finishing with A View to A Kill in 1985. As much as I love Roger Moore, I really do feel he was the worst James Bond ever, totally unsuited for the role and a prime factor in me stopping watching the films during the 80’s. Adam West, TV’s Batman, Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds were all once in the running to play 007 but all declined, believing Bond should be played by a British actor. Cary Grant was also approached but turned down the role believing he was too old.

2: The Shortest Serving Bond.
George Lazenby was recruited to carry on as 007 when original Bond actor Sean Connery left. Lazenby was an Australian actor and the star of The Fry’s Chocolate Cream TV adverts. Lazenby was my personal favourite Bond actor and the one I’ve always felt that most resembled Ian Fleming’s description of Bond. He had the authentic black comma of hair that Fleming described in the books and his one Bond movie, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ was one of the very best. Such a pity that Lazenby didn’t go on to make more Bond films. He was given poor advice about the movie business; in particular he was advised that the Bond movies were on the way out. Away from the Bond set Lazenby dressed like a seventies hippy with long hair and a beard, none of which went down well with his movie bosses and PR men so Lazenby was out and Sean Connery asked back for one last 007 movie.

image courtesy flickr.com

image courtesy flickr.com

3: Who wrote the Bond books and where were they written?
Ian Fleming wrote the Bond books. After the war finished Fleming began work as foreign manager for the Kemsley newspaper group and as his contract with them gave provision for three months holiday during the
winter months, Fleming spent the time in Jamaica where he bought a house. He named the house after a wartime operation known as operation Goldeneye. He returned there every summer where he would work on the next Bond book. When all the books had been made into films, Eon productions, the makers of the Bond movies had to create new stories and new plots. The seventeenth Bond film Goldeneye was named after Ian Fleming’s Jamaica home.
Goldeneye the movie marked the debut of Pierce Brosnan as 007 when the movie franchise returned to the cinema screens after a brief hiatus. Apart from a rather silly tank chase, Goldeneye was one of the very best Bond movies.

4: Was there a real James Bond?
Indeed there was a real James Bond. When Fleming was planning his original novel he was looking around for the blandest and most anonymous name he could think of, and that’s when he came across a book called ‘Birds Of The West Indies’ by ornithologist James Bond. In 1964 Fleming gave Bond a first edition copy of ‘You Only Live twice’ inscribed by Fleming ‘to the real James Bond from the thief of his identity.’ When the book was auctioned in 2008 it fetched £56,000.
Many magazines and newspaper articles have put forward theories as to who the real Bond was but the fact is that while many of Fleming’s colleagues in the wartime SOE (Special Operations Executive) may have inspired him, the character of Bond was inspired by Fleming himself. Fleming was a commander in naval intelligence during the war, just like 007, and it was Fleming who drank the vodka martinis that James Bond liked so much. It was Fleming who wore the Sea Island cotton shirts that appear in the novels and it was Fleming who favoured scrambled eggs for breakfast, just like his creation, James Bond.

5: Which was the highest grossing Bond movie?

image courtesy flickr.com

image courtesy flickr.com

It was actually ‘Skyfall’, the 2012 Bond movie starring Daniel Craig as 007. The movie is easily the best of the Daniel Craig Bond films and there are some interesting aspects to the film in particular a visual homage to past Bond movies using a vintage Aston Martin. Until recently the top grossing movie was ‘Thunderball’ with Sean Connery.

6: How did two independent Bond movies come to be made?
Ian Fleming sold the movie rights to Casino Royale separately from the rest of the books and this enabled producer Charles K Feldman to produce a movie independently from Eon productions who own the rights to the other books. Feeling that he could not compete with the mainstream movies, he decided to make Casino Royale into a comedy version. David Niven starred as Sir James Bond and interestingly, Fleming had mooted Niven as a possible Bond when casting Dr No, the first movie in the series.
The other independent movie, ‘Never say Never Again’, came about due to a legal squabble. Fleming began work with producer Kevin McCLory and writer Jack Whittingham on a script which never came to fruition. Like many writers, Fleming was reluctant to waste this material and used it in his book Thunderball but did not credit McClory or Whittingham. McClory sued Fleming and won certain rights to the story. This enabled him to make what was essentially a remake of Thunderball in 1983 with Sean Connery returning for a last bow as 007.

7: Did the author ever kill off 007?
Not exactly but at the end of ‘You Only Live Twice’ in the novel, Bond is presumed dead or missing and M, the head of the secret service and 007’s boss, writes Bond’s obituary for the Times. It is quite interesting to read and M mentions that Bond was born of a Scottish father and French mother. The Bond family motto as we learn from ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ is ‘the world is not enough,’ a phrase that later became the title for the 19th Bond movie.

8: Bond girls and voice overs.
A quick internet search tells me there have been 75 Bond girls but I’m not sure whether that includes minor flirtations or ladies like the formidable Miss Moneypenny herself. Two Bond girls were veterans of the British TV espionage series the Avengers: Diana Rigg played Tracy in ‘On her Majesty’s Secret Service’ and Honor Blackman was Pussy Galore in ‘Goldfinger.’ Terri Hatcher, formerly Lois Lane in the TV series of Superman played Bond’s love interest in Tomorrow Never Dies and Eva Green played Vesper Lynd in the new version of Casino Royale. The most famous is probably Ursula Andress who played the first ever Bond girl Honeychile Ryder in Doctor No. Interestingly, Ursula Andress’ voice was dubbed in the film by Nikki van der Zyl who did voice overs for many Bond girls. Apparently Ursula Andress was felt by the producers to have had too strong a German accent. Shirley Eaton played Jill Masterton in Goldfinger and it was she who was famously covered in gold paint. Jill’s voice was dubbed by Nikki in order to give her a softer voice. French actress Claudine Auger who played Domino in Thunderball was also dubbed by Nikki.
Miss Moneypenny, M’s secretary is not necessarily considered to be a Bond girl; however, in the films Moneypenny and Bond always have a certain amount of banter. Lois Maxwell played Moneypenny in the first fourteen Bond films. My personal favourite was Samantha Bond who played the role four times in the Pierce Brosnan era. The current Miss Moneypenny has been given a sort of backstory in Skyfall, that of a former field agent assigned to a desk role.

The 24th and latest Bond movie ‘Spectre,’ premiers later this year. Watch the trailer below!


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James Bond and Me.

I spoke briefly about James Bond in a previous blog and thought I might write a little more about the UK’s most famous secret agent.

I started reading the Bond books when I was a schoolboy and unfortunately the very first one I read was the only one they had in our local library: ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’, one of writer Ian Fleming’s worst Bond books. Fleming used to write his initial drafts of the novels and then write a second one, adding in all the details which make the Bond books so interesting. Details of Bond’s clothes, his food, his cars, his cigarettes (the special handmade ones with the triple gold band) and all that sort of stuff. ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ was published after Fleming had died and sadly he had not revised his original draft. I persevered though, did some research, found the proper order of the books and began to read ‘Casino Royale’, the first in the series. I have loved the books, and the films ever since.

007I didn’t see the Bond films until 1969 when I saw probably my favourite Bond film ever, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, at the cinema. It was everything I had imagined it would be and what I liked about George Lazenby, who played 007 in the film, was that he looked pretty much as I had imagined Bond. He had the authentic ‘comma of black hair’ as Fleming had always described Bond having and not only that, Diana Rigg was probably my favourite Bond girl too.

The Bond films were not then a staple of UK TV but there was always a Bond documentary, usually on TV at Christmas time which built up, as it was supposed to do, the public interest in Bond. It certainly built up mine. There was one documentary I remember which showed the viewer how Ian Fleming suffered with back pain and was sent to recuperate at a rest home where they put him on a back stretching machine which he later incorporated into ‘Thunderball’. Aha, I thought, this is how writers think!

Sean Connery was the first movie Bond and he did a great job in setting out the 007 ‘stall.’ The Bond movies are as much about Bond’s colleagues as they are about Bond and in the original films we had some great supporting actors, Miss Moneypenny, played by Lois Maxwell, ‘M’ played by Bernard Lee, and the long serving ‘Q’, played by Desmond Llewellyn. CIA man Felix Leiter was always played by a different actor in each of the movies, which never ceases to surprise me. A good Leiter would have been a pretty good idea for US cinema goers, surely.

George Lazenby was selected to play Bond when Connery tired of the role. However, he was new to the industry and advisers told him that the Bond movies were on the way out. Friction occurred with his movie bosses when he grew his hair long and sported a beard and eventually Lazenby was sacked. Connery returned to the Bond role in ‘Diamonds are Forever’. With Lazenby that would have been such a good movie but Connery played a tired and lacklustre Bond and after the serious and fast moving ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, ‘Diamonds’ perhaps appears a little tame. Worse was to follow however when Roger Moore was selected to play Bond. Moore plays Bond as a sort of smooth talking fashion icon and some dreadful Bond films were produced in the 1980s.

Timothy Dalton took over for two movies, ‘The Living Daylights’ and ‘License To Kill,’ and after that the film franchise was in limbo until it re started with ‘Goldeneye,’ which after OHMSS is my favourite Bond movie. Brosnan doesn’t overdo the comedy unlike Connery and Moore. He looks like a pretty tough customer yet looks good in a finely tailored suit and, like Sean Connery, he has a wonderful troupe of supporting actors to help him. Judi Dench plays a female ‘M,’ Samantha Bond plays the faithful Miss Moneypenny, and Desmond Lewellyn once again plays ‘Q.’

I was sorry to see Peirce Brosnan go because I can’t really say I’m keen on the latest Bond films although I have seen them all at the cinema. The aim of the producers was to re-introduce Bond to 21st century moviegoers and to show Bond as the hard man he must really be. My feeling is that they have succeeded too well and the films have a hard edge that I don’t really care for. Let’s have another villain like Goldfinger or Doctor No. Not trying to take over the world perhaps but with a really clever criminal scheme for Bond to sort out. And give me some good espionage gadgets, please! Yes, I’m sorry to say that Daniel Craig isn’t my idea of James Bond. Fleming himself reckoned that Hoagy Carmichael was how he imagined Bond and he wanted David Niven to play the part, which he did although it was in the spoof version of Casino Royale back in 1967. And it’s my considered opinon that Bond was based on one man, yes, none other than Commander Ian Fleming of Naval Intelligence in World war II. Anyway, it was nice to see that in ‘Skyfall’, a good set of supporting actors was established and as usual, I look forward to the next new Bond movie!


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Spiders, Spider-man, and why I’ll always admire James Bond

quotescover-JPG-85Recently, one of my friends put this on her Facebook status; ‘why are spiders so big?’ Indeed, why are they so big and why did the Almighty allow them to get so big? My friend had encountered a large spider in her home and was prevailing on her husband to remove it. Various comments followed on Facebook, some telling her to grow up and some hoping that the offending creature be put to death immediately if not sooner. In fact my friend’s husband commented later that the offending spider was really a plastic toy one, not that I believe him because the simple truth is that I, a grown man, really hate spiders.

I’ve always rather liked Spiderman though; in fact Spiderman is my very favourite super hero, partly because he’s so different from other super heroes. He’s young, nerdy, full of teenage angst (whatever that is) and as well as being a superhero he has to deal with a lot of stuff teenage people deal with, spots, acne, girls and so on. Peter Parker, as you may know, was bitten by a radioactive spider which gave him his incredible powers. If I was Peter Parker though, a radioactive spider would have got nowhere near me because (1) I would have splattered it immediately it came within range or else (2) my screams would have made it scuttle off pretty quickly!

James Bond has always been one of my favourite fictional characters. I read all the books as a teenager and once spent a hot afternoon in Manchester in an Oxford Road cinema watching a double bill of Goldfinger and From Russia with love. Bond has been in some pretty tight spots too, you may remember him strapped to a table and being threatened with a laser beam, then there was the time in Live and let Die when they left him on a little island surrounded by alligators. Remember when he was in a shark filled pool in You Only Live Twice? All pretty scary stuff but the scariest ever was in Doctor No when he wakes up, switches on the light and finds a massive saucer sized spider crawling over him. Luckily, as a double O agent he is licensed to kill and clearly this includes spiders as not long afterwards the spider met it’s just end.

2048px-Cobweb-spider-frontal-mzeThe other day at work, I was having my morning ablutions in the comfortable surroundings of our disabled toilet, when a spider the size of a house, a mutant gargantuan spider limbo danced under the door and headed straight towards me. Now you may not know this but like Gandhi, I subscribe to the ancient tenets of Ahimsa, the culture of non-violence and also in recent years I have gravitated towards the Buddhist faith. Buddhism is a religion that is at peace with all mankind, a religion of respect and understanding. It also embraces the belief in Karma, the universal force which ensures that you will be paid back in equal measures for your kindness and also for your wicked deeds. Now, the thing is this, I may have to go out and find some old ladies to help across the road or donate a large portion of my earnings to charity because, well, perhaps you’ve guessed already:

As that spider came hurtling at me I didn’t think for a moment of Gandhi, Buddhism or Ahimsa. I just did what any right minded individual would have done: I put out my foot and squashed that spider!


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