Stirred but not shaken
Me, taking part in a Santa Fun Run, to raise money for charity, last December."
Did I ever tell you that I’m a secret James Bond fantasist? Well, I guess it’s not much of a secret now that I’ve told you and half the world, is it?
I was an adolescent when Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels were first published during the 1960s (some people I know might suggest that I still am!). I devoured each one as it came out in paperback, and I could hardly wait for the next one. Then they started making the movies, and suddenly the glamour of the books was up there on the silver screen in glorious colour.
You see, Britain was a rather dull place in the early 1960s. To me it was not so much the dangerous situations or the thrilling adventures of James Bond which excited me, and certainly not the violence. It was more the exotic locations, the luxurious lifestyle, the glamorous women and the fast cars – especially the fast cars.
I really believe that my lifelong love of travel to exciting places grew out of my fascination with the foreign place-names I read in Fleming’s books: the Caribbean, Russia, Japan, the USA. I used to love it when Miss Moneypenny handed Bond his plane tickets, saying: “We’ve booked you on the next flight to Miami, James.”
I lived in a dark and drizzly northern town. I thought the sun was a myth, like fairies and Santa Claus, until I left home at 18 and discovered that there really was a golden ball in the sky which gave out glorious light and beautiful warmth. It just never shone on my hometown. The thought of taking the next flight anywhere excited me.
Bond’s suits were hand-made especially for him. He smoked his own personal brand of cigarettes. He knew about good food and wine. He wore knitted silk ties. Oh, how I envied him (hey! gimme a break, I was only 13).
I saw Goldfinger seven times in the week it was released. I started to smoke (idiot boy!) and found a brand of Russian cigarettes rolled in black paper with gold tips. At seventeen I managed to afford a hand-made suit by working in a shop on Saturdays and after school. I bought knitted ties (unfortunately, not pure silk). I once owned a pair of rhino-skin shoes. And I still never got the girl!!!
Of course, I would never be able to afford the Aston Martin – my dream car. But I have always had pretty powerful and pretty smart cars – cars I could never really afford or justify. Right now I still have my Mini Cooper ‘S’ Convertible, in gunmetal silver (a typical Ian Fleming colour for a car), and a small handful of speeding tickets of which I am not proud. I keep it spotless (I’m making myself sound like a total nerd, I know) and, in fact, I rarely drive it. Driving in London makes no sense. Keeping this car doesn’t really make much sense. Lucy is at university, and in any case she doesn’t have a driving licence. But even if she did I wouldn’t let her drive my car: it’s too powerful and not a sensible car to learn to drive on.
Why am I telling you all this embarrassing (and possibly quite boring) stuff? Well, it was my birthday a few weeks ago and someone who knows me quite well bought me a rather special present – a half-day at Silverstone, Britain’s motor racing Grand Prix track, driving – you’ve guessed, haven’t you – an Aston Martin DB9 Vantage!
After a half-hour briefing they let me see the car. The fire-proof balaclava felt rough. The helmet was heavy. Sitting in the car, I could see very little: it’s extremely low. An instructor gave me advice while I drove my first lap. Then I was allowed two laps at full speed – over 300 kilometres per hour on the straights.
It was all over much too quickly, and I was practically speechless with the exhilaration of the experience. I would happily have continued driving that magnificent car all day. Taking it home that evening would have been even better, of course. Was it dangerous? I don’t think so. I wasn’t shaken but I was certainly stirred. Now, how about a flute of Dom Pérignon to celebrate? Cheers!
PS: Some better photos next time, I promise!
PPS: Thanks SO MUCH to everyone who has posted comments. I will reply to some of them in my next blog on 17 December.
Mini Bond Quiz
1. Which of these was the first James Bond novel?
a. Goldfinger b. Casino Royale c. Thunderball
2. Which of these was the first James Bond movie?
a. Dr No b. From Russia With Love c. Goldfinger
3. Which Bond movie does this dialogue come from:
JB: Do you expect me to talk?
AG: No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die!
4. Which famous cabaret singer played Rosa Kleb, in From Russia With Love?
5. What was Ian Fleming’s house in Jamaica called?
a. Palmyra b. Goldeneye c. Blades
Some useful words and expressions
Stirred but not shaken
James Bond’s preferred method for mixing a martini (cocktail) is to have it shaken (i.e. in a cocktail shaker), not stirred (with a spoon, for example). I have reversed that expression here, to illustrate how my drive in the Aston Martin stirred me (i.e. gave me an emotional thrill) but didn’t shake me (i.e. was not uncomfortable).
a young person who is no longer a child but not yet an adult
literally, ‘ate greedily’, but here it means read quickly and very enthusiastically
a ‘paperback’ is a book with a paper cover. Books are published in paperback or in hardback.
attractive and exciting
a state of being extremely interested in something
‘M’ was the head of the British Secret Service, in the James Bond novels. Miss Moneypenny is his secretary.
drizzle is light, misty rain. A drizzly town is a place where it frequently drizzles.
an untrue belief or explanation
wished I could be like
gimme a break
a slang expression (‘Give me a break!’) meaning, ‘Give me a chance’, ‘Don’t be too critical’.
the third Bond movie
if you can afford something, you have enough money to be able to pay for it
a hand-build, high-performance, luxurious and extremely expensive (British) sports car. In Goldfinger, James Bond drives an Aston Martin DB5 which is specially equipped with weapons and other hi-tech equipment.
give a good reason why it is sensible or necessary
penalties given by the police for driving over the legal speed limit
an obsessive person with little charisma
a race for powerful racing cars
lesson; a meeting where you are given instructions or information
a close-fitting hood which covers every part of your head except your face
a complete circuit of the course
unable to speak
extreme thrill; extreme excitement
affected by strong emotion
a wine glass designed especially for champagne
James Bond’s preferred champagne
PS: Did you find the hidden Beatles’ song title in this blog? Answers in my final blog on 28 December.
Mini Bond Quiz ANSWERS:
1b, 2a, 3 Goldfinger, 4 Lotte Lenya, 5b
Thanks for all your contributions. This blog has now closed and can no longer accept new comments.