By Tanya Firth
The world continues to be captivated by the James Bond enigma. Excitement and interest in 007 are still running high and there is no sign of it dying down, almost 70 years since the character was created by Ian Fleming who lived in East Kent.
Who was James Bond you may ask? Did he really exist? Is this character based on a real person? This question continues to lead to a lot of speculation. One thing, we may be sure of is that his creator, Ian Fleming, did put a lot of his own aspirations into James Bond. Many of the books are clearly based on Fleming’s own experiences, although he always maintained that the character of James Bond was not autobiographical.
For example, during WW2, Commander Fleming, like Commander Bond, was a Royal Navy intelligence officer and was even involved in ‘Operation Goldeneye’, an allied plan to monitor the activities of Spain. During the war, Fleming spent time in Portugal, and it is said that his interest in gambling casinos came from his visits to the Casino do Estoril near Lisbon.
Several 007 stories involve skiing, scuba-diving and golf, which were unsurprisingly among Ian Fleming’s favourite pastimes.
The truth of the matter is that the majority of the films do not follow the novels very closely, but if you are an aficionado of 007 and his creator, Ian Fleming, you may well be interested in learning a few things about East Kent, where several of Ian Fleming’s original novels were set.
St Mark’s golf course in the novel Goldfinger is actually based on Royal St George’s in Sandwich, where Ian Fleming was a member for 16 years. He was about to take on the position of Club Captain in August 1964 when he tragically died of a heart attack at the age of 56 in nearby Canterbury.
“Bond had chosen the A2 in preference to the A20 to Sandwich because he wanted to take a quick look at Goldfinger land -Reculver …
… Then he got back into his car and drove slowly over to the Royal St Marks at Sandwich. Bond carried his clubs to the professional’s shop and through to the workroom. it would be about 20 years since he had played his last round on St Marks.”
The Duck Inn in Pett Bottom near Canterbury was one of Ian Fleming’s favourite country pubs. He was often to be found sitting in the garden here making notes for his books. It is claimed that he wrote most of You Only Live Twice here in 1963.
You Only Live Twice
“…the youth came under the guardianship of an aunt, since deceased, Miss Charmian Bond, and went to live with her at the quaintly-named hamlet of Pett Bottom near Canterbury in Kent. There in a small cottage by the attractive Duck Inn, his aunt, who must have been a most erudite and accomplished lady, completed his education for an English public school…”
Fleming’s 3rd novel, Moonraker, was set in London and Kent, exactly where Ian Fleming had homes. One of his favourite residences called ‘White Cliffs’ is dramatically located underneath the cliffs in St Margaret’s Bay near Dover. It was at the hotel here where Bond and Gala Brand managed to seek solace after almost being killed in a rockfall on the beach.
“Bond took the short cut out of Canterbury by the Old Dover Road and looked at his watch. Another 15 minutes to Dover and then another 10 minutes along the Deal road. Bond concentrated on his driving as he coasted down into Dover. He kept left and was soon climbing out of the town again past the wonderful cardboard castle…
… They walked along in silence until they came to the 2-mile stretch of shingle that runs at low tide beneath the towering white cliffs to St Margaret’s Bay. “The tide’s coming in fast, but we can get to St Margaret’s before it catches us. We’ll clean up at the Granville there and have a drink and some food…” They turned towards the distant tower of the South Foreland lighthouse and set off through the shingle…”
If, unlike Bond, you don’t have an Aston Martin to bring you to East Kent, you could always take the bus. The National Express bus that will bring you to Dover from London ‘shaken not stirred’ bears the number 007!
Tanya is a SE England Blue Badge Driver Guide based in Folkstone