Sunday, 19 December 2010

Christmas with Bond

How does James Bond celebrate Christmas? Ian Fleming’s novels contain few clues. Just one adventure – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – has events coinciding with the festive period. According to John Griswold’s chronological analysis of the novels, the events of The Man With the Golden Gun cover the period from November 1963 to February 1964, but there is a break in the narrative during December and most of January, and therefore no mention is made of Christmas.

The references in OHMSS suggest that Bond, when not engaged in a mission, has a fairly traditional Christmas Day. He berates his secretary, Mary Goodnight, for working, rather than spending the day stirring the plum pudding and going to church (Chapter 20). But while Bond is aware of these concepts as elements of the Christmas celebrations, Goodnight’s response – that the pudding is prepared months earlier and that it was the wrong time for church – highlights the possibility that Bond does not get too involved with the organisation of the festivities or does not habitually attend the Christmas services.

Bond has his Christmas meal at M’s house on the edge of Windsor Forest. M’s housekeeper, Mrs Hammond, serves turkey (presumably with seasonal vegetables), followed by plum pudding. M thinks the Christmas meal traditions to be ‘damned sentimental rubbish’ and almost has an apoplexy at the sight of crackers on the table. Bond’s view on the menu, and the crackers, is not recorded. In terms of drinks, Bond has a glass of Marsala and most of a bottle of bad Algerian wine, neither of which impressed him.

That is as far as the evidence from the novels takes us. However, as Ian Fleming gave so many of his own traits to Bond, it is reasonable to assume that the sort of celebrations Fleming had were also shared by Bond. The letters of Ann Fleming provide some information. Christmases were often spent at Shane’s Castle, Lord O’Neill’s home in Dublin. One year there, the Flemings and other guests played Scrabble, bridge and table-tennis. In another letter, we learn of the Stilton, tangerines and smoked salmon that the house guests ate. Ian Fleming’s drink of choice was vodka. Alternatively, Christmas was spent on the ski-slopes. Staying at St Moritz into the January, the Flemings saw in the new year at a table covered with crackers and paper hats.

So, for the perfect Bondian Christmas, take to the slopes, eat a traditional Christmas meal, washed down with vodka, and play Scrabble. Happy Christmas!

References:
Amory, M (ed.), 1985 The letters of Ann Fleming, Collins Harvill, London

Griswold, J, 2006. Ian Fleming’s James Bond: annotations and chronologies for Ian Fleming’s Bond stories, Author House, Milton Keynes

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