Sunday, 29 May 2016

A birthday to remember

Ian Fleming's birthday was celebrated in fine style yesterday with a walk, organised by Maxus Movie Walks and Literary007.com, around Fleming's haunts in the City of London, culminating with drinks opposite the site of his writing office in Mitre Court.

The group of eager Fleming and Bond fans assembled in the heart of the City on the steps of the Royal Exchange. After directing our attention to the Bank of England, which Bond visits in the novel Goldfinger to be briefed about the gold business, Jon Pettigrew of Maxus Movie Walks took us to the Reuters statue, near the site of the Reuters building, where Fleming worked between 1931 and 1932 and developed his journalistic – and writing – skills. We then headed into the side streets of the City, stopping outside, appropriately enough, the Jamaica Wine House. We don't know whether Fleming visited the place, but it's likely that he frequented many of the bars and restaurants in the City.
The Reuters monument
Our next principal stop was 10 Throgmorton Avenue, the location of merchant bankers Cull & Co, for whom Fleming worked between 1933 and 1935, and we learnt more of the fascinating history of the bank and Fleming's role there from Thomas Cull of Literary007.com, the great grandson of the bank's founder.
Outside Cull & Co
Goldfinger cropped up again when we stopped outside Goldsmiths' Hall. It was here Fleming researched aspects of the novel. We then moved on to Printing House Square, the former home of the Sunday Times, where Fleming worked in various roles from 1957 until his death in 1964. After that, the group arrived at Fleet Street, stopping briefly at St Bride's Church ('the journalists' cathedral'), opposite which stood the former headquarters of the Express newspaper, which famously published comic-strip adaptations and serialisations of the Bond novels.
View towards Printing House Square
Finally, the group headed into Mitre Court, where Ian Fleming himself was waiting for us. Actually, it was the actor Michael Chance, who, fresh from his one-man show, The Man with the Golden Pen, gave us a brilliant performance as Ian Fleming. The effect was just as compelling and not a little uncanny.
Michael Chance as Ian Fleming
There were more treats in store – a glass of Prosecco at the Apex Hotel Bar and the chance to meet Sophie Harley, designer of the jewellery that featured in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Glass in hand, we sang happy birthday to Ian (badly, in my case) before getting down to the serious business of talking Bond and Fleming with fellow aficionados over a few more drinks. (Yes, I did have a couple of gin martinis, alas both stirred, not shaken). I was enjoying myself so much, that before I knew it, it had gone 10pm, and it was time to catch my train home.

This was a superb evening. Literary007.com and Maxus Movie Walks did a fantastic job organising the event. Not only did I learn more of Fleming-related locations (we visited more than I've mentioned here), but I also learnt much more about the history of the City of London, about which Jon Pettigrew's knowledge was encyclopedic. I was thrilled, too, to meet Trevor Scobie, cover artist of three of John Gardner's Bond novels, and several members of the 'Bond community', whose books, websites and social media feeds are my regular haunts. Same again next year?

1 comment:

  1. That was a really informative walking tour....! My wife and I totally enjoyed it -- I just noticed that she can be seen in photo # 2 above; she's at the left edge of the image.
    It was also really wonderful to meet good ol' chaps such as yourself....!
    Bravo on this splendid website, and hey, who knows -- perhaps we'll catch you again -- same place next year...? -- for the Fleming birthday walk once more....
    All my very best,
    Dave the Rave

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