Happy New Year! Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.
In this issue
- This week: Ian Fleming
- Virtual Snacks
- Bizarre Searches
- Quotation and joke
We were intrigued to receive an email from our old friends up at Bletchley Park Post Office a few days back, alerting us to a new First Day Cover (FDC) they’ve brought out for a new series of stamps from the Royal Mail.
It turns out that the creator of James Bond (and of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – not many people know that), Ian Fleming, was born one hundred years ago this year. The Royal Mail have brought out a series of six commemorative stamps, each featuring the front covers of four editions of one of his books – they’ve had to make the stamps extra long to show the cover illustrations! The first-class stamps feature the first ever Bond novel, Casino Royale, and Dr No; the 54p stamps feature Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever; and on the 78p stamps you can see For Your Eyes Only and From Russia With Love. (Royal Mail have been quick off the mark, mind you – Fleming’s centenary isn’t until the end of May…)
Bletchley Park’s FDC has a particular twist to it, though. It features “Operation Ruthless”, a plot to seize an Enigma machine from a German naval vessel in the English Channel, devised by Fleming in 1940 when he was Personal Assistant to the Royal Navy’s Director of Naval Intelligence. A truly cloak-and-dagger operation, “Ruthless” involved a captured German bomber being deliberately ditched in the Channel with a team of five tough men on board, ready to overpower the crew of the German patrol boat sent to recover the distressed aircraft.
Most intriguingly of all, Fleming suggested that the pilot should be “a tough bachelor able to swim”, and that a German speaker should also be on the team (he suggested himself). Surely no coincidence that Bond was tough, a bachelor and an accomplished linguist.
Fleming was quite a colourful character in many ways. Educated at Eton, he was Victor Ludorum (overall best sportsman) two years running, only the second pupil ever to achieve the feat. He left Sandhurst early, not liking it, and spent several years learning languages in an attempt to pass the entry examination for the Foreign Office (which, however, he apparently never succeeded in joining). He was friends with Noël Coward, who attended his wedding in Jamaica to Anne Charteris, former wife of the second Viscount Rothermere (whom he’d been having an affair with for some time). And he built up an extensive library of books which had made a defining contribution to Western civilisation – most of them scientific or technological, but also including such eclectic titles as Mein Kampf and Scouting For Boys.
He came to fiction writing relatively late on; he was well into his forties when he embarked on his career of writing spy novels (Casino Royale was published in 1953). His ambition was to write the “spy story to end all spy stories”; the success of the Bond film franchise is testament to his success. Sadly, he died scarcely eleven years after he’d achieved publishing success, suffering a fatal heart attack in 1964 at the relatively young age of 56. In the meantime, though, he’d achieved phenomenal success, with three of his stories already in film by the time of his death, and with John F. Kennedy an avowed fan. (At a dinner at which both were present, Fleming gave Kennedy ideas for discrediting Fidel Castro, ideas which Kennedy took seriously enough to pass them on to the CIA for further consideration.) The rest of his works were also made into film, with other writers at the helm. The short story Octopussy, for example, was worked up into a feature-length screenplay by George MacDonald Fraser, author of the Flashman novels, who sadly died on 2 January.
(You can read more about Fraser on our sister site, British Newspapers Online.)
Pity they don’t have a stamp for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, though…
Do you have anything to say about this topic? Or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us?
Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:
You can read more about Ian Fleming and his works at the official Ian Fleming Publications site.
Find out more about Bletchley Park Post Office and their distinctive series of First Day Covers at the Bletchley Park Post Office website.
And here’s a link to the people who do all the James Bond stuff in real life: the British Government’s Secret Intelligence Service.
Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:
- year the smurfs came on the television?
- christmas season in old england lambswool could be found in the houses
- ghostbusters half-mast flag
- mrs%2e o s house
- captain talbot and the french sloop hazard
- trump scotsman holdout
- woke up this morning lyrics blankets in a heap
- potato alex barker and sally mansfield
- lidls garlic bread
Till next time…
Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat Magazine
“My mental hands were empty, and I felt I must do something as a counterirritant or antibody to my hysterical alarm at getting married at the age of 43.”
– Ian Fleming, author (1908-64), on why he started writing as a profession.
A college graduate applies for a job as an industrial spy.
Together with several other applicants, she is given a sealed envelope and told to take it to the fourth floor.
As soon as the young woman is alone, she steps into an empty stationery cupboard and opens the envelope (first being sure to find an identical envelope to put the contents into).
Inside, a message reads: “You’re our kind of person. Report to the fifth floor.”