The Doctor Bird

Red-billed_Streamertail

From the beginning of the short story For Your Eyes Only.

The most beautiful bird in Jamaica, and some say the most beautiful bird in the world, is the streamer-tail or doctor humming-bird. The cock bird is abut nine inches long, but seven inches of it are tail – two long black feathers that curve and cross each other and whose inner edges are in a form of scalloped design. The head and crest are black, the wings dark green, the long bill is scarlet, and the eyes, bright and confiding, are black. The body is emerald green, so dazzling that when the sun is on the breast you see the brightest green thing in nature. In Jamaica, birds that are loved are given nicknames. Trochilus polytmus is called “doctor bird” because his two black streamers remind people of the black tail-coat of the old-time physician.

The scene is thus set for us – we’re in Jamaica again. Ian Fleming sets the beginning of this story back in the place he knew so well. As you can see from the picture, his description of the bird couldn’t possibly be more accurate.jamaican-streamertail

The bird can only be found in Jamaica, and is in fact the national bird of the country.

In the story, Mrs Havelock is watching two pairs of birds, which are supposed to be of the same family of birds that have lived in the same bushes for at least 30 years or so. Her mother-in-law had named the first two pairs, and the names stuck on all the subsequent pairs that came back.

In reality, the male of the Trochilus Polytmus is polygamous, and has nothing to do with the raising of the young after the act of mating. The female bird becomes a single parent.

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Boston

Residing as I do in the greater Boston area, I’m interested in the occasions when Ian Fleming brings James Bond close to my home. Unfortunately, in the novels at least, the only glimpse Bond gets of Boston is from the air. He does venture into New England, going into Vermont for the events of For Your Eyes Only, but for that trek, he flies into Montreal, not Boston.

Boston is city on the east coast of the United States, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The city is one of the oldest (settled in 1630) in America and the site of much rich history – including some of the earliest rebellions of the colonists against the British Empire. (We’re friends now though, right?) Fleming mentions the city in three of the novels.

In Live and Let Die the city is used as part of Bond’s cover while on assignment:

He was given a military haircut and was told that he was a New Englander from Boston and that he was on holiday from his job with the London office of the Guaranty Trust Company.

In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond gets a brief view of the city as he flies into New York.

And then there were three hours when the plane hung dead-steady in the middle of the world, and only the patches of bright sunshine swaying slowly a few inches up and down the walls of the cabin gave a sense of motion. But at last there was the great sprawl of Boston below them, and then the bold pattern of a clover-leaf on the New Jersey Turnpike, and Bond’s ears began to block with the slow descent towards the pall of haze that was the suburbs of New York.

Finally, in Thunderball the city is mentioned simply as a geographical marker:

Bond said, “Did the American D.E.W. line pick it up—their Defense Early Warning system?”

“There’s a query on that. The only grain of evidence we’ve got. Apparently about five hundred miles east of Boston there was some evidence that a plane had peeled off the inward route to Idlewild and turned south. But that’s another big traffic lane—for the northern traffic from Montreal and Gander down to Bermuda and the Bahamas and South America. So these D.E.W. operators just put it down as a B.O.A.C. or Trans-Canada plane.”

Actually it was the DISTANT Early Warning system, but I’ll give Mr Fleming the benefit of the doubt and say he was being dramatic. Also, the hijacker of the Vindicator, Giuseppe Petacchi notes his location in relation to Boston while delivering the plane to S.P.E.C.T.R.E.

The coastline of America should be on the screen by now. He got up and had a look. Yes, there, 500 miles away, was the coastline map already in high definition, the bulge that was Boston, and the silvery creek of the Hudson River.

And that’s it. I’m just glad Boston was on Fleming’s radar – no pun intended – while he was writing the Bond novels.

B.O.A.C. Stratocruiser

Boeing Stratocruiser.series one

From the moment the B.O.A.C. Stratocruiser taxied up to the International Air Terminal at Idlewild, James Bond was treated like royalty.

Live and Let Die.

This is one case where the old days were definitely better. More comfortable at a minimum.

Bond enjoys the luxury of the stratocruiser, flying it also in Diamonds Are Forever.

In For Your Eyes Only, Bond laments that he isn’t able to take the Stratocruiser:

Two days later, Bond took the Friday Comet to Montreal. He did not care for it. It flew too high and too fast and there were too many passengers. He regretted the days of the old Stratocruiser — that fine lumbering old plane that took ten hours to cross the Atlantic. Then one had been able to have dinner in peace, sleep for seven hours in a comfortable bunk, and get up in time to wander down to the lower deck and have that ridiculous BOAC ‘country house’ breakfast while the dawn came up and flooded the cabin with the first bright gold of the Western hemisphere.

Bond feels everything is too rushed on the Comet.

At the end of Goldfinger, Bond is a captive aboard a Stratocruiser hijacked by Goldfinger and his crew.

boac-ad-1952

This 1952 ad gives you a feel for the experience.

My feeling is that Bond would eschew the downstairs cocktail lounge:

boacBar

Preferring instead to have a drink in his seat, or sleep in a private berth. (Though in Diamonds Are Forever, Bond notes that he booked too late to get a sleeping berth.) Young lady presumably not included.

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On all three occasions above in which Bond flew the Stratocruiser, the airport involved on the United States end of things was Idlewild, which is now John F. Kennedy International Airport. Here’s a peek at it back in the 1950’s:

boacNY2

 

For much, much more on this plane and wonderful era in airplane travel, check out this page.

Gauloises (Cigarettes)

This brand of cigarettes, found in France, makes a few appearances in the Fleming novels.

In Casino Royale, Le Chiffre lights one up as he gets ready to torture Bond.

In From A View To A Kill, Wing Commander Rattray, Head of Station F (France) “chain-smoked Gauloises and his office stank of them.” Bond moves his chair closer to the window “to keep away from the fog of Gauloises.”

Chapter 23 of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is entitled Gauloises and Garlic. Marc-Ange “reached for a blue packet of Gauloises”.

 

gauloises

 

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Negroni

In Risico while meeting with Kristatos, Bond orders a Negroni.

Bond nodded. ‘A Negroni. With Gordon’s, please.’

The waiter walked back to the bar. ‘Negroni. Uno. Gordon’s.’

Like the Americano, the Negroni contains equal amounts Campari and sweet vermouth. It also contains an equal measure of gin. In the story, Bond specifies Gordon’s gin, a favorite of his.

The drink is said to have been invented around 1920, when Count Camillo Negroni ordered an Americano—sweet vermouth, Campari and club soda—with gin swapped in for the standard soda.

Others are skeptical of this claim, wondering if this yarn is just a bit of brilliant corporate PR by Campari, noting that the drink doesn’t appear in cocktail manuals until the middle of the century.

Risico was written after Fleming visited Venice (and the Lido peninsula) in 1958.

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Negroni with Bond’s preferred Gordon’s.

If I’m making a Negroni, these are my preferred mixers:

negroni

Plymouth Gin, Campari and Dolin Vermouth.