I see that Bond 25 finally has a title. No Time to Die. Surely a camel – a horse designed by a committee, and an unimaginative and terribly risk-averse one at that. I would have preferred No Time to Diet, which would have fitted the premise that Bond is in retirement but needs to be recalled. (M could have sent him back to that health farm in Thunderball, Shrublands, to limber up.) Or better still, Time to Die, which would at least have had the distinction of being a quote from Ecclesiastes, and more à propos, for surely the time has come to lay 007 to rest. Then no one need worry about Daniel Craig’s successor, and her creed, colour, or sexual orientation.
Ian Fleming never suffered from title-trouble. Actually the franchise hasn’t exhausted the supply. They have yet to use, from For Your Eyes Only, The Hildebrand Rarity, or Risico. But, if the truth be told, Bond died in 1964 with his creator. Anything after that wasn’t even a pale imitation. Although Jonathan Cape had enough material to publish Octopussy in 1966, the Bond saga is really brought to an end with The Man with the Golden Gun. It has as strong an opening as any other Bond book, but then Fleming’s health broke down, and he must have known, as he persevered to the end, that this would be Bond’s last outing. So, in order to make it quite clear, he ends the book twice, in chapters entitled The WRAP-UP, and ENDIT. He even awards Bond a gong! (Of course Bond turns it down.)
Still, if I got the call from Ms Broccoli, for a treatment for Bond 26, it would be hard to resist. I would put Bond in a care home, making inappropriate advances to the nursing staff. He discovers Blofeld is a fellow patient. After all, we don’t know whether Bond really killed him in You Only Live Twice. They have a preliminary skirmish, probably over a game of Scrabble. The final debacle is hand-to-hand mortal combat involving wheel chairs and catheter bags. Only Thrice Time to Endit Another Day.
Last week’s blog was so short that I sent it into The Herald, who very kindly published it. They edited it slightly, but in a sensitive way, so that I was not inclined to throw a Beethovenian tantrum. The following day, as usual, I checked for rejoinders, bouquets and brickbats, and, none being forthcoming, my eyes drifted to “Impossipuzzles”. They go something like this: Geoffrey said, “Have you noticed that Erica’s telephone number is a palindrome?” Simon smiled. “Yes, and what’s more, its 11 digits correspond to her age, date of birth, and house number on Orchard Road.”
What was her address?
Lest you be tempted to delve into this morass, I beseech you, don’t. I just made it up; it’s complete nonsense. But even supposing it had a solution, I would still strongly advise you not to go there. Whenever you come across a conundrum posed by somebody who smiles, let it go. I had this nightmare: I was present at the end of the world. I saw the Doomsday Machine before me and made acquaintance with its hellish machinations. (007 actually found himself in this predicament at the end of Goldfinger – the film, not the book.) Three minutes before Time Zero, I still had the opportunity to avert Total Eclipse. The keypad of deactivation was at my fingertips. But I needed help. What was the PIN number? Fortunately Simon was at my side.
Simon smiled. “Funny you should ask that. It’s Sarah’s age multiplied by the quotient of the reciprocal of Petra and Oscar’s birthdays, squared.”
I spent the last three minutes available to the Universe, throttling Simon.
In the local village shop I amassed an armful of soaps, Domestos, Brillo soap pads, all-purpose cloths, and black rubbish bags, and offloaded them on the shop counter with the remark, “Declaration of Intent.”
“Decoration of a tent?” asked the lady behind me, wife of an army officer, terribly well-spoken.
“Indeed. Actually it’s a yurt.” I felt this awful whimsical compulsion coming over me, like one of these insufferably destructive James Thurber characters. But the shopkeeper, a kind man, saved the day. “Send three and fourpence, we’re going to a dance.”
“Send reinforcements, we’re going to advance. Chinese whispers.”
Talking of Chinese whispers, I just caught the end of a segment of Radio 4’s Inside Science and I jaloused a panel of judges were discussing how they had settled on a shortlist of books in a literary-scientific competition. One of them said, “Well, if I’m not hooked by Page 3, forget it!” Isn’t that typical of the modern world? I wonder how Walter Scott would have fared nowadays if he’d had to submit Old Mortality to the Bond 25 Camel Committee. What would they have made of the erudition, the verbosity, and the exuberant high farce of Scott’s opening chapters?
“Who’s this guy Jedidiah Cleishbotham?”
“My alter ego.”
“Is he value-added?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“He’s got to go. Dump Cleishbotham. Where’s that Phoebe woman when you need her? Pace, Walter. It’s all about pace.”
Far-fetched? Donald Trump wants to buy Greenland. That’s the sort of thing one of these megalomaniac Bond villains would aspire to. Then, when he is frustrated, he takes the hump. M says to 007, “James, I’d like you to take a turn up to Bluie West One. Something strange is going on.” Bond surveys the dossier, raises an eyebrow, and echoes Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s remark in Pride & Prejudice to her father, re Mr Collins.
“Can this man be sensible?”