Bond For A Day In London

Issue 75

"We want you to be an agent...I'm not your guide, I'm your handler. We're going to go through a few experiences today that will test you," said Andy Jackson in an authoritative tone reminiscent of Bernard Lee playing M in one of the early 007 films.

Along with the seven other participants in the Bond for a Day immersive tour of London, I’d just finished breakfast in one of the private rooms in the Civil Service Club at Great Scotland Yard.

Andy’s career included stints in military and police intelligence prior to guiding. Wearing round, wire-framed spectacles plus a union jack waistcoat beneath his blue sports jacket, he informed us that our central London meeting place had been a clearing house for interrogation during World War Two. At that time Ian Fleming – the creator of James Bond, the world’s most famous fictional spy – worked for the Naval Intelligence Division and was based nearby at Admiralty House.

The recently launched tour aims to capitalise in the upsurge of interest in all things Bond-related resulting from the longanticipated cinematic release of No Time To Die, the fifth 007 movie starring Daniel Craig. In January the film Operation Mincemeat, featuring Johnny Flynn as Ian Fleming, will have it its British premiere. Andy explained how that exercise in deception was executed ahead of the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. It was one of more than 50 ideas to fool and disrupt the enemy compiled by Fleming early in the war in a document known as the Trout Memo.

As we followed Andy through the streets of Whitehall, to see filming locations used in recent 007 films and places associated with Fleming’s wartime career, I chatted with Brendan Murphy, the CEO of tour operator Imagine Experiences. “We wanted to get away from passive tourism and create a more experiential travel experience,” he explained. “A lot of tourism experiences put off British residents from engaging in culture and history. They see tourism products and days out as patronising and overpriced,” he added about market research conducted ahead of launching the Bond for a Day tour.

“Ian Fleming was a dark horse. What you see in Bond is what Fleming would like to be. What Fleming did is what Bond is. The two are inextricably bound together,” said Andy before we climbed into luxury cars to be transported to a shooting range on Camden High street. After testing our skills with pellet guns we discussed Bond movies on our way to number 89 Jermyn Street.

That is the address of Floris, a long-established perfumer whose clients have included the likes of Florence Nightingale, the heroine of the Crimean War, and playwright Noël Coward in addition to royalty and Ian Fleming. The Bond author mentions Floris products in his books and has his central character wear No 89, an eau de toilette which we were invited to try.

The shop’s mahogany cabinets date from London’s Great Exhibition of 1851. Over a glass of cava, perfumery director Edward Bodenham discussed the establishment of the business by his ancestors back in 1730 and his pride at Fleming mentioning its products: “From being a Bond enthusiast myself and having read all of the books, you know how Ian Fleming really takes time to appreciate every detail in whatever he’s wearing or drinking – everything is down to the details. There’s a specific reason why he’ll pick anything and it’s to do with the quality of it, so it’s very flattering to be mentioned in the books and the fact he was a customer.”

After driving past the Secret Intelligence Service’s headquarters at Vauxhall Cross, a building that features in several Bond movies, Andy discussed counter surveillance techniques while leading us on foot from Birdcage Walk to Queen’s Anne Gate. It was there that Mansfield SmithCumming – known as C, for ‘Chief’ – lived while founding Britain’s intelligence service during the first decade of the 20th century. Staying alert for potential tails, we continued on to St Ermin’s Hotel, the base of the Special Operations Executive’s covert operations in occupied Europe during World War Two.

Our post-tour ‘debriefing’ was conducted in the Blue Boar Pub over a round of Vespers, the punchy martini cocktail whose recipe appears in the novel Casino Royale. Shaken by the Vesper’s boozy bite and stirred by the insightful tour, I thanked Andy before stepping out onto the streets of Westminster

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