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Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Real James Bond - 'Life Cycles' And The Career Of Ian Fleming

When Connery and Fleming were spotted together at a Paris airport in 1964 someone was heard to say :- "There's James Bond with some other chap I don't recognise." He was responded to with :- "No, that's only Sean Connery, an actor who plays Bond. He's with Ian Fleming, the man who wrote the novels and is the real James Bond!"

Of course that statement is only half true, as Fleming never killed anyone and spent most of WW2 behind a desk, but he was a high grade intelligence officer, who planned and oversaw many daring exploits behind enemy lines. He infused the fictional Bond with many of his personal characteristics, but did say that his creation was a combination of everyone he had known at that time and before it, in the shady worlds of espionage, casinos and black-ops commandos.

Fleming's life is hugely fascinating and was the subject of several films and a recent made-for-TV documentary series :- Fleming - The Man Who Would Be Bond. I am an unashamed life-long afficionado of all things Bond. Did I enjoy doing this research? Is the Pope Catholic? Does the sun rise in the east? We are going to explore events in four key 'Life Cycles' 'significant years' :- ie. his age 24 and 36 'Years of Revolution' and his age 31 and 43 'Years of Broken Pathway'. Most of these years cover key events in his life and career and were dramatised for the majority of the contents of the TV Doco. Sometimes I feel that others conspire to prove the exact formula for 'significant years' and display it to the world to save me the trouble, and as I have said more than once, I'm a bit on the lazy side.

Oh, and for good measure, we're going to analyse Fleming as never before. For this I have read copious biographic excerpts and articles and dissected the TV show. You see, on the other hand, I'm also a totally obsessional researcher and that's my passion. It's where the truth lies. Let's turn the clock back to when Fleming was aged 24 (May 28th. 1932 to May 28th. 1933). In this year Fleming was to make his mark in his lifelong (but quite interrupted) career as a journalist. After being thrown out of Eton and Sandhurst and failing his Foreign Office exams, he finally secured a job as a journalist with Reuters News Agency, after his mother petitioned the head of the organisation.

In March 1933, Fleming was given a unique opportunity for such a junior member of staff, to cover the trial of six engineers, who were arrested in Moscow for espionage. This became one of Stalin's famous 'show trials' and caused a furore back in England, as they were just engineers working for Metro-Vickers on projects for the Russian Government. With no prior experience he was thrown in at the deep end and got a reputation for fast and accurate daily reporting. This was necessary according to Fleming, because if you didn't you were fired. Competing journalists liked him personally and said :- "he has given us all a run for our money." More than this though, he spent his nights drinking and shooting high-stakes games of craps at the casino and this mix of Russian spies and smoke-filled casinos was the very genesis of Bond long before he wrote it.

He was offered a substantial promotion by Reuters as a result of this, but much to his great regret he succumbed to family pressure to take a job in merchant banking, which could have led to a partnership thanks to his grandfather Robert Fleming, who had founded his own successful bank. Mind you his mother, Eve, had the power to remove family financial backing, as she was a wealthy widow. He resolved this conflict by saying that he would make a lot of money in the financial world and then resume doing what he really loved ie. journalism.

In fact, I'm going to stop this analysis for a minute to illustrate a major philosophic position of 'Life Cycles'. You see, just because I study events in certain years, that are often high points of careers, doesn't imply that individuals don't have free will at all times and can choose to accept or reject these 'gift horses'. I believe 'Life Cycles' demonstrates a benign form of determinism, otherwise why would all these far-fetched correlations happen. This however, when mixed with free will makes me 'a compatibilist' in philosophic terms. See for yourself how Fleming had free will to follow his heart as a journalist, but didn't feel personally strong enough not to bend to his mother's authority. Such is life and he paid the price, with a most unsatisfactory 7 year forward journey to his next turning point, at his age 31 'Year of Broken Pathways'.

Now we are up to the period May 1939 to May 1940, which takes up almost the entire contents of the first half of the TV Doco. It proves just how a 'Year of Broken Pathways' unfolds. You can see for yourself that this time the links of Fleming's father (who was killed in action in WW1 and was a close friend of Churchill) were used by Fleming's mother in his favour. When Admiral John Godfrey (Head of Naval Intelligence and the real 'M') was lunching with the Governor of the Bank of England a remark was made :- "Good chap Fleming. Old Etonian. Stockbroker, but bored. Covered the Russian show trials for those British engineers for some newspaper." Fleming was then hired as Godfrey's personal assistant. It was how they did it in the English upper class, provided you were "one of us". That's how Fleming, who had no prior experience, became a Naval Commander in just a few months.

In reality Fleming was a dissolute playboy going nowhere in the financial world, who was eclipsed by his dead war hero father and successful brother. He dreamed of being of becoming the 'ultimate' man - a hero. His 7 year journey from Reuters to Naval Intelligence was complete by the end of his 31st. year, when he learned how to adjust to his new environment and also how to take outrageous risks, like attempting to negotiate with the retreating French Admiral, Darlan, supposedly 'on behalf of Churchill'. He also had an episode in a Portuguese casino, where he recklessly gambled Government money. In spite of this Godfrey liked him and could see his potential.

In his private life he also had an unfolding and irresistible attraction to his future wife, Ann O'Neill. In spite of her being married to a husband away at the front and having a relationship with newspaper baron Viscount Rothermere, she was fatally drawn to him. This becomes a relationship after the death of his then girlfriend Muriel during the blitz, but it would have happened anyway. Again, by the end of his 31st. year, his life is completely changed. He actually has a direction and his challenge is to make the best of it.

Now we are at his career and life-defining age 36 'Year of Revolution' (May 1944 to May 1945). This was not when he began to write, so in what other ways was it important? Well it showed a climax of his wartime career, during which he longed to get involved in operations work. The second half of the TV Doco. is almost entirely devoted to this period. Once again, they pick my very 'significant year' and illustrate exactly how I say it should go. The program shows Fleming's disappointment as he is replaced as Head of 30AU (his hand-picked team of espionage commandos) in June 1944. He wants to leave his mark before he resigns or the war ends. This is his 'Trafalgar Moment' of frustration before his breakthrough.

Then the TV show creates a purely fantasy scene with Fleming shooting Germans and getting involved with Russians as he attempts to recover German Naval Archives from Tambach Castle in southern Germany. This did not actually happen, but he did go behind enemy lines, with the Admiral who was guarding the records surrendering peacefully and then willingly going to London to help with their translation. Nonetheless, it was a high point in an otherwise frustrating period. More things of note happened to him as well.

Secondly he re-visited Jamaica in Nov. 1944 whilst attending a U Boat Conference and determined to build a home there. This was to lead on to buying his estate, Goldeneye, where he lived for 3 months each year and wrote the Bond novels. It was an integral part of his career life. He also bought a book on ornithology at the same time by the author James Bond. When searching for the dullest name he could think of for Casino Royale, this is what came to him.

In addition he left the Navy in May 1945 and took a position with Kemsley Newspapers as Foreign Manager of the Sunday Times, complete with an annual 3 months in Jamaica. All when he was still 36. He had finally resumed his correct profession, which he stayed with for almost all his remaining years. He had also wanted to start to write about some of his wartime experiences as the TV show highlights. However he didn't do this at the time. That would have made his age 36 'Year of Revolution' complete. So what happened?

The answer lies in his ever-complex and tortured relationship with Ann. Ann's husband had been killed in action in 1944 and she indicated she wanted marriage rather than continuing her double life. Again the TV doco shows how she fully expected Fleming to appear in his naval uniform and whisk her into his arms, like the final scene in An Officer And A Gentleman, but that isn't what happened. Fleming prevaricated just when every fibre of his body must have gone the other way. He and Ann (born June 13th. 1913) shared almost 12 full months of 'Confluence' and this was in their only 'Real Time' window of opportunity (ie. when Ann was 31 and Fleming was 36). I would have said as much if I could have analysed them 'back in the day'.

Instead he says things like :- "I'd be no good at marriage." "I couldn't support you I'm not even a spy now." etc. She decides to marry her other long term partner Lord Rothermere (with whom she is not 'Confluent' or as deeply attracted). What happened next is unbelievably messy. She continues her affair with Fleming, who follows her around the globe, while she in turn follows him to Jamaica, where she claims to be going to see Noel Coward. She gets pregnant to Fleming and their daughter, Mary, is stillborn in 1948. She then gets divorced from Rothermere in 1950, during her age 36 'Year of Revolution' and receives a 100,000 pound settlement, which provides for what comes next. You see she then gets pregnant to Fleming a second time and that's when he decides to do the right thing and marry her.

Let's stop the analysis again. Can you see what has just taken place? Fleming, who didn't follow his heart at 24 into journalism (and spent 7 unsatisfactory years in the world of finance); has again not followed his heart to marry Ann and has just spent another 7 unsatisfactory years in chasing a clandestine romance - complete with 2 pregnancies and a divorce. And what else? HE HASN'T EVEN BEGUN TO WRITE BOND. Of course, he had free will did what he liked, but just as all our actions have consequences, I would posit that actions taken in key 'Years of Revolution' can have 7 year consequences.

Let's take his final age 43 'Year of Broken Pathways' (May 1951 to May 1952). It is well recorded that on 17th Feb. 1952 Fleming began writing Casino Royale at Goldeneye and finished it in 2 months. He was married on 24th March. He claims it was done to take his mind off the prospect of marriage. However I'm not buying this typical dystopian comment by Fleming. Quite a few different sources say that it was Ann who had been pestering him for some time to begin writing. It took this moment in Jamaica to bring it to fruition. Behind every man..... The question must be put :- "Would he have started writing back then if he had married Ann in 1945?" The same question can be put at exactly the same time for the period 12 years previously :- "Would he have had a successful career and life as a journalist and got involved with intelligence work in WW2 anyway, if he had not gone into banking?"

Fleming's life is an excellent illustration of the exquisite timing of the 'Life Cycles' 12 year principle and equally of the 7 year journey of forward momentum following actions taken in the 'Year of Revolution'. He further displays the principle of free will combined with a benign form of determinism that is the philosophical position of the theory. I hope this is both an interesting analysis and a cautionary tale at the same time. You have a mission should you choose to accept it. Not always an easy one, but then without the sense of the unknown there would be no excitement, no challenge. No mountains to climb, no enemies to conquer...

Wait a minute. Suddenly I'm transported back to 1963. I'm 13 again and I've just traveled to the city to see this brand new movie called Dr. No. The credits roll up and that fabulous theme music begins. I'm totally entranced and on the edge of my seat, just as I was last year when I saw Skyfall.... Oh well, back to the present. Till next month :- "May the cycles always bring you good fortune."

BTW this is a linked post so visit my SECOND BLOG in a little while. Finally, as they do in the Bond movies..... 'Life Cycles' will return in a month with an expose article on meditation :- "Why Living In The Present Is NOT The Answer".