The Back Story
One of the many joys of the creative process and working with the Bond stories is the “what if” opportunities the character offers us. We can imagine some event that precedes a new assignment, or, conversely, conceive of a “what happens next” scenario. We are given a broad palette of personal characteristics, behavioral consistencies and idiosyncrasies, flaws and desires, and we are able to recreate some new or imagined event within that framework, just so long as the details and character ring true to the original.
In From Russia With Love, we have within the chapter The Soft Life an exacting description of Bond’s favorite meal of the day - breakfast. It begins with a category of personal tastes: “very strong coffee, from De Bry in New Oxford Street, brewed in an American Chemex, of which he drank two large cups, black and without sugar. The single egg, in the dark blue egg cup with a gold ring around the top, was boiled for three and a third minutes. It was a very fresh, speckled brown egg from French Marans hens owned by some friend of May in the country. Then there were two thick slices of whole-wheat toast, a large pat of deep yellow Jersey butter, and three squat glass jars containing Tiptree “Little Scarlet” strawberry jam; Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade and Norwegian Heather Honey from Fortnum’s. The coffee pot and the silver on the tray were Queen Anne, and the china was Minton, of the same dark blue and gold and white as the egg-cup.”
Fleming notes that whenever Bond is back in London at his Chelsea flat, his breakfast is always the same. This is what I imagined Bond would sit down to after his successful conclusion of the Moonraker affaire. I pictured his breakfast table with the addition of his gunmetal gray cigarette case, a Morland’s cigarette with the three gold bands, an empty toast rack, and for his postprandial enjoyment, a bottle of Haig & Haig Pinch whisky that features in Moonraker as his and Gala Brand’s “last drink” whilst held prisoner of Drax. And, a ubiquitous copy of The Times newspaper of London - the only paper Bond ever read.
As Tom Cull of Literary007 guest-wrote for the Haig Whisky Blog: “And it wasn’t just Bond that imbibed on Haig & Haig while on the job. His opposite number in the CIA’s Felix Leiter, kept up with him in the drinking stakes and often needed it more. Dare I say, in a pinch, he reached for the Haig. Leiter drinks Haig with Bond in Casino Royale and both can’t get enough of the stuff in Live and Let Die, drinking it down in at Sugar Ray’s in Harlem, Florida and in New York – “three inches of Haig and Haig in a tall glass with ice” to be precise.
In the palpably tense short story The Living Daylights, Bond makes scrambled eggs, bacon, & coffee with a “liberal tot” of Dimple Haig as he prepares to take out a Russian sniper in Berlin. Bond’s slightly shady associate Marc Ange-Draco in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service offers Bond some Dimple Pinch. And, the villainous Hugo Drax has a bottle on his desk in Kent, referred to as Haig and Haig, but we won’t quibble.”
Haig & Haig has precedence and some pride of place in Fleming’s use of product placement throughout his stories. I saw my painting as a nod to classic Dutch still life paintings - but without the dark chiaroscuro. Bond’s breakfast should be in his flat on one of those rare sunny London days, and so I tried to capture that image in watercolour.
Finding the props
A British neighbor had Minton china, Queen Anne silver, and a coffee pot that was a close Queen Anne. Another friend supplied the toast rack, and I found the 1950s era bottle of Haig & Haig at an estate sale. A trip to a specialty grocer was the source for the Little Scarlet Jam and Cooper’s Marmalade and since Norwegian Heather Honey from Fortnum & Mason was a creation of Fleming’s fertile imagination, I posed an empty honey jar as the substitute. Tom Cull kindly sent me a copy of The Times from the UK and I set up the front page as might be created in the 50s in black and white, with M’s disinformation campaign as the headline, and a photo of the Moonraker taking off from the Cliffs of Dover.
Interesting how history - and the ability of governments to lull their populace with disinformation - repeats itself to this day!
Note: original back story appeared on the Literary007 website on February 11, 2016