I've been off work recently and, with the promise of some time on my hands I'd been thinking of projects. Things to get stuck into.
Sorting out the finances? Check. Tidying the yard? Done. Painting the house? Getting to it soon, honest. A trip away? All planned and paid for.
But I was also thinking of some mental stimulation, broadening the mind, expanding the horizons, that sort of thing. What about reading some of the great works of fiction? Good plan. I thought of Proust, Dickens or Tolstoy. Nah. Too hard or too boring. Joyce? Don't be silly.
Instead I've found something more lowbrow, more to my tastes and a whole lot more fun. Over the past weeks I've ended up – more by luck than judgment, really – reading all of Ian Fleming's James Bond stories.
The movies are patchy to say the least, but the books – all 14 of them – are great. One of them is even dedicated to Richard Hughes. Not me of course, but still ...
What has struck me most about them (apart from what a bounder the Bond of the books is) is how mainstream tastes have caught up with 007's glamorous lifestyle. Check it out:
- He's in a restaurant in Italy and orders pasta with a sauce "improbably concocted of basil, garlic and fir cones"; today you can buy pesto everywhere. Even the kids love it.
- Pineapple juice excites him. Fifty years on it's in the chiller at every Colesworths.
- Bond really enjoys wolfing down "exotic" foods such as avocado pears, smoked salmon, or bean curd. Nowadays they're part and parcel of most people's weekly shop.
The 50s were a time of austerity for most of Fleming's readers, but time has caught up with him and now, if we want, everyone can live like Bond. But what of grooming? What has Bond to teach us about looking good?
Well to start with, he showers a lot – something not many men (especially Englishmen) did 50 years ago. And he's not afraid of products, and namechecking them:
- "Bond washed his hair with Pinaud Elixir, that prince among shampoos."
- "There was everything in the bathroom; Floris Lime bath essence for men and Guerlain bathcubes for women."
Some of these products you can probably discover for yourself online, if you're happy to pay.
There's no mention of haircuts that I can recall but it's safe to assume, I think, that he went for something conservative.
He doesn't like the stubbly look ("Bond looked at his filthy unshaven face in the mirror and smiled grimly.") and he shaves with a Gillette razor and, of course, uses it as a makeshift weapon.
But if you're thinking of emulating him, remember, he's not a very nice man – he has the morals of an alleycat, drinks like a fish and smokes like a chimney. And, don't forget, he kills people for a living.
He also spends time at casinos, gambling away MI5's money. Baccarat was his game, in the books at least.
Now, with a casino in every city, French champagne available at the bottle-o and avocado pears in every supermarket, matching the Bond lifestyle is a cinch if you've a mind to.
From a purely grooming perspective – setting aside the boozing, womanising and killing – he is, in some ways, not a bad role model. He's clean, clean shaven, always smells good and has a simple haircut.
And best of all, despite spending a few years in the Navy, he doesn't have a tattoo.
Do you fancy living like James Bond? How would you go about it?