Magazine article The Spectator

Treasure Island

Magazine article The Spectator

Treasure Island

Article excerpt

It was Ian Fleming's anxiety about impending fatherhood that brought about the birth of James Bond. When his longtime lover, Lady Rothermere (formerly Lady O'Neill, née Ann Charteris), fell accidentally pregnant in 1952, the panicked 43-year-old bachelor was forced to the altar, and to the writing desk. To give his idle hands something to do, and to calm his marriage jitters, he sat down to write a book. Eight weeks and 62,000 words later, he'd finished Casino Royale.

Besides the shotgun marriage, Fleming's other inspiration was Goldeneye, the home he'd built in Jamaica in 1946. Without his annual two months off from his day job as foreign manager at Kemsley Newspapers, he never would have written the Bond thrillers, he admitted. The place is now all high-end luxury, courtesy of its owner for the last 30 years, Chris Blackwell, the Island Records mogul who made Bob Marley and U2 (Oracabessa, St Mary, 0800 169 8025).

Your own cook brings breakfast to the shaded, sunken terrace where Fleming had his scrambled eggs and Blue Mountain coffee before his morning three hours of writing. You swim and snorkel off your own private coral beach. As night falls, you dip into your own private drinks cabinet to outdo the three strong drinks that Fleming had each evening. Afterwards, perhaps a film in the private cinema that has been slipped into Fleming's old garage?

All fruits ripe, as they say in these parts, when things are going well. At heart, though, Goldeneye remains the simple, airy oneroom villa that Fleming built. Noël Coward (who lived and died 20 minutes up the northern coast road at Firefly, another simple, airy house, open 9 a. m. to 5 p. m. , Monday to Friday, 00876 997 7201) called it 'Goldeneye, nose and throat' for its roughing-it ways.

Fleming's red bulletwood desk is basic Ikea fare, its deep, broad shelves now filled with the Bond books. The enormous picture windows lie open to the sea during the day. At night, the jalousies -- wooden shutters permanently fixed open to allow birds in and out -- allow in the chatter of the tree-frogs and the swish-swish of the sea below.

You get even closer to the sea at Jake's (Calabash Bay, Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, Jamaica, 0800 169 8025), a series of beach cottages on Jamaica's south shore. My cottage was literally within spitting distance of the sea:

I spat out my morning toothpaste swill straight into the Caribbean. …

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