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Ian Fleming`s niece Lucy writes about this year`s travel

30-Aug-2008 • Literary

The actress Lucy Fleming, 61, is the daughter of Peter Fleming (brother of the James Bond author, Ian). She co-controls the Ian Fleming publishing legacy, and is married to the actor Simon Williams, reports The Times.

My father was a famous traveller and travel writer in the 1930s, and although, by the time I came along, his great adventures were behind him, he still might say, “Do you fancy coming to Eritrea?” Sadly, I never managed it. My sister, Kate, got to go on the Trans-Siberian Express with him, but something always got in the way for me.

My holidays as a child tended to be to Cornwall or Scotland. Scotland was for the shooting, my father’s passion, although my mother [the actress Celia Johnson] would go along because she loved fishing on the lochs. She was very shortsighted, which meant she got into a terrible muddle with the tackle, which we would have to help sort out.

However, most of the time, summer holidays meant Polzeath. My father didn’t always come, he had the harvest to get in, but he would pop down sometimes. We still go, because we’ve bought a place down there, and we meet lots of people who went as children and are now bringing their own. I like that continuity.

Polzeath has changed, of course, but not too much, and it’s still a fabulous beach. I tried to surf properly in my thirties, but I got fed up with falling off. These days, I go out with a wooden board and flippers, beyond where the surf breaks, and paddle back in to try to catch a roller. It’s exhilarating: exercise, a shower and an enema all in one.

My other great joy in the holidays was my pony. I used to write myself notes with tasks on - go to the top field, or ride to big oak tree - and place them at random around the estate, and then find them and do whatever they said. Usually I would go to the barn and the note would read “Ride to barn”. I never actually thought it out that well. I needed an accomplice, I suppose.

I fell in love with acting when I watched my mother from the wings in a Robert Bolt play called The Flowering Cherry at the Haymarket. My parents packed me off to some friends in New Zealand when I was 16, hoping I would grow up a little and perhaps change my mind about acting. I was quite a tomboy. I ended up at the Bay of Islands, which was just the most beautiful place in the world. I was meant to be looking after the friends’ little boy, but I didn’t have a clue, and I don’t recall doing much of that at all. I loved the country, though.

When I came back, I wanted to go to drama school, but I was told I was too young, so I went into rep. Later, I toured with the Derek Nimmo theatre groups, which were fantastic. Nothing like it exists any more, I think. He would take a company on the road to places such as Hong Kong, Singapore or Bahrain, and put on dinner theatre for the expats. It was always something quite light and jolly. I remember doing See How They Run with Harry Worth. You didn’t have to work until nine in the evening, so you got the day free to explore.

I particularly liked Oman, that mix of the modern and the almost biblical. The Royal Navy took us out to one beach where you could just chip fresh oysters off the rocks. We went wadi-bashing in 4WDs, and sat in these crystal-clear pools of water in the desert oases – which was like bathing in Perrier. Quite magical.

I finally visited Jamaica for the first time, this year. Although the island plays a large part in Uncle Ian’s story, I had never been able to go; I was always doing a play, it seemed. Although there are villas there now, Ian’s house at the core of the estate has been left pretty much intact. It was remarkable to see the place where he wrote all the books and created all those marvellous characters. I got to swim on his beach and poke about in the pool where Octopussy lived, and spoke to several people who knew him, including Ramsey, the gardener. I could absolutely see the appeal Jamaica had for Ian. They are building a large development next to Goldeneye; I do hope it doesn’t spoil it. I feel like it’s part of the family history.

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