MI6 visits the home of Ian Fleming with best selling James Bond author Lee Pfeiffer...

Goldeneye - Literary (2)
14th July 2006

A View To A Thrill: A Visit To The Birthplace Of James Bond
By Lee Pfeiffer

When Fleming originally purchased the site of the house in 1946, it was a picturesque location but the grounds themselves were overgrown with brush. The place had once been a donkey racecourse (can anyone imagine a less thrilling sport?) and indeed is still known by older locals as “The Racecourse”. Fleming wanted to live a “no frills” lifestyle on Jamaica and designed his house in a very minimalist style.

Above: Goldeneye's lounge

Visitors who expect opulence are sure to be shocked if they have not researched the property prior to arriving. Fleming had a love for nature and despised feelings of confinement. Thus, he designed his residence in a minimalist fashion that emphasized the beauty of the natural surroundings. One arrives at the house via the rear entrance where a small but charming ornamental pool greets visitors. Running water pours over a stone plate until the weight causes it to tilt and pour the water back into the pool with reassuring regularity. The center of the house is the living room/dining room area, a large room accentuated with extremely wide windows designed to give full appreciation for the magnificent view of the garden and the ocean.

A unique element of the design is Fleming’s insistence that the windows have no glass. Thus, cooling breezes run through the house day and night. (Air conditioning has since been installed but it would seem blasphemous to actually utilize this convenience.) There are jalousie shutters one can close over the windows but even during torrential rains, the house seems immune from flooding. A large desk at the side of the room displays a useful and eclectic group of books (including histories of the Bond phenomenon) as well as a scrapbook of fascinating vintage articles about Fleming and his life in Jamaica.

Fleming named the house Goldeneye presumably as a nod to the town of Oracabessa, which means “Golden Head”- at least according to his acclaimed biography by author Andrew Lycett. Others have speculated that the novel Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers had inspired Fleming. What is indisputable is that when Fleming first lived there, many felt he had taken the “back to nature” idea to an extreme. One of the first tenants at the house was Noel Coward, who rented the property for two months in 1946. The noted playwright sarcastically dismissed the place as “a perfectly ghastly house. No hot water, pictures of snakes plastered all over the bedroom wall.” He summed up his critique by labeling it “Goldeneye, ear, nose and throat”. Still, he was not immune to the charms of this location, so very different from London, where he traditionally held court. He admitted his holiday there was “the happiest 2 months I ever spent” and proceeded to build his own home-away-from home on Jamaica, calling it Firefly. Coward was among the many aristocrats who found their way to Goldeneye to socialize with Fleming and discuss the issues of the day.

Above: Framed photo Fleming sits on his writting desk

Over the years, the house has been upgraded considerably, but the basic rustic charm of the lifestyle Fleming lived here has not been compromised. Off the main living/dining room area (where a well-stocked bar tempts tenants throughout their stay) is Fleming’s bedroom. This is in many ways the most inspiring aspect of the house. Another large, wide window continues the view of the garden and ocean. In the corner of the modest bedroom sits an otherwise inconspicuous desk. An 8”x10” framed photo of Fleming gives the only hint that it was at this precise spot that James Bond was born. In 1952, frustrated by his pre-wedding jitters, Fleming decided to pass the time by trying his hand at writing an espionage story titled Casino Royale. He felt confident enough to purchase a gold-plated typewriter to mark his first excursion into the realm of fiction. He drew the name James Bond from a seemingly uninspired source- he simply glanced at a book titled Birds of the West Indies and noted that the author’s name, James Bond, was sufficiently bland enough to suit his purposes. (After the 007 novels and films took off, Fleming confessed to “stealing” the author’s good name and invited him to visit Goldeneye, where they formed a friendship.) Fleming was dismissive about his creation and seemed almost embarrassed to let his agent or friends see the manuscript. When, after a slow start, the Bond books built a loyal international following, Fleming kept to his vow to continue writing every successive novel at Goldeneye. He recalled, “I wrote every one of the Bond thrillers here with the jalousies closed around me so that I would not be distracted by the birds and the flowers and the sunshine outside. Would these books have been born if I had not been living in the gorgeous vacuum of a Jamaican holiday? I doubt it.”

Above: Lee Pfeiffer prepares to watch Dr No

Off to the side of the bedroom is a doorway that leads to one of the house’s most charming features: a private, fenced in garden that hosts an old fashioned, free-standing bathtub and shower in the midst of lovely tropical plants and flowers. Although the house does boast in-door shower facilities as well, it would be unthinkable not to utilize this unique amenity. The house also features two other guest bedrooms, each with their own indoor and outdoor shower facilities. One cannot describe the wonderful sensation of showering or bathing in this tropical paradise. A walk around the immediate grounds provides a view of the stunning vistas that lay before you. The front of the house opens into Fleming’s sunken garden where a small dining table awaits you should you choose to emulate his habit of having breakfast there while overlooking the ocean. The house itself sits upon a cliff and two crude staircases had been carved into the stone to allow Fleming to go for his morning “constitutional” which he adhered to rigorously: breakfast, a leisurely swim in the isolated cove below, followed by several hours of uninterrupted writing. Around noon, he would take a break for “the first drink of the day”. A nap would follow, then more writing. In the early evening, Fleming would traditionally entertain friends and locals.

To the right of the house are two other irresistible features, though neither was in place during Fleming’s tenure.

A swimming pool provides a wonderful respite from the heat and humidity. (At night, the caretakers light candles surrounding the circumference of the pool, adding to its charm.) Next to the pool lies the ultimate symbol of a luxurious holiday: your own private screening room housed in a separate cottage. Here, tenants and their guests can lounge on the ample couches and chairs to view a library of DVDs on a large screen via the overhead, state-of-the-art digital projection system. (The quality is good enough to resemble 35mm film screenings).

Inside this bungalow, a bar spans the width of the room and offers top-brand liquors. If beer, wine or soft drinks are your preference, just turn toward the fully stocked refrigerator. For movie lovers, this is the ultimate: cozying up with your significant other, drink in hand, while enjoying your favorite films as the ocean breeze rustles the trees outside.

Above: Tree planted by Poerce Brosnan

All around the premises is another unique aspect of the property: trees planted by celebrities and dignitaries, a tradition that began when Prime Minister Anthony Eden stayed at the house as Fleming’s guest in 1956 to recuperate from health problems exacerbated by the Suez Crisis. The tree planted by Eden now stands tall near the swimming pool. Other trees of varying sizes bear plaques commemorating those who planted them. The list of notables includes Michael Caine, Sting, Harrison Ford and, appropriately enough, Pierce Brosnan.


Island Outpost - Goldeneye

Goldeneye is nestled among tropical forests and lush gardens on a seaside bluff overlooking the Caribbean where you can put a little distance between yourself and the rest of the world. Our lifestyle is pure Jamaican in rhythm and tempo, "easy". We offer you a window to local culture and a different way of living.

Goldeneye is also historic. This is where Ian Fleming crafted all his James Bond novels. What Fleming loved most about Goldeneye was the out of doors, nature, the sounds and colors, the peace and drama of living by the sea. He delighted in "the blazing sunshine, natural beauty and the most healthy life I could live."

Stay tuned to MI6 for the next installment. courtsey of Lee Pfeiffer and Island Outpost

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