…I walked, crabwise, towards the supermarket checkout, aware that not even M could provide me with a trolley that would go where I wanted it to. The western world would be able to sleep soundly in the knowledge that I, at least, had enough toilet roll, hand sanitizer and pot-noodle to see me through a nuclear winter. I pulled up smoothly at the till and quickly emptied my booty onto the conveyor with barely a pause to wheeze. ‘That’ll be £48 pounds love,’ purred the vixen behind the counter as I flapped impotently at my pockets, searching for a wallet I had left on the kitchen table at home. ‘Unless you want this week’s edition of ‘The Oldie’, you being, you know, old and all…’ I stared, open-mouthed, at the proffered magazine with its photograph of Sean Connery as Bond and the tag-line ‘Growing Old Disgracefully Special’, and recalled that I published the following skit on March 4th last year…
…007 sat back in the deep, yielding burgundy leatherette swivel chair, his chin resting on the pyramid of his fingertips. His once-steely eyes were focussed glaucously on the minister, he could see his lips moving – just – but he did not hear a word he said. His mind was preoccupied with thoughts of how he would get out of the recliner without putting his back out. Again. The minister smiled benignly at the supposed indifference of his senior spy and flipped open the lid of an exquisitely inlaid wooden box. Involuntarily, Bond’s body tensed and he was again thankful for the ‘special’ pants in which his house-keeper had dressed him.
With an almost deft flick of his finely manicured hand, the super-spy fiddled at his ear, knocking the miniature hearing aid to the floor, where it whistled irritably. Bond struggled to his feet and reinserted the apparatus, back to front, so that it echoed eerily around the office. The minister smiled again. Obviously a little piece of Q’s genius, cunningly designed to foil concealed electronic bugs or somesuch. “Cigar, James?” he repeated.
“No thank you,” said Bond, who had decided not to try the swivel chair again, but was standing at the corner of the minister’s desk, resting his weight on a red telephone and wheezing gently. Having reinserted his hearing aid, Bond was able to hear the minister, whom he was saddened to hear was suffering from some sort of adenoidal problem. “I am very aware of my responsibilities as a role model for the young.” Advancing years had made Bond ever-more conscious of the debt he owed to the planet that he, in his prime, had saved on many occasions from nuclear destruction with little, if any, consideration to the biodegradability of the apparatus he employed. “Now,” he said. “What can I do for my country?”
The minister explained in great detail the nature of the latest threat posed to the free world by Ernst Blofeld and he was almost sure, at times, that Bond understood a little of what he said. Satisfied that he had his most senior agent on the job, the minister waved him away airily and 007 left the room, finding the correct door at only the third attempt.
In the stores, Q issued the special equipment.
“Of course,” he said. “We’ve had to garage the Aston Martin, James. The emissions were simply unacceptable.” Bond nodded his understanding. He had a similar problem. “But we’ve beefed up this electric trike for you. Push this red button here and the booster cuts in giving you a top speed of anything up to eight miles an hour, depending on the wind; three-wheel drive will enable you to continue pursuit across all terrain – providing of course that it’s flat and surfaced; there’s an in-built MP3 player, pre-loaded with Coldplay’s greatest hits and concealed behind the seat here is one of those clever little adapters that allows you to plug your vehicle in anywhere in the world.”
Bond grinned. “And the range?”
“Twenty miles,” said Q. “Fifteen if you use the booster. Should be plenty to get you to the bus stop…”
Bond signed out an e-cigarette that concealed a radio transmitter, a comb that concealed a powerful magnet, and a tube of ointment that concealed the worst of his rash, all of which he stashed away under the cleverly designed hinged seat of the trike. And so, as evening drew into night, James Bond trundled off into the enfolding darkness, unconcerned by the danger that lay ahead and untroubled by the gangs of youths that garlanded his route – mostly because his glasses were steamed up so that he couldn’t see them, and his hearing aid had fallen out in Penge.
…“A virgin martini please, shaken, not stirred…” The barman looked quizzically at Bond, who would have raised an eyebrow in reply, but he was wearing contact lenses and he didn’t have any spares. He moved his face very close to the barman. “Tonic water,” he whispered. “Slimline if possible, with ice and a slice… oh, and put one of those little umbrellas in it will you?” He began to rifle through his purse, searching for the correct change, when a female voice behind him said “Put that on my bill, would you?” The barman nodded and handed Bond his drink. The woman joined Bond at the bar, hoisting herself effortlessly onto the stool. Bond recalled his own battle to mount it with distaste. He could still feel the bruise swelling on his shin. The woman reached out an elegant hand. “008,” she said. “Pleased to meet you Mr Bond.”
“Likewise, I’m sure,” said Bond.
“Won’t you join me for dinner?” she smiled.
The meal was acceptable, although Bond would have preferred something a little more… fried, but the company was scintillating. Memories of conquests-past flooded Bond’s mind and he found himself, almost subconsciously, taking a little pill with his dessert. He knew that he could trust a Rennie to ensure a good night’s sleep. 008 sparkled. Her conversation was engaging, witty, seductive. She laughed and her laughter was like a summer breeze; bright and joyous. He laughed and coughed up a piece of carrot the size of Sheffield. A bubble of sauce escaped his nose. She spoke of life and love in a way that Bond had never considered. She spoke of Keats, Shelley and Chaucer almost as if she actually enjoyed them. In the past, of course, he would have seduced her, but something told him that, delightful though she was, it was just conceivable that she would not welcome the amorous advances of a sexagenarian lothario with sauce down his chin and a full floret of broccoli wedged under his dentures. Besides, she was probably more than capable of rendering him unconscious with a single chop to the throat.
Bond slept peacefully. He knew that 008 had been sent along to shadow him in his pursuit of Blofeld, but he realised immediately that she stood a much better chance of success alone. She was smart, she was beautiful, she was ruthless and, unlike him, she had never once mistaken the hotel ice machine for the urinal…