Friday, November 15, 2013

A Quiet Drink, Except for the Bombs

Author Ian Fleming

The bombs were falling, and James Kirkup’s hands were shaking. The gay poet, a conscientious objector during World War II, was in London for the weekend, up from the Essex farm where he worked.
Unlike the denizens of London, Kirkup was unaccustomed to the German Blitz, so, sitting in an otherwise-empty Piccadilly pub, he fortified himself with a glass of Algerian wine. And then in walked Ian Fleming.
The future creator of James Bond, then a naval intelligence officer, had been walking home when he was caught in the air raid. Kirkup sensed this man wasn’t gay. A raffish businessman, he decided.
James Kirkup portrait by Maurice Feild
“Ian looked at him quizzically, and asked, ‘What’s that muck you’re drinking?’ When Kirkup told him, Ian introduced himself, took a flask from his Burberry coat pocket and poured the young poet a stiff brandy. ‘Here, have a proper drink on me,’ he said.”
The men quickly discovered their keen, mutual interest in literature. “So, with the bombs still falling, Kirkup slowly recited one of his more labored and inscrutable works. When he came to the end, the air raid suddenly ceased. ‘You’ve stopped the Luftwaffe,’ shouted the Irish barman.
“‘That’s really quite sinister,’ announced Ian after some reflection. ‘I suppose the word ‘cottage’ has more than one meaning?’
“’If you like,’ replied Kirkup.
“’And I expect the ‘inspector’ is both a ticket inspector and a police inspector?’ continued Ian.
“The poet agreed that his words were not to be taken literally. ‘The inspector could be anyone in authority, come to take me away to the jail or the loony bin.’
“Ian sighed, ‘Your poor parents,’ — a veiled remark which Kirkup thought perceptive.”
As the all-clear sounded and the strangers parted in the night, Fleming asked for Kirkup’s address. He explained that he thought Kirkup’s cryptic poetry might just be cryptic enough to form the basis of a code to fool the Nazis.
Source: “Ian Fleming” by Andrew Lycett

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