Sunday, 20 May 2012

Seashells and other tips for surviving the economic storm, by Ian Fleming

In 1948, Ian Fleming had not long established himself in Jamaica – he moved into his winter retreat, Goldeneye, in December 1946 – but even by that time was concerned with issues that affected the country. An edition of Jamaica's foremost newspaper, the Daily Gleaner, published in March 1948, carried an article by Ian Fleming. In it, he gave suggestions for the 'island's development' in the face of economic uncertainty. Reading the article now, we also detect the germ of an idea that would resurface nine years later in his novel, Dr No.

As now, the world in 1948 was experiencing an economic crisis. The Second World War had cost nations dearly. European states were heavily in debt, unemployment was high, and industry was still reeling from the war effort and the destruction of infrastructure. Recovery followed the implementation of the United States' Marshall Plan in 1947, but it was slow, and in 1948, the world's economy remained turbulent.

Ian Fleming recognised that Jamaica had not escaped these difficulties, and so he offered some advice on the what steps the inhabitants of Jamaica could take to lessen the impact of the 'economic hurricane' that was approaching. Supporting a plea from the Gleaner for Jamaica to make more use of its natural resources, Fleming suggested that for every tree cut down, two more should be planted, thus allowing the country to develop a sustainable resource. More wood could be used for shoes. The people in Europe, he said, had largely rejected shoes made with leather soles, preferring instead shoes with wooden soles and heels. This presented a basis for a thriving industry. Such shoes could readily be made in Jamaica and sold to visitors.

More use, Fleming wrote, could be made of the island's fish and shell fish. French restaurants would pay handsomely for the fat mussels normally used as bait by fishermen. A list should be prepared of all the edible sea food available in Jamaican waters, accompanied by advice on how to cook it. And a greater range of fish could be salted and preserved; Jamaicans need not rely solely on salted cod to get them through times of reduced fresh fish supply.

Fleming also urged people to look after their livestock more carefully, for instance by keeping them off the road. Animals are an important economic asset and should be protected. Fleming thought that native plants, another asset, were unreasonably regarded by the local population as weeds. Money could be made by selling the cuttings and seeds of those plants.

Finally, Ian Fleming suggested that the inhabitants of fishing villages collect the seashells brought in over the year and sell them at wayside stalls. The shells make excellent garden and household ornaments and souvenirs for tourists.

If this idea seems familiar, then it is because Fleming appears to have returned to it in his 1957 novel, Dr No. Honeychile Rider memorably emerges from the sea onto the beach of Dr No's island and meets James Bond. She clutches some seashells and tells Bond that she is collecting them for a dealer in Miami. Fleming wrote the novel in 1956, but clearly it was not the first time that he had thought about the economic value of seashells. The idea originated nine years earlier and was expressed again through a character that would become so iconic in the James Bond phenomenon, thanks in no small part to Ursula Andress's portrayal in the 1962 film.

1 comment:

  1. In the novel, Honeychile Rider is already on the beach when discovered by Bond but Honey Ryder emerging from the sea in the film was very iconic, as demonstrated when the idea recurred in the later Bond films: Die Another Day with CIA agent Jinx, played by Halle Berry, fulfilling the role (and wearing similar swimwear to Honey Ryder); and Casino Royale with Bond himself emerging from the sea in an apt role reversal.

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