A Special Bond

To mark the UK release of Skyfall today, JAMES MITCHELL wonders how Bond would have coped in a modern Cambridge environment.

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At first glance, you might think the similarities between James Bond (MI6 intelligence officer with a license to kill), and myself, James Mitchell, (moderately intelligent, provisional license to drive), are quite striking.

The name is no coincidence by the way. My mother, a big fan of the Ian Fleming books, had decided that her first son would be called ‘James’ well before she met my dad (also called  ‘James’). So, when I opted in the womb to abandon that second X Chromosome and be born a boy – a decision some apparently still find quite hard to accept – my Mum insisted upon James, against my father’s wishes.

However, being a successful secret agent is a bit more than just having the right name.

According to Fleming, Bond came to Cambridge half a century ago to read Oriental Studies.  I arrived a couple of years back to read Arabic and Farsi (close enough). There is no record of Bond having been degraded; forced to resign as the President of his College; and turning to History – but knowing the sort of mischievous scamp that he became it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s just the sort of thing he did.

It seems clear then that our lives to date have followed similar if not identical trajectories.

So why then have I not yet been approached by MI6? I thought this sort of thing was routine if you were a Cambridge Undergraduate with an over inflated sense of self-importance; little understanding of sexism; and no regard for political correctness.

I think I have to rule out any personal shortcomings, which means that something else must be to blame. I have concluded that it is Cambridge that has let me down. Something here has changed. This place is no longer a breeding ground for international spies – it has instead become a home for the socially awkward and inept.

Bond is a man of refined tastes. He knows how a cocktail should be mixed and he appreciates a fine wine. Did he discover this as a student here? If so, where? I have learned that Jaeger bombs can be acquired for £2 each at LoLa Lo’s, but that’s about it so far as sophisticated drinks are concerned.

I don’t think that Bond came across too much cheap alcohol at Cambridge. Rather, he was forced to invent new vodka based cocktails and christen them after dead ex-girlfriends. As for gourmet cuisine, would Bond have developed such a discerning palate if Dominoes had been around to deliver cheap pizza at any time of the day and night?

Bond’s fashion sense is terrific. He is someone who knows how to look good in a black tie. Frankly that’s quite easy to replicate. Most of us know where the black-tie section is at John Lewis. It’s not that impressive to pop on an elastic bow tie and look half decent. I do however question how Bond would have coped dressing up in a toga or wearing a bin bag on a casual swap.

I also wonder where he would have found his pick of classy, respectable women around Cambridge with whom to impress using his famous charm skills. It’s probably true these days that you’re much less likely to pick up a girl in Cambridge with a witty retort than you are with a kebab.

Bond somehow managed to develop superb driving skills. He couldn’t have managed this in Cambridge, taking into account the town center’s stringent no congestion policy. The lack of decent parking would also be a problem. As for sport, Bond would have been unlikely to hone his skiing skills on the Varsity Trip where, at best, most of the runs are closed and there is only a faint chance of finding any snow.

Finally, with the anti-BNOC sentiment that is spreading across Cambridge, James Bond in 2012 would almost certainly have been vilified in the student press. This above all might have knocked his confidence and killed his chances of saving the world from the Russians, Spectre, and Jaws. I think the message here is that we must either embrace Bnoc-ism, or we let the terrorists win.

It is quite clear then that Cambridge is failing the next generation of spies. In particular, but most important of all, Cambridge is failing me.