Tavener’s Tales 5 Bond and the dawn of new technology 

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Living faster than 007 — that’s ROGER TAVENER on the GoldenEye film set in Jamaica

IT’S midnight and 16 juicy Jamaican hookers are sitting on the lawn of my beach-front villa at the Sans Souci resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

They’re getting stuck in to 32 ready-rolled joints and eight bottles of Blue Mountain rum. 

I’m squinting through the blinds of a colleague’s neighbouring bungalow, not daring to go home.

I did explain to the police: “No sex please, we’re British.”

What happened is that we’re on the set of GoldenEye, a feature movie about Bond creator Ian Fleming, and, towards the end of the trip, are enticed into a very loud (and scary) bar which turns out to be the local cops’ boozer.

I’m not a gambler, but stick a few local dollars into a one-armed bandit and win six-times the jackpot. The fucking thing keeps coughing-up. It’s the equivalent of a month’s police salary. It goes quiet. Everybody’s watching.

No use to me. I’m leaving in a few days. 

So, for the first (and last)  time in my life, I utter the immortal words: “Drinks all round.”  And until the dough runs out. Which took all bloody night …

The next day the police chief turns up for a chat. He discusses my largesse which led to his police force turning up sleepless and still drunk from the night before. I fear the worst.

He insists I accept his offer of two girls each and ganja and booze for myself and seven colleagues to party with on our last night in town.

I say that’s very nice, but we don’t really do that kind of stuff. Although we could have a drink with the girls and discuss the local culture and history.

“That would be an insult to the women,” he says firmly.

So, here they are camped on my bit of private beach waiting for some action. Which never happens.

Ursula Andress in Dr. No

It’s been a zany trip; the kind of experience that only happens in the Caribbean.

On the first filming day I run out of fags and go to a shack-bar above the beach made famous by Ursula Andress when she walked out of the surf in Dr No. I also want a drink.

It’s now upmarket James Bond Bay. But then, when Bob Marley owned Fleming’s old Home, Goldeneye, at the end of the 80s, it was a seriously dangerous place. 

White bloke with a wallet and all these Yardie dudes with guns in their back pockets.

A kid, no more than 15, comes up and says I need him as protection. He shows me his revolver. Everyone’s got a gun but me.

Even a kid’s got to make a living. So OK. Little Leon becomes my minder. He knows ALL the good places and drivers. He proves to be a Godsend.

So I’m safe. First rules of foreign news coverage. Get a good base, a trusty local gofer and tip well (they’ll keep you alive if you keep tipping; you’re worth more alive than dead. But don’t tell them when you’re leaving).

Two days later. It’s 2am and I’m in the San Souci beach bar writing my debut story on the world’s first laptop, a very plasticky Tandy. And I’m worried this could be a major waste of time if the words vanish.

I like to think it was all very Hemingway-esque; crumpled suit, fag in mouth, bottle of vodka within arms-length, surrounded by a glamorous gaggle of American college girls on spring-break fascinated by my machine and that I was writing for the world’s top newspaper. This was sexy new technology writ large.

(I was the first hack in Fleet Street, maybe the world, to have the Tandy. After serving three months notice to leave the Express for The Sun, editor Nick Lloyd, via Mike Parry, asked me to reconsider on the Friday before the Monday I was due to start. I’d done a Michael Jackson exclusive which they must have liked. So I asked for more money, a better car, a mobile phone and one of those Tandy things. Good as gold, managing editor Mike Deane delivered.)

So, the moment of truth. I reach for the clunky rubber “couplers” and attach them to the computer and the phone on the bar. I ring a special copy number and the machine makes that  primitive electronic noise, like faxing. It goes on and on. And 1,500 words are disappearing from the screen. I’m learning on the job here. The gushing girls can’t believe you can transmit words like this.

Me neither. 

A fucking hurricane hits the island knocking out all power and crippling the telephone exchange.

I ring the news desk. It’s hyper-Parry. He’s always there, especially at 7 am London time.

“Fuck me. It’s fucking worked,” he exclaims. And they’ve got great Richard McLaren photos.

It might have been one small step for hack-kind, but for me it meant I’d never again have to spend an hour filing copy to the lovely “much more of this?” copy-takers.

Trebles all round. And then, around 4 am, the storm breaks.

A fucking hurricane hits the island knocking out all power and crippling the telephone exchange.

It means my rivals, too lazy to write their stuff overnight, have no way of transmitting their copy for two days at least. Ergo, my words are now world exclusive, but how can I tell the Express that?

I ask Leon. 

My junior fixer says he can get me to the capital Kingston, and a Government yard in Trenchtown — yes, honestly, where they have an underground bunker with an emergency phone line for times like this.

For a few hundred Jamaican dollars (greasing a few palms)  I can make a quick call home. I was allowed one minute.

Mike, you can bill it world exclusive . The others are fucked because the phone lines are down for the foreseeable future. How the fuck are you calling then? Long story. Tell you when I’m back. But please fax the hotel the spread when you can. The girls want to see it.

So, its a few days in the sun with my new American pals. Feet up. Job done. Parry does his bit and the Sans Souci proudly frames the front page and centre-spread and sticks it in the bar by the phone. They treat it like the first moon landing.

My colleagues are blasted by their desks for being beaten by the fucking Express — Bond stuff was huge back then. All that money spent to get turned over…

Leon helps me snaffle a few more exclusives to go home with from people on the island, but now it’s time to leave.

My BA boarding pass says 27B. I chose it because I got three seats to myself.

But there are three stoned ticket-less Rastas draped across the seats.

Sorry chaps I think you’re in the wrong place.

“Irie,” they say, making that Churchillian sign.

“No fucking Irie. You’ve got my seats.”

And I’m hearing McLaren has had his gear stolen off the tarmac. That’s thousands.

The chief steward shuffles me away to a curtained-off staff rest area and placates me with a couple of bottles of wine.  He says they’ll take the guys to Heathrow but they’ll be sent right back. 

It’s a fun night flight with the hostesses and several mile-high Martinis, yes, shaken, not stirred. 

It had to be done.


© 2005-2018 Alastair McIntyre