At the Skyfooooooooo...apple crumboooooooooo!” Ah, bless Adele and her funny way of jazzing up a perfectly serviceable set of pronunciation rules to fuel her own musical shtick. So, yes, like everyone else, I have watched Skyfall several times, half out of boredom (getting a bit warm, isn’t it?) and half out of a growing fondness for the movie.
It might not be as good as, say, Casino Royale, but it tides us over until William Boyd’s Solo is published this September, and it admirably fills the 007-sized hole left after Jeffery Deaver’s recent Bond novel Carte Blanche in which perhaps the greatest alpha male, James Bond, visits Dubai. I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it, except to say that visiting “the Deira” and having drinks in the Intercontinental is all very Ian Fleming, but it isn’t really what you want James Bond to be doing over here, is it?
If I were Bond for a day there are plenty of iconic locations I’d have to visit – but they might not be the obvious ones. Leave it to decidedly smaller heroic fry like Tom Cruise to dangle off the Burj Khalifa; Bond wouldn’t go near the place, unless he became embroiled in a high-stakes pursuit and had to race a mini through the crowded walkways of The Dubai Mall. Which is probably the only sensible way to negotiate the frightful place.
So, for my own personal Bond movie, we’d open on a watery vista: Bond crossing the Creek on an abra. For a single dirham you can experience the kind of I’m-somewhere-a-bit-different reality Bond would face on each mission, chugging across the water towards the imposing edifice of the British embassy,
I would be dressed in a tuxedo, incongruous amongst my fellow travellers – the dockers and souq-sweepers of Bur Dubai in their tunics and heavy, dusty leather sandals.
I would naturally then break swiftly into the embassy and extirpate an asylum-seeking terrorist or something, on M’s instructions, but I’d limit myself to a swift half in the George & Dragon at the Ambassador. I’ve not had Bond’s training, and am a shocking coward.
The next thing to do would be to get a spa treatment. Bond loves a massage (though Fleming’s brutish hero may have baulked at asking for an apple-peel-and-lavender-ponce-cream-dermal-rinse) before getting a ride to Al Qasr hotel at sundown. Obviously it’s elegant and opulent and suitably 007-ey, but the main reason is I’ll be dropped off beside a rearing phalanx of golden statues of stallions, menacingly lit from below and twinkling in the crepuscular light, which to my mind at least evoke the out-of-control grandiosity of a Bond villain, a really rich one who likes horses a bit too much.
From there it’s only a simple mental leap to imagine a vast subterranean headquarters below the hotel, full of nuclear missiles, shark tanks and the other non-negotiable staples of all good villainous lairs. The man-made canals at Al Qasr actually have real aquatic life living in them, allowing me the chance to make my own Roger Moore-style naff quip. I’d run with something about expertly navigating the base by using familiar chelonians as landmarks, and simpering, “I have turtle recall” into the camera with a camp lift of the eyebrow.
The next place my Bond would definitely go is the 101 Bar at one of the increasingly erroneously named One and Onlys, on the Palm. It’s a hipster’s paradise, a bar on a jetty, with yachts and powerboats surrounding it, a place of chilled-out beats and blissed-out grooves too, for all I know. There are impossibly glamorous femmes fatales by the bucketload too.
I would enjoy one of his signature cocktails (how does Bond get those past his boss in his monthly expense form? You can’t really casually dismiss a few Dh150 cocktails as “subsistence”, can you?), all the while covertly observing the horse-obsessed villain having drinks with his co-conspirators before a finale where the whole bar is set ablaze and sinks below the waves as I coldly assassinate my nemesis.
The non-Bond me, on the other hand, would sit there over a cool drink gazing in frustrated awe at some of the astonishingly dressed and impossibly beautiful people there, until a tiny cell in my mind started to seriously think red trousers on a man could be acceptable – at which point I’d know I’d gone too far with my dangerous fantasy life, and head home to bed, shaken yet stirred.