Bond strikes camp
Cyril Conolly’s wonderful parody, Bond Strikes Camp is too long to scan all the way in. But there is a fragment — four pages — below the fold. Bond, dolled up in full drag, has just been picked up by his own secretary in a louche nightclub, and now abandons her for the charms of the man from the Jugoslav KGB …
bq.. His secretary wheeled round. “Why, you black bitch— you filthy little tart, I suppose you support a basketful of bastards at home all bleating their bloody heads off. Go along and I hope the old Tirpitz gives you a Lulu.” She gave Bond a ringing slap across the eyes and burst into tears. As she left she turned to the new arrival. “You watch out with that bint. Mark my words. She’ll do you in.”
Bond held his smarting cheek. The foreign gentleman patted his arm and pulled him on to the banquette. “What a headstrong young lady—she gave me quite a turn. But here comes our champagne. I have ordered a magnum of Taittinger Blanc de blancs, ’52—it never departs from a certain ‘tenu’—independent yet perfectly deferential.” He had a trace of guttural accent but what impressed Bond most were the magnificent whiskers. He had seen them only once before on a Russian, Marshal Budenny, Stalin’s cavalry leader. They gave a raffish Eighth Army-turned-innkeeper look to the big-nosed military man and were perhaps symptomatic of the formidable General’s atavism.
Bond collapsed on to the alcove divan and raised the paradisal prickle to his lips, remembering Monsieur Georges, the wine waiter at the Casino Royale who had called his attention to the brand in the first of his annual agonies.
“Perhaps I had better introduce myself,” said the General. “I am a Yugoslav travelling salesman here to make certain business contacts and tonight is my evening of relaxation. All day I have been in conference and tomorrow I have to go down early in the morning to Salisbury Plain. Vladimir Mishitch. Just call me Vladimir; the accent is on the second syllable.”
Bond noticed that he had not enquired his own name and finally volunteered with downcast eye, “My name is Gerda. I like travelling too but I’m afraid I haven’t anything to sell.”
“One never knows. ‘La plus belle fille du monde, ne peut donner que ce qu’elle a.’ “
The General stuck his hand into Bond’s blouse and ran his fingers through the hair on his chest. “That’s a nice rug you’ve got there, Gerda.” Bond lowered his eyes again. “And that—that is pretty too. How do you call it?”
“That’s my comma.”
“I see. I’m afraid I make more use of the colon. Ha! ha!” Bond did not know whether to seem amused or bored, and said nothing. “Tell me, Gerda—” the General’s voice took on a warmer colour. “Have you ever slept with a man?”
“Well no, not exactly.”
“I thought not, Gerda—your little girl friend—the paprikah¨hn—she would not allow it, hein?”
“Well, it’s something we’ve all got to do sooner or later.”
“And I suggest you do it right now—for when you’ve been to bed with a real man, a man of age and experience, you won’t ever want anyone else. It’s like the Salle Privée at the Sporting Club after a tea with your PEN.“
He inserted a torpedo-shaped Larranaga such as seldom reaches these shores into an amber holder and poured out the ice-cold champagne until Bond unaccountably found himself sitting on his lap in some disarray, while the General broke into stentorian song:
How you gonna keep them
Down on the farm
After they’ve seen Paree!
Bond broke away.
“Aren’t you going to have a dance with me?”
The General roared with laughter. “I have never learned to dance except our Yugoslav ones and those we dance only with comrades.”
“I expect I could pick them up.”
“Yes. Like I have picked up you. I will play one to you in my hotel and you will dance like an Ustashi.”
“But they were all fascists, weren’t they?”
The General laughed again. “They danced very well at the end of a rope. Like Homer’s handmaidens—with twittering feet.”
Bond found the allusion faintly disturbing. “It’s too hot, let’s go.”
The General paid the bill from a bundle of fivers and hurried down the stairs; it was only, Bond noticed, a little after midnight. “We will take a taxi, Gerda, it is less likely to be followed.”
“But why should anyone want to follow you, Vladimir?”
“Business is business; don’t worry your pretty little head.”
The taxi turned off St James’s Street and stopped in a cul-de-sac. “But this is not a hotel.”
“No, Gerda, furnished service flatlets. Mine is in the basement, so we go down these steps and don’t have to face your night porters—so puritanical—and so expensive. Though anyone can see you’re not an ordinary lady of the town.” He covered a falsie in his large palm and cupped it hard. “Pip—pip.”
“Leave me alone. I’ve got a headache.”
“I have just the thing,” said the General and paid off the taxi, almost flinging Bond in his tight skirt and high heels down the steps into the area. For the first time he felt a twinge of fear. To the taxi-driver he was one of London’s many thousand fly-by-nights off to earn their lolly—yet no one else in the great indifferent city knew his whereabouts nor what manner of man was preparing to have his way with him. At home in Chelsea his black shantung pyjamas would be laid out, the evening papers and the Book Collector spread on his night table, and the digestive biscuits and Karlsbad plums, a bottle of San Pellcgrino, a jigger of Strathisla. Lately he had taken to spinning himself to sleep with a roulette wheel or some Chopi xylophone music from the Transvaal asbestos mines. . . .
Vladimir opened a Yale and then a mortice-lock and let them into a typical furnished basement flat, a beige sitting-room with a sombre bedroom beyond. The fog was beginning to probe again, like a second day’s grilling by Interpol. “Here, swallow this for the headache—and have a glass of whisky—Teachers, Cutty Sark, Old Grandad or do you prefer vodka or slivovitz?”
“Old Grandad—and what about you?”
“Oh, I’ll help myself to some vodka.” It was a tiny error but a revealing one. But perhaps the General argued that a Yugoslav drank slivovitz enough at home.
Bond put a cigarette in his mouth and just remembered in time to let the General light it. He took the yellow pill which he had been given, palmed it and pretended to swallow it with a grimace. “I hate all these pills and things. I don’t believe they’re any good AT all.”
The General raised his vodka. “To Friendship.”
“To Friendship,” chorused Gerda, lifting up her Old-Grandad-on-the-rocks. She was thinking fast. The purpose of the pill she hadn’t swallowed must have been to make her sleepy but hardly to put her out. She had better play drowsy.
“Let’s have another toast,” said the General. “Who is your best friend?”
Bond remembered the gambit pawn. “Guy Burgess.”
The General guffawed. “I’ll tell him. He’ll be delighted. He doesn’t often get a message from such a pretty girl.”
Bond lowered his eyes. “He was my lover.”
“One can see that by the way you walk.”
Bond felt a mounting wave of fury. He opened his bag, took out his mascara and spat viciously. The General looked on with approval. Bond produced another cigarette. “Here, catch.” The General tossed over his lighter. Bond, with the eye-brush in one hand and the pack in the other, brought his legs neatly together as it fell on his lap.
“Where were you at school, Gerda?”
“And so they teach you to catch like a man—what is a woman’s lap for? She widens it to catch, ” ….