Cricketer has a close bond with Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 14:00 21 March 2011
Archant © 2011
Matthew Fleming was born less than a year before his great uncle - the legendary author Ian Fleming - died aged just 56.
And while Ian’s untimely death meant Matthew never got the chance to develop a particularly close relationship with his great uncle it has not affected his pride at what the author achieved.
Matthew, 46, said: “I’m very proud and very grateful. There are a lot of people who only know Bond as a film, but in 2008 – the 100th anniversary of his birth – he sold more than a million books world-wide and had been dead for 40-odd years.”
Ian Fleming’s death in August 1964 at such a relatively young age might have resulted, to some extent at least, from the fact that, as even his great nephew himself concedes, his body was “not a temple”, but his writing at least proved to be fighting fit.
The author, creator of legendary spy Agent 007, wrote 14 James Bond books from Casino Royale to Octopussy and the Living Daylights (short stories) as well as other classics like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
But it is Bond that Ian Fleming is best remembered for.
Matthew, a father-of-three, said: “He’s (Bond) still incredibly popular. You go into any book shop and they’re still there – the hard-backs are very good investments.
“There are very few global brands and James Bond is a global brand – he’s huge.”
Prior to his death just two of Ian Fleming’s books had been released as films, Dr No (1962) and From Russia With Love (1963), meaning it would have been impossible for the author himself to answer which the question of who his favourite Bond was as Sean Connery played 007 in both films.
But Matthew said he is sure his great uncle would have approved of the films and their global popularity.
He said: “I think he was a man of pretty vivid imagination and so I think he would’ve been absolutely thrilled by everything the Broccoli family have done with the films and thrilled with the relationship between the Broccolis and the Flemings.”
The Broccoli family produced the films while the Fleming family, through Ian Fleming Publications Ltd – an organisation Matthew himself used to work for – continues to protect the copyright and “integrity” of Ian Fleming’s writing and ensure that it remains “utterly sacred”.
Just like any other teenage boy growing up in Britain in the mid to late 1960s James Bond formed an important part of Matthew’s life – even if the books took him a little longer to appreciate.
He said: “It’s hard not to be impressed by Bond. It’s quite a cool thing, especially if you’re a teenager. As a teenager it was mostly about the films. I wasn’t a great reader then and didn’t read the books until my mid-20s. But now having read and re-read the books I honestly think the books are much better than the films.”
Matthew was born in Macclesfield and lived for much of his life in Kent where he played cricket professionally but moved to Norfolk about seven years ago. He now lives with his wife and three daughters in Horstead, near Coltishall.
He said: “I met a Norfolk girl about 21 years ago and didn’t read the small print that says you must come back to Norfolk. It’s a great county to live in. I love the sense of community in Norfolk – I like the values that are more evident in Norfolk than lots of other places and I like the big skies.”
Matthew said Norfolk also had a big part to play in the world of James Bond – and not just in terms of the submersible Esprit car produced by Norfolk firm Lotus which made such a splash in The Spy Who Loved Me.
Matthew said Bond’s arch enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld – the supervillain with the cat and the scar on his face – owes much to the Norfolk-based family of the same name. Matthew said his great uncle was sat in a gentleman’s club in London trying to come up with a name for the villain and is supposed to have said the next person who walked into the club would be the villain and “in walked Blofeld” – a descendent of the family based at Hoveton.
Matthew is looking to put down roots of his own in the county and has three teenage daughters at school in the area.
He is also a governor at the Ormiston Victory Academy, formerly Costessey High School, after being asked by friend and Norfolk and Norwich Hospital chairman David Prior, who is also a governor at the school.
Matthew said: “It’s excellent to see how much potential there is at this school, in the area, and what a difference a dynamic team is making to a lot of young people. It’s just great to be a part of it – a small part of it.”
In his role as governor at the Middleton Crescent-based academy, Matthew has tried to help inspire youngsters by donating copies of every single James Bond book penned by his great uncle to the library at the Ormiston Victory Academy.
He said: “When Rachel De Souza, the principal, asked me to get involved, before I said yes or no I came for a look round the school and one of the things that became clear was that literacy was an issue, and beyond that just helping people understand the powers of reading.
“Bond is a very good conduit for young people. If these books help one or two young people to enjoy reading and become better readers it’s fantastic.”
Matthew, who played cricket as an all-rounder for Kent and England until he retired in 2002, is currently Marlyebone Cricket Club’s (MCC) representative in Afghanistan, where he helps spread the game in schools by teaching youngsters cricket.
He is also the MCC’s representative on the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) board of directors.