Editor’s Note: Why? Because (1) you asked for more Sarah and I totally agree, (2) in the event that you didn’t get everything you want, don’t celebrate Christmas, or have not received the last gift you are ever going to get, (3) a gift you don’t like or aren’t going to use makes you lie or at best act, and there are really, at the end of the day, very few of us talented enough to pull that off – JB (a reminder, Sarah’s blog can be found here.)
Thank you to John for inviting me to contribute to Ivy Style! The holiday season might be over, but gifts are given year-round, whether for anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, or “just because.” I constantly struggle with this when thinking of gifts for my husband, who has excellent taste and is simply impossible to buy for. In the interest of not adding more “stuff” to our house–at least not belongings that have limited meaning and/or functionality–I try to think outside of the box when it comes to gift-giving. I’m eager to know your thoughts, and please let me know if I’ve missed anything–I keep a running list for future events!
Dedicate a bench in your favorite park: When my husband and I were first married, we lived across the street from Central Park and took daily walks there. I always loved reading the dedications on the benches, and for a very special occasion, dedicating a bench would be a fantastic present. While the Central Park “adopt-a-bench” program is definitely a bit steep at $10,000 per bench, and best saved for a very special occasion, you can also endow a tree ($5,000 for a mature tree, $500 for a sapling) or plant flowers ($50). Not only are you contributing to the preservation of a national landmark, you’re honoring past memories and creating new ones for the years to come.
Made-to-measure shirt, Sid Mashburn: The man you’re buying for might have a closet full of shirts, but a made-to-measure shirt is always something a little more special. This is my go-to gift for birthdays. Everything is customizable, from the fit to the fabric to the collar; the perfect way to create your dream shirt. The price range is very reasonable, and if you’re not sure of your recipient’s exact measurements, or aren’t sure what collar to choose, gift certificates are available.
Stationery and fountain pen: John’s first set of “tradified resolutions” for the new year comes at a perfect time. As you may know, I’m very much an advocate for the handwritten thank-you note, and you really should only use a fountain pen when writing correspondence! John recommended the Goulet fountain pens; I personally use Lamy, and I gave my husband a new Kaweco for Christmas this year. For stationery, I recommend Dempsey & Carroll, Mrs. John Strong, or The Printery.
Black tie accessories: While we still might be in the throes of COVID, I’m hopeful we’ll emerge someday soon and even more hopeful that reemergence will prompt the revival of many more black tie events. A cummerbund, waistcoat, and bow tie are essential (and should be black barathea!) You don’t need them until you need them, and isn’t it better to be prepared in advance? Your recipient will thank you!
A life membership: If the man you’re buying for is a member of an organization, whether a genealogical society, historical society, or private club, a number of organizations offer life memberships. This is such a lovely gift to give and receive–you get to support an organization that has great meaning to the recipient of the gift by bolstering their endowment, and most organizations will send a lovely certificate or handwritten letter acknowledging the member’s change in status.
Editor’s PS (Which I have to start doing, because you guys send some funny stuff – a quick note from Charles:
There is nothing cute about the fight on the train in From Russia With Love. And it achieves perfection when Connery — yes, the greatest Bond ever — dutifully straightens his tie after narrowly winning the epic battle.
Hey! Someday I am going to figure out the best way to respond to comments – there are times when I can reply with another comment and times when I have to do it here and I have no idea which is going to happen when. Anyway… this is not to say that Connery wasn’t good, didn’t have great scenes. But whole package, gotta be Brosnan. – JB
Whiskeydent – I agree that the train fight in FRWL is one of the best action sequences ever filmed; sweaty, claustrophobic and quite a nailbiter even today.
I think Connery’s 3-piece suit and his tweed coat and cavalry twill trousers in Goldfinger are the best for clothing and the DB5 is the best Bond car. However, while I have enjoyed most of the films (even the sillier ones) and am especially fond of Goldfinger, I have to cast my vote for Daniel Craig as best Bond, even though his Tom Ford suits are much too tight.
Roger Moore…..worst Bond ever.
Oh man, so that Connery scene, this is exactly why you gotta pick Brosnan. FORGET for a second that Connery gives his word as an Englishman in THAT ACCENT, FORGET for a moment that he and the villain are wearing the exact same clothes (automatic disqualifier even if there is a plot justification for it) – Connery literally misses a kick to the head by so much he looks like he is goose-stepping. #Brosnan
Connery in Dr. No lying in wait in Ms. Tara’s Black Mountain bungalow to kill professor Dent (funny to think now that the scene was going to be removed because it was too violent). Connery in Thunderball surprising a villainess having a bath in his hotel room. When she asks for something to put on Connery slowly walks up with her slippers and sits in a chair by the tub to watch. The FRWL train fight of course. Connery’s first scene at the chemin-de-fer table with Sylvia Trench, and so many other scenes, in my opinion, makes Connery the greatest Bond.
Best to worst-Connery, Craig, Lazenby, Dalton, Moore and Remington Steel
Old joke. Never hire Sean Connery to teach your dog to sit.
Of course, Connery’s greatest film role was that of Zed in Zardoz.
None of them live up to (embody) Fleming’s Bond. Not. even. close. The movies, largely because of the inadequacy of the actors who attempt Bond, fall well short of the books. An old and maybe tired expression, I know (“Read the book; it’s sooo much better than the movie”)– but, in this instance, really-and-truly true. Read the books and try to forget the diversity of Hollywood Bonds.
* JB is corrected–
Brosnan is, IMO, the most Fleminingesque of the Bonds. ( Flemingish?)
I think all the Bonds are so different from one another that I can’t qualify them as best-to-worst but (in chronological order) as the first one, the Austin Powers one, the tongue-in-cheek one, the heavy-handed one, the too-perfect one, and the grumpy one (as Mr. Craig himself has jokingly described his Bond).
More importantly, Sarah’s gift suggestions are spot-on. We accumulate so much stuff we don’t use or need, and we feel so much obligation to give such things to people around the holidays. We all gotta reassess this. I especially like the dedicated benches or club/society membership ideas. My partner thoughtfully gifted me a membership to the William Blake Society several years ago. It was quite meaningful and perfect.
Any suggestions for people who we wouldn’t necessarily spend that kind of money on? Maybe just cards or I dunno, home-baked snacks?
I liked Dean Martin the best. Oh, wait. Nevermind…
JB, the villain wore the same suit and launched into the “old boy” routine to mock Bond for not figuring things out until then. Keep up lad;)
@whiskeydent and @sacksuit are spot-on – the fight sequence on the Orient Express between Connery (Bond) and Robert Shaw (Grant) is absolutely the best in the series. Connery and Shaw were fit and it shows during the two days of shooting it took to film that scene. The starting vignette that began ‘From Russia with Love’ became a standard that are like short stories unto themselves, the opening sequence from ‘Goldfinger’ perhaps being the best of the series. And while my favorite Bond is still Sean Connery, I do like Daniel Craig too and he runs a close second in my book. Craig brings much of the same ruthlessness and physicality as Connery’s original interpretation of the Bond character.
Nice job Sarah.
I’d also recommend Budd’s in London for MTM (and bespoke)shirts and formal accessories and the Fountain Pen Hospital (and the late lamented Joon) in NYC, as well as Dempsey & Carrol.
@Nevada: I think homemade snacks are a great idea, however, I don’t bake so it’s never something I do, haha. My go-to smaller gift is local honey, a mug, and a tin of looseleaf tea. I also think that stopping by your local farmstand for a pie or cookies is always a good idea!
@Randy: Thank you! And thanks for the suggestion re: MTM shirts. I’ll keep them in mind for future celebrations!
Rather than “best to worst” I will employ a binary grading system.
Good or Bad. With the primary requirement that a Good Bond must have a balance
of elegance and brutishness (I mean after all part of the job requirement is to kill people). Rankings follow:
Connery – GOOD: Perhaps the best balance of elegance and brutishness. The original, and he did have cool gadgets but was a killer in his own right. The biggest playboy but that was probably just consistent with the era. Probably the best action scenes.
Lazenby – GOOD: Slightly toward the brutish side but still balanced. A fresh face so he “was” James Bond. One of the more interesting characters. Too bad he turned down the offer to do more Bond films. There is a good movie about him “Becoming Bond”.
Moore – GOOD: Slightly toward the elegant side, but also sarcastic which was a good direction at the time rather than trying to “out-Connery” Connery. My personal favorite although not necessarily the “best”.
Craig – BAD: Too brutish, zero elegance. Grouchy Bond. Not an interesting Bond character. Turned off the latest movie halfway through it because I lost interest.
Remington Steel – BAD: Going to use that name because that was one weakness – he was never really “Bond” after all the crappy movies and TV he had already done. Too elegant, with the worst Bond car. Looked like he was really trying to play the role.
Dalton – BAD: Who? The only one I honestly can’t remember a thing about.
Most Englishmen wear suit jackets that are one size too small; Craig outdoes them: two size too small.
I enjoyed every one of Ian Fleming’s Bond books. They are very entertaining fantasies, and so are the movies and the leading characters.
However, Fleming’s books are not in the same literary league as the works of Graham Greene, John le Carre, Alan Furst, and a few others I’m forgetting. Robert Littell’s “The Company” is a fabulous historical novel about the CIA. None of these writers relied on gadgets, yet their intricate plots and fluid prose can get your heart pumping almost as much as the beach landings of Ursula Andress and Halle Berry.
The great Kingsley Amis wrote “Colonel Sun,” the first Bond novel published after Ian Fleming’s death. It isn’t a classic by any means but Amis interestingly makes Bond a latter-day Theseus who solves deadly puzzles and slays terrible monsters with his wit and brawn (and the help of an Ariadne) rather than relying on Q’s absurd gadgetry. He disliked the Bond of the movies, calling him a “rakish nonentity.”
@whiskeydent I hope I’m not being presumptuous by recommending a few other good writers of spy fiction. They are Eric Ambler, Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad, and John Buchan.
Thanks to Mr Burton and the original contributor, the picture of the park bench illuminates these dark grey January days despite the awkward punctuation (nevertheless as a non-native speaker I should remain careful with my very own one). This little Bucklesby memorial plate reminds me of a sign hanging in a hallway familiar to me greeting visitors with “Welcome! Please do not stay for too long”.
@Hardbopper – I have to admit to having also thought of Dean Martin, or maybe Alain Delon…
@whiskeydent – I would include Robert Ludlum to your list as well. But you nail it with John le Carre who had real-world spook credentials so much his intelligence career ended as a result of Kim Philby’s betrayal to the KGB.
Referencing Jame Bond’s formal wear,the only part I own is the Walther ppk, maybe in the future I’ll accumulate the rest.