I am a member of the Lucky Sperm Club. There’s no two ways about it. I was born into wealth and position, albeit of a particularly mixed sort endemic to Jamaica. I am Jamaican, but I am also English, Irish, Portuguese, Spanish, Jewish, and Catholic. My parents met at a members club in the West End in the 1930s and moved to Jamaica shortly after I was born.
My mum threw glittery parties for the cream of Anglo-Jamaican society. I grew accustomed to mixing among the guests – Ian Fleming, Noel Coward and Errol Flynn became unofficial mentors to me.
My mum was an inspiration for two of Fleming’s most memorable female foils for James Bond: the independent, provocative nature girl Honeychile Ryder, who emerges from the sea in Dr No clad only in a bikini and knife scabbard; and the acrobat-turned-burglar Pussy Galore, who literally took a roll in the hay with Sean Connery in Goldfinger.
Errol Flynn also fancied my mother so he treated me generously. He was cross with me just once, when I was around 18 and tried to steal one of his girlfriends. He was notoriously unfaithful to his own wives, but this didn’t stop him from punching me in the face with all the force of a living legend who had played Robin Hood on the big screen.
I wasn’t a great student. I failed to fit in at Harrow – in one instance, I was caned publicly, in front of the entire student body, which had not happened in 130 years. My offense? Dropping some sweet wrappers on school grounds. In the end, I was not formally expelled. A careful diplomatic solution was reached. ‘Christopher might be happier elsewhere,’ said the headmaster. That was the end of my formal education, at the age of 16. I was sent back to Jamaica, where my adult life awaited me.
I happened upon a freelance job that aligned with my personal interests. One of my friends had the concession in Jamaica for Wurlitzer jukeboxes. I persuaded him to let me lease some of them, which were growing in popularity in the 1950s among Jamaicans who couldn’t afford to keep a radio in their own homes. Before long, I was responsible for 63 of them all over the island. It was one of those jobs for which there were no real qualifications and I was pretty good at it.