Roger Moore’s last memoir takes on self-checkouts

Just two weeks before his death in May aged 89, Sir Roger Moore finished the manuscript for a book about his experience of growing old. Here, in his typically self-deprecating and waspish style, the star of seven James Bond films reveals the pitfalls and joys of ageing, from supermarket shopping to the dangers of getting out of a car…

Here’s a strange thing. I can quote Shakespearean sonnets I learned at RADA in 1940-something. I can remember lines from plays I performed in repertory theatre, and whole chunks of dialogue from films I haven’t seen since their premiere.

I can tell you the best route from Wardour Street in Central London to Battersea, road name by road name. So why is it that I so often find myself standing in the kitchen wondering what the hell I went in there for?

It’s all to do with old age, alas, which the poet Dante believed begins at 45. The United Nations suggests it starts at 60. Well, as I write this I’m in my 90th year. Ninety! Where did those years go?

Do I feel old? Not at all. And yet I’ve been lucky enough to live through some amazing landmark events — from World War II right through to the internet age — which makes me realise that I must be pretty ancient after all.

Technology has made extraordinary advances in my lifetime and it never cease to astound me. I used to be in seventh heaven as James Bond trying out all the various watches, cameras, cars and gizmos.

In the films, we had Q to supply the latest gadgets, many of which were prototypes of real designs and are now in everyday use. But, I ask myself, would Q ever have come up with something as deeply frustrating as the self-service till?

One of my grumbles about modern life is that until fairly recently supermarkets used to have a row of smiling cashiers waiting and willing to help you make a purchase. Now there are banks of soulless machines that scan your items and supposedly make the whole shopping experience easier and quicker. Oh yes?

Have you ever placed your basket of groceries down and started scanning them, only for hieroglyphics to start flashing up with accompanying messages such as my personal favourite, ‘Unexpected item in bagging area’? Tell me about it!

You look around sheepishly until one of the former cashiers — now relegated to a back room somewhere — comes to your aid. They explain it was because you scanned two items in succession and didn’t allow enough time in between.

So you get a free lesson in checkout skills before being left to continue. But wait! The lights start up again!

You have picked an age-restricted item, anything from a bottle of wine to a box of matches. Thankfully the former cashier appears again to vouch that you are indeed over 21.

‘Have you used any of our bags?’ asks the machine. Obviously not, as I selected ‘I have my own bag with me’ when I approached it.

'There are banks of soulless machines that scan your items and supposedly make the whole shopping experience easier and quicker' (stock image)

‘There are banks of soulless machines that scan your items and supposedly make the whole shopping experience easier and quicker’ (stock image)

‘Please swipe your loyalty card.’

‘I don’t have one,’ I press.

‘Would you like a loyalty card?’

‘No, I wouldn’t.’

‘Are you sure you wouldn’t like a loyalty card?’

‘No!’ I confirm.

‘Are you collecting vouchers for schools?’

‘No,’ I choose.

‘Would you like to start collecting vouchers for schools?’

‘No!’ I confirm again.

‘Insert your payment.’

I stick in my credit card, only to be told there’s a problem after all and I should go to another till.

Better still, have you tried buying a newspaper at the airport? Not only do you have to go through all of the above, but you have to scan your boarding card, too.

Sir Roger Moore as James Bond

Sir Roger Moore as James Bond

When I say to them: ‘It’s with my wife and she has gone ahead to the bookshop,’ they just look at me. Excuse me while I gnash my teeth at the absurdity of it all.

Reaching 89 is really rather lovely, though on the flip side attaining this great age doesn’t come without its own issues.

Playing secret heroes, action-adventure characters and suave crime stoppers was all in a day’s work for me as a young, agile actor.

Yes, back then I could leap out of cars, run up stairs without taking a breath and happily throw myself around sets for fight sequences, often without putting a hair on my well-lacquered head out of place.

Ah, in those heady days I enjoyed sumptuous lunches made from the most extravagant and finest ingredients, not to mention the very best champagnes and wines to complement the meal, followed by decadent desserts.

Well, that’s all stopped, I can tell you! I now glare at stairs with contempt and huge suspicion. Instead of leaping out, I have to prise myself carefully from cars while desperately trying not to break wind accidentally.

Oh, and the only thing I seem able to fight with these days is my glasses case, while trying to get my reading specs out to study a menu full of food that won’t give me indigestion or heartburn.

In 2013, my doctor declared: ‘You have type two diabetes.’

‘So what does that mean?’ I inquired, hoping the answer would be ‘not too much’ — I didn’t want anything to rock my routine.

‘No booze, no puddings, no chocolate, no sugar,’ said the doc.

For someone who liked all four — sometimes, I admit, to excess — it was a deflating moment when I saw the list of foods I’d be allowed to eat instead.

I frantically scanned the page looking for my beloved baked beans on toast. No! Apparently there is ‘too much sugar’ in them, and those delicious toasted baguettes I enjoyed with lots of butter contain ‘refined carbohydrates’; it had to be wholemeal bread from now on.

Furthermore, there was to be no full-fat dairy or cream, fruit juice, fatty cuts of meat — surely that doesn’t include pork pies? — or fried foods. I had to watch my weight, my cholesterol and my sugar intake. If I didn’t, I was at risk from everything from foot damage (including possible amputation) to heart disease.

It was certainly a wake-up call, and I immediately felt guilty for all those years of stuffing my face, although the doctor assured me that age was also a contributing factor. Oh no! Another downside to getting older.

Sir Roger and his wife Christina Tholstrup pictured together in October 2007

Sir Roger and his wife Christina Tholstrup pictured together in October 2007

Though I should add the condition doesn’t just strike old folks, as my friend Tom Hanks revealed in 2013 when he was only in his mid-50s and blamed not following a healthier diet when he was younger. Let that be a warning to you, dear reader — eat and live healthily as you only have one body.

So what else goes wrong? Well, hair grows everywhere you don’t want it to, and not where it should — it’s a bit much when my barber spends more time trimming my ears than my fringe. Oh yes, there’s lots of fun to look forward to!

I’m sorry to sound like an old curmudgeon, but once upon a time travelling was a real joy.

People used to hop into their cars for an evening or afternoon drive out without fear of cameras clocking you making a wrong turn or entering a yellow box by an inch too much, both resulting in a fine arriving in the post. Certainly there is little joy nowadays in driving a car round London, or any big city, what with congestion charges, bus lanes and prohibited manoeuvres.

Although my dear departed friend Michael Winner used to say: ‘Bus lanes are marvellous — there’s hardly any traffic using them and it only costs me £60!’

'Playing secret heroes, action-adventure characters and suave crime stoppers was all in a day¿s work for me'

‘Playing secret heroes, action-adventure characters and suave crime stoppers was all in a day’s work for me’

And have you tried paying for parking in any big city lately? Gone are the days when you popped coins into parking meters. Now you have to pay by text or app.

Of course, what they don’t tell you is that first you have to set up an account with your payment card, which in itself takes 20 minutes, entering all the details before you’re prompted for the car registration number.

Like many others, I don’t have this committed to memory, so I had to step out into the road to read it and then wait for a confirmation that we were legally parked — by which time our lunch meeting was looking more like afternoon tea.

What on earth happens if you don’t have a mobile phone with you or the network is down? Do they make other provision? No!

Back in the golden age of travel, flying felt really luxurious and passengers were welcomed on board as customers. But airports are not my favourite places now.

I know security is for our benefit, but more often than not you end up being barked at by staff and the delivery is always curt: ‘Take off your coat, your shoes, your belt, empty your pockets . . .’

It happened to me just recently. Watching the plastic trays with all my worldly belongings moving off towards the scanner as I was left holding up my trousers with one hand, I explained to the staff member involved that I have a pacemaker and could not go through the metal detector.

‘Where’s your card?’ (meaning proof of my pacemaker) the person asked me curtly.

‘In my wallet — over there,’ I said, pointing to the plastic tray disappearing into the machine. A ‘tut’ and a shake of the head was followed by another bark of ‘come this way’ to the full body scanner.

‘Put your hands above here, above your shoulders,’ he said.

‘I can’t,’ I replied, gripping my waistband tightly. ‘My trousers will fall down!’

So they escorted me to another area where they had a hand-held metal detector which they proceeded to rub all over me before giving me a pat-down and agreeing that I posed no threat.

'My dear departed friend Michael Winner (pictured) used to say: "Bus lanes are marvellous ¿ there¿s hardly any traffic using them and it only costs me £60!"'

‘My dear departed friend Michael Winner (pictured) used to say: “Bus lanes are marvellous — there’s hardly any traffic using them and it only costs me £60!”‘

‘OK,’ he said as he gestured me on.

As I say, I know security is for our own safety, but have courtesy and politeness gone out of the window?

Good manners, I was always told, cost nothing, yet they seem to be slipping in modern life. If you told someone it is polite to hold a door open, would they agree? Do men ever stand up when a lady enters the room?

There seems to be a more casual attitude nowadays, which in its place is fine, but why don’t prime ministers and senior politicians wear ties and suits like they used to? Why do people think it’s acceptable to turn up at the theatre with their backsides hanging out of their torn jeans?

Eating and drinking in theatres, cinemas, art galleries and on public transport is now commonplace. I’m not just talking about a sandwich or an ice cream, either. I’m talking about smelly, noisy meals and takeaway coffee and soups.

People seem to treat the theatre as though they are at home watching the television. And because they don’t eat at a dining table any more — instead eating and drinking in front of the box while chatting, texting, tweeting, checking emails and ordering takeaways — they think it’s OK to do similar when watching a play or a film.

Movie great who was a real spy 

During World War II, my old mate David Niven had a rolling contract with the great Sir Alexander Korda, who owned the story rights to The Admirable Crichton, a story by J.M. Barrie. He was keen that Niven should play the lead, and in order to raise the finance sent a telegram to Sam Goldwyn at MGM: SUGGEST YOU DO, FOR WAR EFFORT, ADMIRAL CRICHTON.

Korda thought it was a story set in the Navy and hadn’t even read it!

His knighthood, incidentally, wasn’t for services to the film industry but actually for his work in British intelligence — what better cover is there than that of a film producer, who has to travel to many different countries to set up pictures?

No one suspected he was a spy.

And why, please tell, do people in towns and cities walk around while devouring pies, pasties and sandwiches in one hand with takeaway drinks in the other as they rush along?

Are they too hungry to wait to get back to their desks, or too busy to stop, sit down and enjoy a few minutes on a bench?

Language is another bugbear of mine — and I don’t mean swearing, although I admit the odd cuss word such as ‘drat’ or ‘damn’ has passed my lips over the years. I mean this dreadful slang and text language that has crept into everyday life, such as ‘Sup?’ as a form of greeting, ‘Laters’ as a form of goodbye, ‘Yolo’ (you only live once) and so on and so on.

Yes, we still have cockney rhyming slang that originated in the East End of London, but it was used by a relative minority. Nowadays, however, you hear slang everywhere and it’s really quite bemusing.

For example, not so long ago, when someone said they were ‘sick’, you would know they’d be in bed with a pimpled glass bottle of Lucozade in an orange crinkly cellophane wrapper.

Now we’re supposed to know that ‘sick’ means ‘great’ as in: ‘That’s well sick, mate.’

I wonder whether, when young people go for an interview, if ‘All right there, mate?’ is going to be a suitable enough greeting and if ‘Yeah, whatever, bruvva’ would be a means of agreeing to accept the job? I find it rather sad.

My wife Kristina and I rarely go to the cinema nowadays, preferring instead to watch new films on DVD. One exception was when the latest James Bond film Spectre was released in 2015.

We couldn’t make the premiere, but a few days later it hit the cinemas and that coincided with a rare day off for us during a lecture series I was giving round the country. We got tickets at the swanky new Everyman cinema in Gerrards Cross, in Buckinghamshire — OAP rates for Kristina and me, of course. There’s no point throwing money around, after all.

As ever the traffic was a nightmare and we arrived as the commercials started and slipped into our back-row seats quietly. The manager came in ahead of the film to welcome everyone and to remind them there was waiter service for drinks and snacks, and should the temperature need adjusting to shout out.

He said something I didn’t quite hear and, rather loudly, I asked Kristina, ‘What was that?’ She replied: ‘He said “And now please enjoy Spectre with the second best James Bond.” ’ ‘Who’s the first?’ I asked, as the light went down.

‘You, of course, my darling,’ Kristina replied. ‘You are the best James Bond!’

‘Oh yes!’ I chuckled. Our near neighbours must have thought it was a very odd conversation to be going on between an aged man and his wife.

Magical daughter who took on the Stasi 

I was always close to my wife Kristina’s daughter, Christina (who we called Flossie, to avoid confusion) and had known her since she was a teenager. After Kristina and I married, Flossie often came to stay, or she would meet up with us on our travels around the world. I use the past tense because she died of a particularly aggressive form of cancer in 2016, leaving a huge hole in our lives.

In her final weeks and months, we were pretty much together all the time, either at our chalet in Switzerland or with her in Cheltenham at her beloved house, where she stabled her horses and lived with her four adored dogs. We knew every day, every hour and every minute were precious and were determined we would make the most of what time she had left.

Through round after round of treatment, travelling back and forth to London, Flossie remained bullish, brave and fiercely determined. She had achieved so very many things in her 40 odd years, more than most people might in 80 years, and if ever there was a consolation it was in knowing she had lived life to the full and enjoyed every minute.

The b*****d cancer finally took her from us in July 2016. I never imagined anyone could cry so much as Kristina did.

No parent should have to bury a child. It’s the cruellest, most awful thing you can ever imagine. Kristina was unable to speak at the funeral — it was all she could do to be there in the face of horrific grief — but she asked that I share some personal memories of Flossie. I think this sums her up: When Flossie was about 16 she was travelling to Berlin with her school when they were stopped at the border crossing by the East German police.

Flossie’s passport photo had been tampered with and changed, and not very professionally either.

The train was held up for seven or eight hours waiting for the Stasi to arrive and investigate. Flossie freely admitted that she herself had changed the photograph, which obviously set alarm bells ringing.

On being asked why, she replied matter-of-factly: ‘Because I didn’t like the old photo!’

That was Flossie. She was truly unique.

Still hanging on after all these years has made me realise and appreciate all the good luck, the fun and the major milestones I’ve been part of, both professionally and personally.

I’m very grateful and have come to understand that ageing, like the rest of life, is a mixture of gains and losses. Though perhaps the greatest sadness in getting older is outliving loved ones, friends and colleagues.

It’s not easy to see your mates leave for the great cutting room in the sky, although admittedly I’m in no rush to join them. I’m, in fact, in full agreement with Woody Allen when he said: ‘Death — I’m strongly against it.’

Does mortality worry me? Yes, in all honesty it does, as I think it does everyone else. But I’d like to think I’ll face it with all the dignity a coward can muster — and maybe with one last witticism.

When Bob Hope lay on his deathbed, aged 100, his wife Dolores raised the question of where he would like to be buried. In his last words, Bob replied: ‘Surprise me.’

Though perhaps Alfred Hitchcock summed it up best with his last words: ‘One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.’

I have my hopes, too. A bientot …

n Roger Moore: A Bientot . . . by Roger Moore is published by Michael O’Mara Books, priced £12.99. To order a copy for £10.39 visit or call 0844 571 0640. P&P free on orders over £15. Offer valid until September 16, 2017.