My Word Is My Bond: A Memoir
By Roger Moore
Hardcover, 336 pages
List price: $27.95
The Early Years
'I was an only child. You see, they achieved perfection first time round'
It was just after midnight on 14 October 1927, when Lily Moore (née Pope) gave birth to a twenty-three-inch-long baby boy at a maternity hospital in Jeffreys Road, Stockwell, London SW8. The baby's father, George Alfred Moore, was twenty-three and a police constable stationed at Bow Street. Of course, I'm only quoting this from hearsay. I was much too young to recall such a momentous event as my entry to this world.
I was christened Roger George Moore and we lived about a mile from the hospital, on Aldebert Terrace, London 5W8. I was to be the the couple's only child. You see, they achieved perfection first time round.
I don't remember what the fiat on Aldebert Terrace was like, we moved before I was old enough to absorb my surroundings. However, I do remember our new home: it was a third-floor flat 200 yards away in Albert Square — number four, I think. It had two bedrooms and a living room-cum-kitchen. I remember the mantelpiece seeming so high to me; above it was a mirror and the only way I could see my reflection was to stand on the bench positioned along the opposite wall.
Life was happy in Albert Square. It's funny how little things stick in your mind: the beautiful smell of freshly cut wood from the timberyard next to our garden. To this day I can visualize the two gas brackets on either side of the mirror in the living room. There was no electricity, you see, and these were our only means of light. The china mantles gave off a lohissing illumination. It was a comforting sound and one I associated with being home in the bosom of my family. The main source of heating was a coal fire. Oh, how this schoolboy's bare legs would be red-mottled on the shin side from sitting too close to the burning coals; especially when making toast with a long-handled fork.We'd spread beef dripping on it, oh what joy! When I was a little older, I took pleasure in helping my mother black-lead the grate. I was a very obliging child. Illness played a great — and unwelcome — role in my early life. Mumps were soon followed by a raging sore throat, and it was decided that I should have my tonsils removed and adenoids scraped at the same time. I wasn't really too sure what this would entail, but was promised that when I woke up from the tonsillectomy I would be fed ice cream. That alone would make my stay in hospital worthwhile, I decided.
Wearing only a little surgical gown and bed socks, I was placed on a trolley, rolled down a corridor and pushed into a lift, its sliding trellisdoors seeming very sinister. (I'd only ever been in a lift once before, at Gamages Department Store in Holborn, and that was a much happier occasion, when Mum took me to the toy department to meet Santa Claus.) As we descended in the hospital lift, I felt sure it was to the place where naughty children went if they couldn't go to heaven. Sunday school had obviously left its mark. I still vividly remember looking up from the operating table upon which I'd been placed, at the big, round lights glowering down at me and the people wearing green masks standing all around. A lady with a sieve filled with cotton wool gazed down into my eyes and then placed the sieve over my face. I felt suffocated by a strong foul-sweet odour, which pulled me down into a long tunnel with yellow and red rings flying at my face. The sound — which I can still hear in my imagination today — was a boom-barn-boom-barn, gradually getting faster and faster as I fell down into hell.
My next recollection was of the smell growing fainter and the boom-barns replaced by the soft murmur of nurses' voices. I was back on the ward. Then I was sick. I never did get the ice cream they had promised. I was deeply disappointed at the time, but looking on the bright side it might have been strawberry flavour, which I hate.
Aged five, I started school at Hackford Road Elementary. A fifteen-minute walk from Albert Square: turn right on Clapham Road, go to Durand Gardens, cross the main road, trot round the Gardens and there was the school—three floors high, red-brick with large tall windows and surrounded by a red-brick wall.
I don't remember being left at the gates by my mother or indeed anything about my first sight of the classroom and the other boys and girls. I do, however, recall finding myself in the boys' urinal and being forced to stand facing the dark grey wall, with a trough at the base, with my legs wide apart as some senior ruffians took turns to see whether or not they could aim between them without splashing my bare legs. English schoolboys' short trousers left plenty of room between the top of the socks and the bottom of the trousers for the exercise. I can still see my mother waiting at the school gates that first day as I exited the playground, walking with my red-raw knees wide apart thanks to the stream of bubbling warm pee that did not quite make it between them. 'Tut-tut-tut she said, as I recounted my first day's ordeal.
It reminds me of a sign I later saw in toilets:
Your head may be in the air, young man,
Your thoughts away as you enter;
But spare a thought for the floor young man,
And direct your stream to the centre.
One evening when we were walking home from school, I told Mum that some boys who had seen her drop me at the gates had asked, 'Was that your mum? She's a great-looking tart!' I didn't know what they meant. Mum was horrified, not at being described as great-looking but a tart! Really!
Excerpted from My Word is My Bond: A Memoir. Copyright © by Sir Roger Moore. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.