I met Wilfred Thesiger for the first time in June 1964 at his mother's top-storey flat in Chelsea. He was then aged fifty-four. He was sunburnt, tall, with broad shoulders and with deep-set grey eyes. As we shook hands I noticed the exceptional length of his fingers. He wore an obviously well-cut, rather loose-fitting dark suit. I remember clearly that he smelt of brilliantine and mothballs. He spoke quietly, with an air of understated authority. His voice was high-pitched and nasal; even by the standards of that time, his rarified pronunciation seemed oddly affected. He had a distinctive habit of emphasising prepositions in phrases such as 'All this was utterly meaningless to me'. He moved slowly and deliberately, with long ponderous strides; yet he gave somehow the impression he was also capable of lightning fast reactions. Later, I heard that he had been a source of inspiration for Ian Fleming's fictional hero James Bond. Whether or not this was true, Thesiger, like Bond, was larger than life; and, like Bond, he appeared to have led a charmed existence.
Wilfred Thesiger: The Life of the Great Explorer, Alexander Maitland (2007)