It’s getting to the point that I’m now severely regretting offering to help Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie house-hunt in the UK.
For some reason when I was first introduced to Brangelina at an Oscars ceremony by Peter Jackson, the oddly photogenic couple got it into their collective celeb hive mind of a brain that I work as a London-based estate agent.
I think the misunderstanding arose when Peter told them I’d done some impressive alternative reality books, and they’d heard I was a high-end realtor with an impressive book of properties.
‘No,’ I yelled above the din of a food fight between Spielberg and Gérard Depardieu over whether Le Quai Des Brumes was really Jean Gabin’s finest film, ‘I’m an author! You know, as in steampunk.’
‘Steampunk,’ purred Angelina. ‘I love brown. Brown is really my signature colour. Could you find us a house with a brown theme in Mayfair, Steve?’
‘No!’ I insisted, ducking a glob of flying meunière sauce. ‘Author.’
‘Offer,’ said Brad. ‘Sure we can offer, Steve. You just find us the right property, and we’ll make an offer.’
‘No,’ I tried again. Then sighed, knowing a Schlieffen Plan-sized defeat when I stared at it. To my side the food fight had moved up a notch when Tom Selleck got smacked in the head by a near-liquid raspberry mousse. ‘Okay. Houses, then. What are you looking for?’
‘Brown. Big. Do you have brownstones in London?’ asked Brad.
‘Rolling Stones, maybe.’
‘We’ll be in touch.’
I thought they would forget about it, I really did. But sadly, no. I was half-way through writing a major battle scene towards the end of the third in my Far-called series when George RR Martin Skyped me. ‘Stephen,’ the Big M. drawled. ‘You’re about to get visitors. Get dressed you lazy slob. Out of your pajamas, stat.’
The Big M. was a fine one to lecture me. He was wearing those yellow pyjamas he always writes in. The pure cotton ones with the Batman logo duplicated a hundred times. ‘What are you talking about, George?’
‘I gave Angelina Jolie your London address. They just called me and asked for directions. Their chauffeur is lost.’
‘You frigging what! George, they think I’m a bloody estate agent.’
‘Jeez,’ the Big M. gave me his best cold white-walker stare. ‘You’re lucky, then. They think I’m some well-connected Hollywood taxi driver hick. I was halfway through shooting the last episode of season five of Thrones when they called me demanding a lift to the airport. I’d just finished a glass of wine at the time. Had to beg Peter Dinklage to drive them.’
‘Thanks, mate.’ The sly dog’s never really forgiven me for throwing up in his Gulfstream G350 on the way back from ComicCon that time. Most of the vomit comet went over Neil Gaiman, but enough of my Vesper Martini on full-reverse soiled George’s hand-monogrammed denelli seats that he still pulls %$£% like this on me. I’ll say one thing about the Big M. – that fella sure can carry a Nightfort-sized grudge.
The Big M. had barely closed the video connection when a bright red Bentley Mulsanne with the personalised plates BPAJ pulled into my drive.
‘This is great, Steve,’ smiled Angelina as I nervously opened the front door. ‘Your office has a really suburban vibe.’
‘But we’re not looking for suburban,’ added Brad, a touch too hastily. ‘Dalston or Hoxton, we’ve heard great things about them.’
‘Kevin Spacey simply adores Hoxton,’ said Angelina.
Brad Pitt slapped my elbow and gave a big honking laugh. ‘Only trouble is, he’s bought most of it and doesn’t want us to live there.’
Angelina shot him an angry look. Maybe there was a touch too much truth in that joke.
‘Croydon,’ I insisted. ‘Croydon is where it’s at. It’s like Manhattan.’ Yeah, Manhattan when the Manhattoes lived there, scalping puritans. I had just come up with a great wheeze to get myself fired from this estate agent gig before my publisher at Gollancz canned my arse for non-delivery of a manuscript. I was going to give Brangelina the commando-tour of Greater London. By the time I’d finished with them, they’d think that a war zone in the Middle East was a Muswell Hill-sized buying opportunity.
Ah. How little did I know.
An Authorly Odd Life – the Terribly True Tales of Life in the Word Mines, may well continue with another entry seized from the diary of Stephen Hunt . . .