The Secret Agent

May 27, 2011 10:04 pm

Ego-homes required

Like most of us, I like to think I’m able to read people well but some reveal much more of themselves than others

“I need to take a deep breath, strip down and go for a long swim in Lake Me,” said my client from Los Angeles. Never have I met anyone of such unparalleled self-involvement equalled only by her ability to name-drop with a positively beguiling lack of self-awareness. She really is a tour de force defining the narcissistic stereotype. I long to introduce her to my brother – a psychotherapist and writer – so he can give a professional analysis. I don’t think he would thank me though.

Like most of us, I like to think that I’m able to read people well but some reveal much more of themselves than others. That game of obfuscation and inscrutability can be intriguing at first but after a certain amount of time loses its allure. There’s certainly no attempt at obfuscation on this client’s part as we look around St John’s Wood mansions while she tells me her prodigy son could get into any school in London but they will probably settle for the American one.

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I rather wanted Big Daddy there as, if so inclined, he can out-name-drop the best of them. If she’d come up with a duke he would have parried with a senior member of the royal family; if she’d offered Jude Law his counter would have been Brad and Angie; if she’d thrown Richard Branson at him he’d have riposted with Bill Gates. Though probably she’d have been oblivious to his trumping and would have marched blindly on – subtlety and nuances are two characteristics she either doesn’t rate or recognise. I’m tempted to pass the client on to my business partner GG but will soldier away listening to tales of dinners with the Michael Douglases, lunches with Jack Nicholson and working out with Demi Moore. I don’t quite believe any of it.

By contrast, GG and I have signed up a very different type of client – the type we like. Firstly he’s looking for something that we’d both like to live in ourselves. I hasten to add that it doesn’t impede us in our searches when tastes differ as we’ve trained ourselves to see through the eyes of our clients – though sometimes a meeting in person is necessary to have that clarity of understanding. It just makes it more fun if we can be equally enthused by a property.

This acquisition is a real case of delving in the treasure trove of the property chest – for though the new client is looking in the smarter neighbourhoods of London (Belgravia, Chelsea, South Kensington, Holland Park and Little Venice) he’s prepared to be open. He is property driven and wants something with good bones, or rather bones that have a potential for a wow factor, and he’s not afraid to do work. So many purchasers now are only interested in the “turn-key” properties and wish to arrive the day after completion with toothbrush in hand. It’s the sort of foraging we most enjoy as there’s a real sense of pleasure when the right thing is found – which I’m optimistic will happen. His expectations are realistic and his budget generous – which always helps.

. . .

I’m back the following day with my Los Angelean who’s wittering on about how she’s celebrated not just in Beverly Hills but across California for her parties. She goes on to tell me about the support team necessary to run her life – personal assistants, manicurists, masseurs, personal shopper (though she herself has a great eye, she informs me, the shopper is there more to catalogue her “pieces”), driver (an essential as she needs to make calls in the car) and so it goes on. As I feel my irritation rise, I think back to two days prior when a friend called and asked what I’d done with the day.

I had been to my British Military Fitness class running around Hyde Park, which had been followed by a quick saunter into the office and a debrief with GG. I headed then to a session with my therapist followed by lunch with an Italian friend. From tuna carpaccio and vongole I went on to meet my friend Charles, also my decorator, to talk fabrics for my new flat before speeding off to see Alex (a top stylist), who’d offered to give her advice on a new suit. Prada purchased (against all my puritan instincts), we took a glass of champagne at the bar. This I reported. “Heavens,” my friend protested over the phone, “and you accuse this client of self-indulgence?”

“Well I can see how it sounds,” I protested, “but the last two are good friends” – and then I added in a very small voice – “and it was my birthday.”

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