Are we really to believe that the mansion tax would stop Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie moving here?

Have they seen the price of a one-day travelcard?

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The Independent Online

Oh no. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie may not be coming to live in London after all. Asked by Jon Snow on Channel 4 News about the rumours that they were considering buying a pad in Marylebone, Ms Jolie said, “I have lived here before and in the future it would be very nice to have a foothold here for work.” But have you seen the price of houses in London, asked Snow, anxiously, as if the Californian goddess might be unaware of property costs in capital cities. And have you heard of the mansion tax that the next government might introduce? “I am quite responsible about money,” she replied. “That might put me off.”

Her father, Jon Voight, who played a down-and-out male prostitute in Midnight Cowboy, would be proud of her. Such a sensible attitude to cash for a woman whose combined net worth with her husband is £269m. It makes you wonder why we foolishly assume that super-rich American film and music stars don’t worry about the same things that concern us.  Do we imagine that they inhabit some seraphic realm where stuff like sickness, unpopularity, halitosis and garage bills  don’t exist? Yes we do, and we’re just wrong. The rich are just like us, only  they have more money.

If Angelina and Brad were to purchase (as is strongly rumoured) a £25m penthouse in London, the mansion tax seems to be one per cent of a property’s value per year, which would make it something like £25,000, an enormous sum which could be raised only by, I dunno, selling off one of her emerald rings, or giving up a day’s pay on her next movie.

The thought of the secular gods of modern culture even noticing the stuff that affects ordinary – even quite well-off – Londoners is quite funny. Consider the following tragic cases:

“Amal and I were thinking of buying a house in Marlow,” newly married George Clooney told a packed press conference yesterday. “But then we read in the newspaper about how NHS hospitals sometimes leave you unattended for  hours. It confirmed what I’d already heard. Robert De Niro told me, last time he visited the Home Counties, he was left for 14 hours on a trolley in an A&E department with no one attending to his gastrointestinal disorder. So we’ve changed our minds  about coming over here.”   

“The cost of living in London is a disgrace,” thundered veteran film  superstar Harrison Ford. “Calista and I have been considering a £20m duplex in Kensington Palace Gardens – handy for the park, home cinema, Stannah stairlift, seniors’ gym, the works. But have you  seen how much they charge folks to travel on the Subway Underground these days? A one-day travelcard used to be £7.30 – now it’s £8.70! Who the hell has that kind of money? So now we’re thinkin’ Paris, and gettin’ a nice apartment on the Rue de Rivoli…” 

“Mr Carter and I love London,” gushed Beyoncé Knowles at a Somerset House reception last night, “and for a while we were looking at this nine-bedroom house in the Sloane Street neighbourhood. It’s real old, kinda 1930s style, built for ‘Duchess’ Somebody. It’s only 85 mill. Everything was goin’ swell until this guy in a bar told me about something called the bedroom tax, which means if you have an unused spare room, you gotta pay the government thousands of your quids every year just for having it. We got, like, eight of them, so we said, ‘Uh-oh, no thanks.’”

“For years I look for a hacienda in beautifu’ London with my hunky esposo, Tom,” breathed supermodel Gisele Bundchen, “but I don’ know why, sometheeng always go wrong. Five years ago, we were gonna exchange contracts on a casita in Cornwall, when the gov’ment announce a tax on meat pasties. Thees a terr’ble blow because I pretty moch live on the steak an’ kidney ones.

“So we stop the sale. The tax she was remove, but too late. Then last month, we lookin’ at a condo in Knightsbridge – but we heard that Royal Mail can’t guarantee no more same-day delivery of parcels at old first-class rates. Eet was enough to put anyone off coming to your lovely city. So hasta la vista, London…”

The Emperor Napoleon’s new watches

The week’s most bizarre story concerns Viviane de Witt, CEO of a watchmaking company, who went to an auction of Napoleonic memorabilia in her native Geneva, and spent €29,000 on two items that contained bits of Bonaparte’s hair. She means to insert half-millimetre strands of the hair into 500 watches and flog them at €8,000 (£6,350) a pop.

A cradle Catholic, I’m no stranger to random insertions of semi-divine items into functional machines – like the crucifix at the end of the rosary you were given at confirmation. It was hollow and you could unscrew the end to discover a nasty little nub of something lying on a cloth. We were told it could be a sliver of the True Cross or a “relic” of a saint; we tried hard not to imagine which bit of the saint’s long-dead person it was.

We were expected to venerate our rosaries because of this mildly repellent cargo, but I can’t see the extra value that Boney’s barnet brings to a wristwatch.

Was the emperor legendary for his time-keeping? Was he famous for never being late for a battle? Was he an efficient absorber of shocks? Did he operate  under the sea, and was he waterproof  to 300 feet?

I bought Andrew Roberts’ new biography of the great man but it was silent on these important matters.  Finally I discovered that the co-founder  of de Witt’s is descended from Jerome,  the emperor’s brother, and the watches are aimed at “the new emperors” out there. So they can say to their wives,  “Not tonight Josephine – have you seen the time?”

What do you call a vaping room?

“Vape” is the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year, following “selfie” in 2013. It’s a verb meaning to suck an e-cigarette, puffing out a meagre efflorescence of vapour and looking a plonker in the process.

A good word for a modern world where simulacra have taken over from the real thing: downloads instead of records, screens instead of books, halogen lamps instead of lightbulbs, digital images instead of photographs, texts instead of phone calls.  I notice that new words associated with the act have entered the dictionary – vaping, vaper (the OED evidently drew the line at “vapist”) and “vaporium”, an almost-smoking room.

But nobody’s mentioned a word already in the dictionary that perfectly sums up the pleasure of not-really-smoking: vapid (defined as “adj. insipid or flat”). It was  there all the time, awaiting its moment.