I AM IN LONDON. In Chelsea to be precise, at the entrance to Wellington Square off the King’s Road, where I am being interviewed for the French radio station RTL – à distance sociale – about James Bond. The reason why we’re at Wellington Square is because this is where James Bond lived. Obviously, James Bond is a fictional character and didn’t actually live anywhere. However, it is strange how in the case of some fictional characters a kind of reality begins to take over their lives, as if they really did live and breathe, had an actual address and a mortgage.
I point out to the interviewer that, a few yards across the King’s Road from where we’re standing, almost directly opposite, is the entrance to Bywater Street. Believe it or not, I tell him, another famous fictional spy, John le Carré’s George Smiley, lived in Bywater Street. This extraordinary coincidence causes some excited consternation and we stop recording and cross the road. In Bywater Street, we start recording again. “George Smiley lived here? Amazing. What number?” the interviewer asks. Number 9, I say. You see what I mean.