I’m standing at a bus stop, staring at my Oyster card, marvelling that with its power I have managed to travel 15 miles from my home in South East London.
I am in Biggin Hill, which is supposedly in Bromley, London’s southernmost borough although I’m not so sure that’s an accurate descriptor.
Given it is a half-hour bus ride from Bromley South station, to claim Biggin Hill is actually in London would be a stretch of which only the most adept yoga instructors are capable. The fact that Oyster cards work here at all is a minor miracle.
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The reason I have ventured this far – and make no mistake, two hours of buses and trains make this an adventure – is because Tom Cruise reportedly lives nearby, and I want to see if any of the locals have spotted him around town.
I eye up the high street: Florist? Check. Beauty salon? Check. Spitfire-themed cafe? Oh boy. I try to picture the Mission: Impossible star cruising up and down the street in a black Mercedes Benz, stepping out for an hour in the sunbeds at the beauty salon.
Funnily enough, when I step into the beauty salon, that’s exactly what she assumes I’m there for. “Am I that pale?” I think, before remembering why I’m there and asking if she’s ever seen Tom Cruise.
The nice lady at the salon tells me Tom’s presence in Biggin Hill is common knowledge among locals – particularly in the Facebook Group Biggin Hill Gossip.
Many of the residents aren’t even sure the reports are true, due to the nature of Facebook group gossip, but they don’t seem too bothered that an A-lister lives down the road.
I ask the aforementioned florist if Tom has ever popped in for a bouquet, and she seems genuinely peeved that he hasn’t.
“He should be in here buying flowers,” she says. “But I’ve never seen him.”
Biggin Hill is home to a private airport, where celebs are known to fly in and out, so it’s no surprise Tom has chosen the area as his base while he films more Mission: Impossible.
The people of Biggin Hill are a quiet and reserved community (no one wanted to be named or pictured in this article, bemused as they were by the fact I’d come all the way from Zone 2 to stalk a movie star) so they didn’t seem to care whether or not Tom walked among them or not.
I hear variations on the same story from everyone I ask: a general awareness that he lives there, but a safe assumption he’ll never venture into the town centre. As a lady at the pet shop tells me: “There’s not much to do around here.”
That is until I venture into the vape shop (yes there was a vape shop) where the woman behind the counter nonchalantly tells me she sees Tom Cruise all the time in Waitrose.
“Surely not?” I think, picturing myself swanning back into work and confidently telling my editor that I’ve got the scoop: “Tom Cruise shops at a Waitrose in actual Bromley.” I’m going to get a pay rise, a promotion, a free week of holiday. This truly is what journalism is all about.
But I need to prove it. Ew.
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So off I go to Waitrose, where I get chatting with various people behind various counters. “Does Tom Cruise shop here?” I ask earnestly, hoping the pound signs in my eyes aren’t obvious. “Have you seen him? What does he buy?”
Sadly, the staff waste no time in putting a pin in the balloon that is my dream scoop: None of them have seen him – and if they had, news would have spread. Much like the florist and the woman from the tanning salon, the most they know is from what they’ve read online.
One of the kind ladies from the bakery looks at me pityingly, reminding me that an A-lister doing his own shopping, even in Waitrose, is a self-evidently ridiculous idea.
I exit Waitrose and sigh. Were two hours spent travelling to the very limits of what you could reasonably call Greater London in the slim hope I’d find someone who had once caught a glimpse of Tom Cruise worth it? Well kinda.
You see, while I didn’t meet Tom Cruise, the people I chatted to were all genuinely lovely and you can’t really be mad about that.
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