Sophie Parkin

Sophie Parkin

Tales from the Colony Room book

Being in West London Last Night Reinforced Soho

 

Soho Nights, Soho Daze

 

For The Clarion

 

I was late. I am always late, somehow it would be wrong to be early, it wouldn’t go with the setting. My daughter always says that it’s orange and red that clash but I’d say it was Soho and early.

 

When I was 18, I was too early for Soho. I used to climb the moss-green staircase up to The Colony Room in Dean Street, and Ian Board from his throne would predictably say to me –

 

‘What the fuck are you doing here cunty? You’re too early. Piss off and come back later.’

 

So I did; 25 years later. Now I have the insouciant of the laconic who is habitually late,  I have given up apologising.

 

I arrive at the French to Hilary’s Renoir wide smile, as red as a good slap, and Carla’s Romanesque beauty.

 

‘Where’ve you been you old tart?’ they say in unison and I worry that word has got around town.

 

‘Less of the old,’ I reply raising an eyebrow.

 

Carla whispers into my ear – ‘I was a little drunk the other night. I’m so sorry I hope you don’t remember what I said.’

 

‘Nada, rien, not a word,’ I lie.

 

Of course in the morning I have sat down and tapped out the tales of miscreants and adulterous drug takers, the diaries of lost performing women and feckless falling men. I make notes of red-wine stained mouths telling impenetrable truths to wide-eyed, star-struck girls. Occasionally overwhelmed with imbibing all the salacious gossip of Soho that drips off the ceiling (‘she took him home and he wet the bed, he did!’), I look at the famed photo of Maurice chevalier’s cheeky grin of recognition. Plus ca Change eh!

 

Nothing changes we spill out onto the pavement.

 

An elderly priest stands next to me ‘That is a very interesting skirt you are wearing, I hope you don’t mind…’

 

‘Not at all, thank you.’

 

‘It’s just that I wanted to be an architect, but my parents wouldn’t allow it.’

 

‘Is it too late?’

 

‘I think so. I’m a priest in Northamptonshire. Please do come and visit.’

 

‘I’m very fond of churches.’

 

‘I like Soho you see I also like boys. I’m a homosexual. I hope I haven’t shocked you.’

 

‘No, but my friends have arrived so…It was nice talking to you.’

 

I turn back to say, but the small, white haired, dog collared man has disappeared into a wave of denim and leather that froths through Old Compton streets coffee bars.

 

‘Shall we get away from the crowds and go to The Colonic?’ says Martin, so we do. Past the Soho Adult Bookshops display of soft porn, the black closed doors of The Groucho, Kenny Claytons piano tinkles its way sweetly down the stairs. Inside it’s vacuum packed. Conversation jumps and drifts.

 

‘Have you heard Sebastian got sacked for discussing anal sex in too much depth.’

 

‘I’ve had blow jobs that didn’t feel like sex.’

 

‘I’ve given blow jobs that weren’t sex!’

 

‘I thought I recognised you.’

 

‘So I said to him, do whatever you like with me, just don’t wake me up.’

 

‘Oh lovely.’

 

Michael’s tirade of spend up, drink up and fuck off, carries us down in an inebriated stream all the way to Gerry’s.(‘Ok but I’m only going for one.’ ‘You always say that!’)

 

The George buzzes us in, we rabble rouse down the stairs and the other Michael greets us sophisticatedly leaning on the bar and puffing on a cheroot looking forever like a missing BeeGee waiting for Ms Striesand. He tells me a story too indiscrete to tell anyone about Peter O’Toole and Kevin Spacey. Paul croons Sinatra as we stumble back upstairs. Blacks is closed, Groucho is well too too and we are so hungry that we would eat a horses head or Jimmy the Greeks. So we climb the staircase somewhere about Chinatown and order deep-fried chilli garlic squid, Pancakes and brown plum sauce covered in shredded duck and pale cold strips of cucumber, the noodles all tangled with beef and black bean.

 

Just as we are filling our stomachs and agreeing what a mighty good night it’s been, the restaurant says no more beer or tea, they want to close. Want to close!

 

‘But it’s early,’ we remonstrate, ‘too early. I mean what time could it be?’

 

It is late. I am late as usual, catching my black cab home, but I have made it. I have left too early for the morning, the real Soho daze, of staggering out from the Soho Hotel to smile bashfully at the giant black cat, mascara smudged, sun glasses in place, to sashay down the walk of shame. Ah, Nina Hamnett, and Patrick Hamilton would be proud, nothings changed, plus ca change, eh Maurice.

 

 

 

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