So here is an account of just one of the many adventures that I had in London whilst on holiday with the Irishman, and that I promised that I would write about earlier this week. In case anyone reading this has accidently stumbled upon this post by Googling a totally unrelated subject such as Incontinence pads, Nicorette gum or Dachshunds (and trust me, this has happened) please don’t rush off! Stay and read on as what I am about to reveal may come in useful to you one day and you may even find yourself quite enjoying it. You can get back to your Googling later.
In terms of size, London compared to Jakarta is miniscule, a teensy weensy pimple on the face of the earth, but it was my birthplace and home for a number of years, and despite the occasional gripe that I may have about it I do have great affection for the place. In the next couple of posts I am going to take you on a tour of places that I particularly love and that I think are well worth visiting should you find yourself at a loose end or are new to London.
One of the areas of London that the Irishman and I particularly love to hang out in is Soho. Steeped in a rich and somewhat colourful history, this wonderfully multicultural part of London has long been famous as a place of ill repute and hedonism, and an area where writers, poets and artists have tradionally flocked to. These days it’s inhabitants are mostly from the media and advertising sectors but it still maintains a strong creative and musical culture.
As evening starts to fall, it’s pavements and streets start to fill with folk, young and old who visit the multitudinous bars, clubs, pubs and music venues such as Ronnie Scotts and Raymond’s Revue. During the day it teems with the media luvvies and business people whom work there and the stallholders and market traders shouting their wares in Berwick Street. The fact that this part of London is also residential gives it a lovely homey feel as well and means that it feels alive everyday of the week.
The elegant and well preserved Georgian streets abound not only with restaurants and places to drink, but are a magnet also for fashionadas who on tiring of Oxford Street are drawn to Carnaby Street and the surrounds for places to shop for clothes and accessories. Amidst this bustling and lively area, is a wealth of wonderfully eclectic and fashionable shops selling trendy vintage clothes, uber cool jewellery, and sharp mod style suits if that’s your thing. Whether you are a snappy dresser, a bon viveur, or simply someone who likes to get off the beaten track, look no further than Soho for all that your heart desires. If this is all beginning to sound a bit like an article from a Lonely Planet guide, fear not, I shall be cutting to the chase soon.
Soho has long been associated with the sex industry, so strip joints, sex shops, sex clubs and all manner of exciting things belonging to the steamier side of life can be found here whatever ones sexual predilections or persuasion.
If I start listing every single one of the pubs that I have frequented over my years in Soho, you might start to get the idea that I’m a terrible lush, and you wouldn’t be far wrong but the truth is that pubs are very much part of our social scene and the sort of places that we typically meet friends in after work and at weekends. This may seem like a lame excuse, but they are an Essential part of English culture and London has its fair share of particularly good ones if you know where to look for them (this is when reading the blog of a lush may actually come in rather useful should you ever need a recommendation)
At the corner of Carnaby Street and Beak Street there is a famous pub called The Old Coffee House which funnily enough a few hundred years ago, did indeed sell coffee and nothing else. This was due to the temperance movement which was designed to lure lushes such as myself away from their favourite tipple and onto caffeine. Plainly this Temperance movement was not a howling success which is why it’s now a pub, and why I rarely, if ever, visit Starbucks.
Although I like The Old Coffee House very much, I prefer The Sun and 13 Cantons, a pub which is a little further down Beak Street on the corner with Gt Poultney Street.
At the bottom end of Gt Poultney Street lies Brewer Street and it is here that the Irishman and I threw all financial caution to the winds and enjoyed lunch two days running at Randall and Aubin, a wonderful seafood and oyster bar. This popular restaurant has been running for over 16 years but is new to us in our ‘eating out’ repertoire – I can highly recommend it.
It was during our second day in a row of indulgences at Randall and Aubin that the Irishman started complaining that he needed his beard trimmed. When I cast a critical eye at him over the rim of my wine glass, he had indeed gone from something of a George Michael look-a-like to more of a Father Christmas type and I could see that something did need to be done to rectify the situation. As our dapper young waiter came to collect our empty plates I though it pertinent to ask him if he knew of any barbers shops in the locality that might be able to improve upon the Irishman’s facial furniture. Whilst the young lad was having a think about where we might go, I noticed that he had the most perfectly groomed eyebrows and so I made a point of complimenting him on them and then commenting on the fact that I’d never been served by a woman, let alone a man who had such wonderful eyebrows. Rather than be embarrassed by this, he was delighted that I should have noticed and so then regaled us with his beauty tips and hints including waxing and tinting. I wasn’t even aware that you could get your eyebrows tinted so this little beauty factoid quite made my day.
We thanked our waiter, paid the bill and headed off towards Berwick Street Market where we were told we might have some joy in finding a barbers shop. The first place we tried was down an alleyway opposite a grubby doorway advertising ‘Escorts’. The Barbers said that they were busy even though the place was quite clearly empty ( on reflection I think it maybe a waiting room for the brothel opposite under the guise of a hairdressing shop) but not giving up easily we tried another one round the corner and where told to come back in a couple of hours. By this stage Irishman was beginning to run out of steam and patience but I insisted that we should keep looking for somewhere that could deal with his hirsute problem plus the fact I didn’t like the idea of a string of kids shouting out ‘Hey Mom, look, there’s Santa’ for the rest of our holiday.
Walking up Berwick Street in the late afternoon sun which was now busy with the stall- holders packing up for the day, we passed an old haunt of ours, a tiny but very lovely restaurant called Mediterranean. Unfortunately the Irishman and I have been banned from this place for life but that’s not a reason to stop me highly recommending it to you. The food is excellent and good value, and as the name suggests of Italian origin. Opera music plays sweetly in the background, and the cosy interior is decorated with posters and prints. The waiters are friendly and attentive. Whatever you do though, never have a marital row in there, you will not be welcomed back…
As we wistfully passed the open doorway and delicious aromas emanating from Mediterranean, the Irishman quite by chance spotted a staircase right next to it leading directly up from the street with an illuminated sign above saying ‘Italian Hairstylists’. ‘If this place can’t trim my bloody beard, I’m giving up’ he said as he bounded up the dingy stairwell and made his way to the top, me following behind him, not in the least bit hopeful.
They say that as one door closes, another one opens, and that my friends is how we came to find ourselves at Pasquales – both metaphorically and physically. On reaching the first floor we found an open door and on entering, a room that looked like some sort of hairdressing crime scene. The floor was littered with old towels, and strewn with magazines, brushes and rubbish and the sinks were full of empty shampoo bottles. A mountain of junk was taking up half the counter and most of the seats, and the walls were covered in scribblings and knick knacks. As there didn’t seem to be any sign of life we both simultaneously shouted out loudly to get some attention. Out of nowhere a Chinese gentleman appeared and we inquired if there was anyone about to do a spot of beard trimming. ‘Oh Pasquales outside somewhere but I’ll shout for him’. He left the room howling with laughter and us in blissful ignorance of what was to come.
Irishman sank himself down into one of the few chairs that was not covered in a heap of detritus as we waited for Pasquale’s imminent arrival. We didn’t have to wait long; Within the blink of an eye Pasquale, cigarette in hand and a little unsteady on his feet and the worse for wear arrived yielding the implement needed to rid Irishman of some length off his beard. I watched in horror, the terror in my husband’s eyes as Pasquale staggered towards him with the blade. The first lunge missed him entirely, the second was not much better but by the third attempt he was beginning to get the hang of it. Five minutes later and five pounds poorer we left Pasquales with tears streaming down our faces from laughter. Now we understood perfectly why the Chinese gentleman had thought our visit so amusing.
Conveniently situated just two doors down from Pasquales, is The Blue Posts. This is not to be confused with The Blue Posts on Rupert Street, or The Blue Posts in Fitzrovia, nor The Blue Posts in St James’s.
The sheer joy and relief of getting out of Pasquales with the Irishman’s eyesight still intact and indeed his life come to think of it, meant that we had a bone fide reason to celebrate, so it was cider all round whilst we waited for our friends to arrive. Our perfect day in Soho was rounded off with a wild evening spent in the sublime Milk and Honey club in Poland Street.
This post is dedicated to my favourite Milkman in the world. Thank you Stew.
18 thoughts on “Sex, Pubs and Lemon Sole.”
I absolutely love how you lead up to “cutting to the chase,” Lottie! I’ve been literally on the edge of my seat, huge smile on my face whilst soaking up your insider’s knowledge of London and studying your brilliant photos. The boots? Yes, to die for. The door of The Sun and 13 Cantons…made me feel wistful. I’m sure you won’t find this odd at all (being that we’re sisters), but the pubs were one of my favorite parts of the UK, for the socializing (the alcohol), of course.
Your photo at Randall and Aubin: the light, the chandler, the years on those tiles. Stunning.
Very glad you and your Irishman survived your “Italian Hairstylist” adventure. I was in stitches! We didn’t make it to the Soho area when we were in London; however, your account is so entertaining and colorful, we most definitely will not miss it when we go back.
Sister, I am so delighted that you liked this post – what an accolade. You write so well and take such stunning photographs that I’m more than made up that you enjoyed it, Thank you, and your lovely comments are much appreciated.
If this post has inspired you to go back to London, and Soho in particular, then I’ve done my job – what more can I say than please let me know how you find it and I can’t wait to see what you make of it because I just know that it will be very interesting and, with fantastic pictures 🙂 xx
Love the photos. Want to know… how was the trim? Did your Irishman look any better.
I’m glad you liked the photos Lorijo 🙂
The trim was superb and the Irishman left Pasquales looking like a new man. There were a few areas that had been missed, but I tackled them later with a pair of nail scissors. I reckon that Pasquale and I could go into business together.
The beard is well and back into shape after its hair raising adventures!
I loved the story Lottie! It has definitely made me want to visit Soho. I also wonder if the “Italian hairstylist” can cut really long sideburns and shape them up for me? I am in need of a trim right now…. 🙂
I’d get straight over to Pasquales if I were you! he’ll sort them out for you 🙂
Glad you liked this post and I really hope you get to London soon, I think you’ll love it and a certain small person in your charge will just adore Hamleys.
Makes me feel quite homesick. I haven’t been back in years but my friends tell me that nobody goes to pubs anymore and it’s all coffee, juice bars and bubble tea these days.
I have to admit, it makes me feel quite homesick just writing about it and I’ve only been back in Jakarta a week!!
I’m sure lots of people do go to juice bars and cafes and that’s great because it means that I have a better chance of finding a seat or a bar stool to perch on when I’m all cosied up in a favourite watering hole.
Good pubs are still as popular as ever and there is no evidence of a temperance movement as far as I can see. In fact things may even be going from bad to worse with the new licensing rules in pubs allowing customers to drink longer into the night and start earlier in the morning. The rudest shock was the price of a packet of 10 cigarettes £4.20 and a pack of 20 anything between £8 and £9 quid. That being said, smoking is a disgusting, filthy habit and if the prohibitive price helps people quit then that’s all for the good (said Lottie stubbing out a cigarette as she writes this very line)
There are a number of things that I don’t miss about London in the least but certainly quite a few that I do. For now though I’m enjoying my new life in Indonesia and the challenges and adventures that it brings. I’m making new friends, learning bahasa Indonesia, getting involved in various schemes and voluntary projects and generally learning the ropes in a new country. It’s great going back to London but it’s also great to get back here despite the fact that there are a derth of pubs and a proliference of juice bars!
Thanks for ‘liking’ and tweeting about my last post Lottie! Love the info about London! Great photos too!
My pleasure! and thanks for your lovely email, it was great to hear from you. I’ve just arrived back in Bali for 5 days and it’s heaven 🙂
I loved it so much that I also put it on my Fbk wall 🙂
Very Far Side, just loved it! so many surprises along the way, the opening hooked me ! A visit to the barbers that’s a good title!
It is a good thing that your blog went away and I thought I could find you quickly by clicking on your name next to your comment. To my horror I saw that my address to you was “Nettie.” Now, in reality and as much as I hate to admit it- I have what I call mild dyslexia. So, in my mind I transferred the (Ne) of your last name to your first name, hence the (nettie) Lottie Nevin- nettie. Oh well what the hell. If you saw that please do not hate me. Anyhow back to the task at hand. I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep from giggling my head off and crying at the same time. I am still smiling everytime I think of the chinese man and the doo-funny barber. Notice that I love putting odd names on some people. (My husband loved doing that and I for one never did it much in his presence since he would often take offense if I gave one of his hunting buddies a name that I thought was more fitting than their real name.) That was an aside. However, after all of the derailed irrelevant rambing I will get back to basics. Are you a writer by profession? If not, you missed your calling when you were young and could have been writing a lot sooner. But as that old saying goes, “better late than never.”
I had a goat once that I called Auntie Nettie – I also had a cow called Nettles, so far from hating you, I rather love the new moniker that you have given me!
No, sadly I am not a writer, but as I mentioned in the About Me section, I love to communicate. I’m so glad that you enjoy reading my blog Yvonne, and your lovely words have made my day, thank you.
You are welcome. I do not flatter to make one feel good unless maybe if it were someone who looked down and out and then I would say, you are looking a little green around the gills but otherwise you are looking fine and dandy.”
.We have some things in common including cigarettes which I no longer smoke because the nicotine made my BP go up. As I grew older the cigs were causing dizziness, as well. Old age is hell, Lottie.
So you had a goat when young. Goats are great pets unless it becomes mean.
I had a pet goat for 2-3 years and then I came home one day and he was gone. My daddy told me that he had been stomped by the mules which is possible but I think he sold him to somebody for cabaritio. I’ve had Biily Bob, a goat for about the past 9- 10 years. My son made him mean and he would butt me and hurt me if I went into his pen.He is just a fixture but I hope that he lives to be an”old goat.” I’ll write about him soon and maybe I will put a photo up for you to see, sooner rather than laterl
I had a very overgrown beard shaved off for charity 10 years ago. We were at a conference in Shanghai (or was it Beijing. One Chinese city looks much like another to me). It seemed a fairly easy way to raise a few quid but what I had not bargained for was that they weren’t going to use the hotel / conference centre barber. Oh no. They grabbed some local bloke off the street. In he came with a cut-throat razor, completely bemused that he was going to be on stage in front of a couple of hundred citizens of the world from Argentina to Zambia to remove what one colleague had unkindly referred to as “the hedge”. I’m pretty sure I was more worried than he was but he did the job without blood-letting. Somewhere there is a picture of me with half the face shaved and the other not. No picture but there is a link to confirm the story. http://allafrica.com/stories/200212030378.html
V cool story and love the confirmation link!!
Our experience was achingly funny, we wept with laughter afterwards but at the time I was convinced that Pete was going to lose and eye or end up with blood all over his face.
Nice work Andrew and good for you for agreeing to shave off your beard for charity 🙂