Sleazy conurbation

Of bars, clubs and cabaret shows

Home of free thinkers and heavy drinkers

Sharp dressers and cutting-edge messers

Dirty, smelly, noisy Soho

Spotty chain-smoking youths

Multi-national and multi-lingual touts

Red lights everywhere

Ne’ery a green to be seen

Except that worn by some blousy Queen.

Strip clubs, massage parlours, sex cinemas, sex shops

Porn squad wallahs on the look for their brown-envelope ‘drops’

Gay boys and girls and those in between

Gerry’s, The Colony Rooms, Groucho’s, The Union and Soho House

And pubs like  the York Minsiter andThe Coach and Horses

Showing tired old louche faces in the early morning neon-lit arches

Low-lifers, high-lifers, romantic and realists

Drunks and dreamers

And Mr Big always smiling with the other behind-the-scene schemers

Madam Jojo, Molly Parkin, Francis Bacon, John Minton

The Studio Club and Muriel Belcher

Telling new faces ‘fuck off, cunty, I don’t like the look of you’

Then winking cheekily out of the blue.

The Windmill and Paul Raymond

Where girls peeled off for pleasure as well as cash

And men sat in the front row all day

With a bowler hat or a newspaper on their knee

The Kray Twins sipping coffee

Jeffrey Barnard always studying form

George Melly, The Marquee, the Flamingo,

Georgie Fame, The Who, John Pearse

El Paradise, Brewer Street, Louise’s,

Steve Strange, Billy’s.

Brothels and brothel creepers,

Perverts and goggle-eyed peepers

Sticky carpets, foul toilets, bad drinks.

Hookers, rent boys and moody gangsters

Boy George, Marilyn, Siobhan Fahey,

Marc Almond, punk-rocking Bowie fans

The Irish House,

Stephen Linard and gold lame Elvis suits,

Soul, funk, reggae goth, punk, electro, jazz

Graphic designers, painters, artists,

Writers, film-makers, poets,

Trendies, trannies, tourists and shirkers

Street walkers and dog-tired club workers.

SOHO, the buzzing queen bee of London



This poem has always hit the spot for me.

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN  by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Just been reading a review of GUANTANAMO DIARY by Mohamedu Ould Slahi. Incarcerated without trial since 2001, he was first held in a prison in Jordan, then after seven months of interrogation he was stripped, blindfolded, shackled and flown to a US airbase in Afghanistan. A fortnight later he was shipped to Guantanamo Bay. So begins a nightmare story worthy of Kafka. Thirteen years later he remains in a segregation cell some 4000 miles from his home in Mauritania. He has never been charged with a crime.

His handwritten manuscript was written nearly a decade ago, all 466 pages, after months of physical, psychological and sexual abuse. It took years for his lawyers to obtain the declassified diary. Slahi asks regularly during interrogations, ‘what am I accused of?’. He never receives a straight answer, and his efforts to tell the truth only anger;

Looks like a dog

walks like a dog

smells like a dog

barks like a dog

must be a dog

In the end he resorts to false confessions to end the torment. He lives in abject terror, suffering sleep deprivation, sexual assaults, beatings and threats against his mother’s life and his own. He is forced to drink salt water, and convinced he will be murdered.

Before the manuscript was released, US government censors pored over it, adding 2,500 black bar redactions. A federal judge ordered his release in 2010 but after 4 years he is still locked up. Why?  A must-read for me.