By Margie Skinner.
Yesterday, together with three friends, I had a great morning’s tour taking a closer look at Soho, led by a Blue Badge Guide. We started at The London Palladium. Its famous ‘Saturday Night At…’ featured many stars, including the Fab Four. Apparently after one of their early appearances they were greeted with such manic fans outside that one of the newspapers used the term ‘Beatle-mania’. And so a new term was born. There was a big crowd today, waiting not for us, but for a certain Lord of the Dance, and so we were witness to ‘Flatleymania,’ which somehow doesn’t have the same ring to it.
The elegant Libertys was bustling with activity, and the flower shop looked blooming lovely! We learnt something about the store’s history. It was opened by one Arthur Lasenby Liberty (before he went on to star as 007). The present Tudor revival building was made using the beams from two ships. Presumably big ones. I liked the quotation above the arch:
”No moment gone comes ever back again, take heed and see ye nothing do in vain”
and I intend to adhere to that advice until at least Thursday lunchtime.
Carnaby street was strangely quiet and although I was a little worried that the ‘Trendy Police’ might descend and impose a ban upon me, we got as far as the Soho mural upon which much musing and pointing ensued. It depicts many of the features and characters associated with the area. There was Ronnie Scott, next to Jeffrey Barnard (shown in the days when he was still clearly quite well), and I was astounded to see a beardy chap reading a book entitiled ‘DK’ ! (some of you may know that I used to work for prestigious publisher Dorling Kindersley). The guide assured us that it was Karl Marx and that the book was ‘Das Kapital’, but I have my suspicions.
I enjoyed looking at the lovely front doors and flower boxes in Meard Street, and hearing about Sebastian Horsley, self confessed dandy, and notorious womaniser. The door of the house he used to live in has a plaque to make clear to passers by that they should not be duped about the goings on inside. It reads:
THIS IS NOT A BROTHEL. THERE ARE NO PROSTITUTES AT THIS ADDRESS
Outside The John Snow pub in Broadwick Street we discussed cholera and The Big Stink. This sewage sodden part of London’s history seemed to be something we all knew a bit about already. But we got to see the actual kerbstone which commemorates the Broadwick Street water pump identified by John Snow, epidemiologicalist of repute (try saying that after an evening in said pub), as the source of the cholera causing so many deaths.
Soon after this the others in the group saw a REAL LIFE FAMOUS PERSON, in the shape of Billy Connolly. All I noticed was some nudging and muttering and by the time my ‘What? What? WHaaat?’ had been answered in a whisper, the moment and the man had passed. Apparently he looked and is very ill :-(.
Soho square was a lovely place to end the tour. I wanted to see the bench dedicated to Kirsty McColl in tribute to her song ‘One day I’ll be waiting there /No empty bench in Soho Square’, but unfortunately someone was sat upon it.
Oh and did you know the name ‘Soho’ is thought to derive from an old hunting cry, uttered when smaller prey like a fox was spotted? ‘Tallyho’ was used for larger game.
Happy exploring folks.....