Sunday, 15 February 2015

denmark street

Down the way from the Tottenham Court Road
Just round the corner from old Soho
There's a place where the publishers go
If you don't know which way to go
Just open your ears and follow your nose
'Cos the street is shakin' from the tapping of toes
You can hear that music play anytime on any day

A return to Soho and its environs on Friday last week brought back some good memories. I’ve written before about my younger days wandering around there and, thankfully, there is still a cosy familiarity about the place.

I wasn’t aware that the Tottenham Court Road tube station is currently shut so I got off the train at Holborn and walked up via Shaftesbury Avenue. Again, all familiar. I got to the Dog and Duck exactly at one o’clock and was a bit shocked to find out that they don’t seem to sell London Pride any more. So a pint of Nicholsons was the only real alternative. My friend came in soon after and we decided to have lunch there so Scampi and chips were procured and we were ready to go for a wander.

As we walked up Bateman Street and turned left into Greek Street I looked around to see what changes had been made. Very few beyond the new names of restaurants and bars. The Pillar of Hercules was still there, we turned to walk under the arch and into Manette Street. The familiar large windows of Foyles seemed different. I wasn’t aware that Foyles had started to sell cheap luggage, so I assumed that something quite big had changed.

We crossed the road to wander down Tin Pan Alley and we went into several vintage guitar shops. A Gibson acoustic from 1957 hung on a wall with a price tag of some five thousand pounds. Nearby a 1920s Martin sat looking inviting. It was in the sale. Down a thousand from the asking price of £9995! The bloke in the shop said we could have a go of anything if we wanted. That way madness lies – I don’t think I’m worthy enough to waste his time getting it down off the wall. A quick retreat.
There is a petition – nowadays online, of course – to saveDenmark Street and other parts of the area
including the 12 Bar in Denmark Street itself. The attempt at homogenising Soho into rows of the same bland looking shop fronts of every other town in Britain continues but there are some pockets of resistance. I guess it's all about big fish devouring little fish. The trouble is, I guess, is that it’s all very well to want places to stay the same but if people don’t use these places then why should they? My barber commented on something similar recently. We were discussing the movement of Community pubs that seems to have started over recent years. If people in small communities – villages mainly – want to keep their local pubs as locals and not become private houses then they should use them! The reason these places are closing down is because these very people aren’t frequenting them. That’s not rocket science is it?

Our visit to Soho was rather fleeting, nothing more than an afternoon really but I was quite pleased that if this change is happening then it won’t be instant. The guitar shops of Denmark Street are still there, Macari’s is still in Charing Cross Road as is the Phoenix Theatre is still there – currently showing Once with Ronan Keating starring* - and even little Fopp Records is hanging on down on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue. Fopp is a fairly recent shop but at least it is a half decent record shop. There aren't many of them left it seems. Decent ones that is.

I've long-since been banned from buying musical instruments especially when going to London so I came home with nothing but a pleasant memory of an afternoon well-spent revisiting my youthful haunts. Just time for a last pint in the Blue Posts (it was the only one selling London Pride - maybe Mr Cornell can explain the loss of pubs selling it).

Ah well, until May when I return again . . .

*Mrs Dave and I saw it in New York in the summer - I'm assuming that Mr Keating's accent will be a lot more authentic than the ones we heard!

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