You know how you think back to things and with hindsight you wonder why you didn't react differently? Looking back I should have punched the man in the tweed suit.....here's what happened.
Back in 1996 I was flying to London to see my pals and do some open spot comedy gigs. I was super excited and chatty and couldn't wait to get there, it wasn't often I got such freedom and the thought of being in London filled me with a rush of excitement. I was giddy.
I sat beside a middle aged old fashioned looking man possibly in his late 50s but he was dressed the way I think men in 1960s British movies dressed. You know all tweed, brogues and rainmac over the arm, he had everything except a hat but was Scottish. We got chatting and he explained he flew to London for business, I never said what I was doing, just 'going to see friends' and we were engaged in a good old natter.
"I am down every month, my friends and I go to Soho, we visit a woman's flat, it's near an ice cream cafe which does a good coffee as well....and we see a woman, she isn't like a prostitute but a woman who likes a drink and we bring her some good vodka and she would 'see' to us fella's who like a good time" he told me with a twinkle in his eye. He added "do you like to party, my friends would like you?"
I don't wear wedding rings and don't start conversations with 'my husband and I" as I am not a member of the Royal Household nor am I living in 1953. So as this chat had progressed it dawned on me he assumed I was single and was going to London for some high jinkery or partying of some sort...am not sure. Maybe he thought there was a time portal at arrivals and this was 1960 and I had a pad and needed a 'man to help pay the rent'....I don't know!
I faced him squarely on the seat and looked right into his eyes and said "No I don't drink and don't fancy fucking strange men in wool suits in some Soho bedsit, in fact that sounds a rapey nightmare to me" I smiled and fiddled with my Sony Walkman.
"Oh no don't get me wrong, we would make sure you had fun" he touched my arms reassuringly.
Me being me, so blasé about prostitution (who should judge?) and creepy old men hitting on me on aeroplanes, I laughed and said "no, you probably won't make sure I had fun, I have a 34 year old husband at home and his skin still fits him, why would I want to screw some old dirty toffs for vodka, mate I owned a pub for 15 years, I don't even drink, I don't want to fuck you, but can you tell me where the good ice cream shop is?"
We sat in silence for the rest of the journey and I wondered about the woman in the flat above the cafe who lets middle class men fuck her for vodka...that made me feel sad.
Years now I have been visiting Soho, it's my favourite place on the planet. I have performed there, I have done live TV news from there, I did my one woman play there...I adore the place, the bricks, the cobbled streets, the paparazzi on motorbikes chasing people with flash cameras and the screaming girls when they spot a pop star. I love the Ramen cafe, the bars, the Groucho Club; the belligerent Italians who serve you bitter coffee in tiny cups....
Yet still every old cafe I see I stare above it and search the windows and look for the poor woman behind the dirty windows....and wonder if she is ok now.
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