Monday, 15 November 2010

Friday, 12 November 2010

Sick Of Hearing Otherwise :: SOHO

“Pound a bowl, pound a bowl”, they snarl. All nicey nicey on the face of it, until you drop a pear or query the price or you don’t cough up for the doctor’s orders.

Berwick street market, its bullies armed only with a Cockney accent to scare off the prevailing gentrification. Not that this is to be unexpected.

Overhead willowy women sag their hair and limbs from the windows and holla down for some mackeral.

The traders hurl one up along with that peach which has been dropped on the floor. Romance isn’t dead, as we’re told, it’s just a little less appealing to the desperados who write the script.

Hailing requests gives the girls something more fun to do than wait for the group of Asian boys cajole a member of their clan to jump up to jannah.
Onlookers think they’re getting a glimpse of an underbelly with scenes like this but it’s literally only the tits of the fuck. Titilations to underpin soho’s reputation.
Soho. Where cash is king. An island of idiocy. With its various industries and its pissed-on’s firing us on all cylinders into a soggyfuture. Soho. A vestige of unscrupulous selfishness.

‘Pound a bowl, pound a bowl of 12 avocados that anywhere else in the world cost 50p each, we can sell you 12 for a pound.’ What’s that? ‘Sample Our Hass Oranges.’ That shit doesn’t even exist, but they might as well since the business you see in front of you is just a set of smoke screens as well.

But what’s there instead? Contrabanding. It first became clear to me when I asked one trader how he was doing on the market, since I was looking to set up a stall of my own. ‘Oh I’m losing 4 grand a week since them road works have been going on.’ He said, pointing down the street to the builders.

4 grand a week? I thought this couldn’t be possible. That’s about 48 thousand less avocados being sold each week. How is he still living let alone having the time to chat to me speculatively? Speculate all he might but them avos wont sell themselves.

Westminster Council have been promising to develop Berwick street – home to London’s oldest market - for a decade now. As we chat I sense Tracey the woman at the council whose job it is to develop markets in the borough peering down from her paper tower. Maybe she’s heard us chatting and is as alarmed as I am.

But no, she’s just checking to see that noones upsetting da piss. She sits atop her mountain of adminitration and sips tea all day long. That’s when she’s not holidaying in Jamaica. Large as life and formal as ever she’ll talk to you in a language of professionalism and distanced promise. She’s also developed a knack for leafing through the application forms that her very existence is built on in a way that allows her to stay as far removed as possible from the realities of life on the ground.

Lest us not forget, that if she were to do any of said paper admin she’d have less of a tower to perch on. Hell, to do that she might as well set fire to it at the bottom.

So she sips her tea and chews buttered toast. And when she gets that weird butt ache resultant of sitting down for too long she gets up and takes a champagne shower.

She stands there, transixed and admiring her feet. The champagne is being spilt from the jowls of the major above her. He and his business buddies float in a cloud of hot air above their admin towers and admire the view.

What if he knew about all the under the counter crap that goes on in Soho? Who we kidding, he already does, and sleeps at night chanting the Tory mantra of “No intervention, no intervention”, a populist gambit that might as well be illustrated with a sketch of 100 big businessmen huddled over him playing soggy biscuit where he plays the hobnob himself. (As opposed to the realities of its misdirection and malfunction.)

The irony of it all is that the Berwick street traders –who aren’t to blame and actually serve a great product on all fronts – are likely the richest members of the Soho society. And it’s beautiful. They’re working-their bollocks off in the cold street-class and serve the working class people who enhabit the towers blocks dotted about the place.

Meanwhile, this satisfies the middle-class adgame sweetcorn children and the old sunbed prunes who like a ‘bit of rough’.

But to make us believe they’re skint whilst sitting on heaps of cash would be a lie. Their toothless ugliness is deceiving.

Nope, Soho is a weird one. The real poor sods of soho are those very sweetcorns themselves. Working for a green giant maybe but he doesn’t pass the peas onto them.

Wander up onto Broadwick street and be placed in the epicentre of this giant superficiality. It looks busy for sure, and Christ there must be about 231 vans pumps padding around the place (the extra 1 accounts for that guy whose wearing it as a necklace).

(NB: the uniform varies, if it aint Vans it's Nike hightops or white tees for real Gs. Thug life it aint. Tug life or even mug life maybe and all the Big L you listen to wont change it.)

The only synonymous fact about Soho and hiphop is that the average tourist could be forgiven for thinking these guys are doing well for themselves. In reality, this tawdry glitter allows the world here to subsist how it does - unchanged and merciless.

Ha, little do these onlookers know that it’s actually mummy and daddy sweetcorn keeping the wolf from the door. In actual fact the working class of today are now the only earning class around. To be middle class and cutesy with a pair of skinny jeans and a bellend to show through them means working unpaid and for less dignity.

But then again they can afford to do it and even better they don’t have to really lift a finger to earn a notch on their cv either (just stuff envelopes and buy the bigger bastards pump polish and canalin).

These guys have been sold a con by the very conartists they slave for. You’ll catch a glimpse of this tribe whilst they’re taking a break from their Shit Office Hanging Out to buy a latte frap-pot from the Kiwi’s who set up coffee shop on every corner of london.

(In fact there’s so many of said cafes now it’s a wonder why people still need to queue for 20 minutes to labour over one espresso. It’s all part of the LIEstyle.)

And afterwards they totter back through the streets of hallowed old soho, it’s skin tattooed by the pricks who walk across the surface.

Carving canyons in the concrete, or so they believe, is another lifeform here. The couriers. Bike messengers are in abundance and add another layer of - mainly mindlessness – but also attraction to Soho’s arena.

I once worked as one and did as long as stint on the ‘circuit’ – as they call it – as financially possible. Or perhaps it was my frame of mind that made me quit?

This frantic clan have their own uniform. Usually dressed in black, for practical reason’s we’d have led you to believe, with a giant shoulder bag to carry a even bigger chip in it.

The chip gets heavier the longer you’re in the job but whilst it remains bareable will afford couriers a greater access to the inner sanctum of soho than any other job.

Swooping in and out of offices all day on a bamboo shoot of deluded grandeur, messengers enact childish fantasies as tarzan, spinderman, batman or some sort of street pirate, delivering their goods with maverick intent.

But the dream is short lived since most of the day will be spent waiting for the next job – especially these days since unpaid work experience people in offices deliver any W1 W1 drop offs. You’ll be able to admire this flock of messengers in their aviary towers at number of local locatrions:

The corner of poland st and broadwick
Opposite the end of carnaby street on great marlborough
The gardens on whitfield st

And sometimes soho square (but these will usually be new guys)
Here they perch sanctimoniouly, discussing a variety of revolution-urgh(?)-ry stuff: From houses to squat, the news, the results of some courier sporting event the weekend before and most likely their state of impoverishment and why it’s the fault of the bourgeouisie.

As much as they love to hate the environment they work in the job of the courier is pretty much the same as that of any company they deliver for. Passing on messages that are packaged in a way that makes gthe recipient feel they’re important.
Still it’s worth adding that the work was hard and rewarding. The educated portion of courier litter quite enjoy the drudgery for its Orwellian nature and it makes them feel quite working class in what’s the only class-less profession I’ve ever experienced. A good graft.

Another thing about the couriers that’s worth mentioning is they add a few more species into the overwhelming race of rat that dominates soho.

Given London is one of the most multiculutural cities in the world you’d be pushed to find a whiter enclave than soho.
In fact, any black presence in soho is lauded over by the blank canvas, who feel reasured by its company since it puts them in touch with the urban culture they so desperately seek to appropriate.
You turn the corner onto Beak street. One cant help wonder if all the Chlamydia and shit spilling out from the minds and mounds of the workers is airborne. Does it mix with other STDs (Soho transmitted diseases) that already exist in the atmosphere and flow through the street like a contagion on contemporary culture.
Maybe, or more likely this is just culture itself – burning like a never-ending cigarette being pulled on by the very cancer it creates.

Some of the smoke plombs out of places like the Gaucho or other members clubs where the inherited editors and artheritic critics share allergic acerbic attitudes. Some Old Helpless Oaf talks about the good old days. Maybe it’s the ghost of Karl Marx returing to his Dean Street haunts. But minus the groupies this lot have packed pockets. They have nothing to do with the ins and outs of life here instead drawn here like it’s a magnet to malignant melanomas.
Follow the wafts of hot carcenogen passed the popular as ever Pulpo where there’s more people ordering to queue, then passed the bottom of Carnaby street.

Ahead there’s a gap in the fog and just when you’re about to pass out you gasp for air and all of a sudden Regents St catches you.

Safe Out Here One might think…