Compton Street

For decades I have wandered the streets of Soho, by night and day, alone and with others. Soho is my square of territory, a land both familiar and beloved, my London in a nutshell. When I was in my late teens, lonely and new, I walked here, attracted by the bright lights and crowds. I fell in love with its web of small streets and Georgian architecture, captivated by sights and smells. I snuck in and out of shops of neon, redolent of old carpet and damp, a hint of nicotine, a whiff of horny desperation. To stave off loneliness and to delay the long return to my empty bedsit in Ealing, I let the crowds carry me like flotsam, a dreamlike wandering to Piccadilly’s energising rays and the louche underbelly of this City of Dreadful Delight. Like an old friend, Soho is still my patch of territory, the square mile I walk in when sadness bites, the pavements I tread in joy and boredom too. It is here I spend my Friday nights, delighting in hot, fragrant pizza from Franco Manca, in sweet, strong coffee in coffee shops that have survived the decades unscathed. I shop at the quirky Algerian Coffee Store, selecting golden shovels of spicy Lebanese beans coated in cardamon and allspice. I relish a trip to Cass Art, buying materials so full of promise and newness, the seed of artwork yet unconceived. It in this patchwork that I find inspiration and comfort. Soho is indeed a friend to me and I cannot imagine a life where I could not wander here still.

 

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