1 OCTOBER 1977, Page 29

Bored in Soho

Jeffrey Bernard

I was talking to a Maltese ponce in the Helvetia in Old Compton Street the other day and it occurred to me to ask myself what the hell was I doing? That's not quite accurate actually. He was doing the talking. Sipping a Pils lager — why on earth has Pils caught on so successfully in recent months? — he told me that he'd just been released from Parkhurst where he'd been incarcerated bang next to the Krays for the past few years. I didn't ask him what he'd been in for since his offence, just like a happy childhood in fact, didn't seem to be a fit subject for conversation. What he did volunteer, though, which I thought was quite interesting, was the fact that the homosexual twin was going to pieces while the hetrosexual one had taken up weightlifting and seemed to be thriving. Well, you would have thought it would have been the other way around, wouldn't you? I would, anyway. But just as I began to slip into a depression, something that always happens when the topic of prison crops up and my how it crops up in Soho, he introduced a little light relief to the proceedings by exhibiting a recently acquired scar.

Unbuttoning his shirt, he showed me a wound that ran from his navel to his neck. I asked him how he'd managed to come by it and he shrugged and said it was a case of mistaken identity. As I say, I sometimes wonder what the hell I'm doing talking to these people. Generally speaking, crooks are incredibly boring. The reality of it all is so far removed from the sort of thing that you see on the screen that I wonder how they ever came to invent the likes of Bogart and Cagney. To be duffed up by them would be so clean, simple and jolly. Crooks apart, I've come across two other lots of bores quite a lot in Soho recently. Women journalists and advertising executives. The thing that kills me about the lady pen pushers is the way they come into pubs like the French House, obviously hunting, and you've just read them in some magazine saying that men are redundant. Furthermore, there are so many words taken up with explaining that they've, got no problems where men are concerned that I can't, for the life of me, understand how it is that they burst into tears around about 9 pm.

Mind you, the ones you know really well have at least got the grace to look a little shame faced during the Week Cosmopolitan hits the newsstands but there's still no excuse for killing off the male sex and then going and spending half the fee for the article in Janet Reger's on sexy underwear. It also strikes me as a bit odd that these lady journalists are usually to be seen with very seedy looking men. Decrepit and semibankrupt publishers have a hypnotic effect on even the most nourishing looking girls as has any man carrying a film can. Amazing, isn't it? What's incredible about the people in and around Soho who make television commercials is that they think that what they're doing is so important. I nearly choked on a gin and tonic when one of them asked me in what country did I think he could find a 'meaningful sunset'. But Soho plods on and so do its inhabitants. One of the regulars has just become a father at the age of sixty-four. He's got snapshots of the infant and he's still showing them around after two weeks. Some seven odd years ago, when my daughter was born, I was told by the editor of the Daily Mirror where I worked that I could talk about her for two days only. After that, if I made any reference to her bodily functions, likeness to me or her mother or even said that she'd cried all night then I'd be subject to a heavy tine or instant dismissal. That's still a good rule.