When I first moved to The Big Office In Soho I was taken for an induction meeting. After all the usual office stuff (lift with your knees, don’t try to repair the copier with sellotape, don’t sell your security pass to tramps) we inductees were given a warning about working in this part of town. It could be roughly paraphrased to “we have security staff for a reason, so be careful when you’re outside”. Those new to London might well have come away terrified.
By and large, though, this slightly porn-y end of Soho is a good place to be during the day. We’re surrounded by excellent, cheap restaurants (whether Cali-Mexican, Japanese (especially Ramen) or just great sandwiches), and the only near death experience I’ve had so far involved a reversing courier van attempting to smear me across the road in front of the John Snow pub (it turns out my “fight or flight” response is rubbish: all I did was bang on the back of it as I was pushed along, shouting “fuckingshitfuck” – “stop” would probably have been more useful).
Walking south to Charing Cross means crossing through probably the single dodgiest part of Soho, surrounded by brothels and hugger-muggers, but between the hours of 7am and around 8pm there’s really no cause for any great concern as long as you stay the hell away from the public toilets (side note: some of the tramps appear to even have keys to the toilets, although where they got these from we have no idea).
The area is changing, too. It’s not exactly gentrification of the “Daily Mail readers eye property prices” variety, but over the past year a few of the dodgiest places, including the one really visible clipping bar, have finally been closed down. You have to wonder what’d happen to the place if the sex industry left, though – maybe the streets would be subsumed into the Carnaby Street Tourist Hellhole (TM), or maybe they’d just become empty backroads. For the moment, though, everything’s becoming slightly festive, albeit in a slightly unusual way. Merry Chrimbo, Soho.