In passing, I’ve mentioned that there are certain types of bar that I don’t like, and I believe that I’ve also mentioned that such bars are often found in Soho. Typical features include:
- A name taken directly from the bar’s address. There might also be “@” in the address, which was pretty cool fifteen years ago.
- At the other end of the scale, bars that make a virtue of their homely down-to-earth nature despite even a cursory glance showing that this place is about as intimate as Myspace.
- Music that you’ve never heard of and isn’t even remotely enjoyable, played at a volume so loud that you feel it before you hear it. Conversation is impossible.
- Bar staff who are terribly pretty but can’t pour a pint.
- That’s if you can actually get a pint. Instead, your beer options are usually limited to bottles that cost the same as a pint.
- A wine list chosen on price rather than quality.
- Elaborate and very expensive cocktails that nonetheless taste like something you mixed yourself when you were at home drunk. The one advantage of these is that they taste exactly the same going down as coming up, so overdoing it is less of an issue.
- A toilet attendant who will attempt to wash your hands for you unless you physically overpower them and hold them down. They’re ever-so-keen when you’re washing your hands, but where are they when your fly needs unzipping, that’s what I want to know.
If your bar meets five or more of these criteria, I hate you and want you to die. However, it’s worth noting that if the company you’re in is good, then even the worst bar can be redeemed (unless the music’s too loud for conversation, see above). The bar I found myself in was Graphic, which is better than most. And the company was excellent.
However, the other factor that can wreck a night out is when you find yourself in the presence of that special breed known as the Soho Wanker. Such people aren’t unique to Soho – you can equally find them in Islington, Hoxton, Camden or pretty much anywhere with fashionable bars. Nor am I saying that everyone who frequents bars in Soho falls into this category. Actually, the great majority of people there – even if you exclude the members of my group – were very friendly. But there’s always one jackass who has to ruin it.
My encounter with the Soho Wanker on this occasion took place while I was outside having a chat with Seb and Julio, Seb being a close friend of old and Julio being a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend. A young tousle-haired gentleman who was there for a smoke came over and said to me, “I’m going to talk to you. You look friendly. You [referring to Seb] look like a geek. You look like a geek too [referring to me] but you look friendly. You [referring to Julio] look like you’re in sales or something.” Now, I’m not normally a fan of people who introduce themselves by insulting everyone present, but the chap did seem a little toasted, so possibly he just had a strange sense of humour. I figured I’d stick with it.
The conversation got around to what we did (he was a bike courier) and, eventually, I mentioned the fact that I do a bit of writing and cartooning on the side. The Soho Wanker (TSW for short) asked me to give him an example. I explained that it doesn’t quite work like that – you can’t explain a cartoon in words and expect it to be funny, because it’s a visual medium. An approximation would be if I tried to explain what’s great about Holst by writing, “Durrrrr… durr durr (rat-a-tat-tat-tat-rat-a-tat).”
TSW was quite insistent, however. So I tried explaining one in the hope of getting him off my back. He opined that this strip was “not very funny.” And then insisted that I tell him another one. I pointed out that if he didn’t like that one, he wouldn’t like the others, and also why the hell should I tell him anything if he was just going to be rude about it? I’m not saying my cartoons are the greatest thing in the world, but there’s a difference between informed criticism and some little pisher giving me crap when I’m trying to talk to my friends.
Nonetheless, he kept pressing me until eventually he went in, saying, “You can tell me more when I next come out for a smoke.” Yeah, great, I’ll look forward to that. We figured that would be the last we see of him – the average Soho wanker is easily distracted.
But no. We went out again a bit later along with some other folks, and there was TSW. And he wanted me to make him laugh. I explained, as politely as possible (there was a bouncer behind me) that that wasn’t going to happen. Alas, he proved harder to shake than herpes, and continued on at me, adding that my unwillingness to tell him any more suggested that I was no good as a cartoonist. I should have just said “fuck off” and left it at that, but what can I say? I’m a fan of reasoning with extremists.
There is, however, a way to defeat the Soho Wanker, and that’s to out-Soho them. The chap flicked his cigarette against a car, and Julio leaned over and hissed, “Did you just flick a cigarette at a Smart car? Your disrespect for the environment disgusts me.” TSW struggled to think of a comeback, and then stormed off. We never saw him again.
And that’s the thing about Soho Wankers (or their Shoreditch, Camden, Hoxton etc. brethren). Their whole persona is based on being “cool”. Not cool through their social skills, sense of humour, intelligence or general ability to make friends. A chum of mine summed them up thus: “They’ll climb over each other and fight to the death for the privelege of being the most laid-back.” They’re utterly shallow, and thus incapable of viewing other people as anything other than similarly one-dimensional characters. As you can see, all it takes to utterly destroy one is to simply pierce the facade – whereas an average person would take a dig like Julio’s and just let it slide, the Soho Wanker absolutely must come out on top.
Further reading: http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/pubsandbars/graphic-info-32299.html