A while back, I took a little trip to the big city to catch up with old friends, a regular gig and a tradition going back years. It’s what we call the witches coven, a time to conspire, bitch and stir the pot without the distractions of coupledom getting in on the act. We leave our significant others at home to do the washing up. I’d like to claim it’s a carnival of sparkling wit and profound insight but the excess tends to dull the repartee.
I waited for the coven to convene in Comptons, a Soho bar of some infamy and a regular haunt of my dance hall days. I was early and ordered a pint. Little has changed at Comptons down the years but bog standard beer has been cynically replaced by premium ales with premium prices to match. Even by Soho’s inflated tariffs, the cost is extortionate; I’ve been on cheaper Ryanair flights. It was ever thus. Having a gay old time has always come at a price.
As ever, the beefy bar staff were useless. Getting served at Comptons is like a game of chance and what little change you get back is shunted towards you in a plastic tray, a kind of begging bowl for the minimally waged. Company policy, I assume. Us Brits tend not to tip bar staff but I suppose the ruse works with unsuspecting tourists. I scooped up my coppers and found a quiet spot to sip my beer, thumb through the gaypers and wait for my fellow witches to arrive. Before long, a young Asian man sidled up next to me and began a nervous conversation. From his awkwardness and stuttering babble, I guessed he was a Soho novice. To the uninitiated, even the oppressed can be oppressive and I knew from experience that being gay and Asian doesn’t always make a great cocktail. I was more than happy to put the young whippersnapper at his ease. As it turned out, he was an air traffic controller at Heathrow. That’s all we need in these paranoid times. A jittery air traffic controller with secrets.