A Bohemian at heart? or an Ass in Bohemia?

French House pub and restaurant

Boho’s that we are (at heart) we were Pottering round Soho and popped into the French Bar, Dean Street. Packed out of course. The smokey atmosphere may be gone, thanks to the ban, but the pub still a kind of ‘aura’ lingering over it. This bar has a great history and some very interesting photo’s and art on the wall of bygone customers: all characters, nearly all dead.

The pub itself is lively enough though, full of all different ‘types’. Lol! Wonder what ‘type’ people would call us? (hence the title). Not keen on stereotyping myself: do not wish to join. However, one of the barmen was NOT very pleased about us taking pictures at all, he told us so in no uncertain terms-

‘Do you know, there are actors in here who don’t want to be recognised or photographed’ he said (in a very loud stage whisper lol!)

Actors who don’t want to be photographed or recognised! A novel concept eh …… The beggers should take their chances the same as everyone else! After all it’s a pub, not an exclusive club (like the Colony Rooms, which we tried to gatecrash once… and failed). You’d have to be EXTREMELY ‘recognised’ by the owner to get in there: disguises must NOT be worn


The offended man himself was sporting a large handle bar ginger moustache, glasses and curly hair: a cross between Mr Pastry and Billy Childish (and yes, we have got a pic of him, it would be rude of me to put it on this blog though.. … oh OK then, if you insist: it’s not like anyone is going to see it..)


We did ask him if he WAS Billy, he said he wished he was. So did we. We like Billy, both as an artist (Stuckist) and a songwriter. In fact I must write about Childish later. But I digress as usual.




Earlier on we had gone to Fitzrovia. Now we ADORE Fitzrovia! I prefer it to Soho. All the interesting characters that used to hang round there. So many to write about, so many talented and interesting lives. Favorites include Bacon of course (got to write about the exhibition yet), John Deakin, FANTASTIC photographer and a well, not a nice character, but a character. John Minton, tragic artist. Nina Hamnett: artist in her own right and Queen of Bohemia, Jeffrey Bernard, the journalist.


We went in the Wheatchief which was one of Dylan Thomas’s haunts, though you wouldn’t know it as they don’t exactly draw attention to the fact. I’m sure there used to be a plaque or something over the seats called ‘Poets Corner’ , but that’s gone now. Him and Caitlin had many a Ding Dong in this pub. But then they had rows any time, anywhere.

Back at the French House, before we were interupted by the barman, this is what we were trying to taking photos of.

past customers

Amongst all the memorabilia on the walls, I was rather quite taken with these. Now I don’t know if they are actual little watercolour sketches, pen and ink drawings or just pieces of wall paper, but I just LOVE them and had to snap em! I can recognise a few of the artists in the drawings/paintings.  And I am sure that a lot of them would be really pleased to be remembered…….. and recognised.

gone but not forgotten



5 thoughts on “A Bohemian at heart? or an Ass in Bohemia?

  1. interesting how Nina Hamnets local gin bar has turned out!!
    I see that a film has been made of her life story now (Bananarama et al)
    The transcripts of the libel court case between her and Crowley makes very interesting reading.
    ‘I thought that everything which was vicious and bad had been produced at one time or another before me. I have learned in this case that we can always learn something more if we live long enough. Never have I heard such dreadful, horrible, blasphemous, abominable stuff as that produced by the man who describes himself to you as the greatest living poet’
    Mr Justice swift – April 1934

    1. Thanks Simon – interesting news about the film indeed! Wouldn’t mind seeing this. I wonder at why the playwright cast Siobhan Fahey though? http://www.camdennewjournal.com/news/2011/jul/queen-bohemia-nina-hamnett-brought-big-screen Nina Hamnett is a bit of a hero of mine though, a liberated woman before her time, a true eccentric who came to a very sad end. ‘Laughing Torso’ set against the Soho backdrop makes interesting reading (my old harback copy includes that Kubla Khan cocktail recipe written in pencil). In fact, anything concerning Soho in the past makes interesting reading to me, Jeffrey Bernards, ‘Soho Night and Day’ Daniel Farson’s ‘Gilded gutter of Francis Bacon’ and ‘Soho in the ’50’s to name a few

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