Painting depicting Mae, the Queen Of Soho, and a bald customer combing his

West End Girls : Working girls and their maids

Soho 1948. A glamorous West End Girl charms a naive young barmaid into her service. This is the maid's true account of life in the decadent underbelly of postwar London.

On this website, you can read book extracts and explore Barbara's interesting world.

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West End Girls

Soho streets

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Pencil drawing :Afternoon nap

For a girl coming from the relative sanity and neatness of London's Southwestern suburbs, Soho presented a dreary, damp and altogether uninviting picture. Most girls wouldn't have dreamt of entering Soho by themselves. Barbara, with her typical eye for detail, found it scary, but exhilirating. Here she describes the streets on her way to her first meeting with her new employer - Mae the prostitute . . .

"Looking up, I saw that the buildings were all three or four storeys high and the windows were blind and grey, with many panes broken and replaced by cardboard. High above me was a narrow strip of sky, and if any sun every penetrated this noisome little lane, it would be a very fleeting affair indeed. On one side were small shops with grimy windows, some of them boarded up; whilst the buildings opposite had railings in front. Looking down one could see open basement areas full of rubbish.

Pigeons were everywhere; but whereas one would have expected these to have brought a touch of freshness to the scene, they merely added to the squalor. They were on every parapet and window ledge; a dirty, dishevelled, sinister little lot, covering everything with giant, white droppings. Some were pottering about on the ground, scuffling amongst the debris. With misgivings, I walked on. Many of the people I passed, were lounging against the empty shops or railings. One old lady was rummaging in a dustbin, while another was taking an afternoon nap in a doorway with what, presumably, were all her worldly possession in bundles beside her...

Copyright © 2019. Hannes Buhrmann.

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