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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A prostitute learns to fight dirty

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Pencil drawing :A quick learner

Barbara learnt very quickly that the Soho underworld does not resemble a refined upper class drawing room. In the two years that she lived in Soho, she witnessed, and was herself subject to violence, intimidation, backstabbing,  petty crime, gangsters and swindlers. Indeed, one particularly funny episode was key to her being employed as Mae the prostitute's maid. This happened while Barbara was still moonlighting as a barmaid in a dingy Soho basement pub. Here, in her own words is a description of how Faye was taught to fight dirty by an all-too obliging geezer in the pub . . .

"Syd’s face lit with enthusiasm and he stationed himself in front of her. ‘Well, he said ‘you know how two women in a barney always grab each other’s hair, don’t yer? Well, take a hold of my hair.’ He bent his head forward and Mae grasped his orangy curls. Syd then clutched her wrist and took her hair in his other hand, which caused Mae to instinctively grab his waist – the other people in the club were all attention once more, I noticed.

I watched Syd’s demonstration with interest, and it looked very clever – but I didn’t learn a thing. It was all too quick; ending with no one holing anyone’s hair any more, and Mae in a helpless grip! Then Syd released his hold. ‘See, it’s easy,’ he said. Mae laughed, and called him a bastard as she rubbed her shoulder. Syd wasn’t happy, however, until she’d done the same thing to him.

She was a quick learner, I must say! Then, smoothing her skirt again, she said decisively, ‘Right! I gotta go!’ At that moment, two sets of heavy footsteps could be heard coming along the upstairs passage."

Copyright © 2018. Hannes Buhrmann.

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