By anybody’s standards it is not a long commute. Whether you decide to zigzag via Wardour Street, or go the more direct route via Berwick Street, the entire journey is scarcely more than five minutes. I imagine Steven Toast as being something of a zigzag man. I can picture him saying the word; in fact, splitting it up into two separate words, stretching out each into two, long, fruity syllables: “Zig” and “Zag”. The image makes the decision for me: I will take the route via Wardour Street.
But, I am getting ahead of myself. My walk starts in Meard Street, Soho, outside the front door of the house that Steven shares with Ed Howzer-Black. It is a nice house. A desirable residence. However, no second-floor porthole window, I note. Perhaps Jon Hamm complained about the intrusion upon his privacy, and the architectural feature had to be changed? After all, no one likes to be overlooked.
It’s a rainy day. Wet and cold. I feel a sense of quiet desperation. It is echoed in all the people in all the streets around me: the tourists trying to find somewhere warm and dry to shelter without having to spend any money; the delivery drivers looking for a vacant parking space; the shop workers counting down the seconds of their latest fag break. The sensation finds neat expression in the handprints, which claw around the ventilation airbrick outside Steven’s house, like clamouring groupies in the mosh pit at a gig. It is time to move on.
I pass through the Narrows of Meard Street, where the cobbled roadway takes me back to Georgian London, and the 4×4 Range Rover doesn’t, and turn right into Wardour Street and the traffic. No time to stop off at the office of Jane Plough, theatrical agent. Instead, I put my head down against the rain, dodge beneath the raised umbrellas, and studiously ignore all the insistent shop signs, advertising things I don’t want to buy.
Now I am seriously zigzagging. Left into Broadwick Street, right into Berwick Street, left into Livonia Street (once Bentinck Street, according to a historic street sign dating back to 1736). Two pleasant pubs, festooned with green hanging baskets, provide a possible distraction – The Ship and The Blue Posts. On another day, I might have been tempted to stop off and have a ‘swift one’, but I am a woman on a mission. No snifter for Steph today.
Livonia Street is a step away from the tourist thoroughfare; a right turn into Portland Mews—despite its aspirational moniker, suggestive of old money and new investment––a further move away from the Soho of the surface, to the one, which lies beneath. Migrant restaurant workers, some proudly wearing the blue-and-white striped aprons of their trade, rest on their haunches, smoking; backs to the brick walls, sheltering from the rain beneath a covered alleyway, waiting for their shift to start. They talk in low voices, which I cannot understand, and I pass them by, not making eye-contact.
This is not one of the picturesque snickleways of Fitzrovia, which worm like ancient serpents through the pit of office buildings several blocks further north; this is a utilitarian piss-stop, built in an age of pragmatics rather than aesthetics. My destination lies ahead.
The alleyway opens up into a large––by central London standards––open air courtyard. In different surroundings, I would expect to see a horse. Not here. Instead––looking right––I see Scramble Studios. Alfresco table and chairs are a welcoming touch, but it is still too rainy to want to dwell anywhere for very long.
I have completed Steven Toast’s walk to work.
I consider popping in to say “Hi!” to Danny Bear and Clem Fandango, but I think twice about it. They must get people doing that all the time.
© Stephanie Snifter
Celebrity Correspondent Steph Snifter points out where Steven Toast and Ed Howzer-Black live.