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Posted by Clayton Littlewood
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I first saw Pam back in February 2007. She was shuffling down Old Compton Street like something from Beatrix Potter, eyes scanning left and right, a half smoked fag in one hand, plastic bag in the other – one of the many homeless working the small area bounded by Shaftesbury Avenue, Charing Cross Road and Regent and Oxford Streets.


Gradually we got to know each other. I say ‘know’, Pam knew my name, that I had a shop and that I was writing about her, I knew that once she’d made enough money for her bed for the night the rest would go on fags, dog bets or fruit machines. But I didn’t know her surname, her family history or how old she was. I’d heard that she was staying in Pimlico, in a hostel, and that she’d venture into Soho on a daily basis (it’s where she felt most at home) – but that was it.


I suppose it was a symbiotic relationship. I became one of her ‘almost definites’ for loose change and she became a character in my books. That’s probably why I felt so indebted to her. She gave good story. Plus she was a real Sohoite. Not one of those celebrities that spill out of The Groucho or Soho House, pose for the paps, then swan back to their penthouse apartments. Pam was a daily face. And back then we were all in it together on that street, all trying to eke out a living, all trying to get by on a wing and a prayer.


I have this vision of her now as I’m typing this; I’m in the little coffee shop on the corner of Old Compton and Frith; she spots me (it was as if she had me ‘GPS fixed’), she rushes in, stands in front of me, rocking. ‘Gotta gold one for me?’ she says, looking up through big framed glasses. ‘That’s all I need, then I can go ’ome.’ Invariably I’d reply, ‘Pam, not today. I’m skint.’ She’d wait a few seconds to see if I’d change my mind, and when she could tell I wasn’t budging, she’d shrug and say, ‘Cuddle then?’ and then she’d wrap her arms tightly around me, snuffle into my jacket and whisper, ‘Love you!’ before tottering out. She really was a sweet soul.


When Sebastian left us in 2010, it was a shock. Soho was in mourning. There was talk that after Paul Raymond and Michael from The Colony, all Soho’s great characters had now gone. But Soho has a rich history of eccentric characters, from a variety of backgrounds and Pam was as much a Soho ‘name’ as the rest. I’d heard she’d been ill. Noticed that she’d lost weight when I last saw her on Bateman Street just before Christmas. But I never thought she’d go. She seemed such a Soho fixture (like The French House and the Algerian Coffee Shop), always there, whatever the weather, weathering the recession (when many of us didn’t), never complaining, a handful of coins enough to brighten her day.


Oh well … Goodbye my luv. You’ll be missed. And you were loved. Whenever I visit Soho it’ll be you and Sebastian that I think of. Here’s hoping you’re now getting all the cuddles and gold ones you deserve.


Clay x


February 2nd, 2007: Fag Lady

There’s a small, stocky woman who frequents these parts. Very often dishevelled, sporting a number one cut, with round, “barn owl” NHS glasses. She’s often wearing a long brown raincoat that glides along the ground behind her, and she always carries a faded Tesco’s bag. She reminds me of one of those Gateways-era lesbians, butch to the point of being unidentifiable as male or female.


A few weeks will pass by without me catching sight of her. Then, when I least expect, she suddenly pops up everywhere: shuffling past Patisserie Valeria, picking something off the ground in Archer Street, leaning against a porn shop window in Walkers Court. And when she sees me she smiles and talks to me as if we’ve known each other for years, often starting a sentence mid-sentence.


“…and then she says, ‘Well, it’s your turn to buy them.’ And I say, ‘I can’t afford them at that price. You must be mad!’ Do you think I should have bought them?” So I’ll smile back, or try and respond, and she’ll look at me strangely, as if she’s just realised that she doesn’t really know me at all. Then she scurries off, like an overweight dormouse.


Today, as I tap away at my keyboard in the shop, I catch sight of her outside, crouching down, placing something carefully under the wheel of a car. Then off she goes. Five minutes later, she’s back—same procedure, placing something under the car wheel, rubbing her little hands together with glee, then off again, as if she is about to hibernate and is burying her food for winter. After her fifth or sixth visit, I sit up in my seat to get a better view. Cigarettes. Half smoked butts. An ashtray’s worth, all gathered in a little mound, and as she arranges them she smiles to herself, looking over her shoulder cautiously, making sure no one has spied her. Our eyes lock for a fraction of a second, but I look quickly away. Then, once her pile is in place, I watch as she clumsily gets back on her feet, using her hands to push herself up, and proceeds to make her way down Dean Street, stopping passersby.


“Have you got an empty fag packet? ’Scuse me, sir! Got an empty fag box you don’t want?”


I sit back down in my chair and start tapping away again, deleting everything was writing previously, starting afresh with this Fag Lady story.


Moments later, the owner of the car returns, a good-looking businessman. He throws his sports bag into the back seat, jumps inside, and starts to rev the engine. Oh, no! What’s going to happen? Will the car crush the “fag mountain?” Will it just leave a pile of burnt tobacco in its wake? Will Fag Lady return in a flood of tears? It is a real Hitchcock moment, and I stand up, tempted to rush outside and shout at the driver, “Careful of those cigarette butts, you road hog!” But, miraculously, the driver turns his wheel at such an angle that the whole mound of cigarettes stays perfectly in place.


Then, as so often happens in Hollywood films, just as the coast seems clear and you close your mouth and start munching on your popcorn again, one of those new, motorised road-sweeper vans turns into Dean Street, purring and whirring, sucking everything up in its path. I watch, panic-stricken. The cigarette butts don’t stand a chance and they are whisked off, in the blink of an eye, to Cigarette Butt Heaven. Oh, no! This is a disaster. I close my laptop, walk to the shop doorway, and look down Dean Street just as Fag Lady shuffles back into view with a big, beaming smile, holding a cigarette box in the palm of her hand, like one of the Three Kings bearing gifts.


As she gets nearer to her spot she appears puzzled, looking backwards and forwards, up and down the street, as if trying to retrace her steps. Then she walks right up to where her mound should have been, her face forlorn, almost tearful. I take a step down from the shop doorway toward her, and I’m just about to say “I tried to stop it…” when she spins round on her little blue deck shoes and glares at me.


“You stole my fags! You’re always following me and now you’ve stolen my fags!” Then she brushes past me, angrily, and, throwing the cigarette box in my direction, shouts, “And stop writing about me! You mental case!”



From Dirty White Boy: Tales of Soho ©2008 Clayton Littlewood



  1. Jack Scott says:

    I remember Pam well from my Soho days as she shuffled past the smokers outside Comptons. Her trips were sometimes profitable, sometimes not but always amusing and never intrusive.

  2. Russ Hughesq says:

    I will miss Pam, although Soho was frequented by an endless stream of people down on their luck and looking for some ‘spare change’, most of Soho took Pam under their wing, even to the degree of defending her from unkind outsiders who just saw her as trouble.

    Many of us were known to ask after her if we hadn’t seen her for a couple of days, she was Soho family.

    I recall the time she told me that she was going to a gambling clinic and I joked ‘I put a fiver you not finishing’ – she smiled and said she would take me up on it.

    The best bit of a moment with Pam was the hug – you could tell it meant a lot to her… it meant even more to those of us getting the.

    Miss ya Pam!

  3. Harry says:

    Very sad to hear this news, I remember Pam for well over 10 years know in Soho, popping into the Carlisle & The Dog & Duck. I also saw her in Soho just before Christmas. Very well written Clayton. R.I.P. Pam.

  4. Stefan says:

    She liked the green grass under her shoes
    What can she loose “I’m flat, that’s that”
    I’m alone when I lower my lamp
    That’s why the lady was a champ!

  5. Stefan says:

    She liked the green grass under her shoes
    What can she loose “I’m flat, that’s that”
    I’m alone when I lower my lamp
    That’s why Pam was a champ!

    Ahh Pam, i bet we ll still see you scurrying round a corner with that cheeky look!

  6. Astrid says:

    Pam was amazing. She has been around for years and I was always fascinated with the funny, finger shuffle thing she did at the expectancy of getting change. In fact, it was the first thing I noticed about her. And incredibly, whatever you gave her she somehow managed to squeeze a little more.

    The hugs were immensely important to her. I know she had experienced some terrifying things in her life and many of us were *her* Soho family. I think the hugs were a big part of that. It’s funny, being in Soho most days I haven’t seen her for a while – last time before Christmas. I had only seen her sporadically before that and was wondering where she had been. And now we will never know.

    We always used to joke that Pam was richer than any of us. I will miss Pam. In the same way she looked out for us with her canny almost laser precision eagle-eyed homing facility i have never stopped looking out for her. I feel sad that she had so many friends from the Soho community who won’t be able to give her a good send off as in truth, we all know so little about her despite knowing her so well.

    There is a myspace site of incredible Pam pics here: http://www.myspace.com/sohopam/photos/albums/my-photos/235413

    Some of them are priceless. Pam was great and I will miss her.


  7. A candle lights others and consumes itself.

  8. John says:

    Very saddened by this news. I too hadn’t seen Pam since before Chistmas and had wondered why she hadn’t been around the French House or Crown and 2 for a while.
    As for her age, she told me last summer that she was 46, which was also my age at the time so I remembered this fact. Who knows if it was true or not?
    I’ll miss her hugs and cheeky tactics to squeeze an extra couple of quid which normally went straight to William Hills on Greek St.
    RIP Pam o

  9. Simon Hilton says:

    Between about 2000-2008 we had a film production company on the corner of Frith & Bateman Street, above Nando’s, first called Maguffin, then Chainsaw Films. We shared an office with some great characters with whom we enjoyed a vibrant social life. Needless to say we often found ourselves of an evening outside the Dog and Duck, often with Astrid (who writes above) who was (and is) part of our family team.

    Over the years, Pam became our office mascot and I grew very fond of her. Although we got fed up of paying street tax to the local Methadone addicts, we’d always have a whip round for Pam so she could have “just enough to get home”, although we all knew much of it went to the bookies or the fruit machines.

    Pam had had a hard life and had been abused and many had taken advantage of her. She was hard as nails and terribly vulnerable at the same time. Somehow she managed to survive with great dignity, and her outlook (although occasionally hiding deep sorrow and abandonment) was always positive. Her love and cuddles a tender testament to her great resilience and fortitude.

    Whenever I stepped out onto the Frith Street, I knew it wouldn’t be long before she found me. “Have you got one for me?” and the occasional “you couldn’t help me out with a note?” as she dextrously ground the gold coins in her hands like jangling Baoding balls, speeding up with the excited expectancy of success.

    Pam was canny and often her pockets were already full of pound coins. She was a good talker, but not a great listener. Always seemed preoccupied by what she had to do next. There was an urgency about her that after she had found you, there was someone else she had to home in on next with (as Astrid noted) with her laser-guided homing facility. She had many marks in Soho and many people to track down, but every encounter was always entertaining and I always enjoyed being “found”.

    Whether you had change or not, Pam always had a cuddle and a smile and a “love you” as goodbye. She had it right.

    See you later, Pam.

    Love you.

  10. Clay – Of course I never met Pam but I truly feel like I knew her, through you. It’s astonishing how Soho has dissipated so quickly. Your shop, Sebastian, Pam…the others. Thank God for your books and Sebastian’s. You’ll keep it alive forever. xx

  11. Andy says:

    She told us once her name was Pamela Jennings thus we often called her Miss Jennings. Crikey she could be annoying at times, popping up every hour for more change! With that cheeky smile you would still end up her her ‘rent money’ for the night and more.. Great loss for Soho – you will be missed, Miss Jennings x

    Does anyone know when she passed away btw? Was there a funeral?

  12. Andy says:

    Many Thanks Clay, I’ll be there.

  13. cesar says:

    thank you to let me know about Pam is sad new i alway give her some money even for is Bday £50….


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