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David Lines: A funny thing happened on the way to the restaurant

Posted: 13/12/11 00:00

Writing, dining, Soho: the three favourite words of writer and Soho habitué David Lines. Jason Holmes joined him for a lunch or three...

It's mid November and the writer David Lines, 43, author of The Modfather: My Life with Paul Weller lights a reflective Marlboro. He's sunk in a Bar Italia chair, his head buried in the collars of his Burberry mack as he blows smoke at Ronnie Scott's. We've just brunched on kippers at Arbutus on Frith Street.

"I've always loved Soho, always felt connected with it," he says. "Though it's a little like a grave for me. I step out of my pad on Bateman Street and there it is. The filth and grime.'" Filth and grime? Surely he jests.

"Not in a bad way. It's still raw, despite the bistros. I feel connected here. The artists and the writers and the tramps and the whores and the nutters. Oh, yeah, Soho's stuffed with nutters. It's got them coming out of its ears...But that's just my opinion."

More lithe than the last time we met at his book launch, Lines has been working on his follow-up memoir, Nigella Lawson Saved My Life and owes his trimness to walking the family dog around the West End or up in Yorkshire where he has a house "to take the edge off things".

We retire to The French House for a glass of red then stroll over Old Compton Street to the Algerian Coffee Store where Lines buys himself a new briki. We make for Wardour and Lines ducks into Dolce for another coffee and a hug with his old friend Frank. Then it's on to Chris Kerr's bespoke shop on Berwick Street to check if his blazer's ready. It isn't.

"My business is here in Soho," he says. "I have all my meetings with my agent here and I can think and write here in peace. Let's say the place lends my mind a certain fertility. At least twice a week I'll sit in Il Siciliano on Dean Street and write."

We drift westwards towards Carnaby Street, but on a whim Lines drags me into Andrew Edmunds on Lexington and we lunch on razor clams and white wine.

"I brought my first wife here many years ago. Sat over there in the corner. Too many ghosts in Soho sometimes," he says. We pay and leave and with heavy legs meander to Quo Vadis. The Karl Marx plaque stares at us like a cold blue sun.

"There was the time that me and one of Britain's best-loved and well-known novelists [David Nobbs] were meeting a West End theatre producer in Quo Vadis for dinner. We rolled out of the Coach and Horses and tipped up at the restaurant, but after an hour he still hadn't appeared so, we're thinking, this is a no-show and duly get stuck into the cocktails. He does appear, but by the time he does we're so hammered that neither of us could barely speak and I was face-down in an ashtray. All I remember of that night was that the place was completely deserted and when the starter came it was six little cubes of jelly in different colours that all tasted of absolutely bugger all.

"But my favourite place has to be The Groucho. Not for any other reason than I'm a working-class boy from Nottingham who still marvels at being able to stand at a bar next to David Puttnam or the great Howard Jacobson and nobody bats an eyelid."

Lines takes a table on the pavement outside Quo Vadis and watches the faces pass by. "I wouldn't mind being buried here," he says. '"Under a tree in Soho Square perhaps, in a corner. Nice and quiet."

A taxi horn blares as Suggs strolls past. "Nice co-respondent shoes, Graham!" says Lines, but it's lost in the cacophony.

Lines eyes the menu. He's about to order. Again.

[jantholmes@yahoo.co.uk]