John Betjeman's statue casts its eye

looking up to London heights

an island in the stream of travellers

cast in bronze as befits his station

a symbol of a divided nation,

of those who care for a cherished past

and those who leave that thought behind them. 


Sir John thinks of Metroland

where the burrowing underground meets the sky

close shouldered by avenues of poplars

and Buckinghamshire's leafy lanes,

where Middlesex neighbours sequestered wait

behind their sunburst garden gate. 


But all is not well in Pinner, Stanmore

Ruislips's cheery shopping parades

the likes of McDonalds and Burger King

are jeopardising everything,

spoiling the diets of the populace 

who flock there in their baseball haste

while Subway joins the fast food race. 


Rus in Urbe now ends at the kerb

where John enthused over the street lamp's glow

scathing about mock Tudor bars

now he curses the stripes that align with stars. 




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Wed 8th Dec 2021 22:28

Thanks for the comment Jennifer, always welcome. It is quite apparent that we have become highly susceptible to the American influence as it presides over our less cultured desires. We seem to have incorporated much of the more hip elements into our language and by virtue of social media are swept up on a wave of expectation to absorb it. It's hard to avoid, and as you say the commercial exploitation has become ruinous. Black Friday in particular . The problem is we are regarded in America as curios , and i'm sure Betjeman especially. We must treasure him on that basis alone in my opinion, even if he like so many, have become out of fashion.


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jennifer Malden

Fri 3rd Dec 2021 11:28

Agree that the 'Slough' poem is decidedly snobbish and rather unkind. On the other hand Hunter Trials are really funny and a take off of the middle/upper class pony club aficionados. Diary of
a Church Mouse, and Christmas are lovely. Do we realise the denigration and loss of our culture we have allowed to come about by allowing that of the 'cousins' to influence us so much? US music is great, their technology in itself, (not necessarily what it has produced), and medical improvements/research are all welcomed. But not the commercialisation of everything possible - Black Fridays, Christmas, now more like a pagan festival, where shopping is more important than anything else. Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc. etc. Eating habits, Ugh! Also the language - Y'all, wanna, gonna, meet up with, chill out, let's roll, etc. etc. No thanks. Glad to see others feel the same.

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Mon 29th Nov 2021 13:05

Thanks Keith, it is ironical that Sir John was incorporated into the station as a sort of anachronism to the onward march of "progress". Maybe he has been duped rather than celebrated.

Thanks Graham, I think we've been in thrall to the American louche and thrusting attitudes for so long now, and our lives are governed by a reliance on what was basically designed as a war footing security system ie the internet; but hey man, i'm using it now, ain't I? Let's drop the big one now!

Thanks Mark. The popular song genre you focus on was certainly a massive money spinner riding on the back of sentimentality, with a very clever spin using the media as was at the time to spread that gospel. I have lived off it as a musician. I would agree that those songs have acquired a charisma all of their own and persist today. To an extent the American influence is a sweetener to the mundane lives many of us face.

A well observed post Stephen. His eccentricity reinforced his wanderings , the battered hat a symbol like that of Fred Dibnah, who represent the dotty and loveable figures of the past. His poetry was never quite the ticket according to the literati, but it does connect the man in the street with some higher aspirations, I think. His snobbishness had two sides, one for and one against the upper class.

Thanks for the likes Stephen A, Holden and Gail !


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Stephen Gospage

Thu 25th Nov 2021 21:21

There is so much in this poem, Ray. I love "baseball haste", followed by "Subway", the very mention of which.....
The statue of Sir John Betjeman at St Pancras is a wonderful tribute to a poet whom I never tire of reading. But, as you say, he is divisive. Some people have long regarded him as a nostalgic snob, and there is undeniably some truth in this. He cared deeply about a vanishing past and wanted to preserve it, but arguably had a rather one-dimensional and negative view of 'progress', even if it benefited the lives of ordinary working people. One sees this in 'Slough' (mock Tudor sounds better than bogus), a poem which I believe he came to regret in later life.
Thanks for a thought-provoking poem.

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M.C. Newberry

Wed 24th Nov 2021 14:11

The American influence has been with us for many years - not least with the magic of other days from the Hollywood "dream factory" when talent and dreams melded into real entertainment at every turn. I remain a fan of what came from
across the pond in those days - with its positive "glass half
full" attitude to life. The music alone is a wonderful legacy -
to be thankful for and still to be enjoyed, thanks to technology
that seemed to grow and stay "hand in hand" with it.and now
allows us to return to what was produced with such creative inspiration and skill. The "standards" from the great songwriting era remain just that: the standard by which quality
is judged. There is nothing being written today that comes
close, not least in terms of "longevity".

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Graham Sherwood

Wed 24th Nov 2021 06:51

I believe there is a far more pernicious virus attacking us than Covid. Americanism is slowly but surely infecting our culture, not in a good way.

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keith jeffries

Tue 23rd Nov 2021 22:28

The opening stanza says it all. We have denigrated ourselves, lost our identity and followed inferior cultures sacrificing our own and we know it.
Thank you for this


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