Friday, October 04, 2019

Betjeman's Banana Blush

This is a self indulgent post. While I am holiday in Turkey every year, I listen to my iTunes collection in my room, due to lack of internet. Among quite a large selection of old comedy - I'm Sorry I'll read That Again, I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue, Alan Davies, Stilgoe and Skellern - I have two albums by John Betjeman, with music by Jim Parker.

My husband and I were introduced to the first album, Betjeman's Banana Blush, by a schoolfriend of the old man's, Colin Eades, who, appropriately, lived in the heart of Metroland, as we did ourselves. I loved it so much I bought it, and later, the follow up, Betjeman's Britain. I didn't know much about Betjeman or his poetry at the time, but he soon became my favourite poet. One I particularly loved was Business Girls, which describes with the utmost poignancy the solitary residences of these ladies in Camden Town, backing on to the railway cuttings: At the back precarious bathrooms Jutting out from upper floors; and ends with: Rest you there, poor unbelov'd ones, Lap your loneliness in heat. All too soon the tiny breakfast, Trolley-bus and windy street.

Then there's the famous Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel, an event which, in my youthful ignorance, I knew nothing at the time. I was fascinated. And Lenten Thoughts of a High Anglican: Isn't she lovely, the Mistress? With her wide-apart grey-green eyes? I could go on; each poem brilliantly nostalgic, often humorous and always with the underlying sadness. Even Hunter Trials, from a young girl's point of view, competing at a local event, and ending with: Oh, wasn’t it naughty of Smudges? Oh, Mummy, I’m sick with disgust. She threw me in front of the Judges, And my silly old collarbone’s bust. That resonated - the same thing happened to me on a pony called Charade at the Clapham Common Gymkhana. Not quite the same as a posh "county" event, but never mind.

All of these enhanced by the wonderful music of Jim Parker, of whom I had also never heard. You might not have done, either, but I bet you know the atmospheric theremin theme for Midsomer Murders.
Told you it was a self indulgent post. Ever since Colin introduced me to the album I have loved both Betjeman and Parker, so to him, wherever he may be, thank you. I don't suppose this will set any of you off on the same path, but if it does, good. And when I get home I'm going to watch Metroland again. I shall also re-read Laurie Lee, suggested by Peter, a friend out here in Turkey, which will no doubt set me off on another trail of nostalgic discovery.

Happy listening!