(Baker Street station buffet)

Early Electric! With what radiant hope
Men formed this many-branched electrolier,
Twisted the flex around the iron rope
And let the dazzling vacuum globes hang clear,
And then with hearts the rich contrivance fill’d
Of copper, beaten by the Bromsgrove Guild.

Early Electric! Sit you down and see,
’Mid this fine woodwork and a smell of dinner,
A stained-glass windmill and a pot of tea,
And sepia views of leafy lanes in Pinner –
Then visualize, far down the shining lines,
Your parents’ homestead set in murmuring pines.

Smoothly from Harrow, passing Preston Road,
They saw the last green fields and misty sky,
At Neasden watched a workmen’s train unload,
And, with the morning villas sliding by,
They felt so sure on their electric trip
That Youth and Progress were in partnership.

And all that day in murky London Wall
The thought of Ruislip kept him warm inside;
At Farringdon that lunch hour at a stall
He bought a dozen plants of London Pride;
While she, in arc-lit Oxford Street adrift,
Soared through the sales by safe hydraulic lift.

Early Electric! Maybe even here
They met that evening at six-fifteen
Beneath the hearts of this electrolier
And caught the first non-stop to Willesden Green,
Then out and on, through rural Rayner’s Lane
To autumn-scented Middlesex again.

Cancer has killed him. Heart is killing her.
The trees are down. An Odeon flashes fire
Where stood their villa by the murmuring fir
When ” they would for their children’s good conspire. ”
Of their loves and hopes on hurrying feet
Thou art the worn memorial, Baker Street.

//

[Read in Six Poets: Hardy to Larkin – An anthology by Alan Bennett, published by Faber & Faber. Ripped from middlesexcountypress.com]

Discovered by listening to a BBC Radio 4 documentary by Jarvis Cocker on the album John Betjeman’s Banana Blush. The music by Jim Parker is remarkable, and Betjeman’s rhythm and intonation a joy.

//

Keep me from Thelma’s sister Pearl!
She puts my senses in a whirl,
Weakens my knees and keeps me waiting
Until my heart stops palpitating.

The debs may turn disdainful backs
On Pearl’s uncouth mechanic slacks,
And outraged see the fire that lies
And smoulders in her long-lashed eyes.

Have the such weather-freckled features,
The smooth sophisticated creatures?
Ah, not to them such limbs belong,
Such animal movements sure and strong.

Such arms to take a man and press
In agricultural caress
His head to hers, and hold him there
Deep buried in her chestnut hair.

God shrive me from this morning lust
For supple farm girls, if you must,
Send the cold daughter of an earl –
But spare me Thelma’s sister Pearl!

//

In searching for the words to the poem, I found them on a James May fan blog – truly a bizarre corner of the internet I never thought I would visit.

‘Let us not speak, for the love we bear one another—
Let us hold hands and look.’
She such a very ordinary little woman;
He such a thumping crook;
But both, for a moment, little lower than the angels
In the teashop’s ingle-nook.

[Ripped from http://poetry.poetryx.com/poems/4549/. Read in John Betjeman: Poems selected by Hugo Williams, published by Faber & Faber.]