Monday, 1 September 2014

WHAT'S ON TELLY, BETJEMAN LAND, BBC4.



I read the Filth-O-Graph through the 'nineties; its photographs were the best in Fleet Street, science and nature coverage were exemplary - readable, up-to-the-moment, diverse;  the barefaced redneckery of its letters page a healthy antidote to the suffocating, liberal, multicultural bleating in the Guardian,  and it even published some of my letters, the editor telephoning me on one occasion to verify the cause of an insult I had paid to John Prescott but most of all I  read the Telegraph for writers like Auberon Waugh and AN Wilson.


Wilson, as drily gracious on screen as on the page,  presents BBC 4's Betjeman Land, an affectionate hagiography of a complex, deceitful, bibulous, effete, idle, selfish yet personable and much loved poet laureate, Sir John.  His influences, his education, his vices, his adultery and notably his architectural campaigns,  the saving of  Victorian  buildings and his rage at the vandals who would displace them with concrete torments are patiently and affectionately recalled through Wilson's seemingly effortless erudition.

My resolved view of poets is How dare there be such, making rhymes and rhythms from the entrails of our sorrow? And then selling them.  Betjeman, though and Wilson are more my own sort of people, street entertainers, quizzicalising the daily, the humdrum and the mortal.  It is a lovely programme, suffused with a scholarly grace, it hymns a man dead just these thirty years, a writer comprising snob, dilletante, waster and enthusiastic Everyman. It will be available on some sort of what I believe are now called portals, some fantastical, impersonal  contrivance which Betjeman would have rejoiced in excoriating.

12 comments:

Bungalow Bill said...

Yes Wilson is another invaluable Tory anarchist. The original Metroland followed his programme I think, and that is pure delight. I went to Betjeman's grave at St Enodoc's church a while ago, there is a bench nearby, and it is a wonderful place. He was all of the things you say but the antithesis of the bureaucratic mind you deplore in your later post.

callmeishmael said...

I hadn't meant to compile a rapsheet, mr bungalow bill; gosh, if only my sins were as slight as Betjeman's.

mrs narcolept related, a while back, her coming across the grave of Sandy Denny, composer of Who Knows Where The Time Goes. She didn't say if she sat awhile, as did Wilson and yourself on that bench, didn't say if she even paused, although I would guess she did. It is an endlessly fertile conjecture, what, alive, would the dead have made of people sitting near their bones, comforted?

Metroland was on, in the background, a soundtrack to my grim rage at ACC Filth, as it tumbled out,
Betjeman's cadences of genteel affront - in that moment - hopelessly insufficient. I will look at it another time, in iSpace.

Anonymous said...

If you ever get a chance to see Wilson on his home town of Stoke on Trent, it's a corker. Wilson's dad was a head honcho at Wedgwood and the child grew up knowing in a deep sense about art and craft. His musing on his own history and that of the ceramics industry is illuminating. He is a little bit sniffy about what has happened to an old house but is always acutely and sympathetically aware of the people who use it and who make pots, the primal activity which puts them in the same space as God thinking: 'I wonder what I can make out of clay?'

Woman on a Raft (In Search of England)

P.S. The Betjeman statue at St Pancras is affectionately good and with lyrical lettering cut in the stone. Everybody likes to have their picture taken with it. The bronze looks like it is moving in the breeze of a ghostly train and his hat is nearly falling off. It draws adroit attention to the engineering wonder of the roof, at which he is marvelling. Nice touch to make the point that he appreciated the modernity of the building as well as the flamboyant gothic references which saw the project of the railways growing out of accumulated learning, not a break with it.

Bungalow Bill said...

Beautifully expressed, if I may say so Mrs Woar.

call me ishmael said...

A more judicious choice of 'photo-companion, Betjeman, than many, George Galloway, for instance.

There has been a fair bit, recently, broadcast about the Potteries, generally and Wedgewood in particular; I think Dr Lucy Lisp did one, in which, unaccountably, she didn't manage to have herself laced-up in Regency bondage lingerie and there has been other stuff, in the post-Fred Dibnah milieu but I don't think I have seen Wilson's programme, mrs woar, I will look out for it on my iThing.

call me ishmael said...

There is, mr bungalow bill, an equally authorially lyrical blog, the raft journal; if I could do links, I would do one but Google is your friend, after a fashion.

Rightwinggit said...

http://womanonaraft.blogspot.co.uk/

I'm not into poetry, but I just typed this from memory;


"Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough,

It's only fit for cows now.."

SG said...

Alas for the 'Telegraph' Mr I. The last proper UK newspaper now sadly demised. Aside from the things you mention they were once also known for the quality of their war and defence correspondents. Now we have Con Coughlin FFS!

call me ishmael said...

Yes, John Keegan, wasn't it? Coughlin is a fool, he thinks defence and war are the same thing. The DT grows more like the Mail every day but there is no room for two Mails; I expect it will be wound up shortly.

SG said...

Yes, I think you are right about Mr Keegan and Coughlin. Stangely I place the latter in the same camp as those who say we should get rid of nuclear weapons because we will never use them. Stupidity seems to be gaining the upper hand in our world as it is today.

blackholesunset said...

Thank you so much for the recommendation, Mr Ishmael. I would've otherwise overlooked AN Wilson and John Betjeman.

"It would appeal to the sort of people who liked peace and mistrusted progress."

call me ishmael said...

I don't know if it is still around, mr bhs, but Wilson wrote an early, weekly satirical Tony Blair's Diary, until he realised that Blair, actually, was beyond satire. They were brilliant. As mr bb says, an invaluable Tory anarchist.