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on 26 May 2006
This is a terrific selection of Betjeman's radio broadcasts. And it seems to be get to heart of the man's passions, prejudices and, of course, humour. The talk on Tennyson made me laugh out loud. But it's Betj's love of English architecture and way of life that come through so strongly in this collection. Reading the pieces you can almost hear that familiar voice one minute quietly serious and passionate, the next gently poking fun. What a remarkable man he was.
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on 24 August 2006
This is the most enjoyable Betjeman book I've ever read - a book that's so good, it ought to be part of the English Literature curriculum. More than that: it ought to be read by everyone applying for British citizenship! In the course of 360 pages, Betjeman plunges you into what he regarded as the major issues of English identity - issues of aesthetics, civic duty, relations with authority, and individuality.

I suppose that all these ideas are contained in Betjeman's poetry, but there one tends to get distracted into noticing rhythm and metre and scansion. And Betjeman's poetic ideas are smaller. Here, although the writing is often lyrical, he addresses topics in a much more direct way. He cares that unvalued townscapes are being destroyed, that there might be collusion between commercial interests and public officials, that the recent past and the middle brow are ignored by modern taste-makers. Especially in his earlier essays, he writes about these issues with passion and yet with a lightness of touch that engages the reader completely. Read this, and you cannot fail to agree that Betjeman stands as one of the foremost spokesmen of the twentieth century.

"Trains and Buttered Toast" (with its beautful cover design by Duff Tollemache) also shows that Betjeman was fascinated by individuals and individuality. He is correspondingly cruel about English stereotypes - the lumpen proletariat who, in the late 1940s, listened to popular music on car radios or went on holiday in luxury coaches. His point, however, is to criticise people's failure to open their eyes, ask original questions and discover fresh beauties - something he sees as the public's sheep instinct. The antidote, he suggests, is to look for inspiration at people who didn't go where everyone else went and who weren't damaged by commercial pressures and mass production. He finds his role models in Victoriana, an age that he regards as rich in the culture of individuality. Many of his talks explore this in its most extreme manifestation - in eccentricity and in provincialism. In fact, among the most entertaining talks in the entire book are those that look at individuals who dedicated themselves to the church. Never before Betjeman was there a literary category devoted to "West of England Victorian hymn-writing vicars". Now there is!

Spread a little happiness. Buy this book - and buy it for your friends. They'll love you for it: it's a total joy.
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on 20 July 2006
This is a most enjoyable read for anyone interested in John Betjman or indeed anyone longing to go back to the times when trains had windows that would open! Stephen Games has skilfully edited talks given out on the BBC during a period of 40+ years. The range of topics, clearly indicating the diversity of the broadcaster, poet and architectual buff (self-taught) range from the wit of Tennyson to the lament of modernism encroaching on metropolitan and rural life, with many interesting talks covered in between. Anyone interest in "how we lived then" should buy this book now.
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on 26 June 2007
This is the most enjoyable Betjeman book I've ever read - a book that's so good, it ought to be part of the English Literature curriculum. More than that: it ought to be read by everyone applying for British citizenship! In the course of 360 pages, Betjeman plunges you into what he regarded as the major issues of English identity - issues of aesthetics, civic duty, relations with authority, and individuality.

I suppose that all these ideas are contained in Betjeman's poetry, but there one tends to get distracted into noticing rhythm and metre and scansion. And Betjeman's poetic ideas are smaller. Here, although the writing is often lyrical, he addresses topics in a much more direct way. He cares that unvalued townscapes are being destroyed, that there might be collusion between commercial interests and public officials, that the recent past and the middle brow are ignored by modern taste-makers. Especially in his earlier essays, he writes about these issues with passion and yet with a lightness of touch that engages the reader completely. Read this, and you cannot fail to agree that Betjeman stands as one of the foremost spokesmen of the twentieth century.

"Trains and Buttered Toast" (with its beautful cover design by Duff Tollemache) also shows that Betjeman was fascinated by individuals and individuality. He is correspondingly cruel about English stereotypes - the lumpen proletariat who, in the late 1940s, listened to popular music on car radios or went on holiday in luxury coaches. His point, however, is to criticise people's failure to open their eyes, ask original questions and discover fresh beauties - something he sees as the public's sheep instinct. The antidote, he suggests, is to look for inspiration at people who didn't go where everyone else went and who weren't damaged by commercial pressures and mass production. He finds his role models in Victoriana, an age that he regards as rich in the culture of individuality. Many of his talks explore this in its most extreme manifestation - in eccentricity and in provincialism. In fact, among the most entertaining talks in the entire book are those that look at individuals who dedicated themselves to the church. Never before Betjeman was there a literary category devoted to "West of England Victorian hymn-writing vicars". Now there is!

Spread a little happiness. Buy this book - and buy it for your friends. They'll love you for it: it's a total joy.
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on 26 September 2017
Sir John betjeman what can I say,a great poet, a cheeky sense of humour,a great lover of railways and people.
He brings all our childhood memory's back with is books especially is programmes.
A great humanist.
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on 8 January 2018
Betjeman at his best. A varied collection, with humour, insight and some nostalgia which is endearing. How popular his broadcasts must have been, summoning up scenes and ideas of the age.
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on 30 December 2016
Lovely witty book well worth reading
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on 6 October 2017
Bought for wife she likes it. Leaves me cold.
Regards DBS
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on 22 August 2017
Enjoyable but dated
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on 26 June 2017
Lovely book great condition
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