Maybe Betjeman wasn’t a joke, after all?

The younger witch used to hang out in Queensway. Her regular haunt was an Italian restaurant, which was also the regular haunt of an assortment of strange individuals. Even hanging out on a vaguely touristy basis, it was possible to get to know these people a little.

The Betjeman incident began with Dulcie from Australia; a very energetic lady in her early sixties. She was over here for the first time ever, having spent her life saving and scrimping to see England once. She had three months, and wanted to cram everything into them. When I mentioned the beautiful railway journey between Inverness and Skye, she immediately dropped everything and went up there to have a look. That’s what she was like.

So, when eccentric Mrs MacLean suggested Neasden, she went there too. Except she came back rather disappointed, and told me it hadn’t been special at all. I’d never heard of Neasden, but I could believe her. When challenged, Mrs MacLean sniffed “Well, if it was good enough for Betjeman…” Neither Dulcie nor the young witch had heard of Betjeman, either, so we said no more. Poor Dulcie felt she had wasted a day on a wild goose chase. Mrs MacLean had grand airs about her, so to say that she sniggered wouldn’t be correct. But you get the picture.

Some years later, I did come across Betjeman again, and learnt he was a poet. Though I assumed he was unimportant and not very well known.

Slightly later still, the Resident IT Consultant found his first flat in London after leaving university. I laughed when I heard, as Dollis Hill was practically Neasden, which by then had become something of a private joke. My first month as Mrs IT Consultant was spent going to the launderette in Neasden, and buying our milk from the Neasden Woolworths. When I heard that Ikea was establishing its first London store in Neasden, I laughed some more.

Anyway, BBCFour recently showed an old programme called Metro-land, all about the London Underground, narrated by none other than John Betjeman. He did recite something poetic about Neasden, but I still think Mrs M was unkind to Dulcie.

7 responses to “Maybe Betjeman wasn’t a joke, after all?

  1. Before my time… where’s Neasden??? :o)

  2. Next to Dollis Hill. Weren’t you paying attention?

  3. Er, this is a joke, right? John Betjeman was Poet Laureate after all. Joan Hunter Dunne, Come friendly bombs and drop on Slough etc.

    He did have a fondness for the suburbs it’s true.

  4. Sorry, Mary. Foreigners are capable of being ignorant of the most astounding facts. For the 20-year-old witch, Betjeman was in a different league altogether. When Mrs M mentioned him, I couldn’t even work out the spelling of the name, so couldn’t have looked him up. But I did recognise it as the “one from Neasden” when I came across it again. And dear Dulcie had left school at 13, I believe, and felt dreadfully inferior. A kinder person would have explained to us who he was, and the connection with Neasden.

  5. The idea of sending someone to Neasden… This is just hilarious, Ann.

    How did that poem go? ‘Come friendly bombs, and fall on Neasden / It is not fit to be a flea’s den.’ ( I believe John B was working on rhymes to go with every dull London borough and suburb…)

  6. At least it meant I’d heard of Neasden before I went to live in the vicinity.

    And at the time I’d never heard of Poet Laureates, either. Let alone individual names of poets.

  7. Pingback: From cake to Cecil | CultureWitch

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