Sir John Betjeman
From the geyser ventilators
Autumn winds are blowing down
On a thousand business women
Having baths in Camden Town.
Waste pipes chuckle into runnels,
Steam’s escaping here and there,
Morning trains through Camden cutting
Shake the Crescent and the Square.
Early nip of changeful autumn,
Dahlias glimpsed through garden doors,
At the back precarious bathrooms
Jutting out from upper floors;
And behind their frail partitions
Business women lie and soak,
Seeing through the draughty skylight
Flying clouds and railway smoke.
Rest you there, poor unbelov’d ones,
Lap your loneliness in heat.
All too soon the tiny breakfast,
Trolley-bus and windy street!
Place-Names of China Alan Bennett
Bolding Vedas! Shanks New Nisa!
Trusty Lichfield swirls it down
To filter beds on Ruislip Marshes
For my lav in Kentish Town.
The Burlington! The Rochester!
Oh those names of childhood loos.
Nursie rattling the door-knob:
“Have you done your Number Twos?”
Lady typist – office party –
Golly! All that gassy beer!
Tripping home down Hendon Parkway
To her improved Windermere.
Chelsea buns and Lounge Bar pasties
All swilled down with Benskin’s Pale,
Purified and cleansed by charcoal,
Fill the taps in Colindale.
Here I sit, alone and sixty,
Bald and fat and full of sin,
Cold the seat and loud the cistern
As I read the Harpic tin.
A Visit to GlyndebourneStanley J. Sharpless
Let me get my evening suit out,
Is it fit for Glyndebourne stalls?
Ages since I saw an opera,
(Traviata, one recalls).
Two free tickets for your birthday,
Nice idea of Auntie Pat’s,
Must be careful not to let on
That we’d rather have seen Cats.
Don’t forget the opera glasses,
I must take my hearing aid,
Though the whole thing’s in Italian,
Quite beyond me, I’m afraid.
Still, the programme will explain it,
With an outline of the plot,
(Incidentally, is it silent –
That last ‘t’ in Turandot?)
Fortnum’s do a picnic basket
With some rather scrumptious food.
Salmon, caviar and champers
Help to put one in the mood
For the summer lawns of Glyndebourne,
Sort of Ascot in its way,
Standing for the good old values
In the punk world of today.
There’s a fast train from Victoria,
Saves a long drive – such a boon,
Though one does feel rather silly,
Dinner-jacketed at noon.
Does one clap after each aria?
Best to see what others do;
Hope it won’t go on too long, dear,
Last train back – 10.42.