Thursday, 28 August 2008

Happy Birthday, Sir John!

Poet-in-Residence cannot let this day, the late John Betjeman's 102nd birthday, pass without marking the occasion. In England the late poet laureate, critic, historian, conservationist, short-story writer, railway enthusiast, country lover and humorist is something of a national institution despite his friendly bombs falling on Slough.
In the following poem Myfanwy (a Welsh girl's name) the old smoothie has a crush on the nanny; yearns to get her in the pottingshed it would appear!


Kind o'er the kinderbank leans my Myfanwy,
White o'er the play-pen the sheen of her dress,
Fresh from the bathroom and soft in the nursery
Soap-scented fingers I long to caress.

Were you a prefect and head of your dormit'ry?
Were you a hockey girl, tennis or gym?
Who was your favourite? Who had a crush on you?
Which were the baths where they taught you to swim?

Smooth down the Avenue glitters the bicycle,
Black-stockinged legs under navy-blue serge,
Home and Colonial, Star, International,
Balancing bicycle leant on the verge.

Trace me your wheel-tracks, you fortunate bicycle,
Out of the shopping and into the dark,
Back down the Avenue, back to the pottingshed,
Back to the house on the fringe of the park.

Golden the light on the locks of Myfanwy,
Golden the light on the book on her knee,
Finger-marked pages of Rackham's Hans Andersen,
Time for the children to come down to tea.

Oh! Fuller's angel-cake, Robertson's marmalade,
Liberty lampshade, come, shine on us all,
My! what a spread for the friends of Myfanwy
Some in the alcove and some in the hall.

Then what sardines in the half-lighted passages!
Locking of fingers in long hide-and-seek.
You will protect me, my silken Myfanwy,
Ringleader, tom-boy, and chum to the weak.

- Sir John Betjeman (1906-84)


  1. thanks Gwilym loved reading it again

  2. just a small party for JB's 102nd
    - will it be two fingers or a stiff one, John?


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