qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

It was all so much better in my day, you know ...

Book Review: Trains and Buttered Toast, by John Betjeman (edited by Stephen Games)
This is a collection of transcripts of some of Betjeman's radio talks, mostly from the 1930s through to the early 50s, though with an outlier into the 70s.

For me, the best pieces are those that are on places, aural travelogues from a bygone era. I find an irony in the way Betjeman castigates the planning, design and build quality of new homes (especially Stockbroker Tudor) and municipal buildings in the 1930s when I'd certainly make the same criticisms of today's new homes, now looking with a fondness upon the surviving properties of that period. But his passion is mostly for Georgian architecture in the South West, judging by these talks. He has little time for Victorian restorations of older churches, though he likes newly constructed Victorian churches. He loathes the development of Swindon with a passion (and he never encountered The Magic Roundabout [more images here]).

Other sections feature talks on the privations of wartime; "Eccentrics"; "Christian Soldiers"; and "The Comfort of Churches". These last two (with the exception of a talk on Pugin) are less interesting to me, though they are just as well written. The selection finishes off with some more autobiographical talks, probably not the strongest material in the book but an appropriate enough conclusion.
Tags: books
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