John Betjeman

Burgh Heath
Tattenham Corner, Yew Tree Bottom,
Right, onto the Reigate Road.
Every Sunday off to ASDA
Then home with a heavy load.

Tate and Lyle's golden syrup,
Fingers of deep-frozen cod,
Crosse and Blackwell's Ploughman's pickle,
Puddings fit to serve the gods.

Anchor butter, Kellogg's Cornflakes, 
Tuna chosen by John West,
Cooper's marmalade - no golly?
Never mind, it's quite the best.

Carrots canned or wrapped in clingfilm,
Fresh as from a market stall.
Makers formerly known as Princes
Tin their salmon best of all.

HP sauce, Daz, Flash, Pot Noodle,
Cadbury's chocolate, Nescafé,
PG Tips and Colman's mustard -
I could shop in there all day!

The fun we had in supermarkets!
How nostalgic can you get?
Groceries now come by cable,
Ordered via Internet.

Sir John Betjeman (1906-84) was a very English poet, often witty and humorous but usually with an undercurrent of nostalgia. Among his most famous poems are A Subaltern's Love Song (in which he worships a Miss Joan Hunter Dunn), and Slough ("Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough/It isn't fit for humans now/There isn't grass to graze a cow.") He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1972.

At the time I wrote this parody, there was no such thing as internet shopping - or if there was, I hadn't heard of it - and my local supermarket was ASDA at Burgh Heath in Surrey. But never in my life, I swear, have I bought or eaten a Pot Noodle.

Among Betjeman's lesser known work is a children's book Archie and the Strict Baptists, about a teddy bear who loved the long services and aneucapnic lamps (whatever those may be) at his local Baptist church. Archie was Betjeman's own faithful teddy, who was introduced to Evelyn Waugh at Oxford and became the model for Sebastian Flyte's bear, Aloysius, in Brideshead Revisited.

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This page last updated 07/10/2006