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A Suburban Boy

Born into 1960s “Metroland” as I was, its not difficult to see why the love of Art Deco and the 1930s has stayed with me. By the time I was conscious of my surroundings a lot of the housing estates, shops and public buildings had only just krept into middle age. There were symbols and architecture that although beginning to lose their initial gloss were still quite fresh and vibrant. The way the town looked was different to anywhere else in the country, excluding other towns in Metroland. Its something I’m reflecting on more and more in these times and I think I’ll start to share some of these memories occasionally.

I’ll leave you with some lines from my hero John Betjeman which some up the feelings we both have for Metroland.

Baker Street Station Buffet

Early Electric! With what radiant hope Men formed this many-branched electrolier, Twisted the flex around the iron rope And let the dazzling vacuum globes hang clear, And then with hearts the rich contrivance fill’d Of copper, beaten by the Bromsgrove Guild.

Early Electric! Sit you down and see, ‘Mid this fine woodwork and a smell of dinner, A stained-glass windmill and a pot of tea, And sepia views of leafy lanes in Pinner – Then visualize, far down the shining lines, Your parents’ homestead set in murmuring pines.

Smoothly from Harrow, passing Preston Road, They saw the last green fields and misty sky, At Neasden watched a workmen’s train unload, And, with the morning villas sliding by, They felt so sure on their electric trip That Youth and Progress were in partnership.

And all that day in murky London Wall The thought of Ruislip kept him warm inside; At Farringdon that lunch hour at a stall He bought a dozen plants of London Pride; While she, in arc-lit Oxford Street adrift, Soared through the sales by safe hydraulic lift.

Early Electric! Maybe even here They met that evening at six-fifteen Beneath the hearts of this electrolier And caught the first non-stop to Willesden Green, Then out and on, through rural Rayner’s Lane To autumn-scented Middlesex again.

Cancer has killed him. Heart is killing her. The trees are down. An Odeon flashes fire Where stood their villa by the murmuring fir When ” they would for their children’s good conspire. ” Of their loves and hopes on hurrying feet Thou art the worn memorial, Baker Street.

John Betjeman

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