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Arts | By Valerie Grove | November issue


‘Before I snuff it, the whole Boiling will be bricked in.’ Philip Larkin’s threnody for rural England, the poem ‘Going, going’, was published in 1972 in his collection High Windows. ‘The whole Boiling’ was a perfect idiom. How sickening, 45 years on, to see the still deadly threat to London which suffers from Boris’s mayoral legacy: a forest of vacant towers. And how agreeable to hear Betjeman’s voice again in Patrick Wright’s Radio 4 series, The English Fix. A N Wilson, Betjeman’s biographer, spoke for JB, deriding ‘the plansters’, and lamenting the miserable consequences of living with brutal buildings that arrived in the ‘second Blitz’, money being the sole motive. ‘Money, motorways and shopping malls have wrecked England,’ said Wilson. ‘And the greatest crime that has been committed is the degrading tower block.’  Lines from Betjeman’s poem ‘Inexpensive Progress’ – ‘Bestride your hills with pylons, O age without a soul’...

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