A John Betjeman postage stamp. I unearthed this piece of Betjeman ephemera because the lovable old coot is once again prominent in my thoughts since reading A.N. Wilson's recent biography. It's a fine account for which I can forgive the author's 1993 heathen-biased life of Jesus. What strikes home is that the British architectural and cultural heritage Betj strove to save is virtually extinct but so is any trace of comparable humour or genuine eccentricity in today's cultural commentators.
Like my earlier blogged sighting of George Melly in a London street I remember vividly spotting John Betjeman ambling near Leeds Town Hall while I was about 19 years old and about to transfer onto a National Express bus to Liverpool. Betjeman's portly figure was unmistakeable, as was his battered charcoal suit and trilby. He seemed to be gazing upwards at the soot-encrusted provincial buildings, memorials of Victorian civic pride.