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Trains and Buttered Toast

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  110 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Eccentric, sentimental and homespun, John Betjeman's passions were mostly self-taught. He saw his country being devastated by war and progress and he waged a private war to save it. His only weapons were words—the poetry for which he is best known and, even more influential, the radio talks that first made him a phenomenon. From fervent pleas for provincial preservation to ...more
Hardcover, 353 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by John Murray
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Mike Sumner
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This wonderful book is a record of most of the best of John Betjeman’s radio talks for the BBC - most of them broadcast in the 40s and 50s, the golden age of wireless. Betjeman had a boundless capacity to delight and inspire and is undoubtedly one of our best-loved poets. His great passion was for architecture, particularly churches and he is reckoned to have visited more than 5,000 in his time. Eccentric, enthusiastic, whimsical and often belligerent he is at home here with his tales of trains, ...more
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the books I read recently spent a lot of time commenting on the work of Betjeman in describing England on his radio spots, so I was excited when someone passed along a copy of this book. I learned a lot about many of the smaller towns and villages in West England (a place where they define small towns and villages quite differently, instead of using the terms interchangeably), particularly the architecture and church architecture. It was a charming picture of time gone by (at least I assu ...more
Paul Gallear
I love Betjeman's poetry, but if I had to read one more reference to ilex trees, stucco walls, Georgian architecture, gimcrack, gas lighting town planners, London spreading like an octopus, or how the Victorians ruined most churches, I was going to throw the book out of a window and have done with it.

Sometimes the writing is beautiful, poetic, and nostalgic in a good way, but a lot of the time it is repetitive and comes across as stilted and as though Betjeman was hopelessly old fashioned. I lik
Francis Bunch
A bit saccharine.
"Broadcasting in the golden age of wireless, Betjeman was a national treasure for millions of devoted listeners. Here his eccentric, whimsical and homespun radio talks are collected in book form for the first time. From trains and buttered toast to hymn-writing vicars and Regency terraces, his enthusiasms are infectious.

"Travel with him as he potters about at the seaside,l delves into country churches and marvels at provincial cities. And rediscover, as he did, how to appreciate our discarded he
This is a book I have wanted to read for a long time and my grade assessment of "It was OK" is perhaps a reflection of the difference between my expectation and experience rather than overall quality. I enjoy all the subject matter of these talks - English eccentrics, seaside towns and so on, I like Betjeman's poetry... and I love the cover which matches very well what I thought I was getting.

The first sign that something was off was the introduction by the editor Stephen Games which paints an u
Gareth Evans
May 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a 'nostaligic' urge to visit the 30s and 40s from time to time - 'nostalgic' because I wasn't born then. Betjemen has a similar 'nostalgia' for ages previous to his own. The 30s are too modern for him, all those squalid bungalows, and as for the Victorians, he rarely has a kind word for their buildings. His writing sparkles, but the selection is a little samey and the descriptions of West Country towns can pall a little after a while (ilex trees everywhere), but his writing and attitudes ...more
Tim Corke
The front cover testimonial quotes "a volume that no Betjemaniac will be without". I would be so bold as to say "a volume that a non-Betjemaniac won't need". Unless you're a fan, I wouldn't worry too much about this book. I consider myself to be fairly patient with books but after the first 100 pages and several talks of various topics I was soon bored and questioning whether to continue.

Yes, there's a romantic sentimentality of Betjeman's prose that will strike a chord and is definitely astute
Deborah J
Mar 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
I've never been a huge fan of Betjeman but wasn't sure why. I suppose I bought into the commonly held view that he was a twee conventional rhymer. Although this book of collected radio talks (inc some of his poetry) may have gone some way to disabusing me of the worst that that implies, it is tame stuff. Part of the problem is that much of the material is so specific - Bristol, Bath and the wider west country - that if you don't know the area yourself, it doesn't hold the attention. I accept tha ...more
Sep 16, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a series of radio broadcasts done by Betjeman around the country, each one focussing on a different area. The talk could be about an area in general or a specific town or village. I have to say that I much prefer his poetry. I found his talks very repetitive and he clearly didn't think much of the Victorians and their buildings. Any form of modernisation was anathema to him, I dread to think what he would have made of architecture and what is passed by planning committees these days. ...more
Steve Chilton
The book is a selection of Betjeman's radio broadcasts, but unfortunately didn't really hold my interest. It covers his passions and very evident prejudices. When reading the pieces you can almost hear that familiar voice alternating between a serious approach and then poking fun at circumstances. It doesn't really do justice to the man though. ...more
Mar 14, 2009 rated it it was ok
A sentimental journey for Anglophiles. Evocative descriptions of the architecture and ambience of England before the first world war. By turns charming and insufferable. The whiff of privilege taints its point of view from time to time, but Betjeman wasn't wrong about the soul-deadening properties of urban sprawl. And besides, these were radio pieces, not meant as literary essays. ...more
Aug 28, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of his radio talks from 30's to 70s. Some parts more interesting than others, but enjoyable. You certainly get to know the man - he's not afraid of expressing his opinions! Terribly English! ...more
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
Broadcasts from the golden age of the wireless describing a bygone era with sensitivity and a poet's eye. ...more
Feb 07, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Wouldn't mind buying this to dip into at my leisure. ...more
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-finished
Abandoned on page 51 of 342. Just not me
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