Miles Kington: 'Antique Betjeman Roadshow' and other odd tributes

If you had received a letter from Sir John Betjeman, how much would it be worth? Not an awful lot, it seems...
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The Independent Online

There are more than a thousand television and radio programmes on John Betjeman scheduled in the next seven days, so to help you, I am bringing you a selection of the best.

BETJEMAN AND GOLF (BBC 5 Thursday)

Sir John Betjeman never played golf - there is a memorable shot of him in Metro-land swinging at a ball and totally missing it - but his beloved Cornwall is full of good golf courses, as indeed are his beloved Home Counties, and in this evocative hour some of our top sports commentators speculate on how much he would have liked the game if he had liked it.

"Down the fairway, past the marker,

Flies the Penfold No 3, Driven by my fair Rhiannon,

From the forward Ladies tee...

BETJEMAN AND BALLROOM DANCING (UK Dance Channel, weekend)

Sir John Betjeman had no time for ballroom dancing, but his beloved East Anglia was full of dance halls, as indeed was the Australian city of Sydney which he so loved, and in this enthralling documentary we trace the progress of the architectural evolution of the palais de danse, a form of building which Betjeman would undoubtedly have loved if he hadn't been so hung up on churches and railway stations.

THE LAUREATE YEARS (Radio 3, last night)

What did the Queen think of Sir John's poetry? This programme does not tell us.

JOHN BETJEMAN: THE SKIER (Sports Channel, next week)

It is not known if Sir John was much of a skier, but for many years the British winter holidaymaker would have streamed through his beloved Victoria and Waterloo stations en route to the pleasure slopes of France and Switzerland.

This programme lovingly recreates pre-war skiing conditions in Sir John Betjeman's honour.

"Down the slope comes my Rhiannon,

Swishing as she passes me; She is fleet and I am hopeless,

Flat on my back at Chamonix; But later, when the dusk has fallen,

And we all have had our tea, I will then approach Rhiannon

In the glow of après-ski..."

THE TEDDY BEAR FACTOR (Radio 4, weekend)

How did Sir John's celebrity affect teddy bear sales in Britain? Er, not hugely, apparently.

BLACK-HEARTED BETJEMAN (BBC 14 next week)

Cornish poet Charles Causley once described Betjeman as "the most frightened man I ever met", and Bevis Hiller's biography often shows us a vindictive and troubled man, given to vitriolic vendettas, as against Nikolaus Pevsner.

This programme details the case against Sir John. Director Toby Blunt says: "After all, there has to be at least one Betjeman programme showing the monster behind the teddy bear. Damn, I wish we'd called the programme that now!"

ANTIQUE BETJEMAN ROADSHOW (TV repeat)

If you had received a letter from Sir John Betjeman, how much would it be worth now? Not an awful lot, it seems.

BETJEMAN AND ALL-IN WRESTLING (BBC 1, end of month)

There is no record of Betjeman being interested in wrestling or boxing, but his beloved Birmingham was full of old sports halls, as indeed was his beloved Leeds, and this programme pays a lyrical tribute through his eyes to the vanishing art of all-in wrestling, in its way as traditional and venerable a craft as poetry or straw-hat-making.

"See Rhiannon flex her muscles,

As she leaps into the ring,

See her poor opponent quake now, Wobbling like a rubber ring.

Later, when the dusk has fallen,

Dancing in the village hall,

I will grapple with Rhiannon - One submission or a fall."

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