I live in a village sandwiched equidistantly between royal Windsor and Slough; famously slighted in Sir John Betjeman’s poem of that name that began, “Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough, it isn’t fit for humans now”. The two towns are geographically close but miles apart in every other respect.
Slough folk hate Betjeman’s poem and there are endless competitions, one of which I won, to write a response. ‘Living Breathing Slough’ won a competition to mark Slough Borough Council becoming a ‘unitary authority’ responsible for it’s own education and social services. My poem mimics the style of the original and is a direct response. It was broadcast on Radio Berkshire and Radio Four’s You and Yours programme.
Living, Breathing Slough
Fie on you Betjeman for sneering at Slough
As unfit for humans or grazing of cow
A town for its people it stands alone now
Inured to your snub.
Not picture book pretty or claiming to be
But living and breathing and if you could see
A town that is working, not pretty or twee
See all the commuters in smart office suits
Come in from the motorways various routes
Who queue for a sandwich in Marks or in Boots
And hurry it down.
An industrial estate, the largest around
Grew from a dump on a piece of waste ground
Now names that are famous and factories abound
See where the people from shopping arcade
Spill through the streets that bristle with trade
Sauntering, seeking till purchase is made.
Then off they roam.
Diverse the town’s people
each race and hue
From mosque and gurdwara, temple and pew.
From each end of the earth its people it drew.
All call it home.