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John Betjeman (1906-1984)

Indoor Games near Newbury


              1In among the silver birches winding ways of tarmac wander
              2   And the signs to Bussock Bottom, Tussock Wood and Windy Brake,
              3Gabled lodges, tile-hung churches, catch the lights of our Lagonda
              4   As we drive to Wendy's party, lemon curd and Christmas cake.
              5          Rich the makes of motor whirring,
              6          Past the pine-plantation purring
              7                    Come up, Hupmobile, Delage!
              8          Short the way your chauffeurs travel,
              9          Crunching over private gravel
            10                    Each from out his warm garĂ¡ge.

            11Oh but Wendy, when the carpet yielded to my indoor pumps
            12          There you stood, your gold hair streaming,
            13          Handsome in the hall-light gleaming
            14There you looked and there you led me off into the game of clumps
            15          Then the new Victrola playing
            16          And your funny uncle saying
            17'Choose your partners for a fox-trot! Dance until its tea o'clock!
            18          "Come on, young 'uns, foot it featly!"
            19          Was it chance that paired us neatly,
            20          I, who loved you so completely,
            21You, who pressed me closely to you, hard against your party frock?"

            22"Meet me when you've finished eating!" So we met and no one found us.
            23   Oh that dark and furry cupboard while the rest played hide and seek!
            24Holding hands our two hearts beating in the bedroom silence round us,
            25   Holding hands and hardly hearing sudden footstep, thud and shriek.
            26       Love that lay too deep for kissing---
            27       "Where is Wendy? Wendy's missing!"
            28               Love so pure it had to end,
            29       Love so strong that I was frighten'd
            30       When you gripped my fingers tight and
            31Hugging, whispered "I'm your friend."

            32Goodbye Wendy! Send the fairies, pinewood elf and larch tree gnome,
            33        Spingle-spangled stars are peeping
            34        At the lush Lagonda creeping
            35Down the winding ways of tarmac to the leaded lights of home.
            36        There, among the silver birches,
            37        All the bells of all the churches
            38Sounded in the bath-waste running out into the frosty air.
            39        Wendy speeded my undressing,
            40        Wendy is the sheet's caressing
            41        Wendy bending gives a blessing,
            42Holds me as I drift to dreamland, safe inside my slumber-wear.


Online text copyright © 2010, Ian Lancashire (the Department of English) and the University of Toronto.
"Indoor Games near Newbury" from Collected Poems by John Betjeman. Copyright @copy; 2006 by The Estate of John Betjeman.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: John Betjeman, Collected Poems (New York, N.Y.: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006): 124-125. PR 6003. E77 A17 2006X Robarts Library
First publication date: 1948
Publication date note: Selected Poems, 1948
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh
RP edition: 2009
Recent editing: 1:2009/6/1*1:2009/6/3


Other poems by John Betjeman