16 JUNE 1955, Page 13

City and Suburban

By JOHN BETJEMAN 0 NE of the most glorious things about the railway strike has been the virtual silencing of station announcers. Those cultural accents which pronounce all names as they are spelt were gradually doing away with local pronunciations. Wilfred Scawen Blunt and Belloc went to much trouble to keep alive Horse-ham for Horsham, but they lost the battle when station or wireless announcers were invented. I dare say, Bosham was never pronounced Bosom. and I dare say places OR the Celtic fringe like Kirkoobry and Kinyaha will never be pronounced as they are spelt. but we have now time to remember English station names. The fol- lowing lists from the main termini of London are submitted to Sir Brian Robertson :

Paddington Didc6t Chipnem Tarnton Weston-superiMarry Froom St. Ostle Larnston Wadebridge (ilorster Cheltnem Ciren by Victoria Margit Ramsgit Brumley East Grinstid Euston Daintry Cuventry Liverpool Street Rumford Britlingsea or Britticsea King's Cross Burlington

Of course, some of these may be wrong. If I have to be a station announcer at Waterloo after the Revolution, I shall never be sure whether it's Bornmuth or Boornemouth, and I dare say nobody now, outside Beverley, kno\vs where Burling- ton is. But I foresee the time when we talk about Har-wich and Nor-wich and Reeding.

Tim ODIUM OP SODIUM We may soon, thank goodness, sec an end to the spread of sodium lighting on our roads—that light which turns the living into jaundiced corpses and drains the colour from trees and buildings. The Mill Hill Preservation Society has been at some pains to inquire the comparative cost of sodium lighting, fluorescent and tungsten. Tungsten is what you and I mean, by electric light, and as well as being the pleasantest, it's the cheapest. Next comes fluorescent, which is a little cheaper than tuhgsten on main roads, though not on side roads. The life of sodium lamps is not so long as that of fluorescent. It is hard to see what justification there is for using the hideous form of sodium lighting at present all too prevalent.

No ENTHUSIASM One of the functions of criticism is surely to communicate enthusiasm. I do not say it is the only one, but I 'doubt whether there has ever been a time when so little enthusiasm has been shown by literary and artistic critics for the work of contem- porary writers and artists on these islands. I went through forty-three reviews of modern books and exhibitions in the past fortnight's dailies and weeklies. There were fewer than live notices which could be called enthusiastic. The majority were negative, and there were no savage signed attacks. Savage attacks seem to seek the shelter of anonymity. Possibly this state of things is because people publish too many books and paint too many pictures. More probably it is that we are influenced by the climate of the times and think about destruc- tion rather than creation. Perhaps we all have a feeling I have myself when I look at buildings : that anything is better that was done in the past. But this is a bad time for all English creative writers and artists.

CONDUITS AND CAB SHELTERS

One of the most neglected possessions of Oxford University is the Conduit, which was built in 1610 and stood at Carfax, and now stands on a hill miles away in Nuncham Park. It was carved with gilded symbolic figures, and Queen Matilda astride an ox surmounts it. I am glad to see that there is a move to bring it back to the city—perhaps to replace the uninteresting cab shelter opposite Balliol in the Broad.