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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 April, 2005, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
New poem praises 'unfit' Slough
Ricky Gervais starring as David Brent in The Office
Hit TV sitcom The Office was set on the Slough Trading Estate
A top contemporary poet has reworked John Betjeman's derogatory poem about Slough - instead celebrating the town made famous by TV sitcom The Office.

Ian McMillan says he is righting a "poetic wrong" by penning his version of the late poet laureate's work.

In the original, Betjeman writes: "Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough, it isn't fit for humans now".

In the revised work, McMillan counters him: "Come friendly words and splash on Slough! Celebrate it, here and now".

'Huge fan'

Slough has long been the butt of insulting jokes.

Betjeman's 1937 poem was the first blow to the town's reputation but things were made worse when Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant chose to set their hit BBC comedy The Office on the Slough Trading Estate.

In the first series, Gervais' character, David Brent, even reads out Betjeman's poem.

McMillan, who is currently the election poet on Radio 4's Today programme, says he admires the original but felt it was unfair.

'Seen as a joke'

"I have been to Slough before and, although I'm a huge fan of the Sir John Betjeman poem, I'm very happy to right a poetic wrong," he said.

Other lines in the new version include: "It's true Slough Town don't always win, but losing's shrugged off with a grin; Slough can take it on the chin, and has, for years.

"Some towns are just seen as a joke, through a fog of prejudicial smoke; Well, let's shut up these put-down folk: their opinions smell..."

McMillan is due to visit Slough on Friday to read his new work out to local residents.

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