Walk / Don’t Walk

by Brian Docherty

Travel books are always out of date.
Even if the time lag wasn’t inherent.
the writer’s Rome, Paris, Sydney,
wouldn’t be yours, your snapshots
would never match the glossy illusions
anchoring the book’s version of Abroad

Once your Student Guide To Wherever,
your Rough Guide or Lonely Planet,
is over five years old, or you get married,
the places described become as fictional
as Isaac Asimov or childhood memories,
not to be confused with any real world.

Take your memories, favourite books or films
with you as head luggage, buy a local map,
find the local freesheet, treat lunch as adventure,
remember the traffic is not the wrong way round
and speak s l o w l y, LOUDLY, and clearly.
Welcome to English as a foreign language.

You will act like a novice computer user,
Are You Sure You Want To Do This
the implicit or explicit response on buses,
in bars, museums, the hotel dining room.
Breaches of local etiquette may mean
‘Englishman’ is translated as ‘mad dog’.

Practice interpreting the local currency
in case they don’t speak American Express,
and master the art of tipping naturally,
but if you misread maps & guide books,
wander into a ‘scruffy to rotten district’,
if you are lucky it will resemble Dalston.