Charlie Davis shares with us an eclectic poem. His poem is about travel, except it is not.


 

This is about travel. Except it’s not. It’s about staying where you are. People glamorise travel and talk

about the places they have been as if reading from a brochure. The town was charming, the windmill

quaint, the sky blue and the people friendly.

Travel’s best souvenir is false nostalgia. Travellers wax lyrical about how abroad people are so

approachable and outgoing, spontaneously striking up conversation with strangers, so openhearted

are they. The silent implication is that we don’t. No one talks to one another here. We are all

guarded and silent and cold.

Yet there are, I firmly believe, connections to be made with everyone. I’m not talking about a deep,

intimate, spiritual or particularly intellectual connection. But connections that flutter and may

prompt a mild smile. And really the content doesn’t matter. In fact, quite often it’s fabricated.

Attending a school you didn’t attend, agreeing with views you’d otherwise contest, fudging your

place of birth to include a whole region: ‘Yes, that is quite near Nottingham, oh your niece lives there

too, how funny… what a coincidence… small world’.

People talk to strangers all the time, though admittedly the frequency increases under various

environmental conditions. We are warmer when the sun is shining, more amenable when alone,

sitting still, bored of our book or eavesdropping. Small talk isn’t just for Americans. A shared

observation is all it takes and warmth spreads between the solitary coffee sippers. The sunshine

soaked Pretters. A garrulous seagull, litter-picking; a cute puppy: all break the fourth wall between

our private theatres.

While contemporaries peruse postcards in far-flung places something must be said for the stayer-

here. Gaps are bridged, faith restored and a feeling of general goodwill fostered without the

fireworks of exoticism or parenthesis of physical travel; the softly spoken pensioner is learning

German for a visit to his expat son. I should learn shorthand and calligraphy, he teases, and get a job

in an office.

His school friend, an ex-councillor, who ‘looks much older’, in an ongoing battle with the clutter of

the pavement explains in detail the licencing of seating areas. The aeronautics enthusiast clerks,

bunking off early on a Friday to discuss their latest trips and the changes to Dundee airport. The

Americans collaring a new puppy owner, interrogating him about its breed – a cock-a-poo – while his

wife orders a coffee – ‘they always over fill it. Like they have to prove they aren’t cheap’.

All watching, all basking, all joking it’s like the Costa del Sol, Biarritz, July. Can’t last. And it is like

those places. So friendly. Quaint, picturesque, charming, a postcard. It’s just like being on holiday,

but without the language gap.

 

Charlie Davis