Looking through a tourist brochure, I admire the pictures, the snaps of familiar places, monuments I walk past every day, and I think, yes, it’s an attractive town. But the pictures lie, because they are just pictures. They show what a place looks like, not what it is. They show the fountains and the happy children splashing, the riverside walk where the skateboarders, cyclists and strollers cohabit. It looks like that, it really does, and the sky is as blue as in the photos and the river runs, the trees bow and sway. The flowers bloom and the tourists point their telephones and cameras.
But where is the homeless man who always sits on the same bench, the drunk asleep among the hibiscus? Where is the strange lady dressed all in yellow with artificial flowers in her hair, feeding the pigeons? I see no dog dirt and litter, no dog walkers discussing politics, no policemen asking the Rastaman to move on, no municipal gardeners armed with rakes and spades telling them to leave him alone. Where is the Gypsy couple with their plastic bags of belongings and their cat, the group of Bulgarian men fishing for catfish, the quiet-spoken Algerian reading the Koran?
Life is not just smiling blond-haired children and their youthful parents. There is dirt and difficulty, broken glass and broken hearts. There are sleek gulls and swans gliding, but huddled in the spring sunshine, there are pigeons with deformed feet waiting to die. The pictures are real and true. But they lie.
Not blue sky, not grey,
brown river or crystal clear,
but nuanced, like life.