Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Local Tourist

While others attempt to Salsa and Zumba, I’m ageing before my time to join a free walking tour of Leeds’ riverside. Having watched the dragon boat racing at last year’s Waterfront Festival, I’ve decided to become a tourist in my own city. I may not have grown up in Leeds but I’ve now been here for most of my adult life and nearly half of my life so far so feel justified in calling it “my” city. After all, I spend much more time in the North than I do in Kent – not so long ago, I even managed to quite remarkably get lost in Cranbrook (the tiny town I grew up in).

Today’s tour makes me feel aged. There are three young backpackers in the group, an older couple and a latecomer who looks about my age. The three real tourists avoid asking questions and leave the tour early. One of them seemed to spend longer on his phone than he did listening to our Civic Trust guide. The older couple keep to themselves too but nod appreciatively when our enthusiastic guide makes a subtle joke. The latecomer walks with our guide as if they are old friends chatting away about developments in the city. I eventually join them and repeatedly experience moments of Déjà Vu as we appreciate the age of the buildings and agree on the importance of looking up in order to do so.

By the end of the tour, I feel able to conduct my own diluted slightly less informative educational walk, having soaked in some of the history of the canals. I could tell tourists about the first company to champion the redevelopment of the dockland, explain the reasoning behind the man-made island or explain how Clarence Dock came into being but the thing that most surprised me has prompted my only photographic souvenir of the tour (aside from the gift of knowledge that is)....

I’m amazed ducks have actually chosen to inhabit the centre of our bustling city. And with the click of the camera, I gratefully I feel a wee bit more childish again....

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