Poetic Licence: The Hidden Country

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The Independent Culture
In a new "warts and all" assessment, the Lonely Planet travel guide has rubbished many of Britain's salient tourist spots. Wales, Blackpool the Lake District, Great Yarmouth, Wales and London have all come under fire, with Buckingham Palace being slated for its flock wallpaper

Not in any guidebook ever published

Nor in trendy listings maps or files

Pictured, packaged, paragraphed


Will you find the treasures of these isles

Their names are half-forgotten

Their pleasures partly private

And their distance is in crows-flight

not in miles.

The City on a Sunday in December

Though walk in early morning if you go

Down Threadneedle Street

In sharpened sunlight

Upon the poorest powdering of snow

With petrol-headed pigeons

From shadows blue as bruises

On dirty vaults of London down below.

Or Dunwich in the galleon of the autumn

The last East Anglian port without a quay

Where ruined by the rapine of the ocean

A medieval city used to be

Its ancient lords and ladies

The boneflecks in the shingle

Its churchbell clappers tolling undersea.

All along the sheep-tracks over downland

The jingle-harnessed ghosts of pilgrim spring

Or from a train, the teatime lights of Swansea

Allotment sheds, a child on a swing.

A market under arches

The traders chapped and cheerful

Long in the red and long-past worrying.

A guidebook never gets the hidden Britain

The depthless tarns, the circles from the air

The crumbling brick-lined pit

Found in a farmyard

Its grating to restrain some long-dead bear.

The writers drugged or drowning

The rockstars crashed and burned

The country haunts itself.

Why should it care?