Monday, 30 July 2012

A Tourist at Home

Seeing with Fresh Eyes

I’ve lived in Leicester all my life. I’ve wandered round all the well-known bits. I’ve even written a Children’s History of Leicester. [I needed to do plenty of research for that!] But yesterday was the first time that I’d been a real tourist at home. I went on a guided tour of Leicester’s Castle. There’s not much of it remaining. We couldn’t climb worn stone stairs or wander wind-blown ramparts but we were able to look at odd bits of stone rising up here and there, The Turret Gateway, John of Guant’s Cellar, the mound of grass that was once the Motte and, with an expert in the lead [Richard Buckley from Leicester University’s Archaeological Services], we learnt so much more than lumps of stone could ever impart.

This is a page from my Children's History of Leicester.
The photo on the yellow background shows remains of the castle wall where gun holes were
punched in it to defend Leicester (unsuccessfully) from Prince Rupert's army in the Civil War.

Why have I never been on a local guided tour before? When we go abroad we always sign up to guided tours so why not in our home town? That was a rhetorical question. I know the answer. It’s because we think we know what’s there. We get so used to seeing it that we stop seeing it. Why does our brain do that? [That wasn’t a rhetorical question so do please let me know if you have the answer.]

The same thing happens in other areas of our lives. I’m very lucky to have a lovely house and a beautiful garden but days go by and I forget to notice them… until a friend visits and I see it all through their eyes and remember. Yes, I am lucky.

I wonder if this happens with writing. Do we become so immersed in the character detail of our work-in-progress that we forget where we were intending to take the story? Or maybe we get too hung up on plot twists to work on our characters.

It certainly happens with relationships. It’s not until we run the risk of losing someone that we look through our seeing eyes, the ones that view things for real.

I know that I need to use my seeing eyes more often and I suspect I’m not the only one.


  1. I agree completely with you. Living in Glasgow there are lots of sights I ave not really looked at they are just there. When I was young I visited an aunt in London who had lived there all her life but had never watched the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace until she had to take me. We just take things for granted and yes sometimes take hubby for granted as he's been around for so long but I would be lost without him.

  2. Ps for to say you're book looks amazing can you please do one on Glasow?

  3. I'm lucky - living in deepest Wiltshire people come to visit from time to time and it's my job to show them just how beautiful and steeped in ancient history it is. And I've never tired to tramping round the stones at Avebury (and sampling the cakes in the cafe!).

    As for relationships - my wonderful daughters make their feelings very clear if I begin to take them for granted. The writing - well, that's another story altogether.

  4. So true. We do ignore the treasures in our own backyard. I took my students to one of the local museums this past school year - and realized I'd never been before. It was fabulous and the kids loved it. Will definitely have to go back :)

  5. Like you I feel that I need to use my seeing eyes more often. And I suspected that friends such as you wouldn't like the F word in Dead Ringer either. But it IS a great read; and like I said, I let my eyes skim over the "bad" words. Thank goodness there was only this one character who spewed this. Maybe there was one or two uses by the other characters, but that felt like nothing. What I truly remember is how good the writing is, how intriguing the characters are, and how gripping the plot was. If you ever do read it, let me know what you think!

    Enjoy your lovely house and garden. I envy you both!

    Ann Best, Memoir Author

  6. I lost my mother on 14th July 1998 and three days later was told my husband had terminal brain cancer, he too was gone by the September.
    It was then I missed so many things I took for granted. Like going to visit mum, husband pottering in the garden with the cat by his side, That's when I started to write poetry. I now miss my two of my children who decided they don't want me in their lives, I do have one son who lives in Spain who I phone weekly and there is an open invitiation for me to visit. Strange how life changes and one don't realise it.

  7. What a great idea, a guided tour in your home town. I have said this since I moved up here -- I'm going to check out all the local sites, but so far I haven't been to very many. I think you inspired me, so maybe when the weather cools down.

  8. I did a tourist bus ride around my home town a long time ago, and learnt loads of stuff that I hadn't known before.

  9. Yes Ros I agree with you. Malaysians are amazed with my photos of Kuantan because they are sering them through my excited eyes, and not their own eyes, which have seen parks and beaches countless times and forgotten hiw beautiful they really are.

    Hope you had a great tour!

  10. Indeed, diamonds in our own backyard and we miss them for shiny stuff far away. It's fun to go local. This was a neat post

  11. In Tenerife you can go on what is known as a "Blanket tour" - if you're prepared to sit through an hour's demonstration of pure wool products you get a coach tour for practically nothing, often with a meal included. We've been on several. They're all tourist trips, but that's the point, isn't it? to see your own place as a tourist.
    As for appreciating what you've got before it's gone - we lost a friend this week, totally unexpectedly, I have blogged about him. We use whatever tools we have to hand to deal with loss.