That Was Us

That was us
who wandered through Europe without maps or money, 
or sense of direction.
Who got lost a lot, 
but didn’t get raped or murdered. 
So far as we can remember.

Who charmed hoteliers into letting us stay for free. 
Who got up early (too cold to sleep),
and cleaned the kitchen and the floors of the hostel in Laumiere 
for the first time in many years.
Then sat on the stairs and said ‘No Pasaran’ to everyone, until it had dried,
explaining carefully in languages we did not speak, 
why this was necessary. 

Who, with wide eyed innocence and impressively bad French 
failed to understand the policemen’s demands,
‘Vos papiers, s’il vous plait, vos papiers!’
Until our new friends with the nice smiles and no papers had disappeared.
‘Vos papiers, s’il vous plait, vos papiers!’ 
Sod off! 

That was us
who swam off the rocks, with a man we’d met in a cafe,
because he said we could.
And swam and swam until two policemen came, 
(one very stern and one very twinkly),
and said we couldn’t.
Nor could we leave the rocks without clothes on,
or with clothes clinging to our still wet bodies, 
or lie on the rocks until we were dry,
in case we disconcerted the traffic or populace. 
This being the main street in Trieste.

Who lived in a house ‘typique du Turque’ with a water pump in the garden
and a toilet, also ‘Typique du Turque’, which made us very ill indeed.
But the parties were good and the conversations interesting,
even though no one spoke English.
And we learned to speak some Albanian, which was always handy.
And we survived to sit thirstily by a hot, dusty roadside and fantasise 
about the ice cold mountain water streaming through the streets of Pec,
and even about the water pump in the garden. 

Who left Barcelona dressed in summer skirts and sandals 
and arrived late by a dark roadside in snowy Andorra,
at a place full of ‘apres ski’ types with plummy voices and fat wallets,
inviting us into their warm hotel to buy us drinks and hot food,
to warm us up, they said.
No chance! 
No class traitors, us! Not us, 
Not us.

They’re not like us, 
these two old women in the mirror 
wearing our jeans and our smiles.
Not us, 
they can’t be us.
Not us.

Not us.


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