This morning I caught the first part of an excellent portrait of Stevenage, the place where he grew up, by the writer and journalist Gary Younge. It’s so hard to write about a place you’ve lived in for any time, familiarity rendering it invisible, but I thought that Younge got it just right, balancing what the place is like and how it feels being there. The strangeness of this planned development juxtaposed against the lives of his parent’s, people who’d come to England from Barbados with the idea of working here for a few years and then returning.
Younge’s mother never made it back to the place she always called “home” and this reminded me of my mother. She’d come to England from Trinidad to go to school. She stayed on to work for nearly forty years. On retiring from a working life spent almost entirely in Birmingham, Mum answered the question “What are you going to do now?” with “I’m going home. I’ve been in this country for nearly fifty years and I’ve been cold every day.”
This is what the BBC Radio 4 website says about the programme, part of a week long series featuring four writers on identity and the meaning of home:
Gary Younge was brought up in Stevenage, a place which even his fellow residents were hard pushed to locate on a map. It was an engineered community but one in which he and his brothers and their single parent mum participated in whole-heartedly. Nonetheless despite having only spent six weeks there as a four year old, whenever he was asked where he was from, ‘home’ was Barbados…
It was read by the Brit actor David Harewood, currently known for his part in Homeland which just finished on Channel 4. And who says radio doesn’t get the big stars? Radio 3’s just finished a series of Shakespeare’s plays that featured Doctor Who. You’ve got six days to listen to it and part two is on tomorrow.