This house has my favourite address in the world. It’s on the edge of a small town called Bawtry near Doncaster in South Yorkshire. I’d love to have headed notepaper giving that as my abode!
I think where we’re from makes us who we are. It roots us, even if where we’re from isn’t particularly pleasant or wildly exciting. That’s why when wars and disasters displace people unnaturally it can leave people feeling bereft and in mourning not only for the physical things they have lost but the intangible ones. The familiar wind of a street, the particular smell in the air, the adoration of a certain building. Then there’s the collective feeling of belonging to a region. One of the insults rival football fans chant at each other from the terraces is ‘Who Are You?’ It’s intended to show the opposition they are considered of no import, that they’ve never achieved anything. In response to such a jibe, Huddersfield Town fans will stand and declare: ‘We’re Yorkshire!’
I don’t know whether Yeovil fans shout ‘We’re Somerset’ or Brighton fans sing ‘We’re Sussex’ but I love hearing ‘We’re Yorkshire.’ The word ‘Yorkshire’ – either seen or heard – never fails to tug at me emotionally even though I haven’t lived there for 30 years.
A sense of belonging is important. The ties that bind people to places can be stronger than those that bind people to each other. There’s a famous story of the farmer who refused to leave his farm in the Pennines when the M62 was being built between Yorkshire and Lancashire so in the end they had to divert the road round his property at a cost of I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of pounds. Good on you, mate!
A while ago I blogged that one of the warm up excercises I use on my school visits (most recently at Danum) is called Liverpool Is by Jim Bennett. Bennett founded The Poetry Kit and talks about how his sense of place is crucial to his writing. He had a headstart being from Liverpool; if anywhere in England has a sense of its own identity its that city.
Here’s his poem. I like it because it’s simple but moving; my kind of poem!
town on Saturday
football and beer
Pierhead and ferries
Dale Street Church Street Sefton Park and the rec
It’s places and people
accents and buildings
the old and new
the Tate and the Walkers
the Spinners and the La’s
Christians and McGough
The Liverpool Scene
and Dead Good Poets
sarcastic and funny
using words like daggers
a bevie with your mates
having a laugh
the Albert Dock and Canning Street
the Rope Walk Roads
the good old days
the bad old days
poverty and tears
– taken from the poem Liverpool Is by Jim Bennett ©
Where would your – is be? Let me know and I’ll publish here the ones that make my heart thud.