Some people are of a place. They were born of that place, grew up in it, lived there, worked there, fell in love and made new families there. They wear these places like a suit of memory, surrounded by their own experiences, becoming a part of the fabric of a place that is part of the fabric of them. They know the soul of a place better than anybody else can, because they made it and it made them. They belong to it.
Some people are of different places. Choice or chance have moved them about during key bits of their life. While there might be a place in one city that links to one fragment of their selves, they have to travel somewhere else entirely to find the next bit. Their histories are fractured and scattered. Wherever they go they never quite belong, because there is never a place which is all of them. At the same time, they’re always broader than where they are, even if they seem thinner.
These are things that help shape a writer. Some of my favourite writers are of a place. Their stories return there over and again, and they use their familiarity with it to show me things that I would never understand if left to visit them alone.
I have other favourite writers who are perpetual outsiders, always looking in, always peering under rocks and trying to make sense of the things they find. I’m one of this group.The only landscape I know with deep intimacy is my own internal one, and I share it sparingly, dripping it into things a drop at a time.
A couple of years ago I went back to some of the places I’ve lived in my life and photographed the homes I’ve had. There was no great purpose to doing so, just an opportunity and a camera. The record isn’t complete – my first two homes aren’t part of that series, but I was so young when I lived there that they’d mean little if I saw them. There’s a house in Newcastle that’s notable in its absence too, and maybe one day I’ll add that one. The rest, I’ll share with you over the next few of weeks, one at a time, and tell you a bit about what I learned to be at each.
If you’d like to visit them with me, keep your eyes peeled for Revisitations posts, and it will be my pleasure to take you there.