Dear Barwell,

I am writing to you from 324 miles away, if I take the M6 route; I am writing from Edinburgh. It’s not just the distance in miles though, as I left you when I was 18 with the occasional revisit. It’s been a growing sense of belonging to you that has taken up the last 25 years, I’m not sure why. Perhaps because none of the family are there any more, my Mum being closest 3 miles away, in a Village, not the kind of village you were though.

I think some of my memories of you are fond because of childhood freedoms I had. It feels like I always cycled down the lane to the common, happily alone in my thoughts, and that the rapeseed fields – the bane of my hayfevered face – always made the place smell a sweet, warm smell forever associated with yellow. I still think yellow smells like those fields.

I also think I look back more now because of the national debate in Scotland. Whatever my views the last year has certainly made me feel English, but more than that a Leicester lad, I even feel at times that I’m a traitor and I should return to pay my dues to the place. I cheered when we kept Richard III! I suppose as a child everyone’s universe centres around them but us from Barwell knew we were the centre of the universe, we could even pinpoint it, a meteor having landed there many years before.

Its funny thinking of that now. We were stuck between the city and a town, I guess we felt important. What’s funny looking back now is that a sense of not really wanting to belong anywhere is something I’ve sought out in my life, preferring to be the observer on the edge with an easy escape route, I wonder if thats why the Independence debate is making me feel unbarwell-rs-20090805-01comfortable. I am being forced to decide to whom I belong – my heart was in London, my heart was up the west coast of Scotland, since the debate started my thoughts of Barwell have increased. But I wouldn’t go back, it would feel too much of a backward step – the other day my 6 year old son asked me what a cowpat was. ‘Something from my childhood’ I said. There’s nothing romantic in a cowpat, but there was nothing romantic about Barwell.

I still miss you though.

yours fondly,


The letter back…

Dear Jamie,

Well done, me-duck! You’re one of the many who have grown up here and left the place – mostly upwards I ask?! I’ve always been a small village, getting bigger, adapting and changing, so why should I begrudge you? Your Great-grandparents came here from all over and there is little evidence of you in the graveyards here so you may have often felt you weren’t one of the stalwarts of the place. But I’m not like that. So your itchiness to be looking in from the outside is something I share with you, not condemn. I am surrounded by fields for anyone who takes the time to look, though some of my residents seem not to but that’s their choice, I’m not clingy. In fact it’s not difficult being here so I’d like to think I helped you and with your local running ad cycling – always circling away and back to me – you have been able to have a secure base to go and do your own thing. You might be in a position not to return but you’re not the only one, don’t get stuck.

Yours, Barwell

The impact of ‘mapping’ using the template and working side by side with a listening other….

One powerful thing we explored was my notion of ‘romanticising’ the Homeland I wrote about. This was at a time of pre-Scottish Independence voting, with me in Scotland, being asked to consider that country’s future identity at a time I was considering my own. My thoughts were ‘stop asking me, I’m thinking about being English from the Midlands, I have two small children being brought up in a different place to where I spent my childhood…’ Maybe that was my ‘stuck’ place so I reached into an ‘escape’ place by romanticising my past and my Homeland.  This clarified somewhat in the ‘mapping’ experience and allowed me to perhaps get back ‘into dialogue’ with the Independence Referendum and allowed me to re-start the dialogue as to whether I was going to be a nomad or settler in Scotland.

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