A (somewhat) calmer week for news has got me thinking about hometowns. The title of this week’s newsletter is from the poem Lessons on Longing, by Emily Yin, which I think is about trying to understand another person’s childhood, to figure out what made them who they are.
Have you read any of the Vice Home Coming series? In each instalment, a Vice writer goes home, taking a photographer with them (usually Chris Bethell). The writer is pictured moving through the place alone, visiting old haunts and reflecting on what once was.
I’ve been writing about the 90s and 00s this month, and ended up talking about this time with a hometown friend. We spent a lot of time together in Hornchurch in the 90s, being incredibly bored teenagers. I recommended the Vice series to her, with the caveat not to read them if she was feeling low, because I find them all very sad.
I’ve chosen a photo from Michael Segalov’s visit home to Pinner because I know the place a bit, and it reminds me of the very similar London suburban town I grew up in, Hornchurch.
Some of the Home Coming stories are filled with anger, pain and sadness from the writer’s teenage years, but most of them are wistful, looking back over an area that has changed since childhood. There are a fair few London-set stories, and yes, gentrification is happening, albeit slowly, out in places like Pinner and Catford, and even Hornchurch.
Nostalgia first strikes us in our mid-twenties - possibly in tandem with a quarter-life crisis - because we’ve finally lived long enough to have real memories to look back on. We’re not quite the same people we were at school, or the same kids our parents thought they had, or even the people that our teenage selves hoped to be. The sadness of that - and of how little we knew back then, how skewed our priorities for growing up were - pervades all these stories.
Returning to our hometowns teaches us that the inevitability of change was already woven through the childhoods that shaped us. As adults, we can learn how to understand the past differently, but we can’t outrun what made us, for better and for worse.
Very pleased to see Integrate That! (a podcast made by refugees, telling their integration stories) win two international awards this week. Hugely well-deserved.
Keeping the spirit of Four Seasons Total Landscaping alive with this T-shirt:
You can buy your own here.
“You function at 10% of who you are because you are just ashamed to open your mouth and speak with an accent, because of the fear of being judged or maybe being laughed at.”
A thought-provoking and emotional edition of Isabelle Roughol’s Borderlives, featuring Journalism.co.uk’s Marcela Kunova on how shame limits migrants
This 88-Year-Old Grandmother Was an International Jewel Thief
Timelines of our lives (Laurie Penny x WIRED)
That Lauren Oyler interview about books and publishing and critics
Speaking of which, Red Pepper’s republishing some of their fave book reviews this week, and I’m honoured to have a piece in there
On the pandemic in Rome, and “the strangeness of not being the owner of one’s nighttime”: Lived in Bars
This is where I am mentally right now (sadly without adorably attentive dog).
This video!! Nightmare fuel.
A discovery I made in the Twitter thread under the Sainsbury’s Christmas advert - Bowie’s anti-racism stance here is impressive for 1983, and he would’ve made a great interviewer himself:
I’m guesting on this week’s The Week Unwrapped pod, and we get into news stories from across the globe, including LGBTIQ rights in Europe and post-Covid privacy
I spoke to Anna Louise Walter on BBC Radio Kent about getting into comedy in this curséd year of 2020 from 2:47-3pm:
I wrote for last week’s episode of The Now Show on Radio 4
Those Japanese Monster Wolf Robots made me think of Black Mirror, so here’s a classic episode of Freelance Pod with Charlie Brooker, on the book Inside Black Mirror
This personal essay about art and an epiphany has been on my mind recently
If you enjoy my work & fancy buying me a virtual coffee, I’d be delighted (and will hopefully experience a virtual caffeine rush):https://ko-fi.com/suchandrika