Like a message in a bottle thrown from the same beach twenty years ago I’ve returned. And though the shoreline of Lancashire has changed has the message inside it? I unravel as I drive there with radio producer, Jo Wheeler, through the towns and villages of Lancashire to my destinations, Atherton and Leigh. I don’t belong here. I’m a stranger. The message is the same. There’s no family here. No connection. What I always wanted was never here to want. Ambivalence confusingly fills the space where connection should be.
Except for an occasional newspaper article, tv or radio appearance no one here is reminded of the dreadlocked boy from the chidlren’s homes who went barefoot. Not enough to ever have tried to find me. I’m here to interview people for a documentary
called Child of The State wherein I am trying to do two things; find children whom I was in care with and view my files held by the local authority.
The only person I find who was a child in care is Peter Libbey. He was my first friend of the first children’s home at eleven years old. Jo Wheeler the producer holds the microphone between us as I ask Peter what i was like on first sight “we’d never met someone like you before” he says. I think he means “we’d never met a black kid.” I know he means that. I knwo what he means cause I hadn’t either, hardly.
We reminisce on fun times. But our experience is different, Peter put himself in care. I was there because of deception. What was a safe haven for him was an abusive prison for me. What’s between us now is twenty years at least but as he talks of our bailing hay on to the tractor through hot summer afternoons on the fields of Gold at Marshes Farm the years between us fall away and a flood of memory gushes in.