Lovely to meet Winstone this morning at the BBC Radio Bristol studio. He came to the UK aged 18 months in 1966 but has had trouble 'proving' his right to be here. He shared his story to encourage others, who may be in a similar position, to speak up and help the authorities understand the scale of the problem. It linked nicely into what I wanted to say:
What's your name and where d'you come from?
I find a great feeling of sadness in me that the Windrush generation of West Indian immigrants should be put through hardship after many years making this their home. Somewhere along the way this country seems to have embraced a jobsworth approach to compassion. Not good enough.
I have an old book I was given many years ago. In it I have written:
James Stephen Tilley, 107 Oakfield Road, Selly Park, Birmingham 29, England, British isles, Europe, Northern Hemisphere, The World, Near the Moon, The Universe, Space, Near more space.
Forgive my inadequate childish astronomy but I also note a quote afterwards from the late Anthony Buckeridge:
If this book should chance to roam
Box its ears and send it home
But the answer to the question of home and origin can be complex. As long as my book is on the earth it is somehow home. Since this land was unpopulated in the last Ice Age all our families have moved here. Some even walked.
So I love the thought my Christian heritage gives me, from one of Paul's New Testament letters, that wherever I find myself, and whatever happens to me, my citizenship is in heaven. It is about my destination not my departure.
It was the answer Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, gave to questioners when he discovered that the man he thought was his father was not. 'I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes... ' he said.
Cilla Black's Blind Date question 'What's your name and where d'you come from?' occupied our Saturday nights for many years. Turns out; the answer can be quite complicated.
Who are you?