By the time Ian Gouge went to university he had already lived in seventeen different places – houses, pre-fabs, flats, rooms of one sort or another – and all within the environs of the same two towns: Portsmouth and Gosport, on the south coast of England. No single location more than four miles from the next, between some you could have measured the distance in hundreds of yards. If you put a pin in a map for each, the resulting image would look like the aftermath of a rather well-played game of ‘pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey’.
A number of these accommodations had been emergency refuges provided by the Local Authority to stave off homelessness; two the 60s/70s equivalents of ‘sofa surfing’. But in reality, every single residence proved temporary. Exactly at a time when a child needed security, the very notions of ‘home’, ‘family’ – even ‘love’ – were being challenged, their meanings redefined, shaken to their core; experiences which scarred both an upbringing and the future which followed it.
In the major thread of “The Homelessness of a Child”, the poet reflects on that childhood, explores its events and repercussions. Inevitably it is both a passionate and dispassionate retelling, the latter a result of the detachment a young boy would learn to adopt in order to protect himself from the chaos of the world he was forced to inhabit.