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A Place Called Home

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 16 February 2014

It is the most human of instincts - to make a home. To establish a place of security and comfort that comes to express who we are and how we like to live. There is no one way of doing it and, for most, 'home' can mean many different things - not always associated with an actual place, but often connected to people such as loved ones, family and friends. A sense of home can also be connected to the intangible, built up through our own private memories and our sense of self.

Mathematician Paul Erdös claimed 'the world is my home' as he spent more than six decades living out of two old battered suitcases, chasing mathematical problems across the globe. Fellow mathematician, Ron Graham, invited Erdös to stay in his New Jersey home. He shares his recollections of this eccentric house guest for whom home was an entirely fluid concept.

Through the poems of Tony Connor, the music of PJ Harvey and The Band, John McCarthy also explores the adolescent desire to break free from the claustrophobia of the childhood home, and we hear personal accounts of clearing out those same childhood homes once our parents have died or moved on.

John visits the home of Cecil Balmond - designer, architect and engineer. Sri-Lankan born, when Cecil settled in London in the 70s, he found a wreck of a house and made it into his family's home.

Cecil reveals what it was like leaving his childhood home to re-establish a sense of home in a new country and city. And he shares the deeply personal recollection of how his understanding of home was redefined after a visit to his native Sri-Lanka coincided with the devastation of the 2004 Tsunami.

Presented by John McCarthy
Produced by Rose de Larrabeiti,

A Whistledown production for Radio 4.

Music Played

12 items
  • Image for Lester Young and his Band

    Lester Young and his Band These Foolish Things

    The Ultimate Collection,, Burning Fire, 2009

  • Image for Ella Fitzgerald

    Ella Fitzgerald These Foolish Things

    Ella Fitzgerald: Gold,, Universal Classics and Jazz

  • Image for Frédéric Chopin

    Frédéric Chopin Mazurka No. 17 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 24 No. 4

    Performer: Arthur Rubinstein.

    Chopin - Classics, Classic Music International

  • Image for Mr. Acker Bilk and His Paramount Jazz Band

    Mr. Acker Bilk and His Paramount Jazz Band Dardenella

    The Best of Barber and Bilk,, Pye Golden Guinea Records (album)

  • Image for Mr. Acker Bilk and His Paramount Jazz Band

    Mr. Acker Bilk and His Paramount Jazz Band Dardenella

    Stranger on the Shore, the Original Hits, AP Music Ltd

  • Image for Ludwig van Beethoven

    Ludwig van Beethoven Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D, Op.61

    Performer: Itzhak Perlman (Violin). Performer: New Philharmonia Orchestra. Performer: Carlo Maria Giulini (conductor).

    Great Recordings of the Century, Beethoven Violin Concerto, EMI Classics

  • Image for Emmylou Harris

    Emmylou Harris Wayfaring Stranger

    Emmylou Harris Anthology: The Warner / Reprise Years, Warner Archives

  • Image for Judy Garland

    Judy Garland Somewhere Over The Rainbow

    Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Digimode Entertainment Ltd

  • Some Modernisation Needed by U.A. Fanthorpe (Collected Poems 1978-2003)

    Poet and partner view a house for sale, and have very different responses.

  • Understanding Home: a critical review of the literature by Shelley Mallett (The Sociological Review)

    The author recounts imaginary journeys through her childhood home.

  • A Picture of R.C. in a Prospect of Blossom by Tony Connor (Things Unsaid, New and Selected Poems 1960 – 2005)

    The poet’s daughter, caught in a moment, at the cusp of adolescence.

  • The Poetics of Space (La Poétique de l'Espace) by Gaston Bachelard, Translated by Maria Jolas

    The exploration of home as a space for day-dreaming.


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