On World Book Day, I had the most brilliant time in New College Leicester.
I was born in a house close to New College. I played in the same parks as those students and some of them live in houses built on a farm where me and my brothers and sisters used to feed the horses.
I loved our house.
It was a three-storey Victorian terraced house built in 1901. In my mind I can still picture every room in that house: the front room with the long settee where our parents laid out our presents each Christmas; the middle room with doors opening out onto the back yard; the kitchen with the 1950s blue cabinet, the stove and the washing machine, pulled out from under the counter every Monday. I can still remember the day when our gas supply was converted to North Sea Gas and a new cooker was installed. My mother made a meat pie to celebrate.
When I was seventeen, my parents decided to move house. I was heartbroken. I loved every corner of that house and the day we handed over the keys to Leicester City Council, I walked around and looked at each room, empty of furniture, movement and sound and I vowed to remember those rooms all my life. Like many authors, I have used my first home in many stories. Colm Toibin used his childhood home in Enniscorthy in his recent bestseller, Nora Webster. I used mine in Gambledad and I tried to recall the loneliness I endured on leaving the house where I was born. It's slightly different for Antonio - his father loses the house in a card game, making the family homeless.
Talking to students at New College, I showed how I used my own memories of moving house to inform how Antonio felt. Imagine if all your beloved possessions, even your X-Box, were taken out of the house to be sold on and used by others. How would you feel? How did Antonio cope? It's no wonder he's angry at everyone and aggressive in school.
Many students at New College told me stories about how they have had to move house several times in their lives. I was really inspired by their courage and strength. It's no wonder school is hard for so many young people.