Thursday, 3 November 2011

Atching Tan

A RED SUN-WHEEL burns bright in the blue sky above a green land that could be this land. The sixteen-spoked wheel represents the Romani Gypsy flag, where a red chakra (wheel) spins over a half blue (for sky), half green (for earth) background. I chose to make this sky-wheel into the fiery sun of inspiration and creation in this Once Upon O'Clock made some months ago for Sarah Bayliss who works with the Romany Theatre Company. In searching for her own Gypsy ancestral roots, Sarah asked me to paint her a clock that represented the traditional Gypsy travelling life.


So I drew a scene amongst the trees with a vardo (traditional travelling wagon) stopped at the laneside and its travelling folk collecting firewood and stoking the fire under a kettle for tea. Their horse grazes and the road winds on toward the horizon. This is the Atching Tan - the Stopping Place, the wonderful camp amongst trees - a place to relax and cook and wash, to find water and let the horses rest and the children play, to make repairs to wagons and to make contact with the locals for work and exchange of goods and services.


The clock was painted on a lovely piece of Yew, and where there was a natural crack in the wood, I extended it with paint to become the road. 



And just by the road-crack sits a wagtail, the romano chiriclo (Romany bird). James Hayward in his excellent dictionary of the Romany Language Gypsy Jib, finds no obvious reason for this bird to be named for the Gypsy people, but points out that the connection is strong - the Gypsy Lore Society adopted the wagtail as its emblem with the motto Oke romano chiriklo, dikasa e Kalen - which is Welsh Romany for "Behold a Wagtail and you shall see Gypsies". Indeed all piebald animals are thought to be lucky in Gypsy tradition because they hold both dark and light in them simultaneously. 



The colourful painted wagons that we associate with Gypsies were only in fact in widespread use for a matter of decades at the end of the nineteenth century. Before vardos, the Gypsies travelled with horses and carts and put up benders (temporary canvas shelters made from flexible branches of hazel or similar) when they stopped. The use of painted wagons was adopted from the Fairground folk who had begun using them earlier on in that century. The ever more elaborate and brightly painted wagons largely stopped being built with the onset of the First World War, and so this short period of time when the Gypsies lived and travelled in these wonderful decorative vardos has left us with the definitive "romantic" image of Gypsy life.


Because wagons and benders were small, most of life was spent outdoors - a rugged all-weather life, where the fire was the focal point of the Gypsies' days and nights. Indeed the Romany expression for stopping place - Atching Tan - comes from the root verb hatch - to burn, to light a fire. Thus the original meaning of the expression for stopping place was "the place where the fire is lit".


Unlike with my other clocks, I decided to scan this one before I painted the numbers on it, so that you'd be able to buy the painting as a print. Mostly I feel that my clocks don't really work as non-clock prints, but this one seemed a complete scene to me which I hope some of you might enjoy. So here is Atching Tan as a print in my etsy shop now.

Atching Tan - by Rima Staines 2011 - oils on wood - prints available here.
And when that was done, I painted on the numbers and attached brass clock hands to turn around the fiery wagon-wheel sun in the sky.



The clock now hangs happily on Sarah's wall, where I imagine the woodsmoke from the campfire drifting out of the clock to evoke another time...



 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A Gypsy family and their wagon, Epsom Downs, 1938
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent 

... Which I leave behind sadly now to write a little about the life of Gypsies in our time, this time now. 
I have felt prompted by the recent violent evictions at Dale Farm, the surrounding coverage in the media and by the often shocking reactions to it amongst the population to express something that I've long noticed about people's attitudes to Gypsies, especially during the time I was travelling myself.

Gallician Gypsies being moved from Wandsworth common, 1911 
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent 

Any article about the site evictions or another Gypsy-related matter prompts screeds of venomous and ignorant comments, the unbelievable flavour of which can also be seen if you follow the #dalefarm discussions on twitter. For some reason, there remains today an extreme fear of and hatred towards travelling people. This is not just the domain of right-wing governments in Italy and Eastern Europe, this is a widespread attitude of many many people in this country now.

A family of basket sellers at Halstead near Sevenoaks in the early 20th century.
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent 

And I have been so saddened and shocked by what appears to be an explosion of some common inner repressed shadow, that I wanted to think on this a little.
Almost without fail when you hear people talking about this or that Traveller site, or Gypsy-related report in the media, they will say something like "Oh yes, but they're not real Gypsies, they're just dole-scrounging 'pikies'". Many people seem to have this division in their minds about two distinct kinds of "Gypsies": The romantic wagon-dwelling, music-round-the-campfire-playing, peg-and-lavender-selling, fortune-telling Gypsies Of Yore versus the static-caravan-dwelling, scrap-metal-dealing, child-stealing law-dodgers on the grotty council sites of these days. They believe that the first kind have real "Gypsy blood" and that the others are not the "genuine article" and therefore deserve all the venom directed towards them. This is an interesting and frightening phenomenon which calls to mind other historical questionings of purebloodedness. As Simon Evans says in his brilliant book Stopping Places - A Gypsy History of South London and Kent, this false analysis is a ploy which is frequently used to deny that today's Travellers have a culture and history of their own.  Once robbed of their identity, they can be dismissed as 'mere' vagrants, itinerants and scoundrels. In reality of course, Travellers are Travellers, there are no "real" and  "fake" versions. It feels like once people have identified the "negative variety" of Travellers, they then give themselves permission to pour all the really venomous hatred, fear, envy and dissatisfaction with their own life onto this group of people.

A bender tent, St Mary Cray, 1870
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent 

The common story as to the history of this nomadic people is that they left Rajasthan (based upon the fact that the Romani language is strongly linked to Sanskrit) around a thousand years ago and have been travelling west since. They got called "Gypsies" through a mistaken belief that they'd come from Egypt. The first record of Gypsies in the British Isles comes from 1505 when a witness at a court hearing in Scotland was described as an "Egypcyan woman" who had considerable skill at reading palms. They've been shunned as outsiders wherever they've travelled whilst at the same time taking up and laying down traditions and musics in all the places and cultures they've travelled through.

Inside a bender tent
© James Hayward - Gypsy Jib

With the gradual privatization of common land in the UK, which has become rife during the last part of the 20th century, the Gypsies have found increasingly fewer stopping places on their travels. They used to do a great deal of work as farm labourers, hop picking and suchlike, and farmers would welcome itinerant workers to stay on their land whilst their work was needed, knowing that they'd travel on after the work was done. But the spreading commercialization of farming and the burgeoning of "agribusiness" where traditional farming ways have been swallowed by the soulless money-hungry machine, has meant little more need for travelling farm workers and so the Gypsies had to find other ways of earning their living.

The Hilding family on a hop farm
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent 
Their journey, in my opinion, has been hampered further in this country by two laws in particular. The first - the 1960 Caravan Sites Act - which sought to regulate the setting up and running of caravan sites, also placed stipulations on farmers who were using itinerant farm workers on their land, requiring the travellers to leave immediately after harvesting had finished. The act also gave councils new powers to evict Travellers from common land which had previously been the land on which they stopped between farm jobs, so they were left without any legal place to park their homes. In 1968 another Caravan Sites Act was passed which attempted to place duties on local authorities to make some provision for travelling people, but it did not specify any time frame in which to do this and so most authorities never fulfilled their obligation before the second of the detrimental acts came along and negated it: The 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, put in place by the Tory government of the time, repealed the duty of local authorities to provide places for Travellers to stop, as well as pretty much outlawing the travelling way of life altogether:


Section 77 - Power of local authority to direct unauthorised campers to leave land

(1) If it appears to a local authority that persons are for the time being residing in a vehicle or vehicles within that authority's area—

(a) on any land forming part of a highway;
(b) on any other unoccupied land; or
(c) on any occupied land without the consent of the occupier

the authority may give a direction that those persons and any others with them are to leave the land and remove the vehicle or vehicles and any other property they have with them on the land.

(Part of section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994)


This section goes on to state that anyone who fails to comply with this is committing an offence and will be convicted and/or fined accordingly.

Wrotham Heath at the foot of the North Downs in Kent, apple picking time in the late 1940s.
This was a popular stopping place which allowed the horses to have an overnight rest before tackling Wrotham Hill.

© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent 

These acts, combined with the unruly spread of towns and suburbs and frantic road building programmes at the latter end of the 20th century meant that the travelling people who had once walked alongside their horses as they pulled their wagons and stopped on common pieces of ground between jobs, were now squeezed and shunned simultaneously by the roaring traffic of modernity and continuously evicted even from the pieces of land they did find to stop on.

Minty Smith with children, 1960s
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent 

Thus many Gypsies ended up stopping on the council run sites which, every time they were proposed in an area, were objected to left right and centre by local residents who feared mess and violence in their neighbourhoods and couldn't see any reason for them anyway since the Gypsies 'are a nomadic people'. These sites were concrete and soulless places and the council's rules did not allow the Gypsies to continue there any of their life's loves: keeping horses and dogs and sitting around fires under the sky, nor livelihoods such as storing scrap metal for buying and selling (which had become a main source of income for many since seasonal farm work had all but disappeared). These places were effectively ghettos at the grimmest ends of towns: under bypasses or beside municipal dumps. And the sites are fenced round with high walls and barbed wire. You can see in this photograph below of the Murston site near Sittingbourne in Kent, that the 8 foot high concrete fence posts are crooked inwards inferring that the inhabitants are to be kept in - the barbed wire is clearly not there to prevent intruders.

Traveller site in Murston near Sittingbourne, near completion, 1990.
Note the crooks at the tops of the concrete fence posts facing inwards.
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent 

"They cut your friends off, they cut your way of life off and you're basically tied down to one place and really and truly I wonder who did win the war. Was it Hitler? Because we're on a concentration camp now, we got barbed wire around us, we've got fences around us and we're put miles from anywhere, We've got a big river down the bottom of the road there, three lakes if we want to go and do away with ourselves, because this is the ideal place to be depressed - here."

- Albert Scamp (on Murston site)
© Simon Evans

The Murston site with its 8 foot high barbed wire topped fence. The fact that the posts are facing inwards infers that they are to keep the new residents in.
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent 
A new Traveller site under construction at Ruxley in 1990. It is lined by an 8 foot high concrete wall and is a few feet away from a busy dual carriageway.
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent 

The glaring gulf between these concrete ghettos and the life on the road the Travellers had known seems to me to be a huge and tragic putting down of a people. There exists a smug and patronizing notion amongst council spokespeople and others that all the Travellers need is to "settle down" and move into houses, which is offensive in the utmost to people whose deep Way Of Life is just not the same as that of settled folk. The travelling is the thing - the life of taking your chattels with you, and stopping beside hedgerows which provide sustenance and stories. Though it may sound romantic, I know from my experience living on wheels that it is damn hard and raw as well. It is all of this - the romance and the rawness, the realness - that Travellers yearn for, and the gradual erosion of the very intrinsic way of their life has been devastating to the soul of them as a people I think. 

Traveller girls
© James Hayward - Gypsy Jib

"When I was younger we used to have television and used to watch cartoons, but I would much rather have gone out and listened to my grandad because he used to go on about the really old times - stories that you would never hear about, and we would sit down there for hours and hours just listening to him. We didn't care about all the technology, televisions and toys and playing with them, we just wanted to listen to him all the time, you know, I really miss that. I really miss the old things that he used to go on about and the old remedies. You get all like the aromatherapy stuff that's come out now, all that Travellers used to do back in the olden days, they used to go and find that up hedgerows...
Now that my grandad's dead, I miss him telling me all the stories and all the things he used to go on about because they were so interesting. It was real life, it was about real life."

- Sarah Hilden
© Simon Evans 


Sandwich bar, Biggin Hill, 2001
(NB - the irony of both bad and goodwill displayed on this shop door!)
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent

And the prejudice and hatred haven't stopped either. So the Travellers are forced into ways of life that are not what once were theirs yet still must endure hatred for being who they are. Some of you may have watched last week's BBC Panorama about the evictions at Dale Farm, where you'll have glimpsed the horrifically nasty flavour of the opinions of the uninformed and fearful opponents of the site. The programme was thankfully quite balanced in its observation of the people and the evictions, but it was almost unbearable to watch. Though the number of supporters who travelled to the site from all over the UK to chain themselves to railings and battle the riot police (who were sent in in place of bailiffs) was heartening, and the genuine warmth and gratitude expressed by the Travellers towards them was wonderful to witness. 

The eviction of Court Road, Orpington in 1934.
The police would gather a gang of men from the nearest town or village to manhandle the wagons off, often late at night, still containing sleeping children, or when the families were not present. A man or woman might return home to find the stopping place empty.

The eviction of Court Road, Orpington in 1934.
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent


The horrors of evictions have not changed over the years, except to become more violent. Here in this collage of eviction footage over the years, Simon Evans has overlayed the testimonies of Travellers powerfully showing the same old tragic story of being forced to move on.


I wonder what the people who dismiss the Dale Farm residents as "just pikies" think has happened to the "real old Gypsies". For it is the granddaughters and grandsons of the folk in these wonderful old photographs who are the residents of the Traveller sites of today. Many people use the argument that Irish Travellers "don't count" somehow, and apparently possess great inside knowledge when they state authoritatively that the "genuine Gypsies" can't stand the Irish Travellers either. All of this is nonsensical, divisive fear-mongering. I think there's a part of these Traveller-haters which deep down is perhaps angry at their own life choices and the comparative freedom of Travelling people who seemingly don't suffer under the same rules and restrictions placed upon "law abiding house-dwellers". They are unable to accept that different people choose to live in different ways, and that those ways might be deeply intrinsic to their culture and way of experiencing the world. I've observed a simultaneous slight envy of the free roaming life coupled with extreme anger at the fact that they can live this life. 

A Sussex layby, 1989
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent

And because Travellers are living outside the norm and on the margins of society, they of course stir up all the shadowy fears in people. This place of fear is where the stories of stealing (both property and children) come from. 
I have heard many stories that people will happily tell you (especially if you yourself are living in a vehicle) about Travellers and how they stole this or that. But almost always it is a second or third-hand tale. Most people cannot actually tell you a first-hand experience of Gypsy theft. Now, of course I'm not saying that Travellers don't steal things - it would be a blinkered statement that could not be corroborated anyway, but this applies no differently to house-dwellers: there are house dwellers who steal things and commit all manner of terrible crimes, but it doesn't do to assume that the structure you live in has anything to do with whether or not you commit crimes. I'm just interested in the way that stories which bolster the "us-and-them" mindset get passed on and on, and added to a sort of collective storage bank of Reasons To Hate Gypsies, from which anyone can borrow.

Corke's Meadow, St Mary Cray, 1950s.
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent




Long-time readers of this blog might remember an incident I recounted of coming face to face with this fear of Travellers when my truck-house was parked in an orchard in Kent. A woman whose house overlooked the orchard one day hurled abusive language and fearful assumptions like "well you might have dogs, you just don't know do you", "I just don't like having to look at you" and fears that many more vehicle-dwellers might turn up the following summer! I was amazed at the reluctance of people to just come and talk, to see what kinds of people were over there, to ask them questions, to give fellow human beings the benefit of the doubt... but the fear was stronger, and the next day a council official with a clipboard heralded the subsequent leave-taking.

Making primrose baskets in Dartford Woods, 1959.
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent

Through living a travelling life, I learned that if your house is small and mobile, then when you stop, a lot of your belongings  (bikes, buckets, spare firewood, washing, tin baths etc) will have to be put outside, under the vehicle or in the field - which is why a Traveller site can look so wonderfully ramshackle. I got to see from the other side both the warm kindness and the deep-seated fears and misconceptions in people. Since that time, other people have assumed that I lived that life out of necessity rather than choice - that I was forced to live in a vehicle because a house was not available to me. This is fascinating too - this lack of understanding of the plain love of the travelling life, and is related to that patronizing welfare-assumption that you hear/read in news reports about "Gypsy problems" - where they congratulate themselves on working to get the Travellers "into houses".

"Look at Corke's Pit, the way that that disappeared. I was born in Corke's Pit in an old wagon. One of my aunts born me, there wasn't no nurses come there, no doctors. Travellers lived there for years, didn't they? All that was done away with, they built bungalows there, the old prefabs were there. That's where the Travellers made a mistake: from Corke's Pit, they moved into the prefabs, that was the first of Travellers settling down. When they got into them, they didn't like them. We lived in a prefab for about three years and we bought a wagon and moved back out again."

- Joe and Minnie Ripley
© Simon Evans 

Traveller children on Cobham site, 1960s
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent

What I really wish for is that people would consult their own true, informed and fair judgement every time they come across Travellers, and base their opinions upon that. Not someone else's third-hand story or opinion, but their own judgement rooted in their own fearless and kind interaction with fellow human beings. I wish that people would expect the best of people and speak and act accordingly. I wish they would quietly keep their own counsel, and always approach another person directly and truly to find out their story.

"If I started talking in the Travellers' language, the biggest half of the words [the youngsters] don't know what I'm on about, they don't understand. The main reason is why, is because all the Travellers is not based together, not like it was years ago... but where the Gypsy kids have been parted up, the language is just dying out."

- Bill Smith
© Simon Evans 



During my time travelling I met a Gypsy woman called Kathleen, who danced her handmade gypsy jig-doll on her knee to the guitar-playing of her husband Charlie around a fire one evening in Devon. Saying goodbye to her the next day, she gave me this card - with a print of a watercolour painting showing an old Gypsy stopping place (unfortunately I don't know the artist's name), and inside, a poem she'd written herself and wanted to pass on to me. I think it paints quite succinctly the life of a Traveller and it's a gift I treasure. 




Many of the images and quotations in this post are taken from Simon Evans' excellent book Stopping Places - A Gypsy History of South London and Kent, which I bought in Faversham in Kent whilst I was travelling through, in a small museum of local history. It has proved the most well written, balanced and insightful account of the Travellers' story I've read yet, and it resonates with me particularly because I grew up in the South London / Kent area and so many of these places in the pictures are familiar to me - roads I went down to get to school, and so on. I had friends who would go hop picking as kids with the Gypsies in Kent, and I knew of houses in the area where travellers now lived. If you want a clear and fascinating account of the Gypsy life in the UK, I urge you to buy a copy of this book - it's full of many more wonderful pictures and moving verbatim accounts, not least the wonderful one at the end of this post by Brian Belton, with which Simon Evans also ends his book. 

A Reading type Gypsy caravan, 1887 - old well-worn postcard of mine from the Museum of East Anglian Life, Suffolk.

In truth, I think settled and travelling folk share a great deal these days in terms of the kind of society and world we live in. I feel like the story of the Gypsies in the UK over the last century has been everyone's story: Since industrialisation, we've all had the green freedom taken away from us; we've all been hemmed in, both physically and spiritually by tarmac and city sprawl; we've all had our hats whipped off our heads by the sheer speed of modern life roaring past. The globalization of our minds and daily lives, of our food and our stories, has stopped each individual place mattering. Each individual hedge plant's voice is drowned out by the roar of sameness. Our common places have been sold - owned not by all of us any more. And we've all been herded into concrete ghettos, not free any more to go where we want and live however we want, unwatched, undocumented, wild and real. They've taken away our Atching Tan.


Sarah
© Simon Evans - Stopping Places - A Gypsy history of South London and Kent

"You cannot travel in this society. This society says, 'You cannot live an itinerant way of life.' Now, I think that as a Traveller I can identify other ways of travelling. I can identify other itinerancies. Where are the Travellers going? Well, they're going anywhere and everywhere, but without change you're not going nowhere, you're actually staying exactly where you are. That's the anathema to a Traveller way of life, to stay exactly where you are, you can travel in your mind, you can be a little more transient. I hope that what transient ways of thinking can bring to society, if that's not too grand a word, is the idea that everything moves. If it stays still then it stagnates. You see, Gypsies can't stay where they are. If they stay where they are then they're not a Gypsy. You can start to say, not 'where I've been or where I am', and moan about that, but 'where I want to go', and why I want to go there and the romance and the beauty and the joy of what's around the next corner. That's what really, at the end of the day, created Travellers, it wasn't something in your blood - we'll find a Traveller gene and we'll zap it so we won't have to travel any more. No, it's not that, it's a curiosity, a burning curiosity to know what's over there. I know what's behind me, I have a very good idea of where I actually am, but what I'm really, really interested in is what's over there. That's what I would want to stay dear to, not my caravan, but caravans in the mystical sense of the word, the caravans of the mind."

- Brian Belton
© Simon Evans 

© James Hayward - Gypsy Jib

I leave you with my favourite clip from Tony Gatlif's wonderful film about the Gypsies' thousand year journey - Latcho Drom (meaning good road or journey). I wish that all of us could be like the little boy, and cross over the railway line fearlessly drawn by the warmth and music and wonder of the folk on the other side...

52 comments:

Charlotte said...

This is an exceptionally thoughtful, and thought provoking post Rima. I really enjoyed reading it; like you being much tinged with sadness at the current climate against outsiders.

I worked for 5 leaves press for some time, a small local publisher (to Nottingham) who gives a voice to Roma and Sinti writers. The list of books makes for very informative reading.

Since then I have come to have even closer contact with a range of travelling communities. I am now a teacher of a number of refugee, Roma and immigrant children. My school being in an area that attracts such people. I consider this a privilege. The children in my class are from so many backgrounds, places and experiences and they share these with me each day.
I know that the general view of Roma children is that they are:
"ignorant, poorly looked after and with a low opinion of education." even by people who work for their interests.
This is so untrue, last year two of the children we were most proud of were Roma. They were tenacious, ambitious and determined to open up the world for themselves. Watching the effort put in by one, who wanted to be able to read so badly he put in so much was humbling.

I wish I could bottle the attitude and wonderfulness of my class and show the ignorant what they are really like. I hope your writing reaches at least some entrenched thinkers and makes them change their minds.

Hita Hirons said...

Thanks Rima! Beautiful art and an education as well; I learnt a lot reading this. And you are so right; some people tell stories of supposed gypsy theft as a knee-jerk reaction when they hear the word "traveller" along with any even slightly positive views on that way of life, but though I have heard many such stories there was never one in which the teller had experienced the theft themselves or had the story directly from someone they knew; it was all thirdhand at best and that is what you could call a kind of collective libel. And as you so rightly point out, most burglars live in houses; you cannot deduce from this that the majority of people who live in houses are burglars!

And that film is just gorgeous, I shall find it and watch the whole thing now.

dinahmow said...

Thankyou, Rima. Probably most who read your blog would be more understanding of gypsies;maybe even know some!
I do wish more blinkered folk could read this.
I met "travelling folk" sometimes in summer; shared cider with some and talked about hedging(one of the men still did the occasional work for a farmer)one time.
So sad to see those concrete ghettos.How the hell can we keep such people in office!

Heather said...

Such an informative and thought provoking post Rima. Kathleen's poem and watercolour print are charming. My grandmother had a deep respect for gypsies.
Your clock is wonderful - so much research and detail in it's design, and in a relatively small area. It will be greatly loved and admired.

Valerianna said...

Oh. The clip from Latcho Drom filled my heart with joy - so much magic - and grief, that we have lost the simple ways of being. To have a greeting like that at the station, wonderful. I loved that little boy entering into the magic-making, too.

When I lived in a small village in Greece, the arrival of a truck of Gypsies was quite an event. The word traveled quickly from the square up to the top of the village "they Gypsies are here, lock your doors, hide the keys..." The cry went out and folks scrambled into action to defend the village from such people.
I used to like it when they arrived - truck loaded down with chairs and other wares tied from top to bottom. The men stayed in the square to sell chairs, and the women wandered the village reading palms and selling cloths and stitch work. I still have some beautiful things they made.

Thanks for this post, intense and important - and a beautiful clock.

Martin said...

Thoughtfully written, and thought provoking post, Rima. We have travellers who camp on common land in our village, from time to time. I was disgusted to read, in our parish newsletter, words like 'invaded' and 'blighted' used to describe the impact of travellers hereabouts. More chilling, was the thoughtless mention of finding a 'permanent solution' to the problem.

Admittedly, they do leave a lot of rubbish behind, which someone has to clear up. That is a pain. But most of the complaints come from those who have paid a high price to live in rural Hampshire. People who believe that their deeds include the landscape and the rights of those who would travel within it.

Lavina said...

Wow... I admit I've always been rather ignorant about gypsy life, other than the romanticized image that books and films have created for me - colorfully dressed people travelling in colorful wagons: what you mention as just being one part of an entire life that holds so much more than that. I especially had no idea that they experience harsh discrimination just for being lovers of the travelling life. Thank you so much for sharing their stories, and for lightening my ignorance.

By the way, just so you know, I blogged about you and your work; everything just fascinates me :D And your clock is absolutely wonderful!

Do take care!

Els said...

Thanks Rima, for this wonderful and yet so sad post! You've said it all...
Sarah is a very lucky person with your clock on her wall ;-)

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Dear Rima, I on the other side of the world, am going to spoil things and tell you that I have experienced first hand Traveller theft, and despaired at the rubbish left beside the Canal after a wandering family left. I also realise that thieving goes on everywhere - it wasn't a Traveller who stole the beautiful rainbow windsock off our boat, but a May Ball Oxford student. It is an irony of course that (during our time in England) the full-time boat dwellers lived with their belongings on the towpath and were seen by holiday-makers and landlubbers as a messy nuisance.
I often felt sorry for the Travellers being reviled and moved on, because in NZ many of my friends lived easy, simple travelling lives, stopping where they pleased, treating riverside pull-ins with respect and in turn being treated as just another thread of society. Only recently has 'Free Camping' become restricted due to the number of overseas visitors who have no idea of how to shit responsibly in wild places.
Anyway a thoughtful and challenging post and thanks for reminding me of that beautiful film Latcho Drom, and I'm sure you will know Christie Moore's song - not sure of the title - but it goes 'Go, move, shift...' Something you understand only too well. Love Jeneane

Happy Together said...

"They are unable to accept that different people choose to live in different ways, and that those ways might be deeply intrinsic to their culture and way of experiencing the world. I've observed a simultaneous slight envy of the free roaming life coupled with extreme anger at the fact that they can live this life. "

Truly agree!!!!
Many people think, that the only way you can live a life, is the way we live in the West, and if you don't agree, they consider you stupid. But there are many ways to live, but governments often make rules that limit peoples choices of lifestyle.

Swan Artworks said...

Those sites look frighteningly like concentration camps don't they... makes you shudder...
There's a lovely wide green next to my parents house and my kids school where horse drawn people come in the summer, and they're always lovely people, beautiful wagons, beautiful horses... they often come for water to my parents garden tap, always open, friendly, respectful.
A very well spoken and important post... I've known a few travelling, bender dwelling, truck living people over the years, and they all had a quiet joy about them.
Educating people is so important... predjudice and ignorance through the ages has caused so much grief and terrible injustice. Hearts and minds can be changed, but it usually takes time and willingness...

John Labovitz said...

Thanks so much, Rima, for taking the time to explain the Traveller situation. Being over here on the other side of the pond, I've been aware of some of the current events (e.g., Dale Farm), and some of the past Romani history/culture, but you did such a nice job zipping it all together.

I feel quite lucky to have found a relatively supportive community here in Portland, Oregon, where I park my housetruck during the summer, and various friends & family along the twisty roads down to California where I'll be heading for the winter. Yet I, too, have unfortunately discovered the same anti-itinerant feelings during my travels. In the US, it's quite difficult to legally camp outside of a commercially- or government-run park. There are really no 'common' spaces here at all, and so I have had to work at finding the little cracks in between. Happily, I've met wonderful people along the way who offer up a space to stay along the way.

Best,
--John

Velma said...

in north america the settled people and the moving around people have always felt different. and intolerance and misunderstanding breed fear. most recently, when arctic peoples were made to settle in towns, the resulting cultural dissolution has been devastating. outsiders vs. insiders in every sense.

Owen said...

Beginning with a beautiful time keeping piece, you evolved this into a timeless piece on the troubling questions surrounding intolerance and bigotry, hatred and fear, venom and the vicissitudes of viciousness. Your observations are piercingly accurate, poignant as spoken from the heart. How many times here in France have I heard the same comments repeated over and over about theft and violence and filth concerning the Roma. And seen the stories in the press about violent encounters with the police. People speak of these things with such conviction.

And it always leaves me wondering, why, why, why cannot humans all simply behave as humanity can, with humanity toward one and all, among all, from and to each and every member of our collective society, whether we be fixed or mobile or something in between.

It seems there is a streak, perhaps genetic, that wants to fear something and fight it. Is this a remnant of our distant pasts where fighting off intruders meant survival ? I cannot say, in this day and age it is so cryingly, painfully obvious that we must find common, all inclusive solutions, for the alternative is to consume ourselves in hatred and violence. But how, how, how to get there ?

Thank you for your shining light...

Ms. ∆×∆p×≥h/4π said...

Dear Rima
"I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain." James Baldwin It is so, of course, and once we identify with peoples pain (not unlike our own) then, and only then, are we made privy to their joy (not unlike our own)--The world has been divided into who owns what and there is little room left for the wandering soul but in the mind. There, it sits, just as sure of it's belong as if it were a Lord of the land. Your research and attention is formidable. My hearty thanks for this post. The clock is perfect, charming, true to your artists vision, a treasure. Keep shining that compassionate light dear soul. We need it.

Ms. ∆×∆p×≥h/4π said...

I had to come back--just watched the clip twice--with a big smile on my face and a feeling of warmth for humanity in my heart like a flame that will not quit!

Elizabeth Rimmer said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. It reminds me of being in Ireland, passing a traveller camp every day, and realising that the 'mess' outside was all about keeping things clean. There was trouble there at that time and the Bishop of Galway invited the travellers to camp in the gardens of his official residence, which inspired and appalled people in about equal measure.

Griffin said...

There is a very simple/simplistic value system that goes: I am good, that which is like me is good because I am good. That which is not like me is bad, because it is not like me and I am good. It's behind every bigotry there is.

Homosexuals, ethnic minorities, women have all been at the end of it. And you end up with a lot of labels and no humans at the end of it. I do think that there is a jealousy of the Gypsy freedom but mostly a fear/hatred of the different. None of us are like each other, there is no such thing as 'normal'. We're all unique and long may it be so.

oq said...
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oq said...

Hello, Rima! Wonderful painting, as usual! :).Bright red is very appropriate to the gipsy ispiration.
I read what you wrote and I was surprised about the different evolution of the gipsies in our countries. Your story is full of magic, idyllic. Where I live things are sadly different:gipsy living is now altered, they have occupied old buildings(even those declared architectural monuments)in the historical city centres and they altered them. They make fire inside, on the floor. They leave garbage on the streets, in front of the buildings. The children are encouraged to beg, fight and steal. I was once waiting for the bus in front of the theatre one afternoon and a group of young (under 18) gipsyes attacked me. They hit my head with their fists until I fell down and they laughed and left. I had my glasses broken and a blood clot behind my ear drum ( I went to the doctor the next day with half of my face swollen and bruised). To them it was fun.
I never said anything to them, not even looked their way. Since then I am afraid.
Another time I was on the tram. When doors opened in front of a house where they lived, children threw from outside through the doors many chocolate bars they had stolen yelling: here you go, you poor losers! (and swearing). I just can guess you wouldn't like to confront that every day.
Of course, those "concentration camps" cannot be right, very Hitler-ish, totally inhuman.
Anyway, things are not right.
And the saddest thing: why this association "romani" - "romanian" ? Those things are not the same. We see this everyday on tv and we are victims of discrimination. There is NO connection between me, a romanian, and the gipsy people that steal and attacked me on the street for no reason.
Greetings.

jodi said...

Great post Rima, and another beautiful clock!

A little while after we moved to Aberdeen, my husband's university department along with the city council here worked together to put on an information day about travellers. Travellers were invited in to talk to and with anyone from the public, as a way of increasing understanding between people.

The day of this event, the regional newspaper ran nasty, anti-traveller propaganda as their front page story (as they so often do up here). Also, the journalist that was supposed to have come to the event never bothered even to show up. Apparently they had already made up their mind about travellers.

Many people I spoke to who were attending that day mentioned to me that they felt very uncomfortable being at the event to learn about Travellers, because of the newspaper stories. I wonder how many more people had planned to come to the event, or would have liked to have gone to the event, but were discouraged because of things like this.

Oq's post is very affecting as well. In Paris I used to live not far from a place where many Roma lived (before Sarkozy violated their rights as EU citizens and expelled them from France). The place was, frankly, a mess. Feces and blood, for whatever reason, and broken objects were all around the place. It was not pleasant for anyone. The people living there were clearly living in an extreme misery which *no one* would choose.

Growing up in Toronto, I was homeless for some of my youth... I know other homeless children of my age sometimes did horrible things. They threw kittens at walls for fun. Many of the girls I knew were repeatedly raped by people we knew and thought of as friends. These behaviours are not acceptable... but I would say they are not behaviours that arise from a genetic group, but from living in miserable and unreasonable circumstances.

I don't support the actions of the children who attacked Oq... but I do think that it must be recognized that his attackers are probably living in the same sort of misery that somewhat warped the minds of the kids I knew growing up (who were not bad people, but sometimes did bad things). I also think it is important to note that on top of those conditions, there is an extreme amount of persecution directed toward Romani people in Romania. Many have been granted refugee status in other countries because they have had their houses set on fire while they were sleeping in them during the night, and things like that. This "us and them" mentality works both ways and crimes are happening on both sides.
Maintaining "us and them" only perpetuates this negativity on both sides. And using legislation and police force, to marginalize people, as has been the case in the UK and France and many other places, has never had any good result that I can think of. People need to be allowed to live with dignity, if anyone is scapegoated for too long, it is inevitable that there will be a backlash at some point, especially when sensitive youth are involved, who lack the maturity to control their actions. Romani people aren't saints any more than settled people. Both sides have need to work to overcome this situation.

And sorry for the long post... it seems I can be provoked too!

A mermaid in the attic said...

Another beautiful clock, and an incredibly thought provoking post. I think your thoughts that envy is a deep part of the ongoing prejudice is right (and supported by Kathleen's beautiful poem). Last year, I saw Tony Gatlif's latest film 'Liberte' (also called 'Korkora), and it affected me so much I wrote a post about exactly that idea. I think the envy works on two levels. We settled people see the nomadic life as having a kind of freedom we don't have because we're stuck where we are (for whatever reason). So we envy that. On top of that, despite whatever romantic notions we might have about colourful gypsy wagons and songs around the campfire, most of us are also aware that it's a tough life. It's a life without many of the luxuries (and securities) we take for granted and can't imagine living without. You have to be brave to live it. So we envy that rough freedom, and we envy the courage it takes to live it...because we know we just don't have it, and we hate to admit it to ourselves. It's much easier to blame the gypsies and the travellers for our own deep-seated shortcomings.

I also think you're right, that it's becoming harder and harder for all of us to find that green freedom. As I've grown up, I see more and more places becoming restricted, limiting places for camping and living on the road. Which is rather ironic here in Australia, given that the idea of packing your life into a caravan and heading off into the sunset is the great Australian dream, something people aspire to and usually only achieve when they retire (because only then they're brave enough...and/or have enough superannuation!...to do it). I was lucky enough to spend 5 months in a caravan travelling around this country when I was 11. It was a holiday, not a life choice, but it was the most wonderful experience, one I'll never forget. Clearly the urge to hit the 'wide open road' it a very deep human one, and we fear those who still have the courage to answer the call.

Lynn said...

Such a very moving, beautiful, and informative post. I hardly know where to begin.

You've put it perfectly when you say that "the story of the Gypsies in the UK over the last century has been everyone's story." it has just, perhaps, shown up more acutely in the case of the Travelling folk. The fact that there is such abject anger aimed at them shows a dissatisfaction and an envy which some people feel, but perhaps aren't even able to name.

Recently, I came across some fascinating photos by Colin O'Brien on the website Spitalfields Life. They were taken in 1987 of children of a group of mostly Irish Travellers who had stopped briefly in London Fields. Here's the link just in case.

http://spitalfieldslife.com/2011/06/02/travellers-children-in-london-fields/


A huge thank you! I always come away from your blog with a head full of new images and thoughts and an almost heard tune that always gets my own thoughts dancing to a slightly different step.

Rima said...

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments...

Jodi - absolutely no need to apologise for your post - it was eloquent and really nailed the point more fully than I did I think. The fact is that there are people who do terrible things, and almost always there's been some pressure put on them in their lives or in the lives of their people so that their existence has become an unbearable place to be. Of course people who are pushed down are going to react badly to the society that does the pushing, it's just that the reactions come out in uncomfortable and sometimes inexplicable ways and places.
If as a people you've had your dignity and sense of self constantly eroded and demeaned, it is no wonder that bad things happen in those communities.
I think the riots in this country earlier this year demonstrated a similar boiling over of pressure from a part of society that has had its shining lifeforce dulled to nil by the "big" society. And we saw a similar really venomous denouncing of these people then too, a denial of their very humanity. It is hard for a society to look at its wounds with wisdom and feel the responsibility and the pain.

Oq - I think the etymology of the word "Roma" or "Romani" is complex. As is the etymology of the word "Romanian". They are similar words (also to Roma - the Italian word for Rome) but not connected (except in possible ancient linguistic history perhaps where the Romanian people were seen as connected to Rome somehow because of their Latin language), but there are many Roma in Romania. As far as I can see from researching the history of the word in the Romany language, Rom means 'man'. Therefore, "Romany" is just a word for a people describing itself as "people", which is common in many languages worldwide.
(NB - the Romany language I'm referring to is the English version - which is woven in with local dialects from this country.) There are many different groups over the world, and the "Roma", from what I've read, are a distinct Romani subgroup living predominantly in the countries of Eastern Europe.
The names we use to describe ourselves are an interesting area of study - as an English person, I am named after a tribe (the Angles) from the part of central Europe that is now Germany who invaded this island after the Roman occupation. So really we're all fascinatingly mixed up with a good portion of nomadic blood in us.

Thank you again all of you for nodding to my words and painting and adding your insights to this roaming and important conversation.

illuminary said...

Ms Rima
what a wonderful painting...
As I read thru your post I thought of my favorite traveler from my youth. He was called "the goat man" and he roamed the US for years. his wagon was pulled by a bevy of goats. He would give these fire and brim stone preaching that always made me giggle. ( and usually got me some trouble)
Thank you for sharing something so thoughtful and introspective...
we are all travelers on the road...
are we not?

Trish said...

I watched the Eviction video and it made me cry. My heart aches for these people, as it does for the people at Dale Farm. Horrible, violent evictions.
I've always been drawn to the life of a gypsy, not just the romantic image, but the wild and the natural and the freedom of that way of life ( although not really any freedom now, hey?)
"There is no life without struggle and strife", how very true.
The last clip of a film I haven't seen, but must now, left me with tears of joy, I loved it.
I want to be happy, wild and free.
Much love to you for sharing the wonderful information here and your love and respect for humankind.
Your clock is beautiful, I love the little pied wagtail.

Sophie Moss said...

WOW. The clock is gorgeous. The thought and detail and storytelling that went into this work of art blows me away. Looking forward to exploring more of your art!

by Teresa said...

Dear Rima, as a fellow artist and one who has painted clocks, I absolutely loved seeing each part of your amazing painting on the clock. I also have been fascinated with the Basque shepherd wagons here in America. They are similar. I would love to have one!

I have seen Gypsy's here in Oregon and find them fascinating... they speak a different language and dress different and look different.

We have a trailer that we take to the beach, the mountains and lakes here in Oregon, so I feel like I'm part Gypsy.

Thank you for telling us about what the Travelers are dealing with now and in the past. Those camps with concrete and barbed wire are awful.

I invite you to visit my blog and see my collection of ancient trade beads that I put up today.

I'm so glad I found your blog.

Teresa :-)

Star said...

It started with a wonderful clock and ended me in the doom of our lot. i thought you might like this wonderful documentary, IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GHENGIS KHAN. I would send you a copy of mine, but alas, it would be in a different region to you. Talking of OZ, the gypsy man in the clock reminds me muchly of Aussie bush/swag men (Its the hat)... Do the film. O and I must say, that I love your dimension.

Snail Grrl said...
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Nanita said...

Your clock is stunning, Rima, the colours are perfect for the theme, and I love how the crack in the wood becomes the road itself!
Isn't it incredible how society mercilessly rejects those who do not walk between the lines? I have lived a year in Russia, in Moscow and Kursk, and because of my accent when speaking russian combined with long hair and dressing style, I was stopped by the police at least 30 times to show my papers because they suspected me being gypsy or from the Caucasus. A few times they even claimed my belgian pasport false.
I love the fragment of Latcho Drom, have you ever seen movies by Emir Kusturica such as Black Cat, White Cat or Time of the Gypsies? I highly recommend these wonderful surreal colourfests, and the music, I believe by Goran Bregovic, is absolutely enchanting! xxx

Ronnie (RR) said...

Your clocks amaze me, I love the way that you use the shape of the wood to help the painting come alive. I love this clock, its one of my favourites and I will def be buying a print, so thank you for putting this one in your shop. Fabulous piece and wondeful photos to go with it too, very interesting reading.

Avus said...

Congratulations on your deep meditation on the travelling folk, Rima. I live in Kent and know all the areas referred to. I also remember the running fights between the police and the "pikies" on Yalding Leas in the 1950's. The "Two Brewers" public house was just down the road.
I enjoyed immensely the Latcho Drom clip.
However, there is another side to the story. A couple of weeks ago a pleasant green area near a local housing estate was taken over on the Friday before a Bank Holiday by travelling families and about 30 caravans. The local council moved them on very quickly, but it took two days to clear the rubbish and filth from the site. Shit deposits lay everywhere, unburied.
Is there an answer to all this? Does the modern world have room and consideration for this alternative lifestyle? In the overcrowded UK is it possible for such a life style to continue?
I pose the questions and have no answers.

urbanmonk said...

this is great reading!!

gz said...

A beautiful clock, Rima.

Much of the feeling against Roma/Gypsies/Travellers is the fear of anything different, the fear of people living a different way.
Look at the way a white blackbird will be mobbed by the other blackbirds.
There are good and bad in every society.
About ten miles from my home an extended family used to park for a couple of months every year, in a spot that they had done for a couple of hundred years.
They were clean and tidy, the dogs well cared for, the scrap they collected and sold only stayed there overnight. I enjoyed stopping and talking, passing the time of day.
Then another group came, and were completely the opposite.
The council, as they now own the land, evicted them all.
Yes, we do have problems with crime, especially emanating from one site where apparently the police do not enter. Sometimes it is "give a dog a bad name"....or if they are going to be blamed for something bad anyway....

Dale Farm was bad. When people try to settle on their own land in their own way...yes, others had come there and some things were not right, but the reaction and consequences are wrong.

It seems sometimes you can be damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

Margaret Johnson said...

Hello Rima, beautiful clock, beautiful thought provoking post. Surely the differances in Peoples should be celebrated and cherished. Unfortunately ignorance and an unwillingness to reach out, makes for a lot of misunderstanding. It makes me very sad. Thankyou for sharing your beautiful work and thoughts. ox

Jenny said...

A very long post, but worth a read and sets the story well.

I grew up in a rural part of south east England, I've seen travelers of all kinds and I've seen the reactions of the settled community to them. My county and those that surround it have travelers who are part of the rural community as much as anyone else and have been for generations.

However it has to be faced up to, there is also an association between some groups of travelers and crime. Metal theft, machinery theft, the theft of fuel often follow the arrival of these groups. I have encountered them myself reconnoitering a farm when they thought they were unobserved, looking for ways to gain access to machinery.

It is against this background that the astounding tide of hatred we saw around events like Dale Farm takes root. I have witnessed the most outrageous things being said about travelers, and unlike other bigotry the frightening thing is the way people say it in the open, they don't believe there is anything wrong about it. One can really feel the echoes of Pastor Niemoller's famous words.

I don't see a solution in standing on the sidelines saying "This is wrong". Of course it's wrong, but saying so won't change the minds of the people who've seen their diesel stolen or their quadbike lifted. What needs to happen is for the traveling communities to recognise that some of those in their midst can behave in an antisocial manner, and to either see them brought to justice or to distance themselves from them in as public a manner as possible. For them not to do so will be to see the battle lines drawn ever deeper and to see more and worse Dale Farms.

I do not feel proud to be from a countryside in which that might happen.

Wayward Harper said...

Thank you Rima. This is such a wonderful and and at the same time, sad post - i have yet to visit britain and i had no idea there was still such negative and distructive attitudes in such a large number of the population. Those photos of the Murston site are just horrific! it makes me so angry and sad- how could such a thing come to be in this day and age?? I hope it is not too late for attitudes to change, the world would be a much sadder and smaller world without travellers. Thank you for putting together this post, i have a feeling your words will travel far :)

alanay said...

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araştırma yazınızı ise etkilenmeden okumak mümkün değil.ülkemde de çingeler yaşamakta ve şükürler olsun barış içindeyiz.
sevgiler..

Purpletreebird said...

Your painting is gorgeous and I'm so glad you took a picture of it before it turned into the clock, the crack in the wood is perfect as the road! I love how your paintings frow organically from the wood.
I've lived as a traveller as you know and I remember the tightness of our community as a reaction against the rudeness of the 'outside world'.
My close friend recently found out her own mother was a romany gypsy but not until after she'd died. It had been kept hidden all her life, even from her own children, I'm guessing because of the prejudice. The film was heart-warming! With the train track there I was expecting a horrible accident of some sort but it was such a joyous thing to watch! A lovely note to end on. :)
Jess xx

LittleInsect said...

Dear Rima, yet another admirable and thought-provoking post. My mother came from Kent Gypsy stock, and we've always been proud of our heritage, even though this side of the family are now 'settled' (much to do with my Grandmother's amibition, but that's a tale for another time). A lot of our family are still travellers any circus folk, however.

The thing that amazes me, are those who scorn the travelling folk, and deride them...........and then enjoy 'marvellous holidays', camping in out of the way places, or towing their huge caravans behind their equally huge 4x4s.
Can't they see that for a few days, they're showing just how envious of the gypsy life-style they actually are?

Rima said...

More thanks for everyone's input... :)

LittleInsect - yes I quite agree, I remember feeling an enormous gulf between me and my travelling house and the shiny white motorhomes parked a few spaces along in the campervan section of carparks. If the attendant came over to question if we were thinking of parking (illegally) there overnight, it was never the shiny white motorhome owners who were asked that question.

Jenny - yes I agree that there are of course problems where some travellers stop, but I think again that Jodi's comment becomes relevant here - I'm interested in looking at why people when their life has been made inexcusably grim and their way of being continuously derided end up doing bad things to their environment and to other people. This doesn't just mean Travellers - I mean all of us, when we're pushed and pushed, the outcome can be unpleasant. And I don't think it's always immediately cause-and-effect obvious how that happens - often there's been years of the squashing and belittling before the inevitable backlash. I'm interested in looking at a society that has done this to certain groups of people and what the consequences are, how the bubbles burst.
In standing on the sidelines and saying what I have noticed about people's attitudes and people's uninformed opinions toward the downtrodden groups, I am just trying to in some tiny way ease tensions between different groups of people to leave space for communication, informed understanding and empathy.

Gz - I agree about the good and bad in every society and the fact that fear causes the outsider to be picked on. I'm a little confused about what you mean when you say "Dale Farm was bad"? As far as I can see it, they are a group of Travellers living on their own land, half of which they had planning permission to live on and the other half they did not. The half without planning permission had been an abandoned scrapyard before they bought it. Living on this piece of land did not, in my view, warrant the violent tactics of the riot police or the bigoted opinions of so many people.

But it's hard not to get bogged down in specifics isn't it... I only know as much as I have read and observed in the media and from witness reports online, but I wasn't there, I don't know any of the residents, and therefore if I try to offer my opinion, it is just thirdhand. Again, we must try to judge every situation in relation to real human contact that we make, and real human empathy.

Maggie said...

What a wonderful post, Rima. Gypsies and Travellers are inherently fascinating because of their apartness. To me, they represent a world where it was possible for people to keep moving, to live outdoors, and be free. I know this is a romantic notion, that they have their own cultural entrapments, but as a symbol, whichever way you spin it,they are stronger than their reality.

But after all, they are simply human, and so behave as humans do: good, bad, beautiful, and ugly. And, as humans, they deserve the respect of other humans.

We have a family legend that my great grandmother said her grandmother was a "Rom who settled down." We don't know if this is true, but we treasure the legend, and it has helped to explain my yearning for travel and adventure.

Morna said...

This post has given me a wonderful education this evening. I am supposed to be curtailing my addiction to the www so that I might accomplish more in the "real" world ... but how can I leave wonderful places like your Hermitage? It would be foolhardy to do so! xo

Lunar Hine said...

I am broken by the first film and a little healed by the second. You use the power of your voice here with grace and responsibility. If we can be fair and kind to the people we meet (housed, traveling, whatever); we can undo a little of the harm of those who cannot yet manage these things. And your art - this beaming clock - also heal, and are a kindness to the world in themselves. Keep on, friend. We who hold our minds and hearts as open as we can are actually vast in number. There is still hope.

Ent said...

I remember on a farm not to far from where you live I was payed to grow vegtables. They had an honesty box outside and sold veg. One day a younge travelling couple came and offered to pick veg in return for an organic veg box. About a mothe later some veg started going missing from the stand. The young couple wherte sacked - the owner saying "I am not saying it was you, but your traveller mates mite have heard about the veg by the road and started to steal it." The sad compliant resignation to wich the couple accepted this judgement was heartbraking. They knew their was no way to deffentd themselves. Yes, their traveller camp was only about two miles away, but their was an entire setled village closer than thet. It was sickening and heartbraking to see the racism (I can think of a more apropriate word, although travellers seem to be no more one race than the rest of Britain). Later they started shooting the 'wrong sort' of wildlife attending their wildlife area (foxes, deer, crows, magpies and I suspect badgers, though I never had any proof). I left.

If you look back at the history of Britian their has always been a steady stream of people chosing or being forced to leave their houses, right up to today, and no dobt tomorrow. I dont doubt a cultural affinity with the Rajistani Gypsy culture, but like with all history in this area of the world it is not a pure genetic thing. Nomadic people have been part of our culture for at least a thousand years, and almost definatly before that. Some even theorise that Saulsburry plain in the neolithic was still nomadic, while 6000+ years ago nomadism was what people did.

I hate that we still have this intolerant racism in the heart of our culture. I cant beleive people cannot see the connection between violantly ostrasizing or seeking to homogonize people and an increase with social problems within that society. So you make people brake the law by simply being, remove all provision or acomodation of land and law, and are shocked when they stop caring about cleaning up the land you pretend to own??? Better stop now before I get too angry on your blog Rima.

Really lovely painting by the way!

Ent said...

Just one more thing - look at a google satalight view of Dale Farm - you will see the tight litle compact traveller site crammed next to a main road - pan out and you will see a huge number of horible (in my eyes) sprawlling red brick comercially built properties swirling across and gobling up the greenbelt with their eco-dessert lawns and long concreet drives. Getting rid of the travellers to save that bit of greenbelt is hypocracy of the highest order. Where was basildon councle when hundreds of acres of feild was swallowed up by the property tycoons? Gods it makes me angry.

Amy said...

Rima - thank you for this post and thank you acknowledging, at the end, how our modern world is managing to enclose all of us and divorce us from literally and figuratively exploring our world. Here in the U.S. it seems that what isn't privately owned is still not available to the public. Parks have strict times of use and can also cost money. Former public gathering spots are now owned by corporations. We end up hemmed in on all sides.

Also, thank you to Jodi for pointing out the intersecting lines of class, wealth, stereotypes, all the things that can make any marginalized group feel even more powerless .

I think one thing we have to also be careful of is romanticizing the Gypsy/Traveller way of life because it does a disservice to the real people involved. I've seen this attitude in the belly dancing scene in the U.S. (and this may happen elsewhere too). People indulge in the stereotype of the wild and free dancer or musician because it does tap into romantic notions of a performing life on the road, but this can be done without trading in unrealistic stereotypes about actual cultures. I think people need to realize that they can lay claim to the kind of lifestyle they like without having to use another culture to add authenticity.

Rima said...

Thomas/Ent - just had to say that I was happy to read your angry comment :) I was "yessing" all the way thru! (I also am astonished that people cannot easily make the connection you talk about)
Thank you.

And thank you dear Lunar for your warm words.

And Amy, I quite agree about the fake-romanticizing of Gypsy lifestyle, it does make me quite nauseous actually. I hope what I've done here is honour and explore honestly the beauty and the rawness.

dubgirl said...

Hi Rima, I've tried to send you an email, but having problems. Thank you for the Atching Tan picture, it arrived perfectly in the post and it is lovely, I'm now looking for a suitable frame. My little boy was fascinated by it and in fact loves all your pictures - he liked the postcard you sent too 'Anja in the horse chestnut'. Many thanks and take care x (Becky S)

Anonymous said...

Lovely artwork shame Simon Evans - Stopping Places work is not acknowleged as one of the main contributions to this collection, all the ptotographs from,.. it says copyright but no acknowgegement of his work!? Otherwise all good.



Rima Staines said...

Dear Anonymous - you obviously missed the paragraph in which I wrote:

"Many of the images and quotations in this post are taken from Simon Evans' excellent book Stopping Places - A Gypsy History of South London and Kent, which I bought in Faversham in Kent whilst I was travelling through, in a small museum of local history. It has proved the most well written, balanced and insightful account of the Travellers' story I've read yet, and it resonates with me particularly because I grew up in the South London / Kent area and so many of these places in the pictures are familiar to me - roads I went down to get to school, and so on. I had friends who would go hop picking as kids with the Gypsies in Kent, and I knew of houses in the area where travellers now lived. If you want a clear and fascinating account of the Gypsy life in the UK, I urge you to buy a copy of this book - it's full of many more wonderful pictures and moving verbatim accounts, not least the wonderful one at the end of this post by Brian Belton, with which Simon Evans also ends his book."