A long time ago, I told Jim I’d happily live anywhere with him, even if it was in a cardboard box on a street corner. What I was trying to say is that he is my home, and the shelter in which we actually reside just doesn’t matter so long as he’s with me. While I still mean every word of that sentiment, I look at these gypsy wagons and think that a life moving constantly from place to place in a horse-drawn wooden barrel might not be so good for our relationship. I am fairly adaptable to most situations and would love the opportunity to see the countryside at such a relaxed pace, but I tend to get cranky when I’m cold or if I have to go more than about 24 hours without a hot shower.
Travellers can refer to either of two nomadic ethnic minority groups legally recognized by the British government–Romani Gypsies or Irish Travellers. There are no reliable statistics for the number of Travellers in the UK, but based on a 2006 census of local caravan counts, the government estimates the population at about 300,000. The Gypsies have been living in the UK since the 1500s, and their origins have been traced to India (hence the famous dark complexions in gypsy stories). On the other hand, Irish Travellers came to England from Ireland in the 1800s to escape the potato famine. Both groups have a history of self-employment, and moving from place to place in order to find work. Today, the traditional horse-drawn wagons have been replaced in many cases by SUV-towed campers with more modern conveniences, but the idea is the same. Many Travellers are not on the go year-round…there are semi-permanent Traveller communities all around the country, some sanctioned by the local councils and some illegally established which causes bad blood between the Travellers and the locals. Often, the mother and children will stay in one place while the father travels to find work, yet Traveller children have the poorest school attendance records of any ethnic minority group in the UK. Travellers inspire a mixture of curiosity, fear, romance, and hatred among “settled people,” as their history, culture, and lifestyle are often misunderstood; in fact, Travellers are often the target of prejudice that no other ethnic or racial group would tolerate (try substituting “blacks” or “Mexicans” instead of “travellers” in this actual news headline: “Winning the war against travellers”). Jake Bowers, one of Britain’s only Romani journalists, has written an online learning guide that explores the facts and debunks the myths about this interesting sector of British society.