In the early morning, I saw a piebald pony pulling a trotting gig on the sands. It filled me with delight – such speed and energy – and not for the first time. I’ve seen a cluster of horse-boxes and vans beside a nearby beach-side café after races. I noted how the men took ages caring for their animals before seeing to themselves.
We have Romani and Travellers on the peninsular- and Travelling Showpeople in Chichester. The local papers covered the funeral of Mrs Lena Lay in Fishbourne in 2009 because it was so important. I found it fascinating that we have these other cultures in our area – even if I don’t understand them well enough.
Sometimes though, you’d think we had the Norman Invasion coming again. The whisper goes round that the Travellers or ‘pikies’ are coming and out come all sorts of barriers. Bales and diggers and posts sprout up in every driveway or field entry. People seem to enjoy the fear.
I saw one group on the car park in East Wittering. Hard to tell them from any other campers frankly. I heard a lot about the mess those *people* ( insert insult of your choice) leave. I loathe litter and fly-tipping. I uphold the right of anyone to complain about these – but there’s a good deal of hypocrisy too.
Had a look at motorway verges recently?
Both reported anecdotes and mythology worry me. I wouldn’t want to romanticise any culture – it’s another form of patronising: a do look at those quaint natives sort of thing. But in view of The Great Devouring (or whatever term you use for the Nazi genocide) I am glad whenever Roma are portrayed positively – especially for children.
In my youth, it was Rumer Godden’s The Diddakoi , later Philip Pullman’s Gyptians surely had Romani ancestry – and now we have Abi Elphinstone’s Moll in The Dreamsnatcher. (I’m sure there are more – please let me know!)
I began to sketch out a spidergram of Romany influences on art and particularly music. It was just too big but to give you a flavour:
- Django Reinhardt
- Yul Brynner
- Robert Plant
- Charlie Chaplin
- Michael Caine
- Bob Hoskins
- Joaquín Cortés
- Rita Hayworth
Forget all that Big Fat rubbish on Channel 4. The culture may not be perfect ( whose is?) but a world without Gogol Bordello, Flamenco dancing , Eva Petulengro or even Mr Toad’s canary yellow cart would be infinitely poorer. And how could anyone despise this young girl?