Let’s begin by saying I am indeed a traveller, gypsy traveller whichever you would like to refer to me as. I am however still just Paige. My family have a long and an amazing history behind them, it is quite fascinating but not for the small minded person. Nowadays travellers are forced to live in houses, our old way of living is no longer ‘acceptable’ in the eyes of the law so it seems. Yet you have caravan and camping sites bringing in £1,000s a month, that’s just it isn’t it really. It’s all about money. You have the people who are not travellers, who will slate travellers yet book holidays for themselves and their families to stay in CARAVANS. Makes sense doesn’t it? as long as it’s not permanent it’s fine right? The people who are happy to make a living off of our lifestyle yet still don’t think we should be allowed to stay where we want.
Any respectable travellers knows to stay away from private lands, car parks or from sides of the roads. Unless it’s dire emergency circumstances, we stay out the way. I first hand know what it’s like to see travellers disrespect property but you have to understand, when we are not bothering anyone, minding our own business yet we are being moved for no reason other than our presence is annoying? We get angry. Wouldn’t you? We are just people, human like everyone else. The lifestyle may not work for you but that’s because it’s our tradition. It works for us, or it did. All of our camping grounds are slowly being taken away from us, made into houses or private buildings. Places I used to stay when I would be on holiday with my grandparents, gone. They no longer exist.
Memories are all I have left of a lot of our old spots where we would stay. Every time we visited, we cleaned up. There was never any mess left behind, if there was mess when we arrived? We cleaned it up. Why? because we didn’t want to live in a mess. We didn’t want to visit a mess. Myself and my family are a perfect example of very respectable travellers. We don’t bother anyone, yet we always get bothered? There are so many questions. This is one thing I am so passionate about, the government fork out millions to build new buildings and that’s perfectly fine. It’s great in fact BUT Why don’t we get land where we can stay? That’s not fenced off, thats not gated, just land. Oh yes, because it wouldn’t bring any money and it would cause ‘interference’. It’s heart breaking, every year traditions die because we’re always being chased.
Growing up, I loved my life. I loved every year I would go travelling with my grandparents and my cousins and it was some of the best times. My granny and my grandad are very traditional travellers, my grandad would never let his traditions die. They do have a beautiful home, but they are never there anymore. My granny and grandad are growing old, they just want to live the life they know. On the road, in the fresh air out in the countryside. Nature is one thing I’ve always loved, I love being outside and I love being free. Travellers are free spirits, their hearts belong on the road. I have never understood why people would not accept us? Why they were afraid? because we were different. We hand washed our clothes in basins, we washed our faces from the same basin (different water, duh!), we bathed in the ocean and we wore the same outfit more than twice (Hand washed) I LOVED it.
It wasn’t always good, actually sometimes it was very bad. Luckily for me my family never intentionally got into any bother, it was rare that we were bothered. If anything people would stop to speak to us, ask us questions and just smile at us and tell us have a good day. It was when I was at home, surrounded by non travellers that things were bad. There is this myth that travellers are dirty people, that we don’t wash. We are VERY clean people. Ask my older generations, living a life on the road you adapt to a very clean lifestyle otherwise you’d end up sick. I lost count of the amount of times people in school would say to me, ‘why are you here?’ ‘Gypsies don’t go to school’ ‘you’re thick’ ‘you’ll never amount to anything’ ‘shouldn’t you be married by now’ kindly f*&k off.
Yes it is true a lot of gypsy traveller girls are married by the time they are 16. They do become house wives and they take care of the home/kids, while their husband works. I didn’t want that life, my family didn’t want to give me that life. Each family has their own traditions and their own beliefs. Often these do clash with other families and even members of certain clans follow some traditions that others don’t. In the past it would cause conflict in today’s society? It’s just how it is. There are still some people who are more inclined to take it very seriously, if you disrespect their beliefs or their values or way of life they will not be happy.
I have many cousins who were pulled out of school, they lived the traveller lifestyle all their life. I didn’t. I had just as much right to be at school as the next person, my mum completed high school and college and worked full time jobs. Then raised 2 kids as a single mother and still managed to pass down her values in life. Beliefs? I fully respect them, yet I don’t agree with them all. I was always one to be so fascinated with my culture and my grandparents way of life and my ancestors, yet I knew I’d never fully be able to live that life in today’s society. There is so much stigma surrounding gypsy travellers and racism towards us too. Yes, people are racist towards travellers. Discrimination towards us is not uncommon.
‘Pikey’ ‘Gypo’ ‘Mink’ ‘Tink’ these 3 words I would get called on a daily basis, they are absolutely disgusting. To non travellers they mean nothing, to us they mean you don’t respect us. You think nothing of us and you think we are scum basically. Commonly people use the word ‘mink’ and ‘tink’ to describe unclean people. Ding ding ding, there’s your stereotype. I’d have people throw things at me and tell me to go back to my caravan, I lived in a house? About 90% of Scotlands travellers live in houses now. It doesn’t mean we didn’t bring with us our traditions. People go bat shit crazy when individuals are racist towards anyone else but nobody batted an eyelid when travellers got it? Are we any less human because we have a certain set of traditions? Yeah you may not understand them, you don’t have to. Unless you’re marrying into a traveller family why does it matter? Who are we hurting?
Lastly to end this first segment, this is a personal favourite of mine. My family’s last name which I’m not going to enclose, I have my fathers last name he is not the traveller! The amount of people who bundle me into the category of ‘criminals’ is hilarious. Where I live everyone knows my family, they know of my family or they have heard of my family. Ridiculous right? We are just PEOPLE. There are criminals in the traveller community yes, but we are not all criminals. There would be no space left in jail if we were.. do you know how many fucking cousins I have?? Anyway, I’m not a criminal. I have no convictions and I’ve only ever been taken home by the police once for drinking to much vodka.. SO SUE ME. I was like 15. Uhoh terrible traveller I am because drinking is definitely not allowed in some families especially not underage! Ooooops.
I’m going to end with this question. Ask yourself this? We jump to the defence of anyone from different countries, different cultures, different beliefs yet travellers have been around just as long and our lifestyle is being forced into non existence. Why? You can take our lifestyle away but unless you kill us all, we are not going anywhere. It’s in our blood. It’s who we are. You don’t have to accept it but you sure as hell don’t have the right to resent it. Much love, a 20 year old gypsy traveller with a lot of education under her belt and is proud of who she is. Not everyone is as lucky as I am. A lot of travellers cant write or read, they don’t have education and they don’t have great living conditions but their actual home is spotless. There is a lot outsiders don’t understand, why judge when you don’t know?
To be continued…