Since I am now living on the other side of the world to my family and most of my friends this blog is about things I enjoy, things I notice, people I meet, people I miss, history, planning for the future, love and life in general! I guess it's about whatever pops into my head which I want to share with my friends and family... and who knows? I might make some more friends along the way!

17 February, 2006

Life of a gypsy?

For those of you who have read my profile you'll know that I live the life of a gypsy ... well I have no fixed address anyway! It's funny that referring to yourself as a gypsy in this day and age sounds somewhat romantic, carefree and bohemian, but mentioning that you have 'no fixed address' makes you sound like a desperate criminal on the run from the authorities!

Actually gypsies were always looked on with suspicion and were often the first people accused of any petty theft or even major crime in the days when they were roaming Europe, the UK and even further afield.

Although we now associate gypsies with fortune telling, colourful outfits and alluring dark-skinned, dark eyed people with a mystery about them and a freedom in their lifestyle, they were, in fact, struggling to make a living - traveling from town to town offering to do odd jobs for a meagre amount of money. Women would look after the family, collecting herbs and edible plants from the surrounding area, bartering hand made (or previously acquired) trinkets for additional food, cloth and clothing. They cooked, washed, kept the camp tidy and cared for the children - using their extensive knowledge to treat health ailments and injuries, a fact which often saw them accused of witchcraft, an accusation not helped by their being prepared to 'mix love potions' or tell people their future for a little more income.

The men were itinerant workers, finding menial and seasonal work on farms and in towns, usually walking miles just to speak with a farmer to find out if there was any work for them to do. They became adept at all kinds of work including carpentry, tinsmithery, mending roof-structures (thatching, slate and wood) and unpleasant work which fewer and fewer local people were prepared to do with the rise of industrialisation. One cannot imagine what a fit, healthy gypsy might have been paid to move manure or stir manure-heaps which were in the process of rotting into fertiliser.

On the upside - they did not pay taxes as they owned no land, they were often fit and healthy from their physical work and fresh, clean lifestyle, not to mention the knowledge of herbs and plants which had therapeutic and medicinal value, passed down from generation to generation. They were raised in multi-generational family-groups and had an education appropriate to their lifestyle. Gypsies usually traveled in groups so there was a 'safety net' of family and friends - a portable, self-contained community - who would help one another out in hard times.

On the 'not-so-upside' gypsies were looked upon with suspicion which grew from fear of the stranger, the unknown. They were usually not trusted and were often accused of any crime, small or large, which took place when they were in the area. There is no doubt that many innocent men, women and children were accused and, at best, arrested or, at worst, lynched, attacked and 'run out of town'. There were certainly times when people planning to commit a crime would wait until the gypsies were in the area in order to implicate the 'strangers' in their midst. We never want to concede that someone we know and trust is capable of committing a crime - no matter how minor - and it is simply easier for people to blame those whom they don't know or didn't trust in the first place.

So how do I find life as a modern day 'gypsy' of 'no fixed address'? Well far from being distrusted or mistreated I find myself trusted with much more than most people! Many world wanderers or just local travelers have entrusted me, not only with all their worldly belongings, but with access to personal items, computers, books & files, showing faith that I will not abuse their trust by looking into their personal lives. Maybe most impressive is the way they entrust their pets to my care. I am in a unique and rare position - to have a glimpse of how others live and work and what they hold most dear, without that relationship being 'voyeuristic' in any way. I answer their phone calls, collect and organise their mail, sometimes even checking emails for them, but these are minor services compared to paying rent when I am trying to clear debt and build a 'nest egg' for the future.

I don't imagine the Gypsies of yesteryear would have quite so much freedom!!

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Blogger Kimando said...

CPW, CPW, CPW. Where is your latest post? I think that the latest residence of your gypsy lifestyle has internet?
I am of course kidding. But I do have another question for you ... Have you done your homework?!
(You can't ignore it once it's saved on your blog!)

4:55 AM


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