I’ve always been fascinated by gypsies, or travellers as they’re known these days.
Back in the 1950s the residents of Fratton in Portsmouth were very suspicious of the arrival of these exotic people.
Many young Pompey girls were attracted to the dark-eyed, olive-skinned gypsy boys.
They had a certain charm and the gift of the gab with their magical tales of a life lived on the open road.
At just seven, I was fascinated by gypsies. Their women wore colourful clothes and lots of gold jewellery and they carried baskets of wooden clothes pegs.
They’d knock on the door and say: ‘Mornin’ dearie. Buy a bunch of heather off a poor gypsy, bring you luck.’
Selling ‘lucky heather’. How wonderful. Well I can tell you it was at my age.
My second brush with the gypsies was in the 1960s. I was about 13, living in Catisfield, Fareham. and I heard that the queen of the gypsies lived in Bellfield,Titchfield.
So I went off on my bike to investigate.
I didn’t find the gypsy queen, but I picked up a ragamuffin gypsy boy and took him home for tea.
‘But he’s luvverly,’ I wailed as my snooty Ma showed him the door.
Then at 18, I married a man whose paternal grandfather was a Romany gypsy.
His father’s mother was from landed gentry and she ran away with the gypsy.
Fabbo story, eh?
So I’ve never had problems with gypsies – until now.
I understand that ‘travellers’, as we must call them, want to keep their culture.
But some of them have lived illegally on Dale Farm in Essex for 10 years. I read that to evict them will cost as much as £18m.
They want to live together on sites provided in the winter and roam the roads in the summer. Lovely!
But they don’t want to mix with non-travellers.
If you or I set up home illegally on green belt land, we would be evicted.
So why should it be any different for travellers?