I am not a hippy. I’m not a crusty. I’m not a gypsy. I work for a living. I pay my taxes and I am a responsible citizen. I believe in recycling. I do not litter. But I want a simple life and so with my husband I’m moving into a van. Maybe we will hate it. Or maybe this is the beginning of a new life.

In search of another life

"They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn..."

Jack Kerouac

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

True vagrants of the road

We bought the van over a week ago, but for the past few days we’ve been parked on a site. Life was easy there, but not exciting. We parked the car next to the van, and next to that was a motor home, then a car, then a motor home.....the gleaming white vehicles stretched out into the distance, all containing people with their televisions flashing behind lace curtains. Middle aged people looking bored with life, telling themselves that they must enjoy this great outdoors that they have dreamed of for so long.
But people were pleasant, and we were hooked up to electricity, so we could enjoy our television, heater, radio and three way cool box. There were showers, toilets and washing facilities. But this caravan site is not the life we have chosen. This morning we set our alarms for 6am, saw in the shivery but sunny morning and moved out of our safe place. With icy breath we drove to Shoreham and found a new home by the sea. But how vulnerable we feel! And we have not yet packed all of our belongings into the van.
Last week we were issued a notice by Jenny Rowlands, Director of Environment. It said that by parking on the seafront we were contravening section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, and that if we return within three months we may be liable to a fine ‘not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale’. What the hell does that mean? Google tells me it means £1000. My husband has spoken to a few other van dwellers who told him that this never happens: people are taken to court, asked to remove their van and that’s that. Do we want to risk that? I don’t want to be a criminal, I just want a simple life.
There were about fifty gypsy caravans parked up by the caravan site when we first arrived and we looked at them longingly, thinking: they’ve got a good life. Some of their children came up to us and pointed in the direction of their clan and said “those people are no good, are they?” in their rugged Irish accents. How strange it must be to grow up on the outside of a world, to know that the rest of the nation hates you. We reassured them: “some people are good and others are bad” said my husband. But when we saw what they had done to the land, we shook our heads with the rest of the world. They had left gas canisters and rubbish everywhere. A mangled bike lay in a bush and pieces of tatty wood and metal were strewn all over the meadow. The people who ran the site cheered when they left. But whose fault is it? The Caravan Sites Act, 1968 stated that local authorities must provide places for travellers to legally reside. Of course, that never happened and so those who live alternative lifestyles are shut out by society and have nowhere to live. Disrespect breeds disrespect. I can’t help but wonder if travellers would be quite so offensive if they were treated a bit better?

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