Blink and you’ll miss it.

If there’s ever been a good reason to sit down and write a bit of a rant then surely ‘the traveller community’ is it. Quick question: is there anyone who isn’t in ‘the traveller community’ that has any positive feelings about ‘the traveller community’? The answer is a resounding yes because we all know that there’ll be some chronically liberal human rights protester somewhere who will defend ‘the traveller community’ and their values at the drop of a hubcap. Or the wrench of a wing mirror. A sort of Shami Chakrabarti in a bright pink fluffy dress and diamante tiara. Beyond that I think you’d struggle though.

Alas when it comes to travellers (you can’t use various, less politically correct names for fear one might offend, and offending the person who’s just stolen your garden furniture and has an orange girlfriend simply isn’t on, old chap) it is as close to a universal truth as possible that no one has a huge amount of time for them unless they pitch up on the playing field across the road. In which case no-one has any time whatsoever for them.

They’re not daft though, please don’t get me wrong. ‘The traveller community’ are like ninjas in vests, with caravans and a Calor Gas loyalty card. One minute they’re not there and next minute they very much are. And with a peace loving, law abiding, ‘we know our rights’ traveller invasion (sorry, no other word seemed to fit) comes a chaos rarely seen outside a nuclear fallout. At first the locals firmly cross their fingers and blink very slowly and hope it will all go away, but experience tells us that this never, ever happens. The longest anyone would want a gaggle of travellers outside their house is roughly -1 second.

I have very few problems with the concept of travellers and the traditions that they maintain. It bothers me not that they hail from Ireland or indeed anywhere else. Some of my best friends are Irish etc etc. They could come from Papua New Guinea and paint themselves mauve and I wouldn’t mind. This is not a grumble motivated by discrimination and hatred. I hope they find the peace they seek one day and I wouldn’t wish harm to a single hair on any one of their heads. It’s a shame they are so ostracised from ‘regular’ society (whatever that is) and I can’t imagine they’re too happy about that.

But…….and of course there has to be a but…… really doesn’t help their cause when the moment they pitch up next to a scout hut, or a village hall or a cricket pavilion that crime rates soar and anything not welded down to solid concrete goes missing. Or the solid concrete goes missing. But Holmes, I simply can’t see the connection! Have you ever seen a park after ‘the traveller community’ has left or, as the police like to say, ‘been moved on’? It will most likely look slightly messier than an awkward calving.

If there is such a thing as ‘community’ left in Britain anymore surely ‘the traveller community’ must appreciate that it is better to attempt earnest integration, albeit of the temporary variety, rather than just seeing their next caravan site as some non-invitation to a Viking plunder party before the fuzz hang over them long enough for things to start getting sweaty. There are a couple of permanent traveller communities near us (not too near, obviously) and they seem to work perfectly well. Perhaps we’ll invite them to our next barbeque.

Anyway, the reason I’ve got a little bee in my cosy cotton bonnet is because I saw a story about a group of travellers that set up on the playing fields of a school in West Sussex. In order to achieve this they were lifted upon the wings of fairies and accompanied by an entourage of cuddly woodland creatures to the school gates where the Head and Governors greeted them with open arms and oh how beautifully the children sang and verily they threw rose petals on the floor as they passed. And henceforth West Sussex was declared the finest and most bonny of all the local authorities.

Oh, sorry, that was the wrong story. In this one they cut through a huge great padlock, dumped 22 caravans on a field where LITTLE CHILDREN PLAY and proceeded to unleash a load of horses, dogs and chickens (my, the adventures they must have together) as lots of confused pupils were locked inside for safety and had their GCSEs postponed and so on. All thoroughly unpleasant. All thoroughly illegal.

You can, I hope, see my point. It’s all very well having ‘the traveller community’ tell us that they’re treated as outsiders and that they have rights and so on but when you read things like that you can’t help but feel that they’re not doing themselves any favours. Why feel you can moan about having a tough life when your entire raison d’etre is seemingly rolling around making everyone else very nervous?

In theory could we not set up a chunk of land, somewhere that hardly anyone else lives, and just let ‘the traveller community’ roam around freely there and do what they want? Just travel in circles, I guess. We could even chuck in a lifetimes supply of fake tan and dayglo hotpants. Perhaps Katie Price could be their MP. Oh hold on, I think that’s sorted, the news report says they “are now understood to be heading to Scotland”. Which should keep Nicola Sturgeon busy for a bit.

Double thumbs up. Now I’m sure my barbeque was by the shed yesterday evening………

G B Hewitt. 20.5.2017

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