Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Open Road, The Dusty Highway

'There you are!' cried the Toad, straddling and expanding himself. 'There's real life for you, embodied in that little cart. The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs! Camps, villages, towns, cities! Here to-day, up and off to somewhere else to-morrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that's always changing! And mind! this is the very finest cart of its sort that was ever built, without any exception. Come inside and look at the arrangements. Planned 'em all myself, I did!'


Toad, in Kenneth Grahame's classic children.s book,'The Wind in the Willows' is enthusing about his canary yellow gypsy caravan which is his latest obsession. I imagine it was something like the one my daughter is perched on in the summer of 1988. Unfortunately no-one in the family remembers where this is.




The novelty of the caravan appealed to the child in Toad; it was somewhere to go to 'get away from it all' and lead a very different life to his normal privileged one at Toad Hall. In some ways perhaps we all harbour a secret longing to live the simpler life promised by the Romany ways. In reality it was quite a harsh existence, but we put those thoughts to the back of our minds when we see the cosy interior.

It was indeed very compact and comfortable. Little sleeping bunks--a little table that folded up against the wall--a cooking- stove, lockers, bookshelves, a bird-cage with a bird in it; and pots, pans, jugs and kettles of every size and variety.

We long to 'play house' as we did when children, pretending we are someone and somewhere else, and the gypsy caravan appeals to our romantic notions. In 1967 John Lennon went so far as to actually buy a gypsy caravan for his young son Julian and just last week it was making news again when it saw the light of day after nearly forty years hidden away: Beatles Sgt Pepper's Gypsy Caravan unearthed in Ascot.  Here's the original, rather jolly Pathe News report.

JOHN LENNON'S CARAVAN



For others it really is a way of life. Watch this video of Barney Maurice and his family, who live life close to nature and travel the roads in their own caravan built by Barney himself. Just a glimpse at this gentle and alternative lifestyle should de-stress you for a while. 


Late in the evening, tired and happy and miles from home, they drew up on a remote common far from habitations, turned the horse loose to graze, and ate their simple supper sitting on the grass by the side of the cart. Toad talked big about all he was going to do in the days to come, while stars grew fuller and larger all around them, and a yellow moon, appearing suddenly and silently from nowhere in particular, came to keep them company and listen to their talk.









When I was a child myself in the fifties, most of our family holidays were spent in a hired, static caravan, usually in a park designed for the purpose. This had the advantage of providing me and my older brother with companions of our own age. 

Our picture prompt for this week's Sepia Saturday is a showman's caravan taken from the Fairground set of Tyne and Wear Museum on Flickr Commons, where many other splendid examples of a travelling life can be viewed.



20 comments:

  1. A Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Gypsy Caravan, Far Out!

    I guess the gypsy way of living was way more adventurous before the era of movies and TVs opened the world to us couch sitters.

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  2. The modern trend, at least in New Zealand, of renting a motorhome for a tour of the South Island or some other similar destination seems so mild by comparison. A holiday in a gypsy caravan would, I think, get tedious very quickly - it seems like very hard work, but perhaps I am wrong. I have spent three weeks with my family on a narrowboat on canals in the English Midlands, and would certainly do that again, despite the cramped conditions.

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    1. Yes...do that Brett...I enjoyed my little trip with you and your family as you pottered past Derby.

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  3. I enjoyed this post, and the video of Barny and family, Nell. At the end of the first world war, my great aunt and her husband bought a small plot of land on the outskirts of Winchester and lived in a caravan like Barny's. Great uncle Harry had been wounded in the war, and living in the caravan afforded him some peace. They later had a bungalow built on the plot, and named it St Eloi.

    About three years ago, a young Romany couple set up camp just down the lane from us. They were there several weeks, then one morning they were gone. Just a small circle of ashes to mark where they'd had their fire. Somehow, that degree of freedom only added to the magic.

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  4. What a shame no one can remember where your daughter posed on that caravan. It's absolutely charming. Lace curtains, even!!

    You have reminded me of my family's trip to Disney World where we rode on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. It was the silliest ride ever, but I laughed myself silly. I could hardly gather myself when the ride ended.

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  5. I suspect it was the back yard of a pub? Maybe that's why your memory has failed !

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  6. I've never caravaned around. It seems like it would be fun, if you were on vacation.

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  7. Your daughter looks so cute sitting there like she's right at home on those steps. Too bad you don't remember where it is, it would be interesting to know if it's still there. I really enjoyed your story with spirit of the open road and closeness of those that lived and carried on day to day. There have been many folks especially those that were a part of a circus. Not far from my house are a few of these old and some what worn cars, but it wouldn't take much to put them back to life again. The colors on most of these and the elaborate artwork still catch my eye today! Nice tie in with John too!

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  8. I've always been fascinated by the gypsy lifestyle and in fact been inside one of their caravans. I was amazed at the luxurious surroundings despite the cramped feeling. Watched my step carefully indeed!

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  9. A perfect fit for this week. When I go and see my parents, I often see a horse and caravan (like your first photo) on the roads as there is a local company, which offer short travelling holidays in the area.

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  10. I love the painted decorations on the gypsy caravans.

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  11. Holidays in seaside caravans bring back a memory or two. Why did it always rain? We used to get gypsy caravans near our village, As a boy I was told not to take our whippet anywhere near them; they always admired it.

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  12. Ph the photo of your daughter with the decorated caravan is darling, could be a great advertisement for???? I remember tales of gypsy caravans growing up who followed the carnivals...I was strictly admonished to stay away....

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  13. Loved this take on the theme. Reminded me in a way of my father's treks from Minnesota to California, the land of milk and honey). They actually made the trek twice, once when my father was 10 years old (he was one of the middle children of 10) and then when he was about 12 or 13. Weeks on the road stretched into months, but full of stories.

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  14. This is a really nice post. One of my kids bought a canal boat with an inheritance and it too is a wonderful little floating cottage. It's so exciting to be able to just go somewhere in it and see new things. If I wasn't quite so busy I would like to do it too. In fact.... gosh, it sounds REALLY appealing!!!!!

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  15. The photos and video are great reminders of a time which has almost gone...there's a romantic interest in the lifestyle of Gypsies, as well as the fearful one of settled people considering those who roam, and worries about their children going with them! Not to mention the hastles that used to be given to those who were outcast and had to be gypsies.

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  16. A fine post and the quotes are perfect. Today's travel seems too easy, too expensive, and too fast to be as enjoyable as in Toad's day. I can see how the gypsy caravan held a special magic for people in earlier eras. It is not the same as touring in modern giant RVs (UK caravans are 1/4 to 1/3 the size of the giant American Rec Vehics!)

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  17. I always loved Toad's joie de vivre even if a little intense. Now they call his condition bipolar disorder. Nutty or not, I would have loved to share one of those simple suppers out on the grass. After all, now - we could just slip him a little prozac!

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  18. All of this talk about gypsies only makes me think of a movie I saw a long time ago, Latcho Drom, about gypsies from Asia to Europe. It was an excellent movie of a colorful culture, but a harsh life.
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  19. I am so sorry that I have been away from here for so long. I have enjoyed catching up, especially on this post. My Grandma would tell us stories of when the gypsies would show up and things would disappear; Granny would try to make them go away as quickly as possible. Townspeople would keep their babies close by too; did babies disappear as well, I wonder?

    I would love to have one of those caravans as a studio or guest house.

    Kathy M.

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