Sunday, 15 July 2012

Are The Archer's Anti-Traveler?

Caravan Boat image

There's reckoned to be a natural progression on BBC radio, You're supposed to start your listening experience with Radio 1 and then, as you mature, make your way up to Radio 4. I started with Radio 4 and had my choice confirmed for me when a nursing tutor suggested that if I wanted to be informed about what was happening in the world I should at least listen to Today every day.

I don't do this as much as I used to though as I'm no longer a nurse and I prefer to get my news either online via Reader or by listening to the No Agenda Podcast. That's not to say that I've totally given up on Radio 4. I turn it on when I'm cooking or eating and always first thing in the morning for a little fix of News. I even listen to The Archers, not religiously like. Just often enough to keep up with what's happening in Ambridge. I'll get lost every now and then though but I can always rely on my Ma to tell me what's been happening.

As an intermittent listener then I've been keeping abreast of the recent problems on Brookfield Farm (Have a wee squint 'ere: #farmageddon). I'm not totally up there with what's happening but I'm getting the gist and it's a wee bit concerning. David Archer is due to give evidence against a group of people who assaulted Adam Macy and left him in a coma after he tried to stop them stealing something from a farm...

That's all well and good and a reasonable attempt to liven up a show that's described as like real life - but more boring. But I'm not sure it's only me that sees this group of white van driving thugs as being an allegory for the problems faced by rural communities from Irish Travelers (Tony Martin anyone?). I've not heard an Irish twang in the threatening phone calls yet but I'm waiting.

What's more, I'm still not overly sure how I feel about it, that's if it isn't all in my head TBH. I've watched a couple of episodes of My Big Fat Gipsy Wedding, and I'm not sure how I feel about that either (I do watch an awful lot of TV for someone without a TV). I'm just not sure and I vacillate between how I feel about Irish Travelers but I'm conscious that they are in a vulnerable position in terms of the bigotry that's always just bubbling under the surface in the UK.

As an aside: I loved The Riches and would advise everyone to watch it.

As a second generation lapsed Catholic and a Bargee I'm even more conflicted. I'd have thought that the similarity of life-styles between Travelers and Bargees would've meant that we shared something but I think that I might be mistaken. I guess the enemy of your enemy isn't necessarily your friend - not that I see people in houses as the enemy. I've been called a "Water Gypsy" before and, while I was away with the fairies pondering the bucolic lifestyle of a boater with a nice camp-fire going in the twilight in a meadow beside a gentle canal, the chap hastily retracted it thinking I was away with the demons pondering GBH after being so insulted. Before I moved aboard there were some problems with Travelers and the boating community at Midsummer Fair. Even now there is a mass exodus of boats from Midsummer Common when the fair is due. I still remember seeing boats with wooden covers over their windows to protect the glass from projectiles.

This conflict is only exacerbated by a close run in I had with being a New Age Traveler in my youth. If my Ma hadn't put her foot down with such a firm hand I would have been on my way down to Glastonbury in the back of a smelly truck and sleeping in a Bender. The call of the road was loud but the fear of my Ma was ever so much greater ;-).

Interesting ehh? But like some sort of grotesque icing on the cake there is the issue of slavery. The case is interesting in that the people enslaved were "recruited" from the streets... some in the media were outraged but not so much that they could think of ways of providing homes for the homeless. So yeah, I'm conflicted, I'm also aware that one really shouldn't tar every member of a minority with the same brush - á la the "Water Gypsy" comment above. Indeed, so reticent am I to acknowledge membership of any other minority other than Yorkshireman I'm wary of even saying that I'm a Bargee. I know what happens to minorities historically and I don't want to be herded into a cattle-truck any time soon.

So what's to do? We go France at least annually (How very middle-class of us ehh?) and they've taken a rather drastic approach to the issue of Travelers, they've ejected them! I'm not sure that that approach is possible and I'm certainly sure that it's not one I'd suggest. There does seem to be animosity bubbling under the surface though and I'm pondering how long it'll be before Cameron et al decides that their campaign to make the poor the villains in the current economic crisis is a wash-out and decide to alter their focus to a target even more hated by the middle-class of middle England. A minority that is insular and doesn't pay taxes and has little or no respect for the laws-of-the-land perhaps shouldn't be tolerated in that land? That was ironic by the way; I'm more than sensitive to allegations of racism. I guess that's the joy of being a Yorkshireman, we hate everyone equally and don't discriminate, the only exception being that the only people we hate more than everyone else is each other or ourselves!

Is #farmageddon the opening salvo in a pseudo class war? And it could be that the animosity has always been there, I admit. Being a Yorkshireman I only ever heard the word "Pikey" when I was visiting relatives down South in my youth. I had absolutely no idea what the word meant and it was only when I moved down here that I clocked the sheer level of animosity. I guess there must have been reason for the animosity but I'll be blown if I know what the cause was, it seems to be just that way. I hear all sorts of stories but apart from the odd run-in with Traveler youth - no more than run-ins with non-traveler youths TBH - I'm unsure as to the rationale for the animosity - unless it's just the English animosity to the strange?

Goodness me this is a long post! I beg forgiveness but this is an issue that's been percolating for a while and I've got all sorts of conflicted feelings about it. I'm glad to have this forum in which the air them though so I'd welcome your thoughts/comments.