The Mail On Sunday have a story today regarding proposed traveller sites in my constituency http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1104506/How-views-3-100-middle-England-residents-gipsy-camps-rejected--deemed-racist.html
I posted this blog sometime ago and was branded a racist on the internet and local radio - for re telling a true story and voicing an opinion.
As this issue is heating up again in Mid Beds, I re state my position which I believe may be in tune with about 3,100 others.
She was born in the wagon of a travellin' show
|Posted Friday, 13 April 2007 at 09:36|
I sang the well know song by Cher all the way home from a meeting tonight. I know all the words, I bet you do too.
I spent the night in Flitton Village Hall in the company of over 500 residents.
I was a bit taken aback by the number of people present. I drove up at 8pm, and if I hadn't known where the hall was, I would have spotted it easily by the droves of people walking towards it.
As I got to the main gate, I was met by a lady who passed me through the crowd to another, and then another, until they got me into the hall where I went straight up onto the stage. There was no room anywhere else for me to stand, people were sitting all over the floor and the chairs had been full for some time. People were standing in the car park listening through the open windows.
I commented as I passed through the crowd how surprised I was that there were so many people there. Some joked and said, we've all come to see you Nadine – but I know that wasn't the case, the meeting was about Gypsies and travellers.
As a little girl I spent idyllic Irish holidays on my Uncle Tom and aunty Mollie's farm in Bangor Erris, Co Mayo. My Uncle Eammon and Aunty Bridget owned the local village shop, they still do, My cousin Moira and I often used to serve in the shop.
When the tinkers called with their big horse drawn wagons, Aunty Bridget used to fly behind the counter and shoo us into the back room. The fear was that because I had Blonde hair, a rare thing in Eire, the tinkers might steal me.
One brave day when Aunty Bridget was feeding the baby, I served the tinkers, and lived to tell the tale.
The tinker was a statuesque woman, dressed in black and brown, accessorised with eyes and teeth the same colour. Her hair was long, wild and wind blown and had obviously never seen a comb or been washed in weeks. She probably had been born in the wagon of a travellin' show.
She sat on the board at the front of the wagon and didn't move. Moira wouldn't come out of the shop and I couldn't tell what the woman sat high up on the wagon was asking for. Moira translated from behind the door, and then threw the tobacco and barley twists out to me.
The tinker threw the money down to me for the goods, and then I threw them up. Moira wouldn't let me give them to her unless I got the money first.
Moira was hissing at me from behind the door in her scared ‘Holy Mary mother of God will ye get ye'sel back in here now, Jesus ye are too close,. She'll have ye before ye know it "
The tinker smiled at me, which I remember shocked me, and I think I jumped a bit, she then cracked the whip on the two big horses, shouted something in Gaelic, spat her chewed tobacco at my feet, and rode off
I picnicked out on that for months.
When I got back inside, Aunty Bridget made me wash the money, and scrub my hands under the brown, peaty, icy water of the outside tap. The water pumped straight from the Owen More river which ran by less than 50 yds away.
I remember Moira and I laughing so much around the tap, I think we were relieved to have survived the scary ordeal!
In 1994 the then Conservative government removed from Local Authorities the obligation to provide Gypsy sites.
The Labour Government have just re instated this obligation and my constituency has to provide 40 pitches by 2021, 20 immediately. All are to be designated in local rural villages. Feeling are running high.
The councils have no option, they have to do it. When I saw Richard and Tricia, local councillors, putting forward their position to the audience I realised what a tough job it can be, being a local councillor. It is a vocation, it does take long hours, and you get very little thanks. Appologies to all those standing in local elections for the first time!
My position on this subject is very hard line. If you want to live in Flitton village, get yourself an education, a good job, save up and buy yourself a house. Big round of applause. Not deserved though, because my hard line position is not an answer to what the residents of Flitton are facing.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the only option available to us is hope. Hope that feelings will run equally high everywhere and the government, as they do on so many things, will back down.
My job now is to become a flea in the ear of the ministers and those who are trying to impose this on Flitton, and I will apply for a Westminster Hall debate on the subject first thing on Monday.
For all the bleeding hearts that are about to blog me and tell me that gypsies and travellers are now classed as an ethnic group because of their culture and beliefs I say this - I have no problem with that. You can believe and follow whatever culture you like – but if you want to live in England you do it living in a house, send your children to school and conform to the societal framework that the rest of us have to, because that's how it is in Britain. That's how we live; it's a British culture thing.
If you want to show me traveller sites where there is harmony within the community, I will point out to you that on those sites the children probably attend the local school, and the families largely conform and are law abiding.
I will then take you to see some of my farmers fields, three acres in Brogbrough is where we will start, where travellers have created mayhem.
There should be no such thing as a right to reside unless that residence is to take place within an appropriate home subect toall the usual planning laws and constraints the rest of us who pay tax and council tax have to abide by.
As one lady in the audience, sat on a hard floor, pointed out last night - if the new laws are about equality then surley that is equality for all. Travellers and Gypsies should have to live by the laws which make us all equal. Exactly.
My solution to the traveller problem is this; In Britain the culture is to live in a static home, work, pay taxes and save for the things you want in life. Live here by all means, have your own culture, as many do, however, you have to live in within the framework of the values this society operates within.
‘Every night all the men would gather round...'
Not in Flitton they won't Cher!