Like most people if you look at your ancestors you might find someone who led a nomadic life. For me it was a great Aunt. We have no photographs of her but the family tells of a cheery person. I have always seen her in a field on a stool. She is stocky and dark, almost Mediterranean looking. She has that look around her eyes that tell of a life far harder than her smile suggests.
She is wearing a skirt covered in flowers with a white apron, it should look prim but it just appears practical. On her top she is wearing a typical Victorian shirt, but it is obviously not being supported by a tight corset. Over this she has a shawl in black, the crochet showing a skill that has been lost by most today. Her hair is pulled into an untidy bun and is slightly greying but is pitch black.
Every now and then she takes a pull from the pipe she holds in one hand. And that hand is large and practical. If you turned it over you would see her life etched into it and it would seem rough. Her eyes are brown and kind, but she can give you a hard look that can cut through to your soul.
She is my great Aunt and she is a lovable, cheerful woman, but she is also a hardened gypsy, wily to life and all her foibles.
It is this Aunt that made me think about smoking a pipe, not that I ever have. But she was the only peer pressure I actually thought about.
Would I be like her, and nomadic? She settled with her husband to raise the children and from that moment our family owned or rented houses. We have a home base. But do we have a place were our roots exist?
We moved a lot as we were growing up and even now I have inherited the five-year itch. Five years in a home and I look around me, wondering if the pastures over the other side of the fence are not greener. As kids we would all be bundled into a caravan and we would spend our summers away from our home. Oddly though I now need that base. It centers me and allows me to go out into the world, knowing that I have somewhere to go home to.
If I chose a nomadic life I would just walk, leave. It would have to be a modern life and I would expect, even on the road, that at about five years down the line, I would lift my head and wonder about going home. But this baseless life does not interest me. I don’t mind going away as long as I can go home. Home is my family and smallholding. At this time of year it’s the sound of crickets and my dad’s laughter, the distant sound of cows and the noise from the chickens. It is the orchard and the smell of the land as you pull the first root crops. No I am not a gypsy, but a farmer and I stay where I am because it is home.
And if you were wondering what type of gypsy we once were – we were Irish horse traders. And yes I can ride and I have never been thrown from a horse. It’s just a shame I’m so allergic to them. I feel that my great Aunt would roll her eyes at me and puff on her pipe a little harder at my perplexing attitude and odd sneezings.