Being caught roadside

Being caught roadside

We are traveller, we came from the earth, we travel the earth and at the end of this road we will return to travel again.  Nomads are part of the human soul. We survive and thrive in ways in bricks folks couldnae imagine.

Two nights ago lockdown was announced by the Westminster government. Last night we got knocked on by the police at a quarter to midnight. Well Mick heard them pull up and was out the back of the bus before they got too near to actually knock. During the previous week an influx of motorhomes headed north to the highlands looking for safe places away from people to avoid the virus. Locals had become hostile, harassing vans and removing and vandalising road signs. Once the police worked out we weren't holiday makers escaping the plague, and last week we were cooking lobsters for a living, their demeanour improved.  He joked looking around at the derelict business park that we hadn’t picked a glamorous spot. He told us we had to stay in that parking spot or get fined.  Every night at half eleven at night for the next three and half months the police drove past. Some nights they shone the high beam white lights from the top of their van in at our bus windows where we lived. They drove past several times a day too. Slowly, looking. All I could do was stare back. It felt hostile. 

So I woke early this morning and looked at where we parked. I looked at the never mowed grass, the nettles, the raspberries, the trees in the deep hedge. I stood and listened to the birds. I pushed through raspberries, and clambered down the muddy bank with the bucket. I slipped and sat as I watched my precious bucket float downstream. There was no money and no shops open to replace it, not wishing to be without one I jumped into the stream and chased it. I grabbed my bucket quite a bit downstream where it got caught in the washing area the highland travellers dug out last year. I was soaked, and the bank back to the empty business park was now a bramble coated short cliff, so I climbed up on to the railway side and walked back. I pushed through a hedge and came up behind the now closed housing office, my heart was filled with joy at the sight of an outside tap with fresh clean water. I walked back around to the area behind the van, we had land, and stream, and a source of fresh drinking water. There was no one stopping us doing what we wanted with any of it. I took the spade and started to dig.

The warm spring sun beat down from a clear spring sky. I smiled gratefully as it warmed the earth I had just dug over. As the soil clung to the sweat on my face, I cleared the rocks from the soil. I threw them to the edge to make a border for the vegetable garden. The 11.35am Glasgow train rumbled past from the viaduct nearby. I put my short spade down the path in the hedge where I dug the new latrine yesterday. I then opened the back door and grabbed the towel, flannel and the frankincense scented soap I made last year.

More carefully I made the short climb down to the burn. I had 35 minutes between trains to get undressed, wash in the burn and then dry myself and get back dressed. The trees that lined the viaduct had not much leaf cover at the end of March when lockdown came. The natural way of washing which is perfectly accepted on most new traveller sites jars with the modern world. In the world of normal people, I am a naked middle aged woman bathing in full view of a train, in our world we are sharing a bathroom with birds and trout fry. In our world nature is providing.  We improved the steep bank over the next week by digging steps and wombling some discarded fishing rope off the beach. The burn water washed the pavement, watered the veg seedlings, washed clothes, washed the piss pot, washed pots before they were rinsed with drinking water.

Mick slept in to the early afternoon that day. The police knock-on had meant he had not got to sleep until dawn, and even then the dreams were disturbing. I had had dreams of people with hazmat suits breaking into the van to take us away to be interned. Early in the month it was dreams of my son getting dragged out of his house and forced to dig mass graves. I saw visions of genocide, and dreamt of government hiding it with comedic press conferences and fake statistics, literally I dreamt of an ultra- posh minister with big foam hands saying everything was fine the football stadium of dead bodies will rot down to make a lovely flat pitch. Mick dreamt of martial law, and care homes becoming death camps. As the waking world became more dull, and repetitive, our dreamscape was one of horror, that prevented good sleep. It added to the anxiety because culturally our dreams and visions have meaning. When we park in different places the dreams change, Lockerbie was a place of tears, Fionnphort- I dreamt I was nun on Iona nursing the dying. We were caught roadside in an apocalyptic disaster movie. Life felt very dark.

The stress had made Micks IBS kick in as soon he woke. The piss pot now had the other function. Chemical internal toilets don't happen in traveller vans, it is a hygiene law in traditional groups and new travellers follow this mostly as getting rid of cartridges of several days filth is really very unclean when you live like this. We had a piss pot so we didn’t wake each at night opening the door to have a wee. We normally pooped by walking to the nearby hospital and using the public toilet there. Fearing the virus we stopped this three weeks ago, and dug a hole down at the back of the hedge. Apart from a fat, shite eating labrador and a passing traveller lad no one knew it was there. Like bathing there is something lovely about a robin watching you in your morning contemplations.

So our lockdown was really average for a couple living in Scotland. Mick got really into bird watching, as it was a bit healthier than counting police vans driving past. I learnt to turn heals on knitted socks. I dug a garden of course and we were eating veg from it as the lockdown lifted. We watched a lot Netflix. We were really glad the Westminster government had suspended benefit sanctions and Oban job centre were actually helpful. The people of Oban were good to us. We had some mad rows. Found a nice place to sit looking out down the Sound of Kerrera . Really average, like really average people ...

…..until you push through a hedge.

Fiona Gallagher

We are Fiona and Woodstock. We are new age travellers. We travel during the summer to do seasonal work, and take the winters off staying on sites in wales. Woodstock has lived on and off in eco communities for the last decade, while I stayed in bricks rearing two children and caring for my mother. We have been travelling together for two years but have been together for over a decade. Woodstocks grandparents were scots roma.