Whilst the Bman and I were regaling the offspring with tales of our youth yesterday, the question came up of “What ever happened to New Age Travellers?”. I was trying to explain to the kids that back in the early 1990’s there was nothing more feared by the government and your average Daily Mail reader than the scourge of the New Age Traveller. Not to be confused with what they would think of as a traveller today – Perma-tanned, fancy caravan dwelling, possibly of Irish or Roma descent and all in favour of the big wedding at a young age. I’m talking more thrifty garmented, ambulance dwelling, vegetarian crusty juggler types.
Did the New Age become the Now Age and these people have integrated seamlessly into society, living among us, hiding in plain sight like the Autobots? Giving up their old school buses for basement flats in London. Or are they all living in a commune somewhere up the top of Mount Snowdon? Or did they get bored, get haircuts & slink back home to mum and dad? Their previous personas only showing by their love of quinoa, tofu, hairy jumpers and a nose piercing?
Anyway, due to being a smartly dressed office worker at M&S Financial Services by day and raver by night, I ended up attending such a gathering of travellers once. Not the legendary Castlemorton gathering of May 1992 that went on for days and instigated the passing of the Criminal Justice Act but one a few months later. All arranged before social media mind, or many people had a mobile phone. A friend of ours had a ‘rabbit’ phone (remember them??) You could only ring people if you were in a ‘rabbit’ zone (which were scarce to say the least). Pretty useless TBH.
Anyway, I’ve no idea how we knew it was happening. But I went with my then bf and, I won’t flower it up for you folks, It was fecking dreadful from go to woe! Needless to say I had an epiphany whilst squatting in a beck to have a pee as dawn broke over the Welsh hills and thought “What the actual Christ am I doing here?” To this day I believe that Jarvis Cocker must have been at the same event to have come up with that line in ‘Sorted’ when he says “You want to call your mother and say Mother, I can never come home again”.
I will say this kids. Probably best not to accidentally swallow 3 purple oms if you get pulled over by the dibble and then sit in an old Ford escort, hotboxing skunk with a bunch of bucket-hatted scallies and a Penfold lookalike woman who deliberately tries (and succeeds) to wreck your head with stories about worms inside bananas. That shit is NOT your friend!
Mercifully I have no photo evidence that this shit ever happened and I can find very little about it online other than these few links and a couple of news pictures on Google and these old news articles …This one time back in 1992
Courtesy of Google images
I do have pictures of us at the Northern Green Gathering circa 2008, which was possibly the last time I was in the company of so many ‘Crusties’ as we used to call them back in the days when you were allowed to use affectionately insulting nicknames.
We were welcomed into the fold of a family of said Crusties and offered campfire stew and homebrewed cider. We reciprocated by sharing a bag of pineapple chunk sweets with their children, who made us promise they were animal product free. Then they hid them in their pockets in case their mum saw and furtively glanced around every few minutes to check if they were being watched, before taking the sweet out, licking it and hiding it back in their pockets. Meanwhile I thought I might get beaten over the head with fire poi by an irate militant vegan with dreadlocks down to her knees, berating me for poisoning her children with sugar.
When my babies were babies and enjoyed cwtching up with their mama in the tent to keep warm.
So here’s to the New Age Traveller, wherever they are now. I shall always vaguely remember that never-ending weekend in July 92 when Spiral Tribe failed to appear as promised, chickens and goats ran amok. Gypsy children jumped on our car bonnet refusing to stop until we gave them cash or food (I threw a packet of KitKats at them out the window and shouted at them to Fuck Off) and I left an important part of my brain somewhere in a field in Powys.
Nice One, Top One. Get Sorted. Xx