No place to call their own

Gypsies have landed in a sleepy hamlet in Comfortablesville, Middle England. Residents are up in arms, children are being fed disinformation and house prices are on edge. But, hang-on, no one can even see them…

With resemblance to a military-aided alien invasion, gypsies have landed in a nearby field. The council, police and Evening News were informed with urgency suggesting a bomb scare, murdering maniac on the run or possibly the arrival of David Beckham.
It may not be a story of national importance but it has certainly shaken this village from its nap.

Momentarily, here the comforting duvet of apathy appears to have been tossed to the floor.

A village meeting last night was packed to the peeling beige wallpaper.

It was the best attended Parish Council meeting for a while, perhaps for as long as records stretch.

Many people are worried about crime, already believing levels to have risen.

Travellers who do steal tend to do so from outbuildings: a lawnmower or push bike make easy pickings. Villagers are right when they say that such crimes are on the increase, records back it up, but not over the few short weeks in which travellers have resided here.

Every week for the past six months the travellers have diligently piled into a dirty white transit van and made a pilgrimage to their new home, Little Whining.

On arrival, they have pilfered what they can.

Then have then driven back, an assortment of garden furniture loosely tied to the roof and stray ends of rope trailing along the tarmac.

Apparently this was their master plan for befriending their new neighbours. It would also, of course, provide the perfect support for their planning application.

Another worry villagers harbour is education.

Travellers more often than not have children who residents fear will cause mayhem if and when they enrol them into the village's well-set school.

But why the anxiety? Maybe a gang of four year olds will march into the classroom and one will hold a gun to his teacher's knee - as he can’t yet reach her head.

Perhaps several will trample Class Three’s flowerbed (in their size one steel-toe cap boots), pull out the daffodils and replace the daisies with cannabis plants.

While staff are distracted by the commotion outside, maybe another child will tiptoe into the office and plunder the dinner takings.

Apparently, empty garden sheds and devastated schools are not all we have to look forward to, if wide-eyed villagers are to be believed.

According to one teenage girl, reliably informed by her parents, the arrival of the new guests mean "the value of every house in Greater Whining has decreased by 20 per cent".

And the travellers are not even staying in Great Whining! They have blessed the next village along with their presence.

You might stand at the edge of Greater Whining with binoculars on a clear day and just glimpse the site, but the likelyhood they could even be heard would take an outdoor festival of Reading festival-size proportions.

But, nevertheless, with its fen-land location, poor visibility on any other day can always be attributed to steep hills and winding valleys.

They may be ‘travellers’ but this group are hoping not to have to travel anywhere in the near future. They are trying to settle. For good.

It wasn’t a game. They didn’t shut their eyes, spin round twice, mark a dot on a map and decide to park their homes here.

Between them they have raised £20,000, bought the land and are now paying a similar amount to lay services.

Henry Brazil, owner of one plot explained: "We’re going to develop it into our own place to live."

They are stumping up the money, but they are breaching planning permission because they own the land but have no legal right to build on it.

The application hasn’t been processed yet but the council know their line. And they are sticking to it.

It is agricultural land and therefore cannot be used for building on. It would seem that the occasional pony who grazed the land has far greater right to a home than several families.

Society may not approve of people living in caravans but where would they live if they decided to pack it in and join "Babylon"?

There is not exactly an abundance of empty houses just waiting for travelling families.

If there were then the employees at the Housing Department would not be constantly judging who deserves housing most and allocating a score.

If we had a plentiful supply of houses then maybe I wouldn’t have to avoid the gaze of the man huddled with his worn blanket in Boots' entrance, desperately in need of a place to call home.

Those who are protesting today will, tomorrow, find another victim to whine about.

Again, prim letters will be typed but no action taken.

Cecil will sit in his plush lounge, Newsnight flickering in the background, smiling to himself as he thinks of the good he has done in his years.

Obviously his opinion is far more worthy than that of the travellers who have risked everything, invested everything and come across all opposition for what they believe in.

Cecil doth protest not for a plausible solution, but to preserve his sacred lifestyle, to keep undesirables as far from his back yard as is possible.

The chances are his next target will be developers - the possible solution to some of the travellers' housing problems.

He may not want gypsies around but neither does he want the intrusion of a modern housing estate.

Catch 22 for as many families thanks to Cecil's Great Whining.