Without school it is hard to make lifelong friends, and I know that only my family understand my fears, emotions and background. My family was so large and close that I never felt I needed friends. But while I was away, a sense of discontentment grew inside me that I knew wasn't going to go away.
I had toyed with the idea of going to college in the past, but it had seemed unnecessary, difficult and somehow unobtainable. Now, aged 22, I was ready — but it wasn't going to be easy.
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Before I was accepted, I had to write 3, words on why I wanted to enter the education system so late — quite a challenge for someone who had never written more than a letter before. But I got my place and, for the next nine months of the course, spent my nights in our caravan home reading GCSE-level text books, desperately trying to gain the basic knowledge I was expected to have. I didn't know about the atrocious crimes Hitler was guilty of, nor when the Battle of Hastings took place.
I had no idea what the respiratory system did and I couldn't punctuate a sentence. But I had a good vocabulary, a lot of determination and a hugely supportive family. Trying to study among them was another matter.
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Finding peace and quiet had always been impossible. When I was a little girl I dreamed of living in a terraced house on a cobbled street, because in wagons and caravans you never get any peace. You live on top of each other, privacy is non-existent and the only place you find solitude is by hiding under a tree or walking across a field. As a child I would wander off alone whenever I got the chance, to find a patch of moss to sit on and spend the afternoon watching ladybirds and picking flowers to press.
Moving from one culture to another is incredibly difficult, and knocking down the barriers and misconceptions is even harder.
Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised — there has been a long history of persecuting Gypsies in Europe: the Egyptians Act of banned them from England, while later acts forced them to give up their nomadic existence or face death. There are several different groups within the travelling community. Roma Gypsies, who originated from the Indian subcontinent around 1, years ago and have now spread across Europe; Irish Travellers, who have a common language Shelta and are believed to have became nomadic in the 16th or 17th century; plus new age travellers, hippies and crusties.
Some choose a nomadic life because they want to be more in touch with nature; others to live on the edge of society without a national insurance number or fixed address.
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Yet when Gypsies and Travellers do want to settle down, there are extra complications. Also, Gypsies may be buying pieces of land on green belts and have little or no knowledge of the administration system.
A planning application by a Gypsy family is always met with an extreme number of objections by the local residents I know this from experience. And it's a fact that having Gypsies in a neighbourhood lowers the price of property.
My siblings and I were born into this lifestyle, but we weren't taught to carve clothes pegs and sell lucky heather. We were brought up with strict morals, values and guidelines. We don't look or act particularly different to anybody else. We just had a different path, and weren't brought up living in a house. After completing my access course thanks to a wonderful tutor, I got distinctions in all the units , I did a degree with the Open University, and that meant completely changing my way of life.
I live here with my boyfriend in a flat, which is bizarre and alien to me. My family are, admittedly, no longer truly nomadic, and my parents support my decision to transform my life, but I have never lived within bricks and mortar before, and I feel completely out of touch with nature now. I can't see or feel the change from one season to the next, I crave greenery, and I constantly wrestle with the emotion of feeling trapped. I spend half my life opening doors and windows, trying to get rid of the airless, claustrophobic feeling that comes with being inside.
I get woken up by bin lorries, the rush-hour traffic and my neighbours shouting, instead of birdsong and the wind in the trees. Loading, please wait Free 2-Day Shipping.
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