Well here is a funny thing that happened!
I breed chickens and sell a few and the other day I had a bit of a rush on with several customers at one time. One was an elderly lady with her son and grandchildren, she was one of those typical looking county women - tweed skirt, little dog, cut glass posh English accent and the bearing of a duchess.
After chickens had been put into cars and money paid the new chicken owners hung around to ask questions about their birds when one man suddenly said, "lovely place you have here, what a shame for you having a filthy traveller site on it's way."
Before I could say anything another customer sympathised, adding, "I hate gypsies..." and began to list the usual ignorant nonsense about tax dodging, dishonest, thieving animal abusers. Neither seemed to notice our trailers and I was about to point out that these people wouldn't spot a gypsy if they tripped over one or even purchased chickens from one when the lady in tweed spoke up. I think everyone nearly fell over when she told us, "nothing wrong with gypsies, in fact I had a wonderful and passionate affair with one for over forty years!"
Her comment really came out of left field - I suppose we forget that old people once were passionate and it isn't every day that one of her background proudly states that she had an affair with a gypsy. I have to admit my first question was who? did I know him or his family? With a twinkle in her eye she told me that the love of her life was a man named Harry which was rather fun as her name was Harriet but most people called her Harry.
Once the haters were gone she explained that she had had a git of a husband who spent all the money and ran off leaving her with a baby which was pretty bad in her day. One winters night she was driving through heavy rain and storms with her baby in the back when the car broke down and she found herself looking hopelessly at the engine, all the while her son was screaming. To her relief a car stopped and a kind gentleman got out and came to her aid, he was unable to start the car but insisted on driving her and the baby home. Apparently he was quite shocked to discover that she was alone in her house at night and that she had no wood for a fire.
The very next morning he turned up again with her car which he had already mended, in the back he had a large basket of logs which he set on her doorstep. Harry would not accept any payment, Harriet is certain that he only accepted a cup of tea because he didn't want to hurt her feelings or appear to reject her gratitude. She described how embarased and awkward he was once sitting inside her kitchen whereas he had been in her words, "proud and jaunty," while outdoors in the garden.
Weeks later Harry brought her rabbits that he had caught and prepared, again he was charming and chatty and happy to drink tea but insisted in taking it outside in the freezing cold. When pressed as to why he wouldn't come inside he laughed and said he wasn't used to houses and that most husbands and neighbours would not take kindly to the lady of the house inviting gypsies indoors and in any case he was a married man with grandchildren.
I can quite believe that the forthwright lady in tweed would not have cared tuppence for what her neighbours might think and she found herself looking forward to his occasional visits. The pleasure she gained from his company suprised her initially, previously she would not have imagined that she would have much in common with a Romany man, twenty years her senior. Yet they shared a love of horses, dogs and a great many interests. She told me in sincerity that they might have had many differences, they sounded different, had been brought up differently yet somehow they felt the same.
Over the years they were rarely apart, he found ponies for Harriet and her son and watched them competing at local horse shows. She credits him with having a positive influence over her son's upbringing giving him the time, attention and affection his father did not. Harry gave the boy lurcher pups and taught him how to catch rabbits and cook outdoors.
I asked the old lady how on earth she and her lover got away with having an affair as usually romany wives are jealous and protective over their husbands. She shrugged, "they had been living in separate caravans long before I met him and often miles apart," she smiled, "in any case we were together at his wake and funeral."
After Harry died it seems that the mistress and the wife took to visiting each other and perhaps even became friends. Harry's wife ended up moving into bricks and mortar, this apparently did her no good at all and her health declined, Harriet and her son would drive the old lady to the shops and to medical appointments and sat with her in hospital before she passed away. Today they remain friendly with many members of Harry's family.
I found myself intrigued by the fact the two lovers never actually moved in together or divorced their spouses in order to marry each other as they clearly prefered not to be apart. When I asked Harriet about this she simply said that, "sometimes it is better to be grateful for what you have. He was the best of men and I miss him every day."
I had to admit that in my view one is blessed to have good friends and that to have forty years of being madly in love with someone is rare and very special. So here's to true love and I am sure those two will be together again one day.