I was chatting to a lovely lady the other day who proudly told me that she was eighty-six years old and still driving, gardening, walking the dog and enjoying life to the full. I have to say that she looked a lot younger than her years and pretty lively so I asked her to share her secret. Apart from a bit of good luck she insisted that her good health results from a simple and traditional lifestyle.
I certainly enjoy a bit of culture and tradition and probably compared to a lot of my friends my own lifestyle might well be considered a little more old fashioned than some. After all I am living with my kids in an older trailer, admittedly a static trailer with running water and flushing loo, television, Internet access and a trusty hoover! We do appreciate our modern comforts, yes we do raise chickens and grow some vegetables but we also shop at Tescos - this is a bore but as my Daddy often reminds me a supermarket shop is easier than catching and skinning the dinner!
Compared to the past it is clear that in many respects we have it easier these days. The day to day chores such as preparing meals, cleaning and washing are a fraction of the effort due to all the lovely things we have. In fact it is so easy to get something to eat and what a lot of choice we have, if we don't want to cook there are so many yummy takeaways and meals out to enjoy. There is always something tasty to eat or drink in the fridge. Although I am pretty good about cooking proper meals each day you should see the amount of red bull and diet coke I get through as well as other processed snacks.
My eighty-six year old friend is convinced that the younger generation are destroying their health through a lifestyle of treats, convenience and short term so called healthy fads. I am not convinced that everything from the past was all that great and I am certainly going to keep the running water and electricity, however I think she has a point.
It got me thinking about the pros and cons of a more traditional traveller/Romany lifestyle and the activities of our ancestors whether they were settled or on the move. I am quite certain that many of our much loved traditions are actually a fair alternative to going to the gym and are really good for us. In preserving our culture we might well be preserving our health and well being.
Coursing is another good tradition, although many laws have changed since our grandparents were out catching a bit of dinner we can still catch a rabbit if we want to in the traditional way. I know many people may consider hunting a rabbit to be cruel but I am of the opinion that if we eat meat then we should perhaps be prepared to take responsibility for how it is killed.
Admittedly the dog gets the greater part of the exercise, however anyone who has been coursing will know that this is a great way to keep fit. It is also good for your lurcher to be out and about doing the job it was bred to do.
Travelling folk have always tended to keep dogs, in the past the dogs enabled a family to catch a rabbit therefore supplying them with a healthy source of protein when alternatives and money were scarce.
Today we do have many alternatives so many choose to keep a dog for company which is all good, after all an hour walking your dog will burn up approx 200 calories even if you don't put much effort in.
But with all the uncertainty and financial worries these days you never know when some of our hunting for food traditions might be crucial once again to our survival.
Our ancestors knew a lot about survival and knew how to hunt and gather in order to provide square meals and remedies for the family. They would have taken a fair bit of physical and mental exercise in getting their hands on the ingredients in the first place which is all good and healthy. Sadly a lot of us haven't the first idea how to get dinner done without visiting a super market but it is possible to gather a huge selection of food from nature. For more information check out Hunter Gatherer Cook where you will find lots of great recipes. They offer courses in Sussex where you can learn how to hunt and gather from nature.
Growing & Producing
It is true that for those on the move it wasn't practical to farm or grow vegetables although many travellers did take a few portable chickens on their travels. However once settled many took to growing their own food and creating beautiful gardens. It might be easier to get your groceries from tescos and I doubt that many of us have time to be truly self sufficient, however there is a lot of sense in producing your own food. For a start home produce is tastier and healthier and it's production tends to encourage some exercise - it's all good!!! If you need some inspiration perhaps check out Hugh Fernley Whittingstall's River Cottage television programme or visit his website. River Cottage
Although farming and gardening might not be seen as big traveller traditions I do think they are still traditions that are relevant to settled travellers today because we have always liked to be fairly self sufficient and do things for ourselves. Today with all the worry about genetically modified food, animal welfare and food production, not to mention the costs of feeding a family it is perhaps a good time to be taking control of your diet by producing some of it yourself.
Family & Friendship
Family and friendship have always been extremely important to travellers and we like to stick together and look out for each other. It could be argued that this has to be one of our most important traditions as it keeps us healthy in the head. Travelling folk had to work hard to survive and success depended on the whole family pulling together and pitching in. This meant that everyone both young and old had purpose, travellers have not tended to dump elderly or sick relatives, instead they respected their wisdom and valued their company. It is well known and accepted that people are healthier and happier when they are able to contribute to their community and their input is valued.
Whether we live on the road or in bricks and mortar we have traditions and values that have been handed down through the generations. Our lives may on the surface look very different to those of our ancestors but in some respects we are the same as them - we are simply people on the road of life doing our best to survive and look after our children. Perhaps the best thing we can do for our kids is to preserve the old ways because it is these that kept mind, body and soul together for so many before us and hopefully many more to come.