Saturday, 2 March 2013

Gavers In The Family

I received this story from a lady whose son made a most unexpected choice for a wife! 

My grandparents were born in a waggon and were true travelling people, of course when the travelling way of life became difficult our family settled down.  My grandparents were able to buy land which is where I grew up.  Apart from the lack of travelling you could say that we carried on with our own way of living; we carried on with living in trailers but as with most Romany families, the most important thing was that we could keep together as a family.

I married a wonderful man, we got a chalet and moved onto his parent's land.  I was lucky in that I still saw a lot of my own family and I got on well with my in-laws.  I would never have considered marrying a gorger and I don't think Dad would have been too pleased had wanted to; this is not because we didn't like gorgers, in fact we always had non traveller friends.  Some were very good and valued friends, we did not consider them either less than us or too good for us, it was just accepted that we have different ways that might not mix too well in marriage and the bringing up of children. 

When my eldest son, Davey married the first time he did it all the normal way, he had been out working for a while with his Dad and began courting the daughter of a family we knew well and liked.  As with a lot of traveller couples they were married within a year and moved into a lovely trailer on our site.  From the moment they returned from their honeymoon they couldn't get on and rowed daily, we tried to support them and we also tried to give them space and privacy to sort themselves out.  My son was at that time besotted with his wife who was a beautiful girl and we all thought the world of her too. 

Looking back I think that they were actually two very different people.  Davey has always been keen on being outside; he loves his horses and dogs and spends his spare time looking after his animals.  His wife on the other hand didn't like animals and living in countryside, she preferred parties and dressing up.  My son worked hard and earned well and I believe he provided well for his wife but having come from a wealthy father she was used to plenty of spending money.  She would take money from her father which of course humiliated my son.  They separated the day after Davey's 21st birthday and later divorced which was very unusual for Romanies back then and even now.  Many would say they were married too young but that was quite usual for us, personally I think they were a bad match.  We were heartbroken for our son and hoped they would make a good go of it after all and despite a few reconciliations they couldn't live together. 

Davey was unhappy for some time and became quite withdrawn so it was a relief when he started going out again and seemed happier.  Only part of me still worried, my boy had always been an open book and liked the company of his family but he had taken to going off on his own a great deal and I knew he was keeping something back.  The next thing my sister in law told us that Davey had been seen on a number of occasions walking his dogs with a young girl on his arm.  Of course we didn't say anything to him, you always worry about your kids but a grown man has a right to a private life and we assumed it would either fizzle out or he would mention his girlfriend as and when he was ready. 

Funnily enough it all came out one night when my husband decided to take me and our younger kids out for a meal.  Since we as a family didn't often go out of an evening my poor son must have felt fairly safe in taking his lady friend out to dinner.  We all piled into the restaurant and saw them at once; my handsome boy and a pretty blond girl were gazing into each others eyes, holding hands over the table and then he saw us!  She looked rather anxious and my son was very embarrassed.  I knew my dear husband was embarrassed too yet he hid it well and went straight to their table and acted as if everything was completely normal, he apologised for intruding on their night out and told Davey to bring the lady to dinner anytime.  He made to leave but the young woman immediately said that there was no reason for us all to go and suggested we all eat together which of course we did.

In all honesty I don't think either my husband or I were keen on the idea of our son going out with a gorgie and bad as it sounds we wouldn't have wanted such a relationship to get serious yet during the course of that evening it was obvious that they were right together.  We all warmed to Rachael straight away and I don't usually take to strangers very quickly but she was easy to get on with and we actually had a great evening out.  After that we began to see plenty of Rachael, she and Davey liked all the same things, especially horses and dogs.  Davey bought her a horse and started taking her to horse shows and they would drive his cobs together.

We soon met her parents, I think that they had a few worries about Davey seeing their daughter at first but we liked how they made an effort to get on with us and all these years later I now see her family as my own family.  They are lovely people and they brought up a lovely daughter and we saw her as a daughter early on, the only shock came about when it turned out that she worked as a police woman! 

I am sure that working for the police force might seem a perfectly honest and honourable profession to most folk but most travellers are mistrustful of the police and some can't stand them.  Many would assume that our dislike of the police is due to a guilty conscience and having something to hide such as criminal activity and I am sure that for some this is true.  However you get good and bad in all and being a gypsy does not make you a thief or a criminal and in my family we do not break the law and no one has ever been in any kind of trouble. 

For us, as with many other traveller families our mistrust of the police is more due to the fact that we feel targeted by the police.  My grandparents as young travellers often felt that the police were breathing down their necks; the minute they would pitch up somewhere to rest and eat the gavers would be moving them on again and sometimes aggressively.  When they did what the authorities wanted and settled down the police would still turn up constantly for no reason.  Despite the fact that my own family has never been in any bother at all I can recall many occasions where the police have turned up just because there has been a burglary in the area.  They couldn't get away with treating another ethnic group like this but we have had plenty of unjust treatment from the police over the years.

Once word got round that Davey was seeing a policewoman some of our friend avoided us and some were quite hostile towards Rachael, some found it rather funny.  Davey stuck up for Rachael and was furious when his dad tried to persuade her to give up her job; rather than invite further conflict we did our best to accept the situation but it did feel very odd.  When the two of them married we assumed she would want to stop work and become a full time wife to our son and start a family but she would have none of it, her job was important to her.  It surprised us that Davey didn't seem to mind her working, he is an old fashioned sort but we did bring up our boys to respect others, especially their women and he has not a jealous bone in his body.  Both of them were earning well and saving to buy their own place and they were very happy; they lived with us at that time and we never heard them row. 

Although Davey tried to hide it, we knew he worried about his wife, especially when she worked nights, we all worried for her safety, after all police work is not without risks.  It seemed silly for her to risk her life to earn money when they could have afforded for her not to work, however we underestimated her love of her work and her ambition.  She passed exams and was promoted to Sergeant and seemed to work longer and longer hours.  One night she came home very tired and unhappy, she sat down in our chalet to join us for a meal.  My nephew was with us and he began as he often did to tease her about her, "pointless," job.  Rachael had always taken this sort of thing in good humour but this time she snapped at him and they began to argue.  He told her that instead of parading around in her stupid uniform doing nothing much that she ought to be at home looking after her husband.  Rachael was furious, she threw her dinner on the floor and told us all that she had attended the scene of a terrible car crash where a young man had been killed.  She then had to travel to the parents of that young man and tell them that their son had been killed and that while some people might consider her job pointless she couldn't imagine many tough gypsy men being up for it.

Of course we knew that Rachael worked hard and that her job was tough, we understood that her job meant she faced difficult people and difficult situations but the idea of having to tell someone that their child had been killed made me shudder.  I wondered over the coming days how a nice, gentle young woman such as Rachael coped with the stress of her job yet managed to come home and cook dinner and be a happy wife.  I realised also that like Rachael, many people choose to become a gaver in order to make a contribution and to do good rather than use their uniform to bully and intimidate.

Shortly after they bought their place Rachael was expecting a baby, she was sure that she would keep working after her maternity leave, at least part time.  We did not argue with her but when the time came she changed her mind and didn't want to leave her baby daughter.

Today my Davey and Rachael have three children, a successful business and a lovely home.  Their eldest daughter is at university and the two boys seem interested in working in the family buinsess when they finish school.  Rachael didn't go back to the police because she wanted to be with her children but she did want to work so she and Davey decided to start a security business which has done well for them.

When my son married his gorger policewoman girlfriend, lots of our friends warned us that he was already heading for divorce number two but I am happy to say that all these years later they are still very happily married.  Because of their different upbringings there have been times where they see things differently but I think that they have done well because they have never tried to change each other.  Years ago I would not have encouraged my son to choose a policewoman but I really don't think he could have chosen better and neither could she!

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