Monday, October 01, 2007

Where Have all the Gypsies Gone?

Well, it's official. It's fall. It's October! And that can mean only one thing: all the Gypsies will be leaving soon.


Now, I am somewhat uncomfortable using the word gypsy considering the source. The French are known to be a generally xenophobic bunch, so I don't know if this is even a word that folks use in polite conversation. But whoever they are they come every summer.


The very first summer I spent in France I noticed that on the outskirts of town, or in commercial districts, people would just park their camping cars and set up camp---complete with clothes lines, pirated electricity, satellite dishes, and picnic tables. I found it to be quite strange, but never gave it any thought until the year French Father-in-law's business was burglarized and he and the police agreed that perhaps a "band of gypsies" was responsible.
uhm, what? What? Gypsies?


I consider myself a fairly worldy person, I even know alot of useless crap, but I will admit I didn't know Gypsies actually still existed. I thought it was an outdated word somewhat akin to the use of the word"carpetbagger" for example.

Now everytime I see a "gypsy camp" set up somewhere I know summer has officially begun and when they leave I know it's over. Aside from the glaring eye-sore that these camps become, or the fact that their arrival often coincides with a sudden spike in crime in the vicinity, I greet these folks with a bit of curiosity. I mean...they just set-up camp in the city!

One particular camp that set up not too far from our house this year included an enormously over-weight man who was always shirtless and who slept on the flat bead of a truck most days. Everytime I would drive by the camp I would rubber-neck to see if he was there. Although at his size I don't imagine he was very mobile.

Anyway, all I know is that summer is over. The fat lady (or should I say man) has sung.

Special thanks to Jericlynx on Flickr for lending me his photos from Knott's Berry Farm circa 1971 to 1974. This post wouldn't be the same without them.


Cherise said...

Interesting. I had almost the exact experience (or realization I guess) the summer I lived in the UK (minus the burgeled FIL). The ex commented on all the gypsies and I responded "Huh? Gypsies? They exist?" To me they were mythological creatures or at least, from historical novels...He was usually extra PC, so I was surprised by this. The gypsies seem to get blamed for all the bad stuff happening in a community.

MadameK. Located in said...

Cherise- I totally agree. I'm all but convinced that the local french rednecks see a gypsy camp go up and figure that's their cue to go on a looting spree in the smaller towns....knowing full well the police will go looking at those darned "Gypsies" as soon as anything goes missing.

buzzgirl said...

The PC (or I guess, how they self-identify) term is "Romani".

As messed up as it is to generalize, I have been accosted by some of these folks at the gares in Paris. They were relentless!

Reb said...

On the highways around Lille, there are signs that say "voyageur suivre. (fill in random exit name)" which is pretty confusing since isn't everyone on the highway a voyageur? My Frenchman explained that it was the correct term to use. That said, they set up in Lille's only park and left loads of used toilet paper on my running path. I'm glad summer's over.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Hi Madame K,

Here in the U.S. they are referred to as "Travelers". Apparently sometimes they go from city to city doing home repairs. According to what I've heard, they start a home repair job, get paid, then bail.

I'm pretty sure "gypsy" is some sort of old fashioned B.F.P.C term (before political correctness).

I must say though, as someone who suffers from wunderlust a certain aspect of their lifesyle appeals to me. I wonder what it would be like if the road was your home?

Also there is a film called King Of The Gypsies which starred a very young Brooke Shields and Eric Roberts.

Au revoir pour le moment

Astrid said...

Around Toulon we don't see many gypsies compared to what I used to see living in Milan. Going to work I would pass about 3 big camps on a 30 minute drive.

I'm not going to say either that the spikes in crime always are due to them but there have been some terrible stories in the news recently involving gypsies, like gang rape on a couple, armed robbery, a drink-driver killing 4 teenagers etc. Certaintly they don't bring a good reputation coming to town.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to tell you I saw them on the news the other night being booted out of their camp by the police. Christophe told me every big city is required by law to have a site where they can set up camp, but of course, often the police just kick them out anyway. I kind of feel sorry for their kids, unstable childhoods never really turn out well...

Miles Away In France said...

They turn up in our part of france for the grape picking, loads of them turn up then about 3 weeks later they all leave.

Everyone says lock your doors the pikeys are here.

Racheal x