Travelers and Travellers

Lynn proposed taking a break from driving for a day, so we took a bus to Abbottsbury, home to the world’s largest colony of mute swans. Yes!  I know you’ve been wondering where the world’s largest colony of mute swans is, and now you know.

We Americans are so car dependent.  Thing is, on many routes you can see so much more from trains and buses.  This was the case on the route from Charmouth to Abbottsbury, which wound through gentle rolling hills overlooking the sea.  It was a double-decker bus and in addition to the views, we had the double-decker bonus of an entertaining and slightly menacing fellow passenger.

This guy was sitting in the front left bench on the top of the bus with his dog.  A young boy was slumped in the bench on the other side.

“I’m a Traveller,” he turned to announce to us in a phlegmy smoker’s voice.

I capitalize Traveller and use two “ls” because Travellers are what we in the States might call Gypsies, which some consider a pejorative term for the Roma people.  Irish Travellers are an ethnic group, while the British term Traveller seems to be a catch-all for nomadic people who might be Irish Travellers, Roma, new age drifters, or others of indeterminate origins.  Some of them travel in family groups in old-style wagons or caravans.  They take over farm fields or urban vacant lots and are reputed to steal anything local that isn’t nailed down.  They don’t send their kids to school or use the NHS or work except for odd jobs. After a few days or weeks they skedaddle, leaving behind mountains of trash for the land owner to pay to remove.

Our Traveller was clearly agitated—on drugs?  He turned and yelled at Lynn to ask where she was from—it was like I was invisible, which was fine with me—and when she said north London that was all he needed to go off on a rant.

“I’m a Traveller,” he repeated, as he stood up and began removing his shirt.  “I got my best friend here,” he gestured at the dog.  “And my kid over there,” he waved his hand dismissively at the boy.  “My partner’s had a baby, so I thought it’d be a good idea for us to go off and leave ‘er alone for a while.”

Yes, every woman’s dream—to have a baby and be left alone, probably in a filthy squat, with no medical care or support of any kind.  Maybe I had it all wrong.   Maybe she was in good hands.  I hope so.

He peeled of his shirt and rubbed his hands all over his torso.  Yes, he was high.  He had an almost-gone splif he kept putting in his mouth, holding his lighter to it, then remembering he was on a bus and putting it away.

He went on about London—how it had changed, how everything is different now, how expensive it is.  He talked about his dog and what a good friend he was.  The boy sat silent in the corner of his seat.

We passed through Chideock and Eype, then stopped in Bridwell, where the driver announced we would wait for 10 minutes.  The Traveller jumped up and ran down the steps to smoke his splif, leaving behind the dog and his kid.  The dog started wandering down the aisle.  The Traveller reappeared, yelling and cursing at the dog to “get yer feckin arse” back on the bench.  He put his shirt back on, then took it off half way, then sat down and was quiet.

Lynn and I and the two other passengers, an elderly stone-faced couple, proceeded to enjoy the tranquil scenery.  These photos are from some small town; it could have been Litten Cheney, Littlebredy, or Puncknowle.

I love how the hat shop is proud to be “known in both hemispheres.”

The Traveller and his entourage disembarked somewhere before Abbotsbury, which was a relief.  There isn’t a lot to say about the swannery, except that it was peaceful and good to learn there is a job called “Swanherd” that probably doesn’t involve sitting at a computer or in meetings all day.

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