Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

Nostalgia? The Choice

Squall 7, Summer 1994, pg. 13.

“You’re just in time,” said the museum curator. “The fella that looks after the gypsy caravan has just opened it up.”

The museum in question was Kenwood House, a Victorian mansion perched on a hill on Hampstead Heath and home to a gaudy collection of 17th century paintings and ornamentation.

English heritage, guardians of the building, plan to fell somewhere in the region of 150 trees in order to return the view from the mansion windows to the one viewed at the time when the land was originally tamed. And so, very keen to discover how exactly English Heritage, guardians also of Stonehenge, would present a gypsy caravan to the general public, yer SQUALL reporter ambled across the lawn to find out.

It was beautiful, the rich ornately sculptured wood carriage sat shining green and red in a small garage. Before stepping inside the gleaming wagon, you pass a number of presentation boards hanging on the walls of the garage. Six display boards informing the public that the wheels of the wagon were made of elm and were 4' in diameter, and that through an ingenious construction of sliding slats, a double bed could be pulled from a three foot platform. However, there was extremely scant mention of the race of people that had travelled, slept, made love and raised large families in the 8' by 5' space.

When the English Heritage officer had finished polishing the already spotless cut-glass windows and brass fittings I asked him:

“Would you like to live in this yourself?”

“Yes I would,” he said. “But it hasn’t been lived in since 1925 so I don’t suppose it would last long on the road.”

“But if you could live in one that would stand it, would you like to?”

“Yes I would,” he said.

“You know you’d be moved on pretty quickly these days.”

And his reply?

“And a damn good job too with all the mess they create.”

“That who creates?” I asked incredulous.

“The gypsys” he spat.

“Do you think all gypsys create mess?”

“Well I’ve seen a few messes in my time. And they sell scrap metal from the side of the road as well as other things,” he scowled before turning his back to curtail the conversation. As I left to find some fresh air and respite from the contradictions, the English Heritage officer began polishing the display boards.

Nostalgia before nature?

taxidermy before evolution?

Sad but prevalent.