As you might have guessed, we went through a lot of money troubles when I was a kid, and most of them were caused by living in a massive house which my parents could barely afford to keep up with their meagre incomes. The tramp's obviously harsh lifestyle seemed attractive to my father, in comparison to his own. At the same time, in rural France, the charcoal burners would spend the winter tending the smouldering fires that produced artist-quality, willow charcoal for Parisians, which they would sell in the spring, then live for the rest of the year on the proceeds.
In those days, proper tramps were to be found wandering the roads in ragged clothes, and they did not necessarily have the drink, drug or mental illness problems associated with their modern-day equivalents.
There were also real gypsies who traveled in horse-drawn carts and caravans - not the white Transit vans with towed living-rooms equipped with televisions as you see today. The first person to teach me the rudiments of stone-carving was a gypsy with black hair and what was known as a 'swarthy' complexion. The difference was that he lived in a huge and expensive house in Surrey, and was obviously wealthy. He kept a fabulous painted wagon at the bottom of his garden, just to remind himself of his roots - or lack of them.
I think if it were not for H.I. and the family, I would probably be living in a little hut in a wood right now - maybe tending a cold-smoker with which I would supply various restaurants with all manner of smoked meats and fish. No internet, no rent, no family, no future, no blogging....
I looked out of my friend's flat in Bremerhaven one morning, and saw the above - a little corrugated steel, road-builder's trailer which would have fitted nicely on the back of my Volvo, and I found myself daydreaming:
"Now, if I cut a couple of little windows into it, and put a little pipe out through the roof for a wood-stove...."