Saturday, 3 March 2007

A Taste of the Future

We made our living by busking in those days. Eyes played her flute and did well, while Man juggled elsewhere in town. He wasn't much good at it, to be honest, which is why me and Eyes always made more money. After disproving the theory that this was because of my cute puppyhood by swapping dogs for a day or two, Man finally conceded that it was simply down to greater skill on her part, a fact which was to prove important when things started to go into decline later on. At this point, however, he was still trying, with varied success. With his ubiquitous top hat and tails and purple dreadlocks, he certainly looked the part.

Salisbury was still at that time something of a centre for the New Age community, and many of the travellers from surrounding sites would pass through to either sign on or make their money by street performance, as we did. Eyes often teamed up with a local fiddler to play frantic Irish reels, whilst Man eventually met Chas, who was similarly incompetant but took himself far less seriously, something which could only be a positive influence.

They made quite a pair, 6ft-something Chas in his combat trousers and Mohawk, and 5ft 8' Man in his flamboyant attire. They both juggled as a team - or tried to - dropping clubs and balls everywhere and laughing as they failed. They made money by being cheerful. Since Man was prone to black and cruel moods - something else which would come to the fore further down the line - this friendship ensured our family stayed a happy one, if only for the time being.

Back then there was a large Travellers Site just outside Shaftesbury in Dorset, about half an hour's drive from Salisbury, and this was where Chas lived in his 14ft trailer. He had a ratty old car with which to both pull the caravan and get himself to the surrounding towns to busk.

Being "on site" was something both Eyes and Man talked about, a dream and a potential way out of their current homeless situation. The skippering and squatting communities had close ties with the travellers in rural areas like this, so it was the obvious way forward - both in terms of perceived status and security, albeit of the usual temporary nature. At least when travellers got evicted they took their homes with them, rather than having to pack it all up and hope for the best. They were rarely without a roof completely.

It will therefore come as no surprise that the day came when we were invited back to Chas's place for the night, and that we jumped at that offer. As we all piled into his tow-car, the excitement in the air was electric - at last we were going to see where we were headed, where our future lay.