THE STOPPING PLACES
A JOURNEY THROUGH GYPSY BRITAIN
DAMIAN LE BAS Chatto, 320pp, £14.99, Oldie price £10.03 inc p&p
Damian Le Bas has written an ‘excellent account of folk most of us don’t understand’, said Sara Wheeler in the Spectator. Part Romany and tagged a ‘dirty gypsy’ at school, Le Bas took a scholarship to Christ’s Hospital and then went to Oxford University to read theology. In his words, ‘In spite of my confusion over who I really was, I loved our world.’ Armed with stories told to him by his Nan, a Transit van, some Romani vocabulary, he set off to visit the Stopping Places (or ‘Atchin tans’), that have been the ancient encampment sites of gypsies for hundreds of years. For Jackie Annesley, in the Times, his feeling of dislocation makes him ‘an ideal writer to disembroil this much misunderstood itinerant world… The prose is pure delight.’
‘In spite of my confusion over who I really was, I loved our world’
This ‘stunning travel memoir’ moved Clover Stroud, writing in the
Daily Telegraph. Beautifully written, ‘his descriptions of early childhood, living on the edge of a yard, often in caravans, surrounded by harnesses, wheels and scrap metal, crackle with energy’. This is a book not only about gypsy culture, but it is also about getting to the ‘heart of what it means to be a gypsy’.
He is a ‘thoughtful writer, observant of nature and with a lovely turn of phrase’, agreed Kathleen Jamie in the New Statesman. His writing ‘is lyrical, edgy and wistful’. Her only reservation was that she felt there to be a lack of intimate encounters or in-depth conversations with gypsies on the road, ‘it’s more about ghost trails than Travellers’ living reality’. Still, Jess Smith, reviewing for the
Travellers’ Times, said that this ‘wonderful book’ had ‘won my heart’. For her, ‘this book is packed with facts and stories and laughter, and tears fall from the pages as easy as an April shower’.
Gypsies of the New Forest in the 1890s