The Nomadic Spirit

There were vintage buses, trailers and lorries, some botched, some cobbled, some cannibalised, into live-in vehicles. Many had sweeping mudguards and running boards, streamlined or jelly-moulded contours, split windscreens and chromium trim. On the grill of a particularly impressive old English truck its make, Albion, was emblazoned in chrome above a radiating rising sun motif. An overly muscular wrecker, with bulging wheel arches and loops of heavy chain hung from its tow bar, was daubed with the words Fuck Pig. There were trucks fitted with window boxes, chicken coops and one even had a pair of goats living on its back veranda.

Whatever the style – quaint-cottage-garden or all-terrain-anarchist – there was something proud and defiantly independent about the atmosphere in the field. An atmosphere that was missing everywhere else I’d been that day. In comparison the rest of Glastonbury felt as flimsy and contrived as a Hollywood film set, the scenery as thin as the licks of paint and coloured lights that decorated it. The traveller’s field was no illusion. No illusion – but – the raw, solid, practical mechanics of life-in-a-truck, had a powerful magic.

Yes, there’s a romance and allure about the traveller, the gypsy, the adventurer. But there was something else too. Something about how all those shapely vintage vehicles had been brought back from the scrapheap of history. Beautifully designed and stoutly engineered, they’d transcended their intended purpose, driven across time into another era, not just as enablers, but also as part of the nomadic spirit of an unforeseen, yet inevitable, new current in the British psyche.

 (Glastonbury, June 1990)

9 responses

11 06 2011

Ah this is beautifully described… made me long for my old bus.

13 06 2011

Thanks Debbie. Yeah, there’s nothing more evocative than a chunky vintage truck or a bubble-shaped bus!

11 06 2011


12 06 2011
Haz Hazza

if i hadnt gone to twyford down i might never have known the traveller was a real eye-opener for city yoofs like me at the time…in europe still on the road all these years later…thanks!
great writing n all

20 06 2011
Joanna Frangos

yes… this is good. I remember looking longingly at a bunch of travellers and their vehicles and thinking “I want that”…… yes, even me.

24 06 2011

Brilliant !!!!!!!

11 09 2011

twyford down…was that the villiage idiots gathering,sussex..?
i remember meeting spiral and geting a lift from wherever we were[?] back to watford,herts…great trip,cheers,followed by many more adventures……….. dove.

12 09 2011
Stray Wayward

Hey Dove – Good to hear from you! Twyford down – Winchester, Hampshire – was the big road protest. We were there, at St Catherine’s Hill, before the protest proper began. That night there was a full moon and a big fire in the circle of beech trees on top of the ancient hill fort. We all held hands around the fire while someone (dressed in animal skins and wearing antlers on his head) gave an inspired speech about resisting the proposed motorway cutting. A development that would destroy ancient burial sites and a vast area of beautiful countryside.

The Village Idiot’s Festival was in Kent. We caught an undercover copper mingling with the crowd. He said he’d never had so much fun on an assignment. We left him alone. He danced in front of the speakers all weekend. I’m not sure what he was on – but he was really giving-it-some!

10 04 2012

You paint the story so well… and leave me panting, yearning to go all the way …

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