The Way of the Wanderers | Book Review

The Way of the Wanderers

Jess Smith

Birlinn Ltd

£9.99

‘Every book about Gypsies that I have studied mentions the people described above, give or take a few other hardy stalwarts, but no one else. Writers stay in their comfort zone; when writing about a subject that they know little about, they keep to familiar ground. The reason for this, as I’ve mentioned before, is that few writers ventured into the caves, dark forests and far out-of-the-way places where the bulk of the Gypsies and Travellers existed. Instead of exploring the lives of these individuals they chose a few famous characters from the herd and ignored the rest. What a different story I could tell if more attention had been paid to the Gypsies of old as a community where strong baskets were woven, horn spoons carved from sturdy rams’ horns that would last a lifetime, earthenware, thick and watertight, was fired, ropes twisted that were strong enough to circle hay bales, brooms made to sweep a fine skelp of farmyard, and pot-scourers that could scrub a pot clean and would last for ages, with washing pegs able to prevent the wildest winds from roaring off with the weekly wash.’

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The Poltergeist of Penicuik | Short Story

You’d be fair surprised at how cold the Edinburgh afterlife can be.

I’ve tried to fit in, I really have. I’ve attempted to carve out a wee niche for masel’ in the black basalt towering above Princes Street. Somewhere I can begin to build a reputation. Somewhere I can gee the wee wans a jump and make the old yins proper frit. It’s not been easy, though. As a recent arrival to the other side, I’m not carrying the same gravitas that some of the more established ghosts cling tae. Continue reading “The Poltergeist of Penicuik | Short Story”

The Son I Raised | Short Story

‘Your first responsibility is here, Charlie.’

Piece of toast in his mouth, Charlie snapped his toolbox shut and reached for his coat. Evelyn stood with their infant son in her arms and a challenge on her face. She waited whilst her husband filled a thermos from the kettle, clingfilmed his sandwiches, and finished chewing.

‘You’re doing just fine with him,’ he answered eventually. ‘Mum’s getting on a bit; she can’t look after herself so well.’

‘She can look after herself a lot better than she makes out.’

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Serving a Semi-nomadic Community | Doctorate

Not my usual kind of post this morning but go with it…

I’m approaching the end of my first year as a doctoral student. Aside from the energy-sapping workload of juggling a family, research, a career, and a blog [insert applause here please], there is nothing that suggests to me that taking on a Professional Doctorate was a mistake or that my topic – Scottish Gypsy Traveller interaction with the Criminal Justice Service – was the wrong one to choose. Scottish Gypsy Travellers heritage and culture form an important part of modern Scotland. This culture celebrates close family values, an oral storytelling tradition, and mobility, whether corporeal or reflected as a symbolic identification with mobility and change. Nevertheless, discomfort with mobility on behalf of the sedentary majority in Scotland is still very much apparent. A lack of access to health services, poor political representation, biased and caricatured portrayal in the media, a non-assimilationist education system, and local authorities unwilling to tailor basic services to a semi-nomadic ethnicity all contribute to huge inequality between Scottish Gypsy Travellers and the rest of Scotland’s population. Continue reading “Serving a Semi-nomadic Community | Doctorate”