I think we know each other now, hey it’s been a while and we have shared some stuff. So take a stroll with me and lets explore a word that has shadowed my life, in good, bad and indifferent ways.
As a nipper in London I was not the most popular kid in school (shit happens) and the lack of household funds and generally old school* living gained me the tag of ‘gypsy’. This was not a day of modern enlightenment and it was not a popular tag. It was a tag that hurt both me and those who chose to use it and it had no good associations. I carry, and always will, a scar that came from those who were more commonly associated with my ‘nickname’ it was gained as a child but is still remembered as an adult.
Back in the day that it was common to have gypsies on, what were then, open fields, parks and playgrounds it was not a name that any person would wear with pride. To wear the wound and still suffer the name calling was not a good place for a nipper, no complaints, just saying.
My mother, rest her soul, chose to escape what home was becoming and moved us to the coast. I will never question a move that was one of the best in my life and has helped me make the grand old age that I am today. My mother was never blessed with funds though and we moved to a caravan, again remember this was some time ago.
Guess what became my high school nickname? yep the gypsy was back and it was as unpleasant a nickname as it had been 200 hundred miles south. As an insult its tough, it has so many connotations and so much disrespect built into it that you can’t overcome. Even adults sneer at the nickname for some sort of innate fear that their garden will become overrun. Today it is perfectly normal to spend 52 weeks a year in a caravan but when I was a nipper it made you a wrong’un and to be fair it hurt.
Hard, very hard, graft pushed me into my first mortgage by twenty (hope that moron still enjoys it). I was so determined to be a homeowner, it was another decade, not for me anything temporary. Home, of course, was nothing other than a myth and I was soon working away. I worked away so much that at one point I had managed 15 years with never more than 3 nights at home.
So what happens? your colleagues call you ‘pikey’ after all you are never in one place long. It becomes a badge of honour, a label that you hold proudly after all I am the only pikey that you ship business class to Japan for one meeting aren’t I? I have been introduced internationally as ‘the pikey’ and dealt with the confusion that this brings about. Senior meetings, conference calls and crisis summits for years (15 at BT) were interspersed with sensible adults saying “listen to the pikey”.
A name that was the torment of my younger life became a happy badge and in biker days there was a switch between ‘pikey’ and ‘gypo’. Two names that I detested as a child became synonymous with me. To this day I am the pikey, it is what you call me but you no longer mean it as an insult and I have found a compliment in it. The very term that threatened to take my childhood and could have prevented my adulthood is not only a delight but something that I revel in.
You may be pondering the random post, after all you didn’t really need to know this (apologies for the absence of humour) so let me explain. I have closed and secured my pub, the bricks and mortar result of my life so far and let’s be fair I have had some years. So I hit the pc and somehow (god bless google) caught Cher singing ‘gypsies tramps and thieves’. I remember belting this song out (obviously drunk) with a girlfriend and it wasn’t the words, wasn’t the song. If one set of lyrics sums this old life up it is them and, until now, few of you knew, who would have guessed?
So welcome to the pikey but beware I don’t move around so much nowadays, not to say I don’t fiercely protect my name. As for Cher well she did some good stuff including summarising this old pikey’s life in a daft old song.
Just to add some normality to this odd post let me tell you that I am in agony, my wrists hurt so much that I can barely type but hey tomorrow is another day
*In this case old school can be easily exchanged for skint (but happy)