Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Domestic Arrangements

My own humble dwelling is in the usual state of untidiness that it descends into when I've been working several long shifts and have tired out my houseworking muscles. So, instead of tethering the vacuum cleaner to the electrical supply, I've been looking back through some photos taken recently - and not so recently - and realised that I have a lot of pictures of domestic interiors of one sort or another. Domestic arrangements through the ages and across classes, you might say. I wasn't actually thinking about floral arrangements but here's a picture of one anyway, on a beautifully restored gypsy caravan displayed at a steam rally. 

You could peek inside too if you were of a nosey disposition....

....beautiful, isn't it? A bit twee perhaps but prettier than many of our modern homes. The Romany or Gypsy people have close links with the owners of fairground rides, "Showmen", they call themselves. They lived in wagons like this one.....  

Time for a story now:

Many years ago I was out walking along part of the old Icknield Way when I came across some modern caravans parked along one side of the ancient green lane. Suddenly, out from behind them, appeared three large dogs, about the size of small ponies. They bounded up, barking and yelping, leapt at me and knocked me to the ground. A woman shouted a command from inside one of the vans and the three slavering beasts immediately withdrew, tails between their legs. Within seconds several anxious hands were lifting me to my feet; men and women with weather-beaten complexions and many gold teeth were apologising and dusting me down. "Come in for the cup of tea or something stronger", they insisted. and so I entered their gleaming chrome caravan.

A caravan very like this one...

....it was sheltering in a barn at the Museum Of East Anglian Life at Stowmarket and was thankfully not attended by any baying hounds. I couldn't resist peering inside through the back window....

Wow! That certainly took a bit of polishing! But it's not so different from the one I was invited into. It seems to be a mark of the true Romany people that they take huge pride in their immaculate homes, whether traditional or modern.

Also at the Stowmarket museum was this evocation of the 1950s or 60s.....

All very cluttered of course, but that's how things were as kitchens were never big enough for the modern appliances that we all craved. Most people I knew had their washing machines outside in the shed, often with some makeshift wiring and plumbing that would have sent Health & Safety into a tailspin!

If you were wealthy enough you'd have a television and a wireless set too...

We had a wireless but no TV. I remember the first time I saw television. It was on the 6th of May, 1960 when Princess Margaret married Mr Anthony Armstrong-Jones. (The bridegroom was so posh, it was explained to me, that he had TWO surnames while his bride was even posher and had none at all!) We crowded around a neighbour's set, a huge lump of furniture with a small screen in one corner that produced a dim picture in flickering black and white; if you drew all the curtains you could see it OK. 

Lets remind ourselves though of how people were living in the stately homes of England...

Rather different in style, I'm sure you'll agree. Even so there are some things which still unite the rich and the poor. I leave you with My Lord Fairhaven's country seat....

Take care!


  1. Great post John! Holidays in a caravan when I was young were the happiest of memories.

  2. Interesting post; i enjoyed that. Gets you thinking about how different people live.

    1. I really like the third interior, I've seen some of the caravans at the museum of East Anglian Life but I think the metal one hadn't been restored last time I was there. The first time I ever saw TV was the Queen's Coronation at a neighbour's house. We got our first one when I was 8 or 9 years old. My childhood memories are of listening to Larry the Lamb, Romany, Music While You Work, Children's Favourites and on Saturday teatime the football results. Whenever I hear that music it take as me straight back to winter afternoons by the fire and my dad checking his football coupons:)

  3. Fascinating post! These are interiors I can see only in films or documentary programmes.
    When I was a child, I read English children's adventure books (translated into my language) where gypsies were living and travelling in colourful caravans like the one in your photos. :)
    The 1950-60s interiors look so very endearing. Lovely photos!

  4. Lovely photos, as always. almost makes me want to go home and houseclean. almost!

  5. I have always liked and wanted a Gypsy Wagon. So perfect---just for me. The other interiors are magnificent and the chrome one--zowie.
    BTW: I do have the Cloud spotters book and did at one time belong to the cloud society--maybe still do. I shall look it up.
    Thanks for visiting.

  6. That was unexpected! You can't always tell what's inside by the outside appearance. Hmm...probably a life lesson in that.

  7. That caravan is...wow! Quite impressive but if I was forced to make a choice, I'll keep mine. Less housework involved. I'm sure you understand. I love that kitchen. I'd trade our modern kitchen for that one in a pair of seconds.

  8. Absolutely fascinating stuff John - yes, Romany folk take great pride in their homes. Hope you got the hoover out once you had put this post on !!!

  9. Ha, yes, I'd much rather look at photos than get the vac out!

  10. Oh, my, I have enjoyed seeing these. I love that 504-60's kitchen.

  11. Interesting post! It's amazing the different homes people keep.

  12. Enjoyed the storytelling and photos. A nice diversion from housework! One question though: what is twee? I can sort of guess at it from context, but I was just curious.

  13. What a wonderful peek into the history of our time. So different homes.

  14. Very interesting and unique insights, John!
    I grew up in a caravan as well at the weekend when I was young, because my parents were enthusiastic campers! But our caravans were much simpler than the ones you took photos of.
    Thanks for stopping by - enjoy a great week!

  15. A good variety of different living spaces.

  16. I don't think I could live very long in such a cramped space. I admire people who can because I suspect they don't have an over-abundance of "stuff."

  17. Hahahaha! LOVE the 'country seat'!!!! Is there a view?? Interesting how much vintage caravans are coming back into vogue - some of the interiors are amazing, just like the ones you've shown. BUT ... I'm sure I have just as good a time in my more 'minimalist' 80's camper trailer!!

  18. Thanks for tell us about Stowmarket Museum. I've added to my to-visit list on Pinterest. I'm getting in to Pinterest as a way of making a note of and saving things. I pinned one of your photos. I don't know if you get a notification.

  19. Quite a varied lot today, John! Some of those interior shots are completely unexpected.

  20. I love the inside of that chrome caravan. I would have never guessed the interior would be so lovely and gleaming like that. Interesting perspectives on the homes we make and keep.


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