Damien Le Bas didn’t have what most would consider a conventional upbringing. He is a gypsy and his community has always had a strained relationship with others in the UK. He spent time with various family members travelling around the countryside, selling flowers and carrying out all sorts of odd jobs. He didn’t follow the usual path for gypsies either, winning a scholarship to Christ’s Hospital before going on to study at Oxford.
This is about his travels back through his memories to the ‘stopping places’ or in their language, atchin tans, that he remembers from childhood and his attempts to find them once again. He does up his van, installing a bed and collecting a few necessary items that he can use to cook with as he hits the road with the intention of stopping over, getting back to his roots and indulging in a little nostalgia. His journeys with take him and Candis all around the country, up to the Appleby Horse Fair and even as far as the South of France to the shrine of St Sara-la-Kali.
Not only is it a journey to his past haunts, but it is a glimpse into the world of British Gypsies, their culture and language as well as a nostalgic look back at his family’s past. He has a unique position with a foot in each community to explain the differences and the common traits and even though he is a member of this culture, he doesn’t look like a member because of his fair complexion. This occasionally leads to confrontation. I didn’t feel that we got to know much about the man and only had a taste of what the culture is like. He is a lyrical writer too, which makes this an enjoyable read.
Paul Cheney 3/3
The Stopping Places by Damian Le Bas
Vintage 9781784704131 pbk May 2019