After my ex-partner made me homeless I chose to return to my ancestral Romani roots and hit the road for a while. After all, I had always wanted to leave my home town and I had friends throughout the British Isles who were willing to give me a spare bed or a sofa for a while. My autistic son was already being looked after by a family better equipped to cope with his violent outbursts than I could ever be and he was thriving; all I had to do was quit my job and I could be on my way.
Of course, it was never going to be plain sailing – I knew that – but still I was excited. No restrictions, no set four walls, I could go anywhere and stay only as long as I wanted to. Returning to my Romany roots had always been a dream of mine and I revelled in all of the imagined possibilities.
My first stop was to stay with a friend in a village not far from Llandudno, North Wales. I got a job as a waitress and paid rent, but after a few weeks I knew it wasn’t working for me. I was lonely and desperately unhappy, and eventually I was sacked from my job for complaining that I wasn’t being given the hours that I had been promised. My grandmother, bless her soul, paid for someone to collect me and take me back to Cheltenham, where I stayed with my Mum for a while, until she asked my Dad to put me up.
Eventually, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I began dating a man in Hull. We were dating for maybe a couple of months and I’d found a job looking after a seriously disabled friend of mine.
An altercation with my father had the boyfriend telling me to get the next possible coach to Hull to live with him. I stayed with my Mum while I saved up money for the coach trip.
I made terrible choices with men back in those days, and soon found myself back in Cheltenham, weeping all over the table in my Grandmother’s sun lounge. I realise now, of course, that I just wasn’t ready to settle down and be all domesticated with somebody again after what my ex had put me through. To put it bluntly, I was an emotional mess – and even if that boyfriend had been a decent type it probably wouldn’t have lasted.
When I eventually found a nasty little flat to rent (because it was all I could find) I had been homeless for six months. I found a job and eventually I married.
My attempt at the Romany life had, at this time, failed. What I didn’t know was that an entirely different – and positive – wander down that path was only a few years away… and that it would change my life forever.