Beaver, Maree and Gail in Ireland, 1949
Beaver built the swinging boats in the background

My ancestors
Hitched the horses to the wagons and traveled with the dawn.
At night they camped
Under the stars and lit their fires to roast rabbit or stolen pheasants.
My ancestors
Called no place their own and everywhere their home
All they owned
Was bundled into the wagons, under the beds, overhead in lockers
My ancestors
Left little trace of themselves as they moved through the world
Little but stories,
Told round the campfire and passed down through the generations.

My father
Rose with the dawn to tramp the fields looking for the horses
No room for hay
So the beasts were turned loose at night to forage their own food.
My father
Welcomed the invention of the internal combustion engine
He still often had to leg it when the motors broke down.
My father
Fished and foraged for his food, and entertained the crowds
In a tent
Lit by flaring Tilly lamps and candles in glass jam jars.

My mother
Cooked on a small temperamental kerosene stove outside the wagon
She washed by hand
And hung the sheets over bushes, and ropes looped to trees, to dry.
My mother
Was not born a traveller and she walked in two worlds
One our world
And one where the houses never moved and tea was always served at five o’clock.
My mother
Kept some of her old ways – she loved to read and write long letters
She taught me
The beauty and the joy of words caught like butterflies in the pages of a book.

I remember
Going fishing with my father, listening to him teach the ways of nature.
I remember
Exploring musty bookshops with my mother, the closest we ever bonded
I remember
Wishing sometimes I had been born in her world, so I could have an attic room
Full of books
And a pony in the orchard and a proper school with chalk and exercise books.
But I remember
Oh, I remember
Being so young and free in the world that now it seems like a dream.