Saturday, June 22, 2013

Helen's Story

I met Helen at Newbold House at the summer solstice.  She was just visiting Newbold for a week to have a break from her life in Ireland.   Helen is at that point in her life where she is ready for change and is looking for inspiration to be more connected with her creative side.  I would not have had the chance to get to know her because it was time to leave for Findhorn Park.  But, as it turned out she was visiting Findhorn for the day and we travelled together on the bus.   Over tea at the community centre in the park she tells me her story…

Helen is a potter by trade and a qualified art therapist.  She was born in the south of England, in Devon, to a conservative family and she remarks she had a very ordinary upbringing.   Many of us crave the opposite of what we had and she reflects that this is probably what led to her rebellion and the interesting life she has led since then….

She has spent a great deal of time as a ‘new age traveller’.  It is a movement that started in Britain in the early 80’s by people who were basically rebelling against the capitalism that was pervasive during the Thatcher era.  The movement started at various free festivals such as the Stonehenge festival when people gathered in numbers for the summer solstice.   The ethos of many of them was that you were entitled to live wherever you wanted.  They often travelled between music festivals and fares and the transport consisted of vans, lorries, buses, cars and caravans converted into mobile homes.  The term “Peace Convoy” was associated with these travellers and they often faced significant opposition from the police.

Helen’s journey as a ‘new age traveller’ started in the late 80’s when she lived on the road for 6 years, using various modes of transport from caravans, to a 35 seater bus which she drove herself with her little son Lewy who was about 3 at the time, and an army truck.  They parked wherever their fancy took them, often on Green Lanes – old Roman Roads, which were considered common land and hence open for anyone to use without being disturbed by the police.  However, local vigilantes would sometimes come out and throw rocks at their caravans, which, reminds me of the story I am reading now – Chocolat.  It is amazing how threatened conservative, mainstream people are by anything that is a little out of the ordinary…perhaps it is envy for a life they could never have the courage to live themselves.   

Helen tells me that the people on this journey varied from kids who came from very rich aristocratic backgrounds and children of diplomats to people who were actually homeless.  They had a few things in common though - a desire to rebel against authority and a love of the freedom of the open road.   The movement was all about respecting the earth and living sustainably, before the green movement became mainstream!

When Lewy turned 5 she left life on the road to settle down.  She felt she wanted to buy a small cottage that they could call their own.  While visiting Ireland and meeting up with old friends from her days on the road, she fell in love with the country and bought a small cottage there.  It was far more affordable than England - imagine buying a house for 10,000 pounds in the nineties!

Helen got a job in a pottery right after moving to Ireland.  There she learnt the marketing skills she needed to setup her own pottery studio.  Check out her incredible work on her website.

She sells her work at markets and fairs and she has also been working with people with learning disabilities.   Now that Lewy is all grown up and finding his own way Helen feels the world is open to her again and her itchy feet are telling her that perhaps she needs to be on the move again.

Helen feels that settling into a routine or a way of life often stilts your growth.  You get comfortable, meet the same people and do the same things, which often means that life itself gets a little stale.   Helen believes that life should be an education and I couldn’t agree with her more.  The need to keep moving has stayed with me ever since I had the opportunity to move to another continent in my twenties and that has enabled me to be the person I am today.

So we come back full circle to where she started her story.  She tells me it is time to reflect on her future and wonders if perhaps it is time to move elsewhere.  Ireland may not be home forever.  Community living is appealing to her so that might be an avenue she might explore.  Helen is craving the freedom of the open road again and I wish her all the best for wherever that road might take her next.  Helen – it was great meeting you and I hope our paths might cross once again.  

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