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Little Gypsy

Dicembre 2011
Di zingari, o travellers, si parla parecchio in Inghilterra. Non solo nella cronaca, ma anche nel mondo glamour della TV e della cultura. Roxy Freeman, giornalista e scrittrice di origine nomade, è cresciuta in roulotte. Ecco il suo racconto.

di Mark Worden

File audio:

Roxy Freeman
Roxy Freeman

Speaker: Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

In English, the word “traveller” is a less offensive term for a “gypsy.” Some people say that “travellers” are of Irish origin, while gypsies originally came from India. Either way, gypsies and travellers are very much in the news in Britain these days. The recent eviction of a “traveller” community from Dale Farm in Essex has been a big media story, but not all the publicity has been negative. The Channel Four documentary series Big Fat Gypsy Weddings has been a hit, while two books about gypsy life are currently in the best-seller lists. One is Rosie McKinley’s Gypsy Girl, which is about Ireland, while the other is Roxy Freeman’s Little Gypsy: A Life of Freedom, a Time of Secrets, which is mainly set in England. When we went to see Roxy Freeman, we asked her about society’s mistrust of gypsies and travellers:


Roxy Freeman (Standard British accent)

There certainly are some people within gypsy and traveller society that are unreliable, just like there is in all social groups, and I think, within the gypsy and traveller groups, it’s the troublemakers that get all the attention. So they’re the ones that are in the paper, and they get noticed, whereas the ones like my family that just live a quiet life, moving around, a sort of nomadic existence, nobody pays too much attention, so you’re not in the press! And we certainly weren’t brought up the way people imagine, that, you know, all gypsies and travellers lie and steal and con people. And we absolutely… it was quite the opposite, we had a very strict upbringing, we sort of learnt to, you know, have manners and to work and be honest, like most people are. And there are lots of people, I think, living on the road that do have that sort of upbringing, but, yeah, it’s just the bad eggs that get the attention most of the time!


Roxy Freeman didn’t begin her formal education until the age of 22. She later completed a degree and has since enjoyed a successful career as a freelance journalist and cook. Today she lives in a house but, she says, she finds it rather claustrophobic:

Roxy Freeman

Because houses are bigger, people are like, “How can you feel claustrophobic in a house and not in a caravan?” But caravans have very thin walls – and wagons – they haven’t got all the layers and layers of insulation, and you can hear everything. So you can lie on your bed and, if there’s a bird on the roof, you can hear it tapping around and tweeting, and you can hear the trees blowing in the wind, and you can hear the rain tap-tapping on the roof. And then, when you’re in a house, you don’t hear anything, it’s quite bizarre. You hear maybe the stairs creaking, or the clock ticking, but you don’t hear the sound of nature.


One of the most disturbing things about Roxy Freeman’s book is her description of her experiences as a victim of paedophilia. “Uncle Tony” was a frequent guest at the family camp, where he regularly molested Roxy and her younger sisters. Many years later Roxy reported “Uncle Tony” to the police and he was sent to prison:

Roxy Freeman

I mean, it started when I was quite young and it took a while for me to realise that it was wrong because I think the nature of paedophilia, you do get groomed, so it starts sort of gently, gently, and it wasn’t like suddenly overnight, “Oh, my God, all this terrible stuff is happening!” It took a while for me to even know that it was wrong, and then for a while I always thought it was, you know, I was doing something wrong, so it’s a difficult one to explain! Yeah, it wasn’t like suddenly I couldn’t trust adults, but this was somebody that I had known since the day I was born and he was “Uncle Tony” and everybody loved him and everyone adored him, and it was hard for me to work out that this person that everyone loved was actually the wrongdoer, rather than me. And then quite often people say to me, “Oh, well, you know, it must happen a lot in that lifestyle!” I don’t think it does happen a lot, I don’t think there’s like a lot more abuse. I think there’s probably less, generally, but the way that we were brought up, it was very much sort of “open doors,” and, you know, the kettle was always boiling, and the food was always cooking and there were certain people that were always welcome in our home and he was one of those people that was part of the family. So, you know, my parents wouldn’t have thought twice about letting him put us to bed and tuck us in and look after us. So it was just an unfortunate misjudgement of who you can trust, I guess.

If you want to see a video of our interview with Roxy Freeman, click here.

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Unreliable. Inaffidabile. Prefissi negativi. Il prefisso negativo più comune è sicuramente un- che, posto prima dell’aggettivo, dà il significato opposto alla parola. Non è però possibile usare lo stesso prefisso con tutte le parole e vi sono delle ‘regole’ da seguire: im- davanti a p: possible, impossible; il- con l: legal, illegal; dis- con h: honest, dishonest; mis- con t: trust, mistrust. Bisogna però ricordare che vi sono delle eccezioni… judgement, misjudgement!

We certainly weren’t brought up the way people imagine.
To bring up. Phrasal verb. Nella forma attiva vuole dire sollevare, menzionare: He brought the problem up in the meeting, ha sollevato il problema durante la riunione; nel testo troviamo la forma passiva be brought up col significato di essere cresciuti, allevati: ‘Non siamo sicuramente stati cresciuti nel modo in cui pensano le persone’. Il sostantivo upbringing, educazione, deriva dall’unione del verbo e della preposizione.

Una curiosità…
molte parole inglesi sono onomatopeiche, cioè derivano dal suono che producono. You can hear the rain tap-tapping on the roof, si sente la pioggia che batte sul tetto. You can hear the birds tweeting, si sentono gli uccelli che cinguettano. Le infradito sono dette flip-flops proprio dal suono che producono quando si cammina. Basta quindi un po’ d’intuito per capire il significato di alcune parole dal ‘rumore’ che fanno!