You can't have failed to notice this documentary on Channel 4 - if you haven't seen it yourself, you'll no doubt have heard about it in newspapers, magazines, on Facebook or Twitter. I have to admit I was really looking forward to watching this after seeing the one-off documentary last year. I wasn't disappointed, this is jaw-dropping tv. Apparently the travelling community want to carry on their traditions and customs but what part of turning up at your holy communion in a bright pink limo or to your wedding in a customised truck is "traditional"?!
The dresses, oh the dresses. Last night saw the dressmaker spending the majority of the wedding clutching a fire extinguisher incase one of the many sets of lights the girls dress sported sent the dress up like a roman candle. These are huge dresses, weighing twice their body weight in many cases and the scars that the dresses leave them with are "badges of honour". (I shouldn't really comment on that too much as I still bear scars on my back from my wedding dress...!). I can't even imagine how much these dresses cost, the woman who designs and makes them must be making a killing!
Being a good Catholic girl myself *cough* there's something incredibly wrong about seeing these girls as young as six wearing these big elaborate dresses, full faces of make-up and spray tans. It's more American beauty pageant than first holy communion, and the outfits they choose to change into later?! Very uncomfortable watching to see young girls bumping and grinding in clothes that amount to little more than underwear.
But aside from entertainment and the fun parts, last night showed another side - where the travellers get evicted from the sites they live on. Now I'm not going to debate the wrongs and rights, for most of us will agree I am sure that it's wrong to blatantly break the planning laws in the way some of the travellers do but what is clear is that there is a real need for the local governments and the travelling community to work out a solution together. It was painful to watch peoples homes torn down, protestors (who were non-travellers supporting them) being dragged away by the arms and legs by burly bailiffs and small children watching all this going on. I don't know what the solution is, and in fairness I'm probably just as much of a NIMBY as many other people because generally all we hear is the bad stuff about travellers, and yes, there are some unscrupulous members of the community but there are bad apples in every area of society.
There are other more alarming parts to these programmes, especially the custom of "grabbing" which was shown in last weeks episode where the boys physically force the girls to kiss them. By any other name this would be assault but apparently it's part of their culture so they accept it. Travellers apparently have a very strict moral code which is no bad thing - teenage pregnancy, living together before marriage and divorce are all very shameful which is why girls marry young however I do remember watching one girl getting married last year who at the age of around 22 felt that she was basically on the shelf and I actually shed a tear (!) watching her dance with father at her wedding as she just didn't look happy. She's now divorced and far happier it seems.
So in summary, yes, I am still enjoying this programme and laughing along with what I see but it also makes me sad at times. It sparks some interesting debates though and I'd love to hear your thoughts.
love & kisses
Mrs M x
PS I'd just like to add that I do know some travellers and their lifestyle - weddings, traditions, customs etc are nothing like this which does make me wonder if we are only seeing the very extreme side of the culture.