We are now well into the New Year but just a few months ago sentiments of a bygone age happened recently in affluent Effingham in Surrey
A resident found himself homeless, villagers agonised but, perhaps because of associated problems, turned away and ignored his plight, even though he had been born here and had lived his whole life in the village.
It happened that a gypsy traveller, pilloried against purely because of his ethnic minority origins and negative stereotyping, gave the homeless individual free residency in a stable. No rent, some free hot meals, free water and power for over seven months. The down side was the rather noisy stallion next door!
What happened to all the caring society that was meant to help? Sadly lacking in Effingham it seems! Well done to the gypsy travellers for stepping in and helping this man. Next time you see a gypsy traveller or Irish traveller in Effingham, shake him by the hand and thank him for doing the right thing. Pity about the rest of us.
And yes this is a true story, the homeless individual was Parish Councillor James Nicholls – who does not mind you knowing his story. He had lost his home through repossession via lengthy Court proceedings. Guildford Borough Council offered him accommodation in Ash or at a Halfway Centre in Guildford but James wanted to stay in Effingham. He wanted to keep his dogs – so until help came, in the form of this gypsy traveller, James lived in his car. During this period one callous insensitive wealthy resident actually said to James, “well beggars can’t be choosers” – so much for not kicking a man when he is down!
There is a happy ending to this sorry saga. Guildford Borough Council was eventually able to provide James with a home in the village.
Tomorrow morning Effingham Residents Association is sponsoring and organising a three-hour Gypsy Traveller Seminar here in Effingham. Perhaps we will understand our community a little better afterwards.