Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Gypsy Caravans

A vardo is a traditional horse-drawn wagon used by English Romani people (Gypsies).
The design of the vardo included large wheels running outside the body of the van, which slopes outwards considerably towards the eaves. Originally Romanichals would travel on foot, or with light, horse-drawn carts, typical of other Romani groups or would build "bender" tents - so called because they were made from supple branches which they bent inwards to support a waterproof covering
Wagons were first used as a form of living accommodation (as opposed to carrying people or goods) in France in 1810 by non-Romani circus troupes. Large transport wagons combined storage space and living space into one vehicle, and were pulled by teams of horses. By the 1800s wagons became smaller, reducing the number of horses required, and around the mid- to late-nineteenth century (1840-1870), Romanichals in Britain started using wagons that incorporated living spaces on the inside, and added their own characteristic style of decoration. In The Old Curiosity Shop (ch. xxvii), Charles Dickens described Mrs. Jarley's well-appointed van:
'One half of it... was carpeted, and so partitioned off at the further end as to accommodate a sleeping-place, constructed after the fashion of a berth on board ship, which was shaded, like the windows, with fair white curtains... The other half served for a kitchen, and was fitted up with a stove whose small chimney passed through the roof. It also held a closet or larder, several chests, a great pitcher of water, and a few cooking-utensils and articles of crockery. These latter necessaries hung upon the walls, which in that portion of the establishment devoted to the lady of the caravan, were ornamented with such gayer and lighter decorations as a triangle and a couple of well-thumbed tambourines.'
These smaller wagons were called "vardo" in the Romani language (originating from the Iranian word vurdon) for cart. The Romani vardo evolved into some of the most advanced forms of travelling wagon, and are prized for their practicality as well as aesthetic design and beauty. There is no more iconic or recognizable Romani symbol than a highly decorated Romanichal vardo, and the time of its use is often affectionately called "the wagon time" by Romanichal travellers. The vardos were typically commissioned by families or by a newlywed couple from specialist coach builders. Building the vardo took between six months to a year; a variety of woods including oak, ash, elm cedar and pine were utilized in its construction. Prized by the Romani, and later by non-Romani, including other traveller groups, for their practicality as well as aesthetic beauty, vardos can be categorized into six main styles; these being the Brush wagon, Reading, Ledge, Bow Top, Open lot and Burton. The general design evolved over time and were named after the home's owners, as in (Brush), for their traditional style (Ledge), for the town of its construction (Reading), or for the name of the builder.

Decoration and Painting
Vardos were elaborately decorated, hand carved and ornately painted with traditional Romani symbols. Romanichal would participate in the ornate carving and decoration, being skilled woodcarvers themselves, but would leave the main construction to a professional specialised coach builder. Much of the wealth of the vardo was on display in the carvings, paintings incorporated aspects of the Romani lifestyle, including horses, birds, lions, griffins, floral designs, and vinework including elaborate scrollworking heightened by the extensive use of between 4-15 books of gold leaf applied as decoration. Each individual maker was identified by their particular designs.
Funeral rites
The Romanichal funeral rite during the wagon time of the 19th and 20th century, included burning the wagon and belongings after the owners death. The custom was that nothing whatsoever would have been sold, preferring to leave some possessions; jewellery, china or money to the family, the rest including the wagon was destroyed.
Modern Traditional use
The Romani travellers in the (1920s) proudly clung to their decorative vardos, although the economics of their way of life was in upheaval due to the contraction in the horse-trading industry and the changes from their traditional crafts. In the present day, Romanichals are more likely to live in caravan. However the tradition does survive and it is estimated that 1% of Romani travellers still live in the traditional horse drawn vardo.
Other Uses
The famous British writer Roald Dahl acquired a traditional vardo in the 1960s, which was used as a playhouse for his children; later he used the vardo as a writing room, where he wrote Danny the Champion of the World.

Today's Smile

Couple Get More Than They Bargained For In Supermarket

At most weddings you expect to see the bride walking down the aisle, but the following report brings a whole different meaning to this ancient marriage ritual.

If supermarkets be the food of love, then Fina Nikolos and Jack Frankel have Whole Foods Market in Coral Springs, Florida to thank; that's where they met on a rainy day in May, and that's where they married last week.
Nikolos, 67, and Frankel, 75, were wedded in the supermarket's cafeteria before friends and family and a bemused group of employees and customers, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
The elderly couple decided to tie the knot in the same place where they first set eye on each other, when Nikolos offered Frankel a lift in her car as he was waiting, bag in hand, for the rain to stop at the supermarket entrance.
Ever grateful, Frankel invited Nikolos to dinner, and the rest is history.
Sounds like an expensive shop to me!

Al Fresco Dining

Now, that's what I call a seafood restaurant!

Computer Definitions

Someone who swears.

Search Engine
What you do when the car dies.

Home Page
What you keep in your back pocket in case you get lost in the woods.

Steep hill.


Mail Server

Sound Card
One of those technological birthday cards that play music when you open it.

The neighbour who keeps borrowing stuff.