rcws: Manchester

Parked up on the edge of a city suburb last night, still uncertain of the responses nomads get in this country. There’s an assumption I’ve become familiar with, that nomads are dirty scumbags, which my beautiful #homeJames helps to counter in her own way. People are, more often than not, admiring of her and curious about me, frequently resulting in conversation. Those exchanges mean a great deal to me, that by discussion we can break stereotypes, open up to otherness. It helps that Australia is accustomed to nomads, UK is less so. This van I’m in over in UK, as reliable as he is mechanically, frankly looks like a squat. As well as bruising my buslove ego, he doesn’t much help that original assumption from others. And also, from a personal safety perspective, is a beautiful bus less likely to be broken into or invite night time hassle than a rusty old, unloved-looking van? 

Last night I walked back to the parkup. The fog was thick, but I could hear voices in the distance. As I got closer I could make out a bunch of cars, their all-male drivers hanging out smoking, talking loudly, creating their own makeshift lounge room from The Commons – a typical ‘neighbour’ type for many parkups I’ve known. I choose quieter, out of the way places for similar reasons to these groups… but you never know how territorial they might be, how dodgy their dealings may be and how they might react to anyone (least of all a single female) entering ‘their’ space. I know the drill, I’ve lived this life long enough to know when to move through, drive off, find somewhere safer, or when to converse and open myself to possibly glorious exchanges. So I did what so many women do every single night. I held my keys through my fingers, just in case; walked tall and confidently straight past them to my van just behind their gathering, and kept all senses open to any possible signals.

The fog made it hard to gauge the scene, so as I was wondering whether to do my common “evenin”, or whether that might invite further less desirable interactions, one guy called out “you’re not walking through there are you?!” (meaning the large expanse of parklands ahead). “Nah, I’m walking to the van” I replied. “Thank fuck for that, you’d be a brave woman to do that” he said, his friends all now silent, watching. “I’m a brave woman anyway” I called out, hoping my cheeky smile was audible through the fog. The gang of lads laughed, their conversations resumed, and I opened up the van and sat quietly for a while, just listening out for any signs of further interaction. There were none, they were happy in their bubble so I lit a fire, shifted the van to night mode and settled in. 

It’s a strange thing, being a single female nomad. So many constant balancing acts between being open enough to allow the outside world in, and common-sense-full enough to not unwittingly invite a darkness every woman knows could exist in every shadow. Each exchange brings new confidence. Each non-exchange brings… nothing. I know which I prefer. I’ve been lucky, maybe, but I’ll never stop being me. 

So to my dear friends last night who worried about my even walking TO the park alone, I’m fine. I’ll always be fine, because 99% of humans are simply as curious as I am. And for the 1% of dickheads, I can always just drive away.