Nostalgia by Robert Heaven

IN THE 1960s and 70s you would never ever see a person sleeping in a shop doorway or living in a box in an underpass.

There were homeless people back then, but they would drift into town during the day, and rarely be seen after dark.

I don't know where they went or stayed, but I was told that my grandfather would sometimes share the contents of his lunch box with a man who slept under the bushes at Leighterton.

I remember “The Donkeyman” (aka Fred Abel) who travelled the district with a cart in which slept and traded rides on his donkey for food or "Threepence”.

I’m told by people who knew him, that he also had a “flea circus”; on display for a further three old pence (24 pence in today’s money).

Back then when the real Circus visited the district; there were showmen that lived in splendid horse drawn traditional caravans.

These are still seen occasionally around Cricklade and many have been lovingly restored in recent years.

Circus people apart, I remember how homeless travellers would frequently knock on our back door and politely enquire after a cup of hot tea (and maybe a sandwich if there was one going).

It was rumoured that the “Tramps” as we called them back then, would chalk secret messages on the gate posts or the pavement outside any houses that provided them with sustenance.

Despite intensive searching with my pals, I never actually found any of these secret messages.

We wished we could find them and that somehow we could learn to also write in a secret language.