"All I want to know is, why have you decided on this all of a sudden?"
Jack kept his eyes fixed firmly on the floor and wilted slightly under the full force of his mother's questioning. He'd known she was going to be disappointed. For her, the Lifestyle was everything. Hadn't she drilled it into them all ever since they could first understand? We aren't the same as the Others. We do not stay still. To Travel is everything.
There was no way he could escape. A converted Ford Transit campervan, he thought, is not the ideal location for a life-changing discussion. But it was all they had. So he remained fixed under her stare like a butterfly pinned to baize. All he needed was a discoloured label, "Mobilus Disillusionus" and the effect would have been perfect.
"But mum," he started. "It doesn't change anything."
"Doesn't change anything? We're Travellers. We Travel. We're not like the Others." She dabbed at her eyes with a slightly grubby handkerchief before continuing. "All these years I've tried to teach you and your brothers about the Lifestyle, and now you throw it back in my face."
Jack thought back. His memories of the Lifestyle were clearly not as rosy as his mother's, that was for sure. That constantly changing horizon? The allure of the road? All he could remember was a succession of council-run sites. Tarmac and standpipes. The grubbiness. The smell of overcooked vegetables. And clearing off sharpish every time the genuine Romany families came around to reclaim their spot.
"Mum, we're not even real Travellers," he paused as his mother took a sharp breath, "not like the Romanies, anyway. They've been doing this for hundreds of years. This is something you picked up in 1990 after you went to a rave. We're not following some cultural calling - that's why we have to keep moving off the sites because we're not part of the Romany nation. Your dad managed a branch of Office World in Basingstoke, for God's sake."
His mother closed her eyes and swallowed hard. "Why now, Glendwr, why?"
"And that's another thing, Mum. Glendwr? Really? And with brothers called Iolo and Cadyryeith? We're not even Welsh! Mind you, I suppose we should be glad we didn't live with Jo in the next caravan. She called her kids Starburst, Mars and Galaxy. She thought it was all cosmic, but whenever she called them in for their tea it sounded like a sweet shop. I'm calling myself Jack from now on."
"But why give up the Lifestyle?"
"I've met this girl, mum."
"A girl?" His mother's eyebrows rose in a way he'd never seen before. Almost judgemental, Jack thought.
"Yes. A girl."
"And you've decided to throw your lot in with the Others? The house-owning, nine-to-five Others? The wage slave, consumerist Others? Because of a girl? Where did you meet her?"
"It was last winter when we stayed at that site outside Norwich. You'd like her, mum. Her dad works for the council."
She snorted. "How very nice. So you get to play housey-housey?"
Jack could feel his cheeks flushing as he turned on his mother once again. "Look, mum, you chose this Lifestyle. I didn't. I'm sick and tired of it. Everytime we go anywhere, people are unhappy to see us. And, frankly, I quite like the idea of being able to use a proper toilet once in a while."
She bristled at this, as if the bathroom arrangements were part of some long-respected Traveller tradition.
"So what are you and this girl," she almost spat the word, "going to do with yourselves?"
"I'm going to get a job. Her dad says he can help. We're going to work for a year or so to save up some money, then I want to see the world."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Yeah. India, China, the lot. We want to see it all. And I don't mean from behind the wheel of a converted Transit van."
"So, Gle..um, Jack," his mother replied, slowly and carefully, "you plan on throwing away your current lifestyle and going against the wishes of your parents. So you can go travelling."
"I'm sorry mum, but yes I do."
A smile broke across her features. "That's my boy."