A Senior Moment with John Docker: Give and take needed on both sides

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As they say in the best of circles, I have had a bit of an ear bashing for my “ill-informed outburst about the Dale Farm evictions and travellers in general” (letters September 16), from Mrs R M Britton - who provides a rather more cosy portrayal than my own “pejorative” opinion, which was in fact aimed not so much at travellers as the UN meddlesome mob.

Of course, not all travellers are villainous vagabonds hell-bent on nefarious naughtiness and dastardly deeds, but I suspect her examples of outstanding citizenship are relatively few and far between.

I am certainly not in the business of traveller bashing. How they live their lives is entirely their own affair as long as they do not flout the law of the land or accepted standards of behaviour.

The fact remains that many do - by squatting illegally on others’ property, by stretching the rules of legitimate ownership, by intimidation and by leaving a disgraceful trail of mess behind them.

These are not the real gipsies of old - peaceable folk who travelled in horse drawn caravans, moving from place to place selling their wares, telling fortunes, sharpening knives and the like.

When I lived in Norfolk our village was visited every year by one such family. They were meticulously tidy and welcomed to such an extent that when one of their caravans was accidentally burned to the ground they were overwhelmed with assistance from villagers with blankets and clothing etc.

Respect existed between travellers and villagers alike - a rare relationship compared with today’s 4x4 off-roader travellers in their state-of-the-art caravans.

It angers me when bad behaviour is justified under the guise of civil rights and rejecting any criticism as racial prejudice.

There are clearly problems for some travellers living perfectly law-abiding lives. Equally those breaking the rules and crying foul play at Dale Farm - while owning property in Ireland - deserve little sympathy.

Give and take is required on both sides of this issue, not further erosion of the rights of permanent residents who do abide by the rules.

Meanwhile, a quick flip through the internet will confirm that, yes as things stand, the vast majority of perception is indeed - to quote Mrs Britton, the word “Traveller = Problems”.

Speaking of problems, last week I drew attention to a telephone computer scam. This week I have another to report.

My next door neighbour has received several calls purporting to originate from Rutland Council. The recorded message gave her full name and asked her to confirm it by pressing 1. Sensibly she didn’t.

A quick call to the council revealed it was nothing to do with them and I then spoke to Consumer Direct (part of the Office of Fair Trading you can reach on 08454 040506), who confirmed it was a scam.

I must say it was worrying to learn that by pressing 1 in these circumstances could transfer you to a premium rate number which in turn would allow the caller to run up a sizeable bill on your account.

At best the call could simply be a marketing “fish” - getting your details to pass on to “a potential sucker” list, or at worst something far more sinister and expensive.

Either way it’s clearly not in your best interests and definitely ‘one’ to avoid!