Till the End of the Plums
Jim is a ‘free range’ traditional Romany Gypsy, intent on keeping his freedom in a world increasingly hostile to Travellers.
A house-dwelling girl comes to live with him in his caravan. After many adventures her knowledge of ‘Gorjio’ ways results in them being offered a place on a local authority site.
But Jim is a romantic and, even though he has experienced how increasingly hard life is on the laybys, he rejects the site and returns to life by the roadside.
First Draft Screenplay
© All Rights Asserted
Till the End of the Plums
Narrative Treatment of the
First Draft Screenplay
by Jeremy Sandford
But what did they fight for and why did they die?
For freedom to wander around.
But where can we wander; there’s no place to go
For they’re closing our camping grounds down.
From ‘The Hawker’s Lament’ by Duncan Williamson, a Traveller from Fife.
Incorrigible rascal, generous father, breaker of hearts and second-hand motors, restless, caravan-dweller, spendthrift with his fivers yet a shrewd driver of bargains - that’s Jim, who inherits from his Romany Gypsy ancestry his happy-go-lucky ways, his need always to be on the move.
But, though his life lies in the tough world of scrap dealers in the industrial wasteland, he is still able to draw on a wealth of country lore from the day when, long ago, with his father and family, he travelled the countryside in a horse-drawn varda. When his child falls sick, it is to the countryside he goes to find a remedy.
And he is proud of his ability to survive anywhere. ‘Put me on the moors with an old pram and I’ll bring you back a fiver where another man will get nothing.’
[A] (1) We see him first on a totting expedition with friends - three lorries moving into a residential district to pick up old washing machines, etc. They go to a genteel pub where they crack jokes, swap stories, and are given the freeze by the genteel management. At the scrapyard to which they take their day’s booty, Jim’s little brother (7), who has been travelling with them, surprises them all by producing a statue of semi-precious metal he’s been given by an old lady - a present worth all the adult takings put together.
Jim is extravagant and a deep drinker. The life of he and his family is a constant tightrope walk above an abyss of insolvency. Jim walks the rope with style and a reckless enthusiasm - despising nine-to-fivers for the sedentary ways; pulling off a successful coup only to destroy it next moment by some improvident act. ‘The free life is the best life.’
Recently, though, Jim has been troubled by a recurring image - he’s not sure if its real or fantasy - of a good looking young woman standing by the road and giving the hitchhiking sign, at night, on lonely roads. He speaks of it to his friends and is beginning to become spooked by it.
[B] (6) His mood becomes more withdrawn and introspective. This is noticed by his Mum as the Gypsies go about their daily tasks where a number of them are camped on a common.
When returning from totting a day or so later Jim sees the same young woman. This time he stops to pick her up. Her name, he learns, is Maggie. She is not a Gypsy.
[C] (14) On his first date with her, Jim tries to disguise from her that he’s a Gypsy. She blows the wind from his sails by telling him she knows he’s a Gypsy and has always thought she might like to go out with a Gypsy.
A day or so later Jim takes Maggie out to the common where his extended family are living. Maggie is subjected to considerable scrutiny by the Gypsies and given advice, some friendly, some hostile.
[D] (24) ‘The Prince’, Jim’s uncle, gives Maggie instructions on fortune-telling, spells, and Gypsy habits generally. She doesn’t take these all that seriously. At one point he forces Jim to accept a bit of paper on which is scrawled a spell which, he says, Jim may one day have a use for.
[F] (38) Maggie mentions that she was taken, as a schoolgirl, to a pile of hundreds of rusty cars in a remote part of Wales. Might they be of interest? She’s been told no-one knows who owns them.
[E] (33) Without a second thought, Jim sets out, with Maggie, to find it. To take a vehicle and elope in it is a traditional Romany way of announcing an engagement.
It is indeed a huge dump with hundreds of cars. Jim and Maggie arrive at the huge pile of cars. A day or so later the ‘owner’ arrives, demanding £1,000. Jim knows that, broken up, the cars will be worth a lot of money. He visits a local Gypsy Traveller Site, sells his caravan and returns to explain to Maggie that they will now be living in the cars. A rusty snowmobile is the master bedroom.
(36) Maggie tells Jim she is pregnant.
Maggie throws herself into the new life but it gets to be hard for her. She finds Jim’s Gypsy and unpredictable ways too much for her, especially his arrangements for her having the baby. She tries to talk to him about this but he won’t. She says she may have to go. They have a series of bickering rows of increasing intensity.
(52) Maggie runs away and Jim realises too late she was in earnest.
[G] (53) We see her back home. Suburban life with her mother feels claustrophobic after the Gypsy life.
Meanwhile Jim slowly works through the huge pile of cars, breaking them up and taking the bits to the scrap yard. He’s given a huge wadge of money. Jim is now rich, but he’s lonely because Maggie is no longer there to share with him. His life seems arid and pointless.
[H] (59) Jim is living in a pickup van and visits Appleby Fair in Westmorland, a great Gypsy meeting place.
Jim’s family are there and they welcome him back. We see many vignettes of this fantastic Romany get together.
‘There’s somebody here to see you, by the way,’ says his father, and there stands Maggie with his baby son. She has come over to Appleby, knowing that Jim would turn up sooner or later.
Jim’s extended family are thrilled with Maggie now that she has a baby. Jim is delighted and he and Maggie are reconciled. Jim, Maggie and the baby travel together.
[I] (65) Now the Gypsies find themselves being hassled in a major eviction. Caravans from many parts end up on one vast piece of waste land. Further problems for the Gypsies now follow, they are in despair as they are driven from pillar to post.
Maggie makes a series of visits to the local town hall. She understand the system in a way that the local Gypsies cannot. Through her knowledge of how to relate to Gorjios, Maggie is able to arrange for her and Jim to jump a long queue and be given a place on an official Gypsy site.
[J] (82) Maggie is very excited that they now have a place to go. They drive to the site. But, as they sit in the lorry outside the site waiting for the warden to let them in, she realises that Jim does not share her excitement. And now he tells her that he can’t face the boredom and constraints of life on a local authority site. Despite the fact that harassment of Gypsies is making life on the road intolerable, he reckons that freedom is still preferable to life on a site enclosed by tall wire mesh and barbed wire.
Maggie remonstrates with him. She tells him that the insecurity and violence of life on the road has become horrific to her. Then she realises she would be wrong to stand in his way over this. Placing her hand on his thigh, Maggie tells Jim that she’ll stay with him, whatever he decides.
Now they are back on the road again. Jim says he has been told of a common where travellers are welcome. That’s where he’s taking her now. But as he describes it to her, Maggie realises that he is speaking of Hyde Park and that whoever told him must have been taking the mickey.
Then, as he absorbs this bit of information, Jim climbs down from the lorry and, with a breakdown of reason, delivers his Uncle’s curse.
This film may strike the reader as expensive to make. The following notes are designed to show how it could be done fairly economically.
The basic production strategy is to hire an equipped caravan plus lorry, stock of scrap metal, dogs, etc. from a Gypsy stopped in a fairly urban stopping place. (Our ‘basic’ stopping place.) The fee would include retention of that Gypsy and his family to play small parts, control the dogs, do the actual moving of the caravan, light fires, cook.
Through my contacts with the Gypsy Community it will be possible to locate the best Gypsy family for this role, and I foresee no problems in this area.
This ‘basic Gypsy’ will also act as technical advisor and, for example, lend Jim his gun and advise on the shooting expedition.
The best stopping place for our purposes will, I think, be one with about four caravans on it; one extended family. On a stopping place with more Gypsies, the numbers of Gypsies crowding round to watch could create problems. At a ‘one extended family’ stopping place we will get the involvement of all those people, especially as our actual contract will be with the most respected Gypsy there.
For the scenes where Jim is stopped with his caravan in a variety of solitary locations we will, of course, just take the caravan plus lorry plus Gypsy advisor to a suitable place.
For the Local Authority site we will use one of the many actual Local Authority sites. The car dump can be shot in one such dump quite close to where I live.
There remain two sequences which at first sight may seem expensive and here is how I’d propose to deal with them.
A. The Appleby Fair / Stow Fair Sequence
Best of all would be to make the film over a period which included Appleby Fair, or Stow fair. We would go up there for a couple of days and shoot in a semi documentary manner, and also shoot there the sequences involving Jim.
B. The Eviction Sequence
A large number of vehicles and police/security seems to me to be unnecessary. Evictions can be expressed very well with shots of wheels turning in mud, one council lorry, a few security men, or whatever. Another way might be to use existing stock footage which could be cut in as part of a supposed news coverage of the event, seen on one of the Gypsies battery driven televisions.
(from the author’s book ‘Gypsies’)
To arrive at a Gypsy camp-site in the evening. To pick across the rubble or mud towards the caravans where they stand so snug and inviting, lit through their pink vinyl curtains by yellow Calor gas; to see the pretty Gypsy girls returning home with their gleaming jugs full of the evening’s supply of water; to see the men come back in their huge lorries piled high with scrap, lurching back towards their home; to see smoke begin to rise from the chimneys ... How often have those of us who have become involved with Britain’s Gypsies felt our heart turn over at this moment, turn over perhaps with some stirring from inherited memories of the time when we were all nomadic, or perhaps with the realisation that ultimately for all of us nothing is fixed; there are as many lifestyles possible as there are people around to live them. That is one side of the picture ...
To be with a group of Gypsies squatting and sitting by an open fire where a huge tureen of stew is brewing, drinking bottled beer, passing the evening in conversation and song, watching where, propped against the embers, a battery-powered portable television is transmitting the Hughie Green Show. That is another side of the picture ...
The child needlessly crushed to death during an eviction at Dudley; the three children who unnecessarily died during an eviction at Walsall; the two children burned to death in a tent in Lanarkshire on the same day that their grandfather was killed by a car; the many other Gypsy children who died not through anything as simple as an eviction but because the Gypsy life is hard - they died of exposure or malnutrition. That is another side of the picture ...
There are many Gypsy people who die unnecessarily. Proportionately, for every seven of us who live over the age of sixty-five, there is only one Gypsy.
Extermination has been suggested as a solution to the Gypsy problem by a Midlands councillor, and as a solution to various problems by a chief of police. In this we can see a tragic echo of that German policy which resulted in the extermination of 300,000 Gypsies.
It is my desire that this work may help change the public’s attitude towards Gypsies so that the law will be changed before it is too late. I hope it will not be just a record of another priceless part of the British heritage which it was in our power to have preserved and profited from, but which instead we chose to sacrifice on the plastic altars of standardisation and expediency.
Against the odds, I still hope that time will bring a climate more favourable to our Gypsy citizens, and they will be accepted for those valuable things they have to give us, and that their suffering will approach its end.
There is little time to lose. Before our eyes the fabric of this entire and unique culture is in the process of being dismantled. It is a crime to which every one of us non-Gypsies in this country are accomplices.
Now, as the new powers given to councils and police in the Criminal Justice Act begins to grip, a new type of suffering is being added even to that suffering which already exists. It is a suffering whose extent is hard even to conceive, let alone describe in words, since it authorises the seizing, impounding, and ultimate destruction of vehicle homes.
All the incidents in this script are based on real events that have occurred over the past few years in Britain.
Till the End of the Plums
Analysis of Scenes
[A] TOTTING AND THE HOSTELRIE
1. On the road. On a lorry. Lights. Windscreen.
2. The same. ‘I’ll see her again.’
3. On another road. Jim sees the girl again.
4. Stopping at the Hostelrie.
5. In the Hostelrie. Buying beer. Stories.
[B] LIFE ON THE COMMON. JIM LOOKS STRANGE
6. On a common. ‘Jim, you seem strange.’
7. The campsite. Morning.
8. On the road.
9. Countryside. A shooting expedition. In the lorry. Moorland.
10. In a nunnery. Dealing and totting.
11. Scrapdealer’s yard.
12. By the fire. ‘Doesn’t Jim look strange?’
13. At the campsite. With the police officer.
[C] JIM FANCIES MAGGIE AND HERE SHE IS
14. In Jim’s lorry. With Maggie.
15. A stopping place. Vigilantes.
16. By a fire. ‘A non Gypsy girl can’t go with a Gypsy.’
17. By the fire. The Prince - advice to Maggie.
18. By the fire. Jim and Maggie. ‘I can name you eight or nine ...’
19. Harvest/fields. Getting in the harvest.
20. By the fire. ‘The travellers have always got by.’
21. A stopping place. Gypsies arrive back from totting. Supper.
The Prince and his spell. ‘Till the end ...’
22. Later. Others arrive back from totting.
23. By the toilet.
[D] JIM’S GETTING IT TOGETHER WITH MAGGIE
24. Woods nearby. Jim and Maggie.
25. The common. The Prince and Maggie. ‘They took away me chavvies.’
26. Later. Wine making.
27. Later. Mum. ‘I’d like to go far away.’
28. Later. The Prince teaches Cant.
29. Later. The Prince. How to cook a hedgehog.
30. Later. A look around.
31. Harvest fields. Maggie and Jim.
31B. The Prince gives Jim a spell.
32. Stopping place. The Prince reads Maggie’s palm.
[E] THE ELOPEMENT, PROGRESS TO MAGGIE PREGNANT
33. In Jim’s lorry (early morning). ‘My Dad was at me last night.’
34. In Jim’s lorry. ‘I feel guilt. I took it.’
35. In Jim’s lorry. ‘All this wide stretching ...’
36. At a stopping place - tent. ‘Maggie, you are good in bed.’
37. At a stopping place. Gypsies don’t believe in houses. Maggie is pregnant.
[F] THE CAR DUMP
38. The car dump. ‘There, how about that!’ They move in.
39. Car dump. Every day life in car dump. ‘What have the Gorgios got
40. Car dump. Some cars gone.
41. Car dump. Jim returns with money.
42. Car dump. The new lorry.
43. In the new lorry. ‘Seductive woman.’
44. Car dump. ‘You’ll do.’
45. Car dump. ‘That pot.’ ‘Did you go to school?’
46. Car dump. ‘I can’t live like this.’
47. Car dump. Maggie breaking a horse. Jim suggests a trip.
48. In Jim’s lorry. ‘Irresistible wide-eyed puppies.’
49. Back at the car dump. ‘My baby will be coming soon.’
50. Car dump. ‘Outside the tent.’
51. Car dump. Maggie. ‘They wouldn’t let me take water!’
52. Car dump. Cooking pot spilled. Maggie runs away.
[G] MAGGIE’S MUM’S PLACE - AND WHAT HAPPENED TO JIM
53. Maggie’s mum’s place. Maggie back home.
53(B) Car dump. Cars nearly all gone.
54. In a café.
54(B) Jim returns with money.
55. Bingo session.
55(B) Jim buys new caravan.
56/57. A fête. Maggie is bored.
58. Jim now has lots of money but he’s lonely. He heads for:
[H] AT THE HORSE FAIR
59 At the Horse Fair. (many vignettes).
60. Out on the moors.
61. At the Fair. (attempt to form union).
62. ‘It’s been one long tale of push and shove.’
62B. Return of Jim. The family welcome him back.
63. Shade car. ‘I’ll give you three hours flat.’
63B. ‘There’s someone here for you,’ Jim’s dad tells him. It is Maggie, with his baby.
[I] EVICTION. PROGRESS TO GETTING COUNCIL SITE
65. Maggie and Jim are travelling together. Maggie; ‘Why can’t we go to the country?’
65B. Eviction area. ‘You’re on again.’
65C. Eviction area. Eviction montage.
65D. Eviction area. ‘Will you people never learn?’
66. In a pub. Jim, Maggie, Student.
67. Stopping place. With the heroic inspector.
68. Stopping place. The petrol bomb.
69. By a river with Little Maggie.
70. In Jim’s trailer. Jim as ghost.
71. In Jim’s lorry. ‘That bloody squad car.’
71B. By Jim’s caravan. ‘Get me two dogs.’
72. Police station cell. Violence to Jim.
73. Slaughterhouse. ‘One sheep’s gut.’
73B. Stopping place. By a fire. The Prince’s curse.
74. Eviction area. Friendly Gorgio.
75. Eviction area. ‘My spell! It worked!’
76. Eviction area. The eviction.
76B. Eviction area. Lorry driver; ‘Sod that for a lark.’
76C. Eviction area. Evictors retire.
77. Shopping precinct. ‘Go to Hyde Park.’
78. Eviction area. ‘Christ, here come the shades again!’
78B. Another part of the eviction; G.C.R. and shade.
79. A major eviction.
80. The offer. They accept.
80B. Another part. Official briefing journalist.
81. Their lot is drawn.
[J] PROGRESS TO THE CURSE
82. In Jim’s lorry. ‘Oh Jim, we’ve got a site!’ Jim’s decision not to go on a
82B. At a stopping place. ‘Are you in hopes of rehabilitation?’
83. En route for Hyde Park.
84. The curse.
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