There is a fear - largely irrational in my view - that we are about to be inundated with Roma beggars after January 1st. I see today in the Times that Romania's Prime Minister has said that we should be far more concerned about bankers taking our millions than about beggars asking for pence on street corners. Certainly a comment worthy of thinking about.
Where we live it is rare to see anyone begging in the street. I am sure this is not the case in the big cities. There may well be homeless people up here - I am ashamed to say that I don't know whether there are or not. There was one lady a few years ago who chose to live in her car but that situation seems to have sorted itself out.
But all this made me think back to my own childhood. I don't remember beggars round our village, but tramps were an everyday occurence and my mother always welcomed them with open arms.
She had the ability to make a meal out of nothing; we always had plenty of veg in the garden and as she regularly prepared game and fowls for the butcher she often had a plentiful supply of meat (which she loved). Tramps knew they would be welcome.
We had a stone wash house attached to our house, where my mother did indeed do the washing. There was a brick copper which was lit every Monday morning and there was a black range which she kept clean and ready to light.
There was an old scrubbed-top table, which she always kept clear, and it was here that she sat any tramp who happened to call at the back door. If it was cold weather she would light the range to warm things up and she would tell him to make himself comfortable in front of the range and wait for his dinner.
Any old clothes of my father's or my brother's would be passed on to the tramp. He would warm himself up, eat his dinner (which would always be substantial - she was a great maker of suet dumplings in the winter months) and then he would be on his way.
As far as I remember there was only ever one woman and she was called Pyewipe Liz (Pyewipe is a hamlet on the side of the Foss Dyke between Lincoln and Newark). She used to come round regularly with her small daughter in tow and I rather think she lived in an old caravan.
These tramps seem to have largely disappeared these days. Could be that they are now what we term 'the homeless' and that they gather in the towns and cities or it could be that they end up in Old Peoples' Homes, although as I remember it they were not all old by any means - rather inadequate at coping with life.
It used to be said that tramps would leave a mark on the gate post of any house where they were welcome but I never remember any mark - but however they knew, word got around that tramps were always welcome at our house.