Raine Geoghegan – Romani poet and writer
Raine Geoghegan, a Romani poet and writer from Herefordshire presents some of her work.
Much of my writing is based in Herefordshire as this is where my family used to pick hops and fruit … writes Raine Geoghegan.
I am a writer, working on a collection of poems, monologues, prose and song based on my Romany Heritage. This first poem is based on My Granny and Grandfather, when they moved from a vardo into a house:
Just One Room
He stood on the back door-step,
took out a brand new key,
unlocked the blue door.
They both took their chockas off.
He walked in first, she followed.
Her eyes fell on the ceramic white sink
in the corner of the kitchen.
In the wagon they had four bowls;
one made of gold china for washing their bodies,
the others were metal:
one for pots and pans,
one for cutlery
and one for washing clothes.
The smell of fresh paint hung in the air.
Alfie knocked on the wall, stroked it,
took a deep breath.
Amy walked into the hallway,
Once in the sitting room,
Amy’s mouth opened, wide.
‘Dikka kie Alf,’
He came to the door.
‘We could fit our whole vado in here,’ she said.
‘This is just one room.’
I'm interested in the origins of the Roma, the Indian link, especially as I have always been fascinated by India and the religion of the Goddess. I used to be a professional dancer/actor and studied Indian Kathak dance for a few years. This poem is about growing up in Herefordshire:
Somewhere in Apple Water country
Me Mum’s cookin’ sushi stew.
Me Dad’s chinning the koshtie’s.
I’m practisin’ handwritin’ with a fine pencil.
I’m lookin’ forward to sendin’ a proper letter
to me cousin Louie, she’s a didikai and goes
to school in London. Me dad calls it royal town
and say’s ‘e wouldn’t go there, not if yer paid ‘im.
She ‘as to wear a uniform, red and gold, but she
can’t wear ‘er gold ‘oops, it’s against the rules.
If I ever went to school, me dad would ‘ave murder
if anyone touched me ‘oops or me ears.
I have recently started to read the Travellers Times after a fellow writer told me about it. It is fantastic, full of interesting articles and so diverse.
My next work is a monologue drawn from my cousin's experience of being in school back in the late 1960's. I am responding to the ongoing problems of schooling for Romany children. I believe the subject was discussed in the Commons recently:
Dirty Little Flower Girl
us gypsy chavies ‘ad it ‘ard in the days when we ‘ad to go to school. the giorgios used to call us names, they spat on us, told tales, but we were there to learn, it’s what our mothers and fathers wanted. i’d rather ‘ave been out on the tober, travelling around England, although i will say I’m pleased that I ‘ad an education of sorts, it ‘elped me to get on in life and I’ve ‘ad some kushtie jobs.
me sister and I went to the local school, we ‘ad a lot of time off for travelling. I can’t say
that I liked it there; well I would ‘ave done if we weren’t all cooped up like chickens, sometimes I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
i didn’t like mrs frances, me teacher then again,
she didn’t like me. one lunchtime I was standing in the line waiting to get me ‘obben,
she shouted at me.
‘You’re holding the queue up, move along, be quick.’
l moved along but I ‘eard her say to another teacher.
‘Dirty little flower girl.’
somethin’ snapped inside me ‘ead and I said, without thinkin’.
‘I’m not dirty.’
she looked at me, fierce like, her face turning red.
she put ‘er vast out, bent down and slapped me legs, ‘ard. i didn’t cry, just moved along the line to get me ‘obben.
me dad picked me up from school, I was very quiet all the way home. Me mum gave me a cuddle and a kiss when we got in,
she smelled of roses which was nice compared to the smell of steak and onions that she’d been cookin’. after dinner she undressed me to me vest and knickers,
I sat on the draining board, as she started to wash me legs she called out.
‘arry, come ‘ere, dick at the baby’s legs.’
he asked me how I got the bruises, I wouldn’t say. he said.
’dordi, dordi ‘as somebody snoped yer?’
I cried but still didn’t tell them. it was ages until I finally did.
the next morning she marched me to school. we went straight to the ‘ead teacher’s office.
I ‘ad to wait in the corridor, there was a strong smell of polish. I sat there for ages,
I saw mrs frances go in, on the wall in front of me was a picture of the rounders team,
I thought I’d like to be in that team, they all looked ‘appy and friendly. after a while me teacher came out, walking fast, looking down at ‘er feet. me mum came out.
she grabbed me ‘and, took me to the class room.
‘it’s done and sorted, now go and learn my babe.’
i never did find out what ‘appened in that office, i ‘ad a good guess. i was at that school for another year but the teacher never bothered me again. i never did get to be in the rounder’s team though.
By Raine Geoghegan