Under the Gooseberry bush
Under the gooseberry bush
A monologue about her Grandfather by Raine Geoghegan
im john ripley
somewhere in kent, this is where I was borned and laid in me mother’s arms, crying for me dear life. it was a warm day in june, me mum and ‘er people
were on their way to the ‘op fields in peasmarsh. me dad ‘ad gone ahead to meet some mushes, don’t ask. me poor mum was findin’ it ‘ard, ‘er carryin’ me
near to ‘er time and the bump, bump, bump of the wheels of the vardo.
they stopped in the poove to ‘ave some ‘obben, aunt may was makin’ joey gray,
the chavies were runnin’ around. me mum was soakin’ ‘er feet in cool water.
that’s when it started, ‘er waters broke and the bowl went flyin’, there was ‘ollerin’ and shoutin’, aunt may moved me mum under the bushes, told me cousin to get ‘elp from another travelling family. it was touch and go,
according to me bein’ the wrong way round but thank the lord there was a rackley who ‘ad delivered a lot of chavies, she pulled me out and I was borned.
I was named john ripley, after me dad. the ‘ead rom came down and blessed me,
he tied a little bag of rowan berries round me neck to ward off the bad mulo and to bring kushtie bok. all the rackley’s put a little coin in me ‘and, as was the custom. luckily me aunt and uncle ‘ad left patrin signs along the way so we ‘ad plenty of folk to wet me little ‘ead. it’s not everyday a chavi gets borned under a gooseberry bush. ‘course I never ‘eard the end of it, me mum and dad teased me rotten and when I tells folks they don’t believe it, mind you, it set me up fer life, gave me strength and I’ve ‘ad a bloody kushtie life, I can tell yer. me mum used to tell me this story over and over, to tell yer the truth I’ve loved tellin’ it as much as ‘earing it.
Romani words: Vardo – wagon. Poove – field. Hobben – food. Chavies – children. Head Rom – Gypsy elder. Rackleys – women. Patrin – leaves that were tied up and left on trees or by the roadside to let family know which way the wagons went.
Originally published on The Clearing, Little Toller Publishing in 2018, and republished in the Travellers' Times with the kind permission of the author Raine Geoghegan.