Home and Belonging

It’s been two years since we left West Sussex for the Cotswolds and we still don’t know where to call home. Our unconventional lifestyle has seen us move seven times, from a lakeside house to a summer lodge then a caravan in a holiday park to a another house and so on until we came to Malvern. We have been here for nine months and love it, but the landlord’s business has fallen through due to Covid and wants to come back. Our plan was to live here for a couple of years then to look at buying somewhere. We now face another move, but there really isn’t much on the rental market here in Malvern so once again we need to look further afield. We’ve lived in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire and it looks like we will return to Gloucestershire. All three counties are exceptionally beautiful and offer stunning countryside, warm hearted people and a creative life.

Simon, my husband is a musician and has to do various other jobs to keep the money coming in. My thoughts go out to those refugees who have only what they carry. What hope have they of finding a permanent home? What does home mean to them? What sort of Christmas will they have? I was ill earlier this year and I sense that it was related to all the stress of moving so many times. I can’t imagine how the homeless deal with the sort of existence which results in them never knowing where they will be sleeping. On a positive note I do feel that I have grown as a person since leaving the house where I lived for eighteen years. It takes courage to leave the familiar behind and venture forth on a journey where you don’t know where you’ll end up. Change transforms our lives.

This time last year I had my second pamphlet published ‘they lit fires: lenti hatch o yog,’ with Hedgehog Poetry Press. It contains poetry, haibuns, monologues and songs and has been exceptionally well received.

‘They lit fires; lenti hatch o yog’ is a bright kaleidoscope collection of monologues, triolets, haibun and songs. Each is a vignette that tells a story of a disappearing Romany way of life. Raine Geoghegan has captured fleeting moments and expressed them in a language that rings sharp and true. Like the best storytellers, she has created characters that
will live long in the reader’s memory.’

Debjanai Chatterjee, MBE, FRSA. Award winning poet.

they lit fires, moved in close

dikka kie my carrie come and sit yerself down
yer look dukkered

me granny used to sit by the yog all the time
rubbin’‘er ‘ands then movin’ ‘em close to the flames
‘er skin turned dark and she said that the fire did it
dark raddi’s with no moon
only the brightness of the yog

great aunt bethy tellin’ a story
the one about ‘er great great granny margret
who drowned in a ditch drunk as a lord
‘er face down in the water
‘alf a dozen piglets running around and over ‘er,
them not seemin’ to notice
‘ands ‘oldin’ saucers of mesci with drops of tatti-panni in ‘em
all of the malts slowly gettin’ skimmished

Romani words: Dikka kie – look here; dukkered – done in; yog – fire; raddi’s – nights; mesci – tea; tatti-panni – brandy; malts – women; skimmished – drunk.

This is the title poem and one that I enjoy reading aloud.

Due to the pandemic all of my live readings were cancelled this year. I was to perform in a variety of venues all across the country and would have sold my books too instead I have given readings on Zoom and have been featured on the radio. I’ve had a good year with some wonderful opportunities. I have worked with a Theatre Producer based in New York on a brilliant script, giving advice on the Romany language and culture; I have performed for the Same Boat Theatre Collective in an online festival, Earthquake, which presents environmental and justice based theatre. A play I wrote some years back was also performed in the same festival and what a wonderful experience that was, watching actors perform online in their own homes. Recently I finished writing an essay for an anthology which is due to be published next autumn with Hodder & Stoughton. It is a hybrid piece and has prose, poetry, oral testimony running through it. I have enjoyed writing it and would like to write more pieces like this. There have been launches of journals which I’ve read for and just the other day I was the guest poet for the Festive Jazz & Poetry Café event which is organised by in conjunction with the Festival of Chichester. There is more work coming in for 2021 so I am rather pleased with it all. I’ll also be running some online workshops in ‘Creative Writing and Personal Development’ for Therapy Friends.

I have ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome so there are only a few hours of productivity each day. I love to write. Writing for me is akin to meditation or prayer. It heals and empowers me. As I face yet another upheaval I am aware of a slight ripple of fear coursing through my body, fear of the unknown, fear that nervous exhaustion will ground me again, but I turn back to the page, the pen, the act of writing and know that things will work out. Writing saved me when I was bedbound for many years at the age of forty and it will save me again. Tonight I am back online with the World Story Telling Café for a special event concerning ‘displacement.’ I will be reading a few poems about the time when the Romany travellers were forced off the roads. Sadly this still happens today. I leave you with one of my poems.

A Chickens in a Pen

They drove us off the tober,
we settled in a ken.
The chavies didn’t like it,
like chickens in a pen.
They drove us off the tober
you’ve never seen the like.
We couldn’t hear the cuckoo sing
or light the yog at night.
They drove us off the tober,

the politicians had their say.
We’re Gypsies through and through.
Watch us rise and go our way.
They drove us off the tober,
we settled in a ken.
The chavies didn’t like it,
like chickens in a pen.

Romani words: Tober – road; Ken – house; Chavies – children; Yog – fire.

Kushti Bokt (Good Luck) friends. May 2021 be full of hope, healing and promise.
Raine Geoghegan, Ba Hons, MA, Dip RWTA