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Lorraine Geoghehan: On the Tober with Loolladi

Every Friday and Saturday Granny was up early tying bunches of loolladi then

putting them on her cart. She wore a paisley scarf, a dark blue money belt with

a side pocket round her waist, gold earrings and a gold sovereign on a chain at

her neck.

I liked to sit on the back doorstep and watch her; she tied them with a type of string

called bass. When it got wet it frayed and smelled of Weetabix. She worked swiftly, rhythmically, and when all the flowers were on the cart she stood back, admiring

them as if she was looking at a work of art. My favourites were dahlias: deep purples,

soft reds, bright orange. I also loved sweet peas. Sometimes Granny would give me

one to put on my pillow. I remember once falling asleep in the middle of the lovely scent.

I would open the gate for her, in my pyjamas. The familiar sound of the wheels

rolling over the drain in the alleyway made me think of trains.

"Bye my gel, see to Granfaver, won't yer?"

"Alright Granny", I'd reply.

On her return in the late afternoon, her cart empty, her face glowing, she'd say,

"Alf, make me a cup of mesci, I'm parched."

While Grandfather was making her tea she would untie the money belt, count out

her poshes. I'd kneel on the floor and watch her place the coins and notes in piles.

Then she'd say,

"The Lord's good, but I ain't arf dukkering."

Into my hands she'd drop some coins.

"Right now, let's get the 'obben on."

That night we'd have a proper feast: lamb chops, mashed potatoes, ham and piccalilli,

carrots and peas, fresh crusty bread or the left over Joey Gray that Grandfather loved.

Sometimes we had fresh strawberries from Kent and whipped cream.

When we finished eating, we'd flop on the sofa and armchairs for a while and watch

telly. I'd help Granny to wash up. Grandfather, well he'd go for a walk and a smoke.

I could smell it on his breath when he kissed me goodnight. Sometimes I would teach

Granny a new word, writing it down so she could copy it letter by letter. The curtains were pulled, and the doors locked. I would go to bed and fall asleep listening to Grandfather playing a lullaby on his harmonica.

Romani words: Tober - road; Loolladi - flowers; Mesci - tea; Dukkering - aching; Obben - dinner.

Raine Geoghegan, MA is a poet and prose writer of Romany, Irish and Welsh descent living in the Malvern Hills. She is a Pushcart Prize, Forward Prize and Best of the Net 2018 nominee. Her work has been published internationally in Poetry Ireland Review, Under the Radar, The Travellers’ Times and many more. Her first pamphlet, Apple Water: Povel Panni, was launched in December 2018 and previewed at Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2018. Her latest pamphlet, they lit fires: lenti hatch o yog, is out now with Hedgehog Press. Her first full collection is to be published by Salmon Poetry Press in Spring 2022. She is currently working as a Creative & Cultural Consultant for a New York theatre producer on a musical based on a Welsh Romani family.

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