Under a Gooseberry Bush; more new poems by Raine Geoghegan

Under a Gooseberry Bush (in memory of John Ripley)


Listen to the poem read by the author HERE


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 hollerin’ 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.

All the rackleys 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 chavy gets borned under a gooseberry bush.

It set me up fer life, made me strong 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.



Vardo – wagon

Poove – field

Hobben – food

Chavies – children

Head Rom – Gypsy elder

Rackleys – women

Patrin – leaves, to be tied up and left on trees by the roadside to let family know which way the wagons went.


The Table in the Hop Fields, Bishop’s Frome, Shirley’s tale.     (haibun)


Listen to the poem read by the author HERE


We got to the ‘op fields just as the sun was coming up. We walked across the poove and there was our Aunt Amy, pouring panni from the kettle into the big brown teapot. She’d covered the table with a white lace cloth and ‘ad laid out ‘er best china crockery.


‘Ere you are my gels, come and ‘ave a bit of  breakfast and a nice cup of mesci.’


Me sister and I couldn’t ‘elp but laugh, the table looked so funny in the middle of nowhere.


‘Now listen ere, we got a pick a lot of ‘ops today, yearn ourselves some poshes.’


We had to sit on a red checked blanket, the grass still wet from the morning dew. She gave us bread, cheese and a cup of sweet mesci. We looked up at all the ‘obben that she’d prepared for  the ‘oppers. Plates of bread and ham, cheese, pickles and funny shaped biscuits. She put ‘er ‘ands on ‘er ‘ips and looked around as if she was waiting for someone.


ere ‘ee is, ‘bout time too.’ It was our Uncle Tommy, come all the way from Anarth, I knew wiv ‘im ‘elpin’ we’d pick loads of ‘ops.


‘Ee came stridin’ across the poove, a big smile on ‘is face, ‘is trilby on and ‘is waistcoat all buttoned up, ‘ee always did look smart.


Well well, ain’t this kushti Amy? Yer made yerself ‘at ‘ome, I see. What a luvley spread’.


      ‘It don’t seem that long ago that we were on rations Tom, and you know me I do like a nice bit of grub.’


‘Ee kissed ‘er cheek, bent down, tickled us gels and made us giggle. One by one the rest of our people joined us, wanting breakfast. They were just as amused at the sight of the table as me sister and me. We all knew that Aunt Amy liked to do ‘er own thing, we never knew what the next thing might be.


hungry finches   

      waiting for crumbs

      as we ate our grub   

      a bell rings

      it’s hopping time




Poove – field

Panni – water

Mesci – tea

Poshes – money

Hobben – food

Kushti – very nice.



Also by Raine: Koring Chiriclo – a new poem, a lament for the cuckoo’s song. Listen HERE


RAINE GEOGHEGAN, MA lives in West Sussex. She is half Romany with Welsh and Irish ancestry. Her poems and short prose have been widely published and her debut pamphlet, ‘Apple Water – Povel Panni’ is due to be published by Hedgehog Press in November 2018. It was previewed at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July. Earlier this year her work was featured in a documentary film about hop picking ‘Stories from the Hop Yards,’ part of the Herefordshire Life Through a Lens Project, celebrating the work of photographer Derek Evans. One of her poems, ‘A Memory of the Hop Fields’ was made into a short film by the Wellington Primary School.

PHOTOGRAPHS from the poet’s own collection.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

raine Geogheganreply
September 28, 2018 at 7:55 pm

I’m just checking this as a friend has tried to leave a comment but it didn’t go through.

Brenda Baynereply
September 29, 2018 at 6:47 am

I love Raine Geoghegan’s work. Her reading is so lyrical and takes the listener to the very heart of the story. One feels one is right there witnessing hat she is describing. Thank you Raine.

Jean Atkinreply
September 29, 2018 at 9:45 am

I did enjoy the richness and closeness of this podcast! Thank you.

Julie Morganreply
March 29, 2019 at 6:14 am

Raine’s work brings back so many family memories keeping our family alive . Wonderful stories a pure delight.

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