‘They lit fires: lenti hatch o yog’, Raine GeogheganA colour painting occupies the full cover. It shows a Romany caravan, from the front, with a short ladder-type staircase in. A blue sky, behind this red, arch-shaped caravan, occupies just over half the cover. The bottom half is a pale brown field. So the wheels of the caravan are agains thte filed, and so is a kettle and some other implements. The author's name, in large red calligraphic font, loops its way across the sky in the top two inches. Below this the title appears much smaller in lower case dark blue letters.

The Hedgehog Press, 2019         £5.00

The oral tradition of a proud Romany family history

They lit fires: lenti hatch o yog internalises family moments in ritual and song. These stories are peppered with Romany language. Through a mix of prose and poetry, Raine paints tales of traveller men and women (‘Sally Lee she ’ad one eye and a son called money’).

In prose piece, ‘A Romany Guerro Remembers’, Raine uses found conversation from Facebook. Through the man’s lament, we learn the vulnerability of Romany traditions and language:

you mention rokkerin in romani, well apart from a few words I’ve long forgotten the language — me mom and dad spoke it all the time but since they passed none of us speak it

This life founded on travelling and upholding tradition within memory, and through storytelling, seems constantly threatened.

Tales of family eccentricities bring humour to the collection. In ‘Great Aunt Tilda, A Funny Old Malt’, ‘if someone was ill or grievin’, she’d say, ‘I’ll burn a bit’ve salt for ’em’. If someone got in a car, or did something adventurous, she’d say, ‘if yer goes and killer yerself, don’t come back and blame me.’ This may be a tale of a brandy-drinking great-aunt of the Romany people, but the family oddball trope feels universal!

There is a sense of wholesome community in this collection — a family unit content with ‘Bones ’n’ Spoons’ for instruments.

It feels important that traditions and stories told orally should be recorded lovingly this way.

Isabelle Kenyon