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Romany Wounds Me after George Seferis’s ‘In the Manner of G.S.’ for Damian Le Bas

Wherever I travel, Romany wounds me. As I hoved into the horse fair at Stow-on-the-Wold between Cotswold chintz shops and the roving road HGVs hunkered after our wagons on the Fosse Way cursing us with airbrakes and grunting gearshifts. At Kenilworth fair, with its tailbacks to Longbridge roundabout, vardos bottle-necked behind ponies from Pershore, rocks rammed on verges of all the villages between by Neighbourhood Watches with the policeman’s nod. At Dereham fair I crow-barred the stern stones from the wayside and flattened fat molehills under my 4 x 4 and snored under the stars of headlights flying across the bypass and slung the crook of my kettle above an illegal blaze. At Gressenhall, Swaffham, and Peterborough the pubs were barred to me. What do the Gentiles want, these polite people who curse us we’re Romanian or worse than? A copper pulls us over and barks for passports. ‘Mate, I come from Rotherham’, laughs one Gypsy, ‘though it’s foreign country round these parts’. And as we sleep Europe drifts away across the sea. The cling-net of England closes. Our caravans are ships with their engines flooded. Our lives are drowning. Strange people, the English. They say, ‘this land is ours’ but they don’t rove beyond their commutes or school runs. Imagine the coppers rocking up at their caravan sites! Meanwhile, England keeps on travelling, always travelling backwards. In my dream, our flotilla of caravans sets sail from Dover’s chalk shore as though the little boats of Dunkirk were our own Gypsy vardos,

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