Saturday, July 19, 2008

Patricia Prime: WOODEN FLOWERS

There are gypsies at the bottom of our garden—just over the hedge there, camping on common land. They come here every year for two weeks in August when the Mitcham Fair rolls in and have done so since the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

The people we call “gypsies” are now named “travelling fairground workers.” They are tinkers, tinsmiths, animal-keepers, regulars around the streets where they sell handmade goods such as spoons, trinkets, and clothes pegs. Dark-skinned men, women and children dressed in homespun shawls, their speech cadenced to begging and bartering. Plying their trade in groups of two or three, dirty unwashed children by their side, infants carried in blankets on their backs.

Across the lane there are horse-drawn wagons, donkeys braying, modern caravans, the sound of arguments as fairground workers erect marquees, fires, washing strung on hedges.

billy boiling
green wood in the fire
spits under a pot

Every time they come to rest in the area, there is excitement in the air. Soon the fair will begin. There’ll be late nights beneath the moon, coloured lights, smells of candyfloss and hotdogs wafting on the air, merry-making and laughter, the pop of guns at the rifle range, a prize for a lucky child.

broad daylight
dyed wooden flowers
in a basket

by Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand

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