Playbook For Dictators

In this poem which was written earlier this month I give my take on the events which are currently happening in Ukraine and why the British establishment’s support for Ukraine sounds both hypocritical and hollow when you consider their past colonial adventures closer to home adventures like the Highland Clearances and An Gorta Mor or I call it the great starvation I’ve given it the title Playbook For Dictators I hope you enjoy the read

Playbook For Dictators


Boots on the ground
invade en masse
marching to terrorise a nation
who seek closer ties with others
as innocents discover that freedom has a price
they can’t afford to ignore

rockets are sent by hostile forces
to give warnings to the hosts
of the might of the aggressor
towns and cities lie ruined
and those who can , seek refuge
in welcoming lands who understand their plight

meanwhile in the dead of night
ghosts from the past give flashbacks to cold war generations
this is how it was in their early years
for those who disobeyed direct orders
Soviet borders were red lines
no comrades dared to cross
lest a hard hearted mother
discipline her errant children

family were to be taught obedience
and this was never to be questioned
independence is not the way of the tyrant
leaving home was never permitted
nobody knew what happened
behind curtains which were permanently closed
now an old man wants to return
to glory days which were never truly glorious

he yearns for the golden age when his lands were victorious
masters of all they surveyed
or at least to the tines
when they we’re able to say that was the case
in the days when Pravda was yesterday’s RT

the world has moved on
since the days when an angry bear
was feared throughout the globe
but incandescent with rage
a veteran actor wants to command centre stage
orders the world to do things his way
says he wants his empire back
and has sent us this chilling warning
he is ready to strike back to get it

the world has been stunned in silence
at these bouts of mindless violence
to subdue a neighbour whose only crime
is an unfortunate geography where the location of the land
is too close to an agressive nation
still yoked to the chains of the past

now as most countries do their bit
to ease the human suffering
the UK does nothing but sit on its hands
understanding this catastrophe
by framing it in Westminster language
and by putting Ukrainian flags on social media profile pictures
as we smile for photo opportunities
whilst looking in the other direction
pretending not to know the difference
between refugees and economic migrants
and like Pontius Pilot washing our bloodstained hands
of atrocities committed by Redcoats and Tans
in the name of Britainia’s heart and hand
when the Britain of Wade and Pitt’s command
wrote the playbook for dictators

© Gayle Smith 2022

A Decade In Tartan Tights And I’m Dolled Up For Blogging

Ten years ago last night I started this blog to create a space where I could voice my support for Scotland’s independence and also to provide a place in which I could tell my truth my way. In the past decade there have been a number of significant changes for both Scotland as a country and myself on a personal level and we now live in a very different country and indeed world than we did when I set off on my journey as tartan tights. This has been particularly true in the last two years as we’ve lived through the global pandemic of Covid 19 where the only things we could be certain of is the uncertainty of our everyday reality and the incompetence and ineptitude of the United Kingdom which still unfortunately rules over our nation.

That said: a blogger is always on the lookout for new ways to create content for their readers to engage with and hopefully enjoy. The pandemic has meant that the focus of the blog has remained on poetry though the number of posts has dropped dramatically during the past year. In truth I think that was easier and very probably less controversial than it would have been had I switched back to focus on more news related posts as I could have done had Covid not continued to plague the world and forced us all for the sake of our health to take a more cautious approach to living our lives than we would otherwise have wanted to do.

It’s fair to say that with no festivals or events to attend for the second year in a row the topics covered by the blog may have been somewhat different to those I would have imagined sharing with in better circumstances. Though there were some familiar subjects on which I shared my opinions. These included Death, Education, Elections, Environmental Issues, Football especially Scotland’s European Championship Campaign, Gender Identity, Independence, Travel, Transphobia, Women , and 9/11

In a year of few highlights I would say that the Euro’s gave me a much needed push to chronical Scotland’s journey through the tournament even if it was far shorter than I would have liked it to be. Indeed that journey was responsible for what I would say is one of the best poems I have ever written on the perils of supporting Scotland in Revenge For Panenka. I was also extremely proud to write Post Match Analysis , on what it’s like supporting your team in my case Celtic during the time of Covid. Other favourites included Dolled Up my poem for National Coming Out Day my first poem of this year Glasgow Kiss and Industrial Strength which I wrote on hearing of the death of my fellow poet Brian Whittingham

So that was the year that was and though it was more challenging than anyone would have liked , I kept on keeping on and will continue to do so as long as you want to read my thoughts on events in Glasgow, Scotland, and beyond. Having made it to ten in a row I promise as I conclude this post by wishing my blog a very happy birthday that I will do my very best to keep you entertained and informed on all that matters to me, to Scotland, and the wider world. So as I start my 11th year on the blogosphere I wish you happy reading and hope you keep reading tartan tights for the coming year and beyond

Till next time

Gayle X

Mustard Jumpers

This poem was inspired by the award winning poet Finola Scott who recently wrote a poem on knitting and in doing so brought back a childhood memory which inspired me to write this effort which I’ve titled Mustard Jumpers I hope you enjoy the read.

Mustard Jumpers

I remember my mum
weaving knitting needles
creating mustard jumpers
and getting frustrated
on a dropping a stitch
balls of wool at her feet
she would always use the same colour
and the jumpers were plain polo necks
with no fancy patterns
fashion was never her strongest suit
in winter I had a certain look
during my primary years
not that I bothered too much
I liked my mustard jumpers
but sometimes I secretly wished
she would knit me a scarf

© Gayle Smith 2022

Street Songs

In this poem I look at the life of one of my earliest traditional music influences the late great Matt McGinn  I’ve titled it Street Songs, I hope you enjoy the read 

You sang the street songs
that were part of my childhood
singing of jeely pieces, snowballs, and red yo-yo’s
Scotland knows of their stories
because of the tales you told
wrapping words in the boldest red you could find
your vision of Glasgow was
of a dear green place where nobody was left behind
and these songs were Clydeside gifts
not only to lift our spirits but be preserved
for generations yet to be born
let alone coorie doon in their beds

You wrote the street songs of my teens
when I had dreams and principals
I still hold
from the days when I thought I was invincible
before I met men like the foreman O’Rourke
and believed I could change the world
these were songs which told of the struggle for equality
and socialist reformers fighting wars against poverty
not for you the ball and chain
or being part of a capitalist system
in which no-one had a May Day worth celebrating

You wrote the songs which mapped both my city and my life
Jeanie , the one you wrote for your wife
still moves me to tears whether I hear it
in the darkness of night or the clear blue sky of the morning
yours was a life cut short
too short for a man of your gifts
now as ghosts from Dundee haunt Glasgow single ends
your blood red heart rests near the river
a fitting tribute to the man who wrote the street songs
that sang Glasgow and brought it to life with your words

© Gayle Smith 2022

First World Problems

In this poem I look at the Geography of colonialism and the legacy of problems that it has left the developing world. Problems which are largely ignored by the western nations and especially the British establishment chattering classes whose predecessors caused more damage to these countries than any other nation of earth. It is for this reason I’ve given it the title First World Problems I hope you enjoy the read.

In higher geography I learned of slash and burn
This wanton destruction of land
was economic vandalism
I found hard to understand
Not to mention the environmental damage
It was causing these underdeveloped nations
Yet they always mentioned the environmental damage
It was causing these underdeveloped nations
After all they had to give the illusion
Of caring about the chaos
they’d created through colonisation
Acid rain was a first world problem
Though this was never discussed in quite the same way
By a British press who were far more concerned
With acid house and what the rave scene was doing
Corrupting the nation’s youth
Proof positive if ever it were needed
Greed and corporate gain were far more painful topics
For the wealthy chattering classes than fluffy issues
Like the state of the world’s resources
As long as they and their friends could have more of them
Well, it didn’t really matter if the starving were fed.
In countries they would only visit on Safari
Or read about in natural geographic
After watching David Attenborough on TV
Well they had to create the illusion
Of caring about the world
If only because their children
Their privileged guilt ridden children
Wanted to feed it

© Gayle Smith 2022

Tartan Tights 2021 My Year On The Blog

As I look back on 2021 I think it’s safe to say that it wasn’t the year I or anyone else for that matter had hoped it would be and blogging took a bit of a back seat in my life as I tried as best I could to navigate my way round this dreadful pandemic

As I look at my stats for the last 12 months I see that there has been a drop in numbers which I put down to two factors. The first of these was obviously the pandemic and the second was lack of motivation due to the impact that the aforementioned pandemic was having on my life

When I look the figures from a purely arithmetical point of view I see that the figure for post views went down by 5% from 12,696 to 11,942. That said there were several mitigating factors in play some of which I have already mentioned though the most pressing one was needing to get a new phone and due to technical issues being without the use of either of my blogs for just short of three weeks and this had a massive impact on posts in the late autumn/ early winter of the end of October to early / mid November so all things the drop was nowhere near as much as it could have been. The number of site visitors was down from 7.4 thousand to just over 7.0 thousand, post likes were down from 208 to 92 and comments decreased from 214 to 164.

Now I move to the most popular posts of the year and this year’s top post and the top five posts of 2022. Four of the top of this year’s selection  had a common theme to them and that theme was Celtic Football Club. So my top five posts of  2021 were as follows.

(1) What It Means To Be Celtic 499 Views This poem shows what Celtic means to me and all our supporters and why it’s such an important part of both of our cultural and political identities and I’m in no way surprised that it was the most popular post of the year.

(2) Open To All. 304 Views. In this poem which like the next two on the list was actually written in 2020. I looked at the way Brother Walfred set out the values and the mission we still hold today. This was that Celtic was a club who though founded by the Irish Catholic Community would be open to all who wished to play for us or support us regardless of faith. In the poem I make reference to Celtic greats of different faiths , traditions and nationalities as well as referencing our past and current achievements and make absolutely no apologies necessary for doing so.

(3) The 90 Minute Man 298 Views This poem which relates the story of former Celtic stalwart Pat McCluskey was last year’s most popular post. and for it to finish in the top five for the second successive year with almost 300 views is I think a magnificent achievement to the memory to both the player and the man he was.

(4) A Royston Lad 292 Views This poem in tribute to Stevie Chalmers the man who scored the winner in our European Cup Win in Lisbon was written around the first anniversary of his passing. Though somewhat ironically it did rather better in its second year than it did at the time of writing

Identity Problems 211 Views This poem was written to illustrate the kind of violence can and does actually happen when transphobic gender critics go too far in their demonising of the trans community and transwomen in particular Now I appreciate some people may find my sentiments a bit too controversial but that’s tough because if I ever really started on those of the self important tendency believe me they would know it and they wouldn’t like it one little bit.

As a geography and politics graduate the geography of my readership has always intrigued me and the top five countries had a slightly different look to it than is usually the case. Don’t get me wrong the UK, and USA, still claimed the top two places with Ireland in third but the big surprise came with Germany who finished in fourth place with Canada completing the top five and Australia just missing out though along with Spain, Finland , France and New Zealand they comfortably made the top ten. There were also respectable showings from Sweden , The Netherlands , India, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Belgium, Gibraltar, Jersey and Greece,

When it comes to the posts that received the most comments the results were I have to admit that my results rather unexpected even to me. Don’t get me wrong I’m proud of the poems concerned but they weren’t the ones I would have predicted would have generated the most interest. This only proves the wisdom of the bard when he wrote in To A Mouse ‘Wha’s the gift, the gift tae gie us, tae see oorselves as ithers see us’ as one had ten comments and the other two had eight So much to my surprise the top three posts are as follows.

(1) Would Be Heroes 10 Comments This poem was written in the early part of last year when Celtic were going through far darker times than now. I wrote it in the voice of a former player who had played for the club in the bleak days of the 1990’s. In it the player wonders how the team a far more talented team than the one he played for could ever plummeted to such depths after winning four consecutive trebles and expresses his concerns for a club for which he clearly still has an affection and reassures the supporters that the good times will come again and the glory days will come again to paradise.

(2). Gatekeepers / The Day I Almost Went To Roscommon 8 Views In Gatekeepers I looked at the combination of cultural conservatism and toxic masculinity which can and so often does result in transphobia which leaves the transgender community and transwomen at the risk of both verbal abuse and physical attack. In The Day I Went To Roscommon I took a light hearted look at how my misadventures on an afternoon visit to Sligo almost resulted in me taking a very different route to one I actually needed to. Which would have led me going south to Roscommon instead of getting back to Donegal and safety and good times of the Ballyshannon festival.

Of course tartan tights would be nothing without a brilliant and loyal core readership which is growing year on year However special acknowledgment must be made to those who are amongst the most regular readers and commentators be it on the blog itself or other forms of social media so thanks go to Ailie Wallace,Alex Frew, Alison Thewliss. Amie Cadwallender,  Andy Fleming, Angela Haggerty,Angie Strachan,Annemarie McMahon,Beccy Kiernan,Blogs All Beautyy,Bob Leslie,Carla Woodburn,Carol Allen,Caroyln Paterson,Charlie Gracie,Charlotte Dougall aka By Charlotte Ann,Chloe-Rose,Curvaceous Vegan,Danny Boyle,Death,Deirdre Gaughan,Derek Read,Eileen Kennedy,Evelyn Bell,Fay Roberts,Finola Scott, Hannah Cooper, Janet Crawford,Jasmine Lawrie,Jen Hughes,Jessica Lauren Hatcher,Katharine MacFarlane,Laura at Autumn’s Mummy, Laura Wilkie, Leanne MacKay,Lesley Traynor,Lisa-Marie Ferla aka Last Year’s Girl, Matt Panesh, Molly MacLauchlan,Paddy Callaghan,Peter Clive,Peter Russell,Rachel Cairns,Rebecca Alison,Rebecca Gallagher, Rishi Sunak,Robin Cairns,Romania,Rose at But I’m Beautiful,Samantha Naidoo, Shaun Moore,Sheila Templeton, Stacey McFarlane,Stephanie Heaney,Stephen Watt, and Suzanne Egerton,

As for my personal blogging achievements in 2021, I think it’s safe to say that there weren’t many in the 12 months nor could I expect there to be in a year where a global pandemic dominated all our lives. Of course the greatest achievement of all is the fact that by putting my thoughts out there I connect with all of you and that’s something I hope to keep doing throughout 2021 and beyond. I hope you’ll stay with me on the journey wherever it might lead me in 2022

Till next time

Gayle X

Industrial Strength (For Brian Whittingham)

Like many friends from Scotland’s poetry community I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Brian Whittingham. I had known Brian since I first got involved in the poetry and spoken word scene in 1993, so to say his death came as a bit of shock to me would be something of an understatement. In this poem I hope I have captured a flavour of a kind, intelligent man much of whose poetry reflected both his Clydeside roots and the working environments that shaped him. A former Makar of the Federation Of Writers Scotland he is survived by his wife Cathie, his son Craig and daughter Debbie. It is for them and at the request of my friend and Brian’s fellow Federation Makar Sheila Templeton that I publish this poem on the blog. I’ve given it the title Industrial Strength I hope enjoy the read and those who need to do so, are comforted by the warmth of memories

Industrial Strength (For Brian Whittingham)

With a voice crafted by Clydeside roots
he knew the lads in boiler suits
who worked in the yards
his trump card was the air of authenticity
he brought to both page and stage.
working class, his was the city
where dreams were the escape from schemes
the places he knew would never leave him .
even if, he escaped their constraints.

this was a man who realised
we all have chains to bare
though the richer you are
the less they weigh you down
he learned lessons early in that respect
having a German mother meant he knew two versions of silent night
and preferred the original to the one
I knew
he once told me it fitted better with the tune

I smiled pretending to know what he meant.
though not even remotely understanding
the cultural subtext to his comment.
or why I told him, I drink coffee.
when he said tea should be industrial strength
for the morning break.

it was through poetry we first became acquainted,
almost three decades ago .
friendship was given space to grow
in a bar down by the river.
an intelligent man, he didn’t need to show
how clever he was
there was a warmth in his voice
which was perfect for winter nights
by the Clyde
as he wrapped us in blankets of words.

using metaphor and images
he shared the skills he learned
from the lads in boiler suits.
to teach apprentice bards with roots like his own ,
how to hone their words in the way of the poet .
and promise to pass on
the lessons we learned
to the generations who will follow in our footsteps.

© Gayle Smith 2022

Glasgow Kiss

In this poem which is my first post of the year I look at the impact of geography on both sectarianism and sexuality. I’ve titled it Glasgow Kiss at the suggestion of my good friend Paddy Callaghan. I hope you enjoy the read.

Glasgow Kiss

In Templeton Street
I threw in a coin
and said a silent prayer .

Geography matters in this part of town,
where the Gallowgate and Bridgeton
both border the Merchant City .

This is the Glasgow
where nobody is sitting pretty.
where conformity and diversity
reluctantly agree to co-exist

These are streets where being kissed
may not be quite as romantic.
as some folk would like you to think

As I pass by the fountain
I wish for a better tomorrow
free from the sorrows and tears
of far too many yesterdays

on walking a carefully mapped route
a driver toots their horn
as dignity blares out the window
the irony doesn’t escape me

not in this place
where hardened regulars
drink pints in their pubs
refusing to sip from any cup of kindness

And old habits die hard
as they find new victims to stalk
in the name of tradition

© Gayle Smith 2022

Solstice

On the shortest day of the year I’ve written this poem the winter solstice which funnily enough I’ve given the title Solstice I hope you enjoy the read

Solstice

The darkest day brings hope
light will return to our skies
as we prepare for the mid winter feast
to celebrate the solstice
excited, children talk about Santa
and the presents they requested
in the letters sent just after Halloween
and being off school for two whole weeks
we dont need no education not during the holidays
at their age they know not of the solstice
or why there is so little light
when school finishes
yet in summer it never gets dark
till almost midnight

© Gayle Smith 2021

When The Bugle Calls

In my remembrance day poem I remember not only those who fought for our freedom in war but also those poets, playwrights, and activists,  who continued their fight and honoured them in peacetime by campaigning for a kinder more equal society. This is my tribute to them and the role they played in winning the vision the services  fought for. I’ve titled it When The Bugle Calls I hope you enjoy the read.

When The Bugle Calls

When the bugle calls
I fall silent .
I use the time to think
not just of those who lie on foreign fields
but of those who fought closer to home.
those fighters who never lifted a gun
but one by one fell
like leaves from autumn trees
after a lifetime of fights
to gain better rights for us all
when the bugle calls
I will honour the ones
who used words as weapons of choice
to give voices
to those society others
on discovering their difference.
religion, race, gender
used to promote agendas
and build barriers to a better world
by those who send
armies to war
to protect what they don’t want to change
in my silence I remember those labelled eccentric or strange
the poets whose words won victories 
never mentioned in parliament or  press
but were nonetheless important in changing the way
we see the world
when the bugle calls I will remember the fallen
who used language to be justice warriors
and their skills with words
to fight in the name of equality

© Gayle Smith 2021