Chocolates And Salad 

Hey Readers

This is bisexual awareness day so with this in mind I went to Spoon Cafe for the Glasgow bisexual awareness event which was focused on challenging biphobia It was an excellent and entertaining evening with a mixture of speeches, sketches, and poetry which was you’ll not be surprised to know performed by yours truly. The event looked at how we cab tackle the preconceived prejudices faced by the bisexual community in modern Scotland.

As a non practising bisexual trans woman I have often shied away from discussing my bisexuality. This is not because I am in any way ashamed of who or what I am but rather that I was until now worried about other people may perceive my sexual orientation had I been more open about it. Make no mistake coming out as bisexual in Scotland and in the UK will I believe be much harder than coming out as a trans woman. You see the bisexual population are often stereotyped as a greedy, sex mad and into threesome’s. This is not who I am and it never will be so I wrote this poem entitled Chocolate And Salads to give you a more accurate picture of what bisexual is really like. I hope you enjoy the read.

Chocolates And Salad

Bisexuals can fancy Kylie and Donny Osmond
bisexuals can wear mini skirts or sensible suits
bisexuals are not all sex mad
or into threesomes
bisexuals can be georgeous, macho, plain, girly, or cute
bisexuals can work in the NHS social work , beauty salons and building sites.
bisexuals are involved in politics
bisexuals want to set the world to rights
bisexuals sit in the front of the telly
watching soaps and drinking coffee or tea
bisexuals can be monogamous
or believe in a free and open relationships
bisexuals like chocolate and salads
bisexuals live nearer to you than you think
so surrender your prejudice and visit a place
where love and acceptance are more
so much more than just blue and pink.

@ Gayle Smith 2016

12 For Dinner (The Thoughts Of A Wordshare Girl)

Hey Readers

On Saturday night in the plush surroundings of the Polish club in the west end of the city a group of friends met for dinner. This in itself is not an unusual occurrence but when it comes to this particular group we hadn’t sat down to dinner together in 14 years.

A lot has happened to us during the intervening years and I guess we just got with our lives and did the everyday things we all do every day. Though we had never managed to get the group together we had always maintained a network of connections and a broader sense of community and some of us would see more of certain members of the group than we would of others. This was not due to any fallouts or other such dramas but was more likely to be due to other factors like geography and availability

We all met when we were part of the Wordshare poetry group back in the late 1990’s I think I started attending the group in 1997 and I stayed with it till it ended in 2002. During this time we not only enjoyed our Wednesday night meetings at the RAF Club but also held larger spoken word gatherings two or three times a year at the Polish Club which was to become a second home to the Word Share family so it was fitting that this was the place for our reunion meal.

The idea for the meal was suggested by Hazel Frew (pictured below) who said it would be a fitting tribute to honour the memory of our late friend and former Word Share favourite Alexander Sandy Hutchinson who sadly passed away towards the end of last year.

Picture (1) Hazel Frew at the Polish Club
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After taking soundings Hazel then got in touch with Basia Palka who got in touch with the Polish club to signify our initial interest and though we had to rearrange the initial date to Basia having family issues to deal with we quickly rearranged the date with last Saturday the 17th September being the most suitable night to bring us all together.

Surprisingly for me I was one first to arrive at the venue doing so just before 7 o’clock. As I waited for others in the quiet of the foyer it wasn’t too long before I was joined by Eveline Pye. After Eveline’s arrival, we headed downstairs to the bar where one by one we were joined by Donna Campbell, Basia and her husband John, Alan Falconer, Larry Butler, Tracy Patrick Jimmy Riff, Hazel and her husband and fellow poet Christie Williamson, and last but not least Steve Allan.

As you can see from the picture below it was a happy and contented crowd who gathered to enjoy the feast and more importantly the company of good friends. As I said to Steve who is sitting opposite me at the table there was no awkwardness it was as if we’d seen each other last week rather 14 years ago.
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Picture (2) The Wordshare Gang

As we tucked in to our starter
which in my case was a massive plate of beef soup see picture below we chatted about the times that brought us together.

Picture (3) My delicious beef soup starter.

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As we caught up with each other’s news the chat flowed like good wine as you can see with next picture as Jimmy and John shared a memory

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Picture (4) Jimmy And John catch up on their latest news.

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Picture (5) A smiling Donna Campbell gets ready to tuck in to her meal

As I said earlier one of the key reasons for this long overdue get together was to celebrate the life of our friend and fellow poet and traditional singer Sandy Hutchinson and Christy Williamson does exactly that as he shares one of Sandy’s poems with us.

Picture (6) Christie Williamson reads a poem of Sandy’s to the gathering with Steve Allan looking on

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Picture (7) shows my main course of Polish Style Pork Chop and Chips and as you can see it was a hearty sized portion. Trust me this was really tasty and I would recommend the food in this venue to anyone

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Picture 8 Shows Alan Falconer in conversation with Eveline Pye seated next to him who is or at least was until Matt MacDonald the only poet to make numbers cool, and Tracy Patrick whose environmental poems are both educational and entertaining.

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Picture (9) Shows Basia relaxing, John reading, and Christie having a well deserved sip of something I think its coffee

Make no mistake, this was a brilliant night and somehow I don’t think it will be 14 years until our next meeting. In fact there have already preliminary discussions about finding a venue in which we can gather to enjoy the kind of night we used to have at Wordshare.

It is in the spirit of that great night at which we made some of the best friend’s we will ever make and had such characters among our number as Crispin Allen and of course Sandy the man in whose memory we had our reunion I would like to invite those who gathered to the Pollok Ex-Servicemen’s Club to the monthly meeting of Words and Music. It is after all hosted by a Wordshare Girl.

At the end of an excellent night I was as tradition dictates one of the last to leave and I would like to think Hazel, Christie , and Jimmy for waiting with me till my taxi arrived to take me back home to Baillieston the village within a city that I now call home and to Glasgow Private Hire for their speedy and efficient service in ensuring my safe return.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

Kitchen Of Hate

Hey Readers

I wrote this poem in a state of shock, horror, and disbelief. You see whilst I was tucking in to a lovely meal with good friends some of our most disadvantaged and vulnerable citizens were being refused one of the most basic of all human needs. These Glaswegians were being discriminated against by a far right organisation on the grounds of race and ethnicity at a whites only food bank.

The idea of such an organisation being allowed to peddle their hate in this way is something I find so ridiculous, offensive, and disgusting that it is beyond the comprehension of any decent citizen. I’ve given it the title Kitchens Of Hate I hope you find it a challenging and thought provoking read.

Kitchen Of Hate

Shocked
stunned
and horrified
I couldn’t believe
what I read
the headline said
the was a whites only
food bank
at the weekend
whilst I tucked in
to a lovely meal
in the company of friends
discrimination was taking place
in our city centre
the far right Brits
better together never talked about
during the referendum
were dishing out parcels of ignorance
preying on the most underprivileged
no doubt hoping to recruit
the less politically aware
to their brand of Britishness
which I know my unionist friends
will condemn
no matter how much I disagree with their views
on Scotland’s future direction
I know those serving
at the kitchens of hate
do not, have not, and will never represent them
in the words of George Michael
I say it’s time to listen without prejudice
in this new Scotland
it’s important not to go back to the past
the empire is dead
we have to realise that
the days of apartheid
died with the victory of Mandela
there will be no golden dawn
with the politics of evil
only false ones
national affronts
we can live without
as we move on to tomorrow
and refuse to taste the poison of bitterness

@ Gayle Smith 2016

Passion Power And Periods Made A Jewel Of A Show For The Girls (A Review Of Adventures In Menstruating By Chella Quint

Hey Readers

There are some shows at every Edinburgh fringe which are so inspiring you simply have to see them twice. Last year it was Permission by Hannah Chutzpah and in previous years, Becoming Wonder Woman by Sophia Blackwell and That’s Not How You Spell Pedantic By Jim Higo were worth a second view. This year however the winner of this accolade was not only highly entertaining it was challenging, funny, and thought provoking tackled a subject which somehow even in these enlightened times remains among the last of the sexual taboos.

The show was Adventures In Menstruating by the gabby and highly likeable American comedian Chella Quint. Chella though originally a New Yorker from Brooklyn is now living in Sheffield so I ask myself does that mean she’s a native of New Yorkshire. Well to be honest I don’t know, what I do know however is that she had one of the funniest, most challenging, most thought provoking shows I saw in the whole of Edinburgh 2016.

This show wasn’t just entertaining it was also enlightening and educational with a significant degree of audience participation in an action packed 50 minutes. During this period (sorry I don’t usually do period puns), Chella who is a sex educator by profession exposed some of the more bizarre myths around the topic and tried to remove the stain of shame from what is a natural if painful part of being female.

As she introduced the show Chella (pictured below) told us that it was bloody funny and that it starts off heavy but it gets light. With her puns done and dusted Chella then reassured us that no real or fake blood was used in the snow but she said a had a plushy which anyone could hold for a few minutes if they felt in any way squeamish.

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Having completed her preliminaries Chella started the entertainment with a game of twister. Yes you did read that right, we started the show in full interactive mode which means that this must be the only show I’ve ever seen which starts with a game which has the potential to end in carnage.

There was however a very good reason for this and that was to test out how much we knew about the topic. The idea was that we would put our right foot on one of three colours which coincidentally the colours of traffic lights depending on what we know about periods. If we know nothing we would put our foot on red, if we something about them but not as much as we should we put our foot on amber and if we knew everything we needed to know we would put our foot on green.

As a trans woman I put my foot on Amber because I did have some knowledge of the topic. This knowledge however didn’t flow gently in to my mind like a nice wee stream, it came like a flood in the night because it didn’t come from books or magazine articles it came from my mother one November night when as a young trans girl of about 13 when I was dressed in my beige top navy skirt and tan tights, (Having to rely to on my mother’s cast offs was never easy for a fashion conscious trans girl in the 70’s ) she gave me what she called the full horror story of what I was lucky not to get. So I think I knew I enough to go amber rather than red.

Having avoided potential catastrophy and gained at least some knowledge from her audience as to where we were at with regards to the topic, Chella waited till we were all safely back in our seats before setting about educating us by tackling some of the most commonly held myths and misconceptions on what is seen by far too many in our so-called polite, civilised society as something to be swept under the carpet at the fastest possible speed.

This list of myths included the ‘fact’ that period cycles are an exact science and therefore the same for every woman and girl. This is not true and as Chella pointed out the cycle can vary between 21-35 days depending on the individual. Chella also said that the biggest fear faced by many girls on getting their first period was that of leaking in class. This I have to say is very understandable and had I born biologically female as I would have wished it would certainly have been my number one fear when mother nature called for her monthly visit. This was an issue Chella dealt with later in the show with her brilliant and sensitively written poem Leaking Girl in which she showed empathy and compassion to every girl who has ever had one of those moments.

One of the more unbelievable but true misconceptions Chella revealed during the show was the fact that some girls thought periods were blue and not red. Yes, I know this surprised me too and to any rational, mind would seem ridiculous. However when you take a closer look at it, you will see that right from the beginning of time which was 1926 in the case of female hygiene products, they have always used varying shades of light blue for advertising purposes.

Why this colour was chosen when everyone’s blood is red I can only guess. My hunch is that I think it had more to with polite society not wanting to deal with what it saw and still sees as women’s issues and that men should not be troubled by the sight of women’s blood.

This to me seems ever so slightly strange but I have no doubt that it was society’s rather middle class of telling women to calm down. Now I don’t know about you but I have never met a woman whose calmed down because she’s been told to calm down.

As Chella showed us some of the adverts and took us on a guided tour of periods through the generations she highlighted the fact that when it comes to language and imagery used talk about periods nothing much has really changed in the years since tampons were invented.

In the first advert in our historical tour which is from 1926 words like fear and embarrassment were used to describe what the ruling classes thought was obviously a very messy business. Now you may think that was fair enough and probably chimed well with the attitudes of early 20th century Britain.

However as the adverts progressed through the decades and generations the language used was still as negative as it had ever been and words like shame, and secret were and still are commonly used or at least implied to describe a woman’s time of the month. This it has be to said, does nothing to enhance positive body images for women and instead leaves us and yes as a trans woman I do say us, with negative stereotypes of what periods can mean rather than the reassurance needed that nature will run its course.

As she mused on this issue Chella performed her poem Leaking Girl and came up with a revolutionary idea that we could reclaim the stain with unique period style jewellery or as she called it leak chic which of course would go national and eventually global but it’s headquarters would be in the Kent town of Staines. Well it seems logical to me.

At this, it was time for some more audience interaction as Chella invited us to reclaim the stain and be proud of our right to be women. After talking us period jewellery she invited us embrace the stain and pass it round the audience. This, she said was our chance to a get a selfie and as you can see from the picture below I took full advantage of the situation.

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This, was a brilliant piece of interaction as it got you however briefly to be involved in a common experience of sharing a moment with the girl or women next to you and just like twister it worked to perfection. I think there may be a lot of Instagram photographs of this.

Chella ended the show with The Crimson Tide a song which emphasised the need for women and girls to be period positive and left us more aware of why made women feel the way we do about such a female issue .
During a fast paced well crafted show Chella made the crowd feel as if we were all going on a shared journey and the interactive nature of the show was enjoyed by all who saw it. You see this wasn’t just entertaining it was educational and groundbreaking in the way it tackled the issue.

As I left the show I chatted to my fellow audience members and I have to say the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Believe me when I say this show was the talk of the ladies room where most of had gone to reapply our make up and for me at least the aftermath of the show led to some pretty life affirming conversations

Like for example the one I had with a young woman of 19 who told me how scared she was when she got her first period and then without pausing for breath told me that it must have been even more scary for me because I was about ages with her mum and sex education wasn’t as good in her day as it was now. As a trans woman this was a double result for me as not had seen me as just another woman but when I found out her mum’s age she had knocked about 14 to 15 years off me.

Nice though this compliment was and no matter how it was to get it , I had to tell the girl the truth about my trans identity. On doing this, the girl who seemed completely unfazed by my revelation said, well since you must be on hormones to have gained such a female shape you must experience some of the symptoms we get so if anyone tries to give you grief about being a woman just tell them to bolt. Trust me this is good advice and I will remember to use as and when required.

Other comments on the show were that any man who attended, will have a new respect for women. No girl should ever be ashamed to leak ever again, and that starting the show could have halved the audience before we had taken our seats. However I conclude my review by quoting Felicity from Edinburgh, the audience member who sat beside me on the Friday night show. As we made our way up the stairs she said that this was one of the most important shows she had seen in very long time and it was both educational and inspiring and should be touring the UK so as many women and girls as possible get the chance to see it. I have to say I agree with her on this It was a brilliant way to spend 50 minutes. It was packed with with passion, power and period pain though it did have some moments of light relief. To me this was intelligent comedy which left no stain on our character and that more than anything made this adventure a jewel of a show for the girls.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

Act Of Resistance 

Hey Readers 
This poem is written in memory of a fantastic night of words and music at McChuills where poets and musicians played a benefit night for Palestine at the monthly Fail Better event entitled Match The Fine For Palestine. I was privileged to be on the billed performers list for this gig alongside such talents as The Wakes, Francis Lopez, Victoria McNulty, Carla Woodburn , Declan Welsh, and many more to numerous to mention. The night was well supported by the creative community and it was good to see friendly faces such as Ella Russell, Liam McCormick, Jim Monaghan, and Shaun Moore amongst the audience and we raised almost £300 to be sent a youth organisation which helps young Palestinians to develop their talents and life skills which will empower them to serve and lead their community in the years to come as they seek to build the Palestine of the future. I have given it the title Act Of Resistance I hope you enjoy the read 

Act Of Resistance

It was a night when poets and musicians

spoke with purpose and pride.

to support the people of Palestine

this was an event where no-one was content

to accept the lies peddled as truths

by the press and media

as they attempt to demonise a community

who don’t fit with their long held views

every night on the mainstream news

you will hear Palestinians castigated as terrorists

by a British establishment whose hands according to them

are completely free of stain.

if you are taken in by this and believe the way they play the game

ask yourselves what the red white and blue

has ever done for Ireland

I think you’ll find it’s not a lot.

after all genocide and attempted starvation

isn’t the way to win the hearts of a nation

it was the same in the Scottish highlands 

as bouts of mindless violence

cleared lands in the name of the crown

as we remembered our histories

we couldn’t let Palestine down

so we told our stories shared our poems and songs

in the name of those who have endured politically delivered wrongs

on a night like this I was proud

we belonged not to Glasgow but the world

as we raised money for the children of Bethlehem

Declan told tales of a recent visit

to a place which was warm and friendly

but also terrifyingly real

he spoke with a zeal fed by his passion for fairness

the couldn’t care less brigade

could stick to the comfort zones they have no intention of leaving

to hear of people grieving

would offend their sensibilities

the fragility of their certainties could not survive a night like this

they can save their air kisses for someone else

a selfish self indulgent type who would deny the basic necessities

to those most in need of our support

Declan had plenty to report

as let he us know of checkpoints and armed guards

patrolling the streets where Jesus once walked

If he were here I  think he would be shocked stunned and mortified

but most of angry that we could ignore

a people displaced and in distress

yes I do believe he would have said what he thought

would it have been popular?

probably not but it would have been an honest opinion

like those of the poets and musicians

who took this stage to make a point

if noses were put out of joint by what we said

that’s too bad I for one am glad

we did as Pastor Neimoller would have wished

In an act of resistance

we supported the people of Palestine

@ Gayle Smith 2016 
The picture at the top of the poem shows Johnny Cypher doing his set for the cause. 

The Night A Nation Cried 

Hey Readers 

It was on this day in 1985  that Scotland lost the man who in my opinion was and remains our greatest ever football manager I refer of course to former Celtic and Scotland boss Jock Stein who died of a heart attack as he guided Scotland on the way to the World  Cup Finals in Mexico the following year.  This to me was my first experience of the death of a sporting hero and Mr Stein’s achievements in the game are the stuff of legends Not only did he guide Celtic to win the European Cup and be the first British and so far only Scottish club ever to do so he also guided them to 9 league titles in a row and 10 in 13 years with numerous Scottish Cups and League Cups to add to his collection. 
On top of this he then led  his country to one World Cup and the brink of another before the tragic events of this night 31 years ago. It is his honour I finally write this poem and give it the only title I can The Night A Nation Cried  and I hope that whether you’re a Celtic fan, a Scotland fan, both , or neither that if you are a real football fan you will enjoy this tribute to the man who in my eyes will always be the epitome of what a real football manager should be. 

The Night A Nation Cried 

It was in the chill of an early autumn evening

the manager picked his team 

for a game our country couldn’t afford to lose 

we needed to avoid defeat against Wales 

to have a chance of going to Mexico 

dreams of glory spurred us on 

but the Welsh scored early that night 

and try as we might we couldn’t break them down 

this was a good side we were playing 

this dragon breathed fire 

and would not be slain easily 

this was going to be tough 

a draw would be enough 

but it didn’t look like coming 

then the boss decided to bring Cooper on 

the winger had has critics 

some said he’s inconsistent 

my Rangers supporting relatives amongst them

but Stein knew this night would need 

that special something and Cooper had it 

when the opportunity came he grabbed it 

scoring the penelty that levelled the game 

as Stein jumped up to celebrate 

fate played a cruel hand 

as he collapsed falling to ground in distress 

we held our collective breath as the manager lay on the ground 

the game was played out but the result now rendered meaningless 

in shock we heard the news 

our national team manager had died 

this was the night a nation cried 

fans of different teams united in grief 

divisions put aside to allow time to mourn

as a Celtic fan I broke when I heard you’ll never walk alone 

the song played before every home game 

somehow I knew that night things could never be the same 

this was a man respected by all sides in the game 

he transcended team colours 

in a way few have managed before or since 

to him it wasn’t just the winning 

it was about how you played 

his teams were built on flair and imagination .

to him this was the only way that made any sense 

his philosophy that attack was the best form of defence 

may have come as a shock to some 

but this was how he viewed the game

you had to win and entertain the crowd 

in a way that made your supporters 

proud of the colours they wore 

he took lambs to Lisbon 

and made them roar with pride 

the side some claimed had no hope home as lions and champions of Europe 

he outfoxed the pride of Italy 

with a display of attacking ability 

never seen before or since 

It was this tacticial genius 

which lead him to manage Celtic to nine league titles in a row 

and eventually get the call for his country 

winning ugly was never his way 

his teams played in a certain style 

to bring smiles to the faces of the fans 

It was the mark of the man 

his signitute if you will 

that skill had to be combined with work ethic 

and you had to represent your team on and off the field 

a principled man he never yielded 

to the lure the false god 

that money can often be

I gave free flow to the tears that came

to hold back would have been pointless 

like trying to stop the rain or stem the tide

It would have wrong and on hearing the song

I knew my eyes would run like rivers 

on the night a nation cried together 

@ Gayle Smith 2016 

Dress Sense

Hey Readers 
This poem was inspired after a brilliant night of reliving my teens when I attended the final night of Jackie The Musical at Glasgow’s Kings Theatre.

Using poetic liecence I have taken the name of the lead character from the show and indeed the magazine I used to read in those golden days of 1970’s and though tongue in cheek this is more autobiographical than I would ever like to admit. I’ve set it in Glasgow and given my mother the lead voice in a poem which I’ve titled Dress Sense. I hope you enjoy the read.

Dress Sense

Jacqueline I’m not telling you again
you are not going out like that
gold satin jackets
should not be worn with silvery boots
In this kind of outfit nobody
would look cute
if the fashion police arrested you
it would be a fair cop
you look like you’re
on the run from a charity shop
and for goodness sake
I hope you haven’t teamed them up with that black micro mini skirt
and diamond patterned tights
this is not a good look ,
when your going dancing on a Saturday night
trust me Jackie you won’t get a lumber
you’ll only get a dizzy
and his old mobile number
the one he ditched three phones ago
when he wanted to her off his case
you know the local crackpot
how can you be sure
you’ve hit the jackpot
it’s puppy love
your in your teens
nothing is as good or as bad
as it seems
and watch him by the way
so whatever you do
don’t say hold me close
because while you’ll love to love
he’ll just love to dance
all he wants to do is get in to your pants
Yes I know you think it’s the real thing
but trust me men
bring their own problems to our lives
they just want us to be meek little girlfriends and eventually wives
they are not like us
they don’t understand
yet Tammy Wynette says
stand by your man
but Tammy lives in Tennessee
Not Maryhill
where some of us know
the only frills we will see are on blouses, dresses, or if we’re lucky lingerie
far be it from me to say that your perfect man may not be so perfect after all
I get more sense talking to the wall
than I do talking to your dad
yes I love him but he drives me mad
so if you don’t want a boyfriend
whose a younger version
of guess who
there are certain things you shouldn’t do
like going out dressed like that
now I know you’re in the mood for dancing
but listen up cinders
if you want prince charming
take it from me
young hearts may very well run free
but you’ll have to compromise
on the things you do for love

@ Gayle Smith 2016