Journey To Justice

On the day my good friend Alan Smart leads a John MacLean tour of MacLean’s native Southside of Glasgow I am proud to share this poem on the man and his principles. I’ve given it the the title Journey To Justice I hope you enjoy the read.

Journey To Justice

He died on the day
of our National Patron Saint
as winter winds began to bite
our city our country and our world
the man who called Lenin comrade
and Connolly his friend
chilled those at the heart of Imperial Britain
whe he spoke out against war
they put him in jail for sedition
but prison walls couldn’t break
the fighter who showed
you could have a socialist route to independence
McLean made the establishment nervous
they had dealt with Scottish rebels before
but not of the internationalist variety
a teetotaller McLean believed in sobriety
a temperance man
like many of the socialist pioneers
he fought for freedom and equality
he believed that real democracy could only be won by struggle
and that the workers of the world
were marching on a journey to justice
with compassion and humanity at its heart
on the day he was freed
the Glasgow of my grandparents generation
marched in celebration to the Green
to hear the man who spoke for them
the orator who turned the Clyde
the deepest shade of red
as he declared the empire served
only the needs of the wealthy
and the road to prosperity
was best served by education
an inspiration to many
we honour the memory of a visionary
who campaigned with dignity
for peace and cooperation between nations
the Southside boy
Westminster would like you to forget
it is in his name we reject
the sweatshops in developing nations
and zero hours contracts in our own
it is for his legacy we stand not alone
but with a global family
to support those in greatest need
wherever they are and whoever they be
we know true freedom must be guarenteed by rights
the fight will be soon be won
as long as we remember
to continue the journey to justice

© Gayle Smith 2019

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As We Looked To The Future We Honoured Our Past By Acknowledging Foundations Built On Memories

Having had no Words and Music in March due to essential maintenance work at the club Jen and I were determined to make it an April to remember for all the right reasons. Well April is the birthday of our event and the night we celebrated our 29th birthday proved to a very enjoyable evening. That said this was as the occasion demanded a night which had its share of chaos. Well let’s be honest no good Words and Music ever is the same without a wee bit of madness and we’re not going to change a winning recipe for a fleeting appearance of sanity.

Unfortunately we suffered a late call from Featured Writer Gabriel Featherstone who got his dates mixed up and forgot he was featuring for us. However, this isn’t the first time this has happened and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Sometimes these things happen and there is nothing anyone can do about it. That said we still had an enjoyable evening as we made the best of what was unforeseen circumstances and in the finest showbiz tradition we got on with the show in only we knew how and that of course is with style.

As 8 o’clock approached I got the night under way by performing a new poem titled Bricklayer which I wrote in memory of the man I succeeded as host the one and only Hughie Healy. It may have taken all of 13 years to do it but I believe I’ve finally written a poem that does him justice and it was I think a fitting way to open our birthday celebration.

Having got the night under way it was time to call up the first of the billed readers and it was lovely to welcome Jo Hughes to our stage for the first time since August. On this occasion Jo shared a couple of poems on relationships the later of which was particularly heartwarming and one which I’ll take some inspiration not to give up love.

Jo was followed by Steve Allan whose self deprecating brand of comedy always goes down well at our nights and his anecdote about Two Women In Need really hit the spot.

Next up was our featured musician Ronan Doran. The music however would wait to later as Ronan is also a poet and this was his chance to share some of his poetry and Bull In A China Shop and Kinda Waiting were worth waiting for.

As Ronan went back to rejoin the company it was time for David Dobbie who like myself lives in Baillieston to make his Words And Music debut. Now David, who was invited along by one of our most experienced regulars my good friend Steve Allan after they had attended a comedy course together took to the stage and made it his own with an excellent performance as he entertained our gathering with a poem entitled Blossom and then much to my surprise belted out a song I Can Live Again and boy can this guy hold a note. This was a cracking performance from someone who in another incarnation worked in my local library. I was almost like watching the guy you knew as Clark Kent turn in to superman right before your eyes.

Next up was another Baillieston resident Mhairi Hynds who like David was making her Words And Music debut. In a promising first appearance Mhari performed three poems, starting with Cakes before moving on to a poem on Jessica Fletcher who is for those who don’t know the main character in Murder She Wrote which just happens to be Mhairi’s favourite TV show. Mhairi finished her set with a poem titled If Only and I couldn’t help but think if only we had more time we could have heard more of her work but I’m sure she’ll be back amongst us to share more poetry in the future.

Having had two debut performers it was time to call up one of our more seasoned regulars as we welcomed Derek Parkes to share his musings as only he knows how. Derek started his set with Dressing before moving on Temp, which he followed with the wonderfully titled and very entertaining Presenting Flamenco For Beginners after which he shared Redhead and Isreal before exiting the stage to make way for Mary Wilson to make her first apappearance of the year

On this occasion Mary read three poems Just Desserts, A Mother’s Love, and So Inconvenient and it was lovely to see her back among the company enjoying and being part of the evening’s entertainment.

On concluding her set Mary gave the floor to yet another debut performer at our event. Though this time it has to be said that our newcomer was someone I’ve known for a fair few years having seen him many times at Robin Cairns last Monday events firstly at Rio and then at its new home at Waterstones. This however was his first time at our event and it was indeed a pleasure to welcome Tom Devlin to Words And Music. Tom started his set with Fun, Fake News, and History. This was followed by Monday, and his excellent take on White Van Man , before concluding a cracking set with Talking To Ourselves. This was a long overdue debut from a writer who will I hope become a regular member of our team.

Next up was our very own Jen Hughes who on this occasion read two poems by Janet Paisley The Gathering and While Brooming and on our 29th birthday I found it very appropiate that my amazingly talented co-host read the work of our founding mother who planted the seeds were were to give birth to our event and hand it over to Pamela Duncan, who along with Hughie Healy, and Jim and Cathy Craig help it to flourish in to what we’ve all become a part of.

After Jen it was Jilly Gifford who took us to the bar break with an impromptu Limerick. This was as much of a surprise to Jilly as it was to us as she didn’t expect to be called but that was my mistake and I claim the ownership of it.

Having no featured writer this month it was the Featured Musician who brought us back from the bar and on this occasion it was Ronan Doran who filled the spot. With his easy going acoustic style Ronan who I first met at the Blue Chair has become a firm favourite with our crowd and it’s really easy to see why. Ronan (Pictured Below) started his set with A Cold Country before moving on to Excommunicate and my personal favourite of a great set Children Of The Night before concluding with I’m Always Here If You Need Someone To Keep An Eye For.

(Picture ) Our Featured Musician Ronan Doran

Now a lot of people may think that having completed his featured set and read some poetry earlier in the night that may have finished Ronan’s contribution to the evening’s entertainment. However, as we were slightly ahead of schedule we decided to take an impromptu bar break during which he played some tunes in which he was accompanied by Tom Devlin on the moothie. That’s mouth organ for anyone resident outside Scotland. Since this was going down really well with company I invited Ronan And Tom to take to the stage as a double act which they duly did as they performed a rousing rendition of Children Of The Night to start the third and final segment of the night.

As Ronan finally exited the stage in the sure and certain knowledge that he’ll go down in history as the hardest working featured act we’ve ever had it was time to get the next act up and that was Elaine Shade.

Elaine performed four poems starting with Memories then moving on to Blues Night and Bubbly Jock before concluding with Nice People Don’t in which she said why nice people should be doing exactly the opposite of what our privileged and I believe patriarchal society expects them to.

Elaine was followed to the stage by one of our longest serving regulars and Andy Fleming took us all back in time to the first night he attended Words And Music by performing the first song he ever shared in the wee back room at our old home at Sammy Dow’s the brilliant Part Of The Food Chain. For his second song Andy belted out Nostrafu The Vampire to complete his contribution to the night.

Andy was followed to the stage by his partner in rhyme, crime, music, and journeys home as it was time for Alex Frew to share his musings with the company. Alex started with Belle Star then performed a cracking piece called Geraldine before with his brilliantly demented rap Chunky Buttocks. I love this piece and it always has the audience in hysterics. Trust me it’s a real crowd pleaser and the audience lapped it up even those who like myself had heard it countless times before.

At the end of Alex’s set it was up to Jen and I to bring the night to a close and we did this by performing our final poems of what was an eventful and enjoyable evening. It was Jen who went up first, with Fuck Today her poem on the day from hell being her poem of choice. It was then left to me send the company home and like Jen I selected a poem which I knew would go down well with the crowd. Like Andy Fleming I also decided to pay my respect to our history by sharing the first poem I ever performed at a Words And Music and that poem was Every Saturday Night which relates the tale of how a woman sees the guy who believes he’s the local Casanova. This poem is one of my personal favourites and is 14 years older than golden girl who is now my co-host and it always seems to be very popular no matter where I perform it.

At the end of this poem we thanked our audience and participants for making the night what it was and yet another chapter was written into our history. With an attendance of 15 this was our highest so far and a good night was had by one and all. To me at least the April edition of our event is always that wee bit on the magical side and this night certainly lived up to that description as we looked to the future we honoured our past by acknowledging foundations built on memories.

Till next time

Gayle X

One Trick Pony

In this poem I examine the credentials of a would be candidate for the job of First Minister of Scotland and having held her principles under the light of scrutiny I can tell you now it won’t end as well as she thinks for the Conservative Party’s Ruth Davidson. I say this as many voters are starting to tire of her obsessive we will stop a second independence referendum as her answer to every question and may be in the mood to let her know that at the polls. I’ve called it One Trick Pony I hope you enjoy the read.

One Trick Pony

She is a Tory with an obsession

her fanatical hatred of independence

shows the poverty of her debating skills

her attitude is as it has always been

rule britainia and god save the queen

are fine British songs

but Scotland has a box

in which it belongs

and needs to be put back in

the constant union jacking of Scotland’s brands

is something most unionists regard as cringeworthy

but not this Tory

this one trick pony

who fights all elections

on the same misplaced mandate

of opposition to Scotland’s national right

to self determination

her frustration is beginning to show

as pent up anger overspills

to make her sound nippy

this is not the public image

she wants to portray

but no amount media coverage

can disguise the fact

her day has past before it even arrived

now she is faced

with a battle for survival

as the iceberg awaits the arrival

of the latest unsinkable ship

© Gayle Smith 2019

Line In The Sand

I wrote this poem on the march for independence I was proud to attend on Saturday. I’ve given it the title Line In The Sand I hope you enjoy the read.

These pictures shows the smilies of the marchers as we made our way through Glasgow City Centre

Line In The Sand

As I marched for my country

every part of the journey

brought back memories

whilst making new ones

as I enjoyed the company of others

who like me were passionate and committed

to our cause

our independence is not about building walls

it’s about knocking them down

we seek not to exclude

but include all of Scotland

even those who as yet don’t agree

with our decision to return

our nation to the normality of political sovereignty

Independence is the future

the union was only meant to be

a short term solution

due to religious wars of the time

it was never a line in the sand

we need to understand devolution was a stepping stone

to our destiny

not as some would claim

the settled will of a nation

as I passed the square and the university

which helped to shape my vision

as to what Scotland could be

I realised I wasn’t doing this for me

but for generations still to come

empty drums can bang on about the past

as out of tune flutes lament

the passing of their union

and the privileges it brought

the Scotland I am fighting for

will afford them no such benefits

there will be no room for prejudice

it is time to move on to a different place

take our seat at the table

as part the global family of nations

where we can shape the world we live in

by debating the way forward

in a way we would never be allowed to do

as part of this unequal UK

in which our voice is continually ignored

and our opinions cast aside

by their panic reaction our opponents know

they have run out of hiding places

as the smiles on our faces show

the tide is turning and their lines in the sand

will soon be gone forever

never to return to our shores

© Gayle Smith 2019

Farewell Mr Celtic (A Tribute To Billy McNeill )

This picture was taken outside Celtic Park this afternoon 03-05-2019 on the day we said our final goodbye to our former captain and manager Billy McNeill

This afternoon I along with thousands of other Celtic fans gathered to say our farewell to our greatest ever captain as Billy McNeill went on his final journey before being laid to his eternal rest.

This was a very sad day for the green and white half of Glasgow and the funeral route was lined with our supporters keen to say a personal goodbye to the man who led us to our greatest ever success on a sunny night in Lisbon when we defeated Inter Millan 2-1 to become the first non Latin team to win The European Cup

You know much is made by the British press and media when they feel it’s in their interests to do it , to remind us that McNeill was the first man to lead a British club to this level of success. Personally, I prefer the version of events my dad related to me when he said that though technically that may be true it is more accurate to say that he was and remains the only man who has ever captained a Scottish club to such dizzy heights. With the passing of a man whose played such an important part in creating our legacy it was only fitting so many fans, many of whom were too young to have seen him play except on DVD turned up to pay their respects.

For me it was an important journey, and I decided that rather than line the route along the city centre or the Gallowgate I would head straight to Celtic Park it was after all where he made his name. In the stadium where legends were born Billy McNeill captained a team who would find immortality that night in Portugal and go on to lead us to nine league championships in a row in what was the most ssuccessful period in our history to date.

This was a period in which the man my dad called Ceasar was not only our centre half, captain, and the defensive rock on which our team was built, he also led by example by scoring some important goals for us in games in which more often than not test our character and will to win. My dad often told me of his winner against Dunfermline in the 1965 Scottish Cup Final which ended a trophy drought which had lasted seven seasons and was the catalyst for the golden years which followed. Important though that goal was it was perhaps his last minute winner in the European Cup Quater Final against the Yugoslavian champions Viovidina Novi Sad which would prove to be the most crucial he would ever score in the Green and White hoops of our beloved Celtic. That, though we still had a semi final against Czechoslovakian champions Dukla Prague to navigate, was in many ways the goal that sent us to Lisbon and I think we might just know what happened there.

As for me, my first recollection of Billy’s goalscoring prowess came in the 1969 Scottish Cup Final when he scored the opener in a 4-0 route of Rangers to complete our second treble in three years. This was our captain at the peak of his powers a rock in defence and a threat to others in attack a player for all seasons whose leadership shone for all to see and in my opinion a player who like his contemporaries deserved far more Scotland caps than the 29 that was his fate to receive .

After playing his entire career at our club from signing in 1957 to his retirement in 1975, McNeill went in to management and after spells at Clyde, and Aberdeen it was only fitting that he eventually succeeded his manager to take the reins at our club delivering three League titles, a League cup, and a Scottish Cup in the first of his two spells in the manager’s chair and a certenary year double in the second. In many ways both as player and manager Billy McNeill epitomised what Celtic was all about he believed in playing the game the way it should be played with the flair and the fairness that speak to our tradition and the never say die spirit of never giving up and playing right to the final whistle.

This was an emotional day for me and the sense of occasion only really got to me when I reached the stadium and put my scarf on. This was the scarf I bought at the beginning of 1997/98 season. For those who are too young to remember, it was the season we won the league for the first time in ten years. That was Henrik Larsson’s first season at the club it was a season filled with unforgettable memories. As my dad often said Celtic are more than just a football club it’s a way of life and our identity is rooted in it. We are a club which is open to all with fans of all faiths and none. It’s what makes us who we are and always will be. There is a feeling you get when you put a Celtic scarf on it’s feeling of belonging not just a football club but to a community and that community is the Celtic Family

As if to illustrate this I got a lovely surprise as I took my position amongst the crowd. No sooner had found my place when I was spotted by a couple of fans who were if we are talking demographics from the generation above me. The gentlemen in question recognised me instantly though neither had seen me for many years and one of them remarked it’s good to see you Gayle you’ve not been forgotten. This meant a lot to me and was very much appreciated especially since they knew me in my pre transition years. To me this summed up what being part of the Celtic Family is all about, and shows the sense of loyalty we have as a support and why our club is renowned for fair play both on the field and off it. For those who are wondering how they knew my name the explanation is I think a simple one they more than likely heard the news from a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend who knows me from somewhere and yet again they prove that in Glasgow you can change your gender providing you are true to your colours and your club. I think Billy would have approved of those sentiments.

As the funeral party cars made their way past the supporters we applauded our former captain on the road to his final rest and chatted with fellow fans as having paid our respects we left paradise to make our way to wherever we had to. I must admit the occasion got to me and yes I did have to wipe away a tear or two. As I did so I reflected that on the day we said farewell to Mr Celtic we were comforted by the fact that the more things change the more they stay the same and on what was a difficult day for us all it is reassuring to know that we are as we have always been faithful through and through and will be till the final whistle blows for us and we too go to our last home game.

On my road out of the stadium I noticed someone collecting for Alzheimer’s Scotland and having no spare change to put in the collection tin I was ready to walk on. Then, suddenly having found a ten pound note in my jacket pocket I knew I had a choice as to what I should do with it. Should I go for a drink and get a couple of diet cokes or give the money to a deserving charity in memory of Billy.

In the end , there was no decision to make as I remembered why Brother Walfred founded our club and put the money in the box as my personal thanks for all he has done for our club. I then enjoyed a brief chat with Angela Haggerty on what it means to be a Celtic supporter and why our club is about so much more than football. If anyone doubts what our colours mean to our supporters they really should have been at Celtic Park this afternoon. Those who were know the history, and today we were privileged to be a very small part of it.

Till next time

Gayle X

Like It Was Yesterday

In this poem I look at time and how quickly it passes particularly as we get older. Being at later end of my 50’s I am all too aware of my own mortality and remember events from what some would see as the dim and distant past like it was yesterday. It is one of the most fundamental of all truths that time waits for no-one and with the sad passing of two of my football club’s all time greats in our greatest ever captain Billy McNeill, and Stevie Chalmers who scored the most important goal in our history I am reminded that our time here is short so we have to make the best of it. Don’t get me wrong nostalgia has its place, but I hope this poem whilst looking back on what has been and to a certain extent what hasn’t also shows my determination to make the most of my remaining years. No matter how many or few of them I may left in me. I have titled it Like It Was Yesterday, I hope you enjoy the read.

Like It Was Yesterday

Sometimes I am nostalgic
for the past I would have liked to enjoy
teenage kisses with boys
behind the bikeshed at school
trying to be cool
wearing goth style make up to church
if only to see if our old folks noticed
or even cared
or simply stared at my act
of what they’d call rebellion
having the nerve to take chances
at the dancing and at work
never shirking big decisions
whenever I had to make them
wishing that procrastination wasn’t something that came naturally
using my individuality as a gift
rather than blaming it as a curse
believing in the best rather than fearing the worst
but this is me
the girl who if she was in her teens
wouldn’t be living the Instagram dream
wouldn’t have the perfect beach figure
or be the perfect kisser
I know my limits
my lines in the sand
I understand my reality
I am all too aware of my own mortality
a football girl and a Celtic one
two of my heroes have gone to glory
collected the final trophy
that is the gift of eternal life
in the space of a few days
I know my time is passing quicker than I’d like
and I can’t help but wonder
what might have been
If I’d been given a slightly different hand
to play the game
that said I’ve done not bad
I’m glad for the memories and friends I’ve made
for the skills and talents I posses
and the ability I have to express them
now as I approach the autumn of my years
I still have some summers left
to make the most of my health
and take those chances
in whatever guise they come
before time slows me down
as it one day will to us all
I may be getting older
but trust me I intend to go to the ball
and party within reason
this is not the season for nostalgia
this is the time for creating new art
giving in to the desires of my heart
and living like it was yesterday
while I still have the chance to do it.

© Gayle Smith 2019

Pretty Pictures

This poem looks at prejudice and the impact it can have if it is ever allowed the freedom to become the dominant narrative of a society. I’ve given it the title Pretty Pictures as those who hold such prejudices know the power of language and how to use it to their advantage. I hope you enjoy the read.

Pretty Pictures

Prejudice paints a cosy cottage

then conveniently forgets

to remove the exclusion sign

from the door

the one that says no blacks

no dogs, no Irish, no Scots ,

no Poles and definitely no Asians

disabled or LGBT citizens

prejudice paints pretty pictures

for those with narrow minds

who seek to remove those it sees as undesirable

it uses words which are carefully created

to provide comfort to folk with traditional values

and the implication of violence to all

who do not share this vision

they are openly mocked, scoffed at derided as different

and according the painters difference is bad

should be characterised as sad

out of step with traditional thinking

it can never be the perceived wisdom of the majority

this democracy has garden paths

to lead them up

to this mythical land they’ll never live in

welcome to millennium Britain

a green and pleasant land

where the natives are green with envy

and discriminate against those

they don’t want to understand

as they fool themselves that pretty pictures

can replace the uncomfortable reality

and the problems from which they can never run away

even Dorian Gray knew that everything changes in time

© Gayle Smith 2019