Ranting Reviewing And Sometimes Reflecting As I Look At A Mixed Bag Of Stories

Hey everyone. As Yesterday was the last Sunday of 2013 I thought I would take a look back on the year which is about to slip in to history as the clock chimes in the new year on Wednesday morning.

There is no doubt that speaking from a personal perspective this has been a year of high’s and lows for me as I’m sure it has for everyone but I have to say that more than any other year I have felt the pain of death in 2013 as more than one friend or hero has made the journey to the pearly gates in the past 12 months.

In the world of poetry we lost a giant of the craft in August when one of my favourite poets Seamus Heaney was laid to rest at the age of 74. A man who influenced many, it was he alongside the late Edwin Morgan and the brilliant Liz Lochhead who got me in to poetry. Thanks Seamus I owe you a debt for that, a debt I can only repay by pledging to work harder at the craft as every poet must in order to fulfil our potential and leave our footprint on the world.

Closer to home that doyen of many a spoken word my good friend Frank Mullen was finally taken from us in early summer aged 89. A man of wit and wisdom Frank is greatly missed by the writing communities of Glasgow and East Renfrewshire amongst whose members he was greatly admired and respected for ability to entertain as well as his devotion to the craft .

The world of politics has also been touched by death this year. On the global stage we lost Margaret Thatcher who whatever you think of her politics certainly left her mark on the world. I have to say that it was she who inspired me to get involved in politics though maybe not in the way she would have liked. You see far from joining her beloved Conservative Party which wanted us all to believe we were part of one nation her contempt for Scotland drove me in to the waiting arms of the Scottish National Party. Why them and not Labour I hear you ask? Well it’s like this I think any party leadership that lets someone like her butcher Scotland in which they had a clear mandate to govern rather than declaring an immediate state of UDI are a bunch of chancers, charlatans, and idiots that I wouldn’t let head the queue for a bus let alone a country. You see if there is one thing I learned from Margaret Thatcher it is the fact that Labour are irreverent and will only ever get elected if they ape Tory rhetoric and policies and please the man from the Daily Mail and that is why I will be voting Yes in next year’s independence referendum and confidently expect that when the time comes Scotland will do the same.

The other big political beast to go to their final rest this year was former South African President Nelson Mandela. Unlike Thatcher Mandela was someone I respected for the right reasons. A principled man Mandela fought for a cause he believed to be right and was eventually rewarded by becoming the first black president of a multi-racial South Africa and was fiercely proud of the rainbow nation he helped to build. However his success came at a price and that price was 27 years in prison for the crime of believing in equality and a fairer land for his people.

Whilst the deaths of Thatcher and Mandela made headlines around the world it was deaths closer to home which had a greater impact on me. As I lost two political friends whom I had known since my party’s stunning by-election which will forever be known as Govan 88. This was the by-election which changed Scotland for good as after Jim Sillars victory in which he overturned a 19,000 Labour majority to win by a majority of 3,554 Labour did more on devolution in 9 hours than they had in the previous 9 years. However though Jim Sillars will get most of the credit for winning the seat and his place in history is assured, anyone with a fully functioning brain cell will realise no candidate no matter how talented they are can win a victory of that magnitude without a formidable back up team and in Alison Hunter and Steve Butler Jim certainly had that. Therefore to have both of them taken from the Independence family in last year before our referendum they had worked all their political lives to achieve is a particularly cruel blow for the yes campaign and a reminder if any were needed of the debt all parties and causes owe to our activists.

However though death featured prominently in the past 12 months there were also moments of hope which restored both my optimism and my faith in humanity. There was good news for my friend Sharlene with the birth of her second child as Harper-Rose joined big sister Darcy to bring much needed happiness in to the world and give Sharlene and Ryan a good few sleepless nights. There was also a second child for my friend and fellow nationalist Alison Thewliss as she and husband Joe were blessed by the birth of a baby daughter Kirsty who joins her son Alexander as part of Thewliss-Wright dynasty.

As for matters cultural I have to report a good year for spoken word as I attended many fantastic evenings in both Glasgow and Edinburgh throughout a busy year making many new friends as I did so whilst remembering to nourish existing ones. It was during a busy Edinburgh fringe that I met poets who have since became friends such as Jim Higo and Sophia Blackwell and cemented friendships made earlier in the year with younger writers such as Agnes Torok and the man who has Sammy’s his home the brilliant Craig Scott.

On the subject of Sammy’s this was the year when Pamela decided to retire and left me to take over the reins. Following in the footsteps of such a brilliant organiser was not easy but fortunately I have a great team round about me to help plan for the future of our club, a team which was boosted by the return to the family fold of Audrey Marshall and John McGlade.

Aside from my poetry commitments this has also been a year where my faith has played an increasingly important part in my life and the friendship, fellowship and teaching I have gained my local parish Baillieston St Andrew’s known locally as the kirk on the corner has been an invaluable source of comfort during difficult and challenging times. Still on faith I am lucky to have found a friend in my local area who is a constant source of strength and I really can’t imagine what my world would be like now without Leanne McKay.

Another friend who has been a great support particularly in the area of blogging has been Caron Lindsay who has been almost like a mentor with her support and encouragement featuring several of my posts in the Scottish Round-up and even giving the chance to sit in the editors chair. This was a significant boost to my confidence as though a seasoned poet, performer and political activist I am conscious that I am still reasonably new to this game where you reveal a lot more about yourself and your values in one or two posts than any poet ever could in a five or ten minute set.

Indeed this point is validated by a comment from my long standing friend Andy Fleming a poet and musician of some excellence has said to me on more than one occasion that he feels he knows even better now as a regular reader of my blog than he did even after 17 years of friendship and I was flattered rather than offended when he said he prefers my blog to my poetry on the grounds that I can put more of myself in to it. This is a real compliment as I know that Andy enjoys my poetry.

Talking of things technical this was the year I set up facebook pages for Words and Music at Sammy’s and Just For The Girls a page where my female friends can give me advice on my transition or ask the questions they want to but can’t get round to in public.

I also set up groups for those of all political persuasion’s who love Scotland but want a break from the constant referendum chat (Our Scotland) those who are part of the culture and entertainment scene or who have in interest in any aspect of it, (Culturally Speaking) and (Bards In The Park) which is for those of us who attend and have attended this monthly event at Tollcross Park and I am delighted to say that though they have been slow burners they are beginning to attract interest.

As for other topics which have made the news this year. There was the tragedy of the horrific helicopter crash at the Clutha Vaults, Andy Murray finally becoming at least according to chattering classes the first British man to win to Wimbledon men’s singles title since Fred Perry though the press still call the area where his fans gather Henman Hill as it was or so they tell us Tim Henman who was responsible for the great British tennis revival. Aye right I’ll bet they were gutted that it took a Scot to win it for them

There was also the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson from the manager’s job at Manchester United and the fawning little sycophants in the English press told him he was the greatest football manager in the history of the game. It is obvious these clowns have never heard of Jock Stein the man who guided Celtic to the European Cup in Lisbon in 1967 at his first attempt. Now don’t get me wrong Ferguson was a very talented manager but I don’t buy this idea that it’s tougher these days just because there four teams from the so called bigger nations allowed in this corporate football event. You see what this really means is that real champions from real countries get excluded from this feast of the greedy. This If anything actually devalues the achievement of the winners in my eyes

It is my belief that this greed is killing the game and that many footballers are paid way too much money and have salaries which vastly outweigh their mediocre to at best moderate talent. The fact that Liverpool have recently signed Luis Sureaz on a four year contract reputed to be worth £230,000 a week shows that the so-called beautiful game is spinning out of control.

As my flatmate Janette says we could work our whole lives and never see that amount of money. So when there are tales of such avarice it is I think heartwarming to hear and I say this as a Celtic fan that Rangers forward Jon Daley gave 150 tickets for his club’s home game against Stranraer to be distributed amongst the city’s homeless and former Rangers captain Ally Dawson who works for a homeless charity was delighted to accept the gift. It appears that at least with some footballers tis not the season to be jolly but the season to be generous and remember to show the real spirit of Christmas.

As for personal highlights well Pride is always a great day and Glasgow 2013 was no exception. It was a brilliant occasion and I had one of those days I’ll remember for a very long time. I have to say however that this year will be remembered more than anything else for one very special Saturday in September when the independence movement gathered on Carlton Hill and 30,000 of our citizens said we will be a nation again. Not only that, we will be the kind of nation according to our First Minister Alex Salmond which puts bairns before bombs an independent Scotland. Now I don’t know about you my dear readers but that is the kind of Scotland I can’t wait to be a part of.

However if the March and Rally for Independence was the best day of the year and one of the best of my life I have no doubt as to the saddest and angriest days of this year. The saddest day was when I attended the funeral of a man eight years younger than I am. A good man who was the long term partner of a woman I love like a sister. As for the angriest don’t even get me started. I hate thieving scum especially when they steal photographic equipment and rob a business it has taken two very talented young women time and money to build. However Katie Walker and Kirsty Hughes are intelligent and resourceful as well as talented and that is why despite the worst and most disgusting attempts of these low life vermin KK Snaps is back and will be brighter bolder and better than ever.

In other matters there was also a new Doctor Who is actually Scottish Oh and before I forget a couple of posh rich kids had a baby and live in a palace. Now William and Kate seem like a nice couple, but despite what the British press and politicians would like you to think the arrival on the arrival of their son this was not the second coming. I mean the baby’s name is George not Jesus so that should give you a bit of a clue to where I stand on this issue. Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed my review of the year where I’ve ranted reviewed and reflected on a what I think I can say has been a mixed bag of stories.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

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