Hey everyone. As I look back on the Christmas celebrations it is also I think time to look back on the December edition of Words and Music. This to me is when the Christmas festivities really start to kick off. The Christmas Sammy’s is always a magical time of year and this year was no different as 15 brave and hardy souls made their way to the family table in the wee back room to share in Christmas Sammy’s style.
As the crowd began to gather it was great to see seasoned Words and Music stars such as Pete Faulkner, Audrey Marshall, and Steve Allan and the first lady of Sammy’s Pamela Duncan amongst those in attendance to enjoy which primarily focused on the words as due to health concerns caused by a very nasty fall I was unable to book a featured musician as I focused on my recovery to ensure that I myself was able to attend.
As it turned out I was in the words of a well known and much loved TV show alright on the night and I was able to take my place on the stage and fulfil my duties as compere of this wonderful event.
One of those duties is or should I say has become to kick off the night with a couple of poems of my own before inviting the company to grace the stage and entertain us. As this was the official start to our Christmas Celebrations I decided to kick off the evening with a short but suitably seasonal set Mary Christmas and Christmas At Carol’s. Mary Christmas looks at Christmas from a slightly different angle, as that somewhere in this world there will be people who have Christmas as the family name and no doubt there will be some doting dad who will decide to call his darling daughter Mary unaware that this could cause his wee Christmas present all sorts of issues as she grows up.
Christmas At Carol’s tells the story of the real missy Christmas and let’s be honest everyone we’ve all got like a friend like her. You know the type, the one celebrates Christmas as soon as Halloween’s over and I mean the 1st of November well this poem is dedicated to that friend and everyone else of their ilk.
Having got the show on the road it was now time to call up the billed readers and let the evening take us in whatever way it must. First up to take the stage was a man of a considerable talent who has already had a mention in this post the one and only Pete Faulkner. Pete gave us a christmas cracker of a set and regaled the company in a way only he can. He kicked off with Queens In A Bed, before moving on to Poison Cup. This is a tale of doomed lovers who end up in a suicide pact and one would suspect that it may have based on the rather tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet. I do however have to admit that in this first post referendum Christmas that I did suggest it could refer to the political love in between Jim Murphy and David Cameron. As this is I believe a far more sorry tale than that of the originals and sooner or later will end in even greater tragedy and the tears of this Labour/Tory alliance will result in Scotland celebrating the greatest gift that Santa has ever given a nation.
Following Pete is never an easy task but AC Clarke proved more than able to achieve it and she did so with consummate ease and though her poem on the ancient Chinese practice of foot binding and Mouthful a poem on the topic of dentistry were not the most seasonal of the evening they were of very high quality. This however is par for the course from Anne and after hearing the poem on dentistry I promise never to give my dental team of Tara, Stephanie, and Pamela any grief ever again.
After Anne it was the turn of Audrey Marshall to take the stage and Audrey performed a Rutherglen Melody and Lost For Words about a poet who doesn’t write. I have to say I really enjoyed both poems but this in particular as it documents a struggle which is faced by many poets. Not that I’ve ever been lost for words, well as I said to one of the girls at church as recently as this Sunday if I ever become famous enough to get a perfume named after me they would have to call it chatty madam because I happen to be one. Let’s just say the girl in question didn’t disagree with my very accurate self assessment.
As Audrey made her way back to her seat our next reader made a very welcome return. I refer of course to the woman who to many us will always be our poetic mammy Pamela Duncan. Though officially retired from her duties Pamela does try to make it along as often she can just to make sure her children are actually behaving themselves. Well with me in charge she should have no worries on that score but of course she does and maybe that comes from knowing that Andy Fleming and Steve Allan are amongst my closest friends in the poetry family. This month Pamela read two poems entitled Suicide and Tantallis. This was a serious set from a seriously talented writer.
Next up to the stage was Susan Milligan and whilst not having Pamela’s level of talent, it must be said that if enthusiasm won prizes Susan would be a gold medal winner. It has to be said that this was a good night for Susan who performed two poems, Museum Cherub, and Mum’s Hearing Things before finishing off her slot with a Paul McCartney song. I have to say that I particularly liked the second of her two poems Mum’s Hearing Things as this was very sensitively written poem on a very difficult issue namely the fear of losing an ageing parent and it left me with a very real lump in my throat.
As we moved on to our next reader it was the turn of Marc Sherland to entertain us and suitably decked out in a rather fetching festive waistcoat he did so in some style by performing three poems. Torcher Not, Hard To Bare and The Name Of Love.
Marc was followed to the stage by Linda Grant and it really is great to see the performer she has become. In what was perhaps her best ever set at Words and Music Linda got us warmed up for the festivities with a brilliant selection box of festive poems as she performed Santa’s Secretary, Santa’s Little Helper, Jingle Hell, and The Christmas Dance. This was a high energy set delivered with the confidence and style of a writer who is really finding her voice.
It was Steve Allan who followed Linda to the stage and on this occasion Steve read two poems by Kenneth Stephen both poems were excellently crafted and showed that Mr Allan is a man of excellent taste. Before reading however Steve turned to us and said that as we performed there would be two polar bears at the north pole who would be chatting about their love of freezing conditions and one would say to the other I wish we’d gone to Sammy Dow’s tonight. As environmental jokes go that is one of which I think Patrick Harvie would have been proud. As Steve finished his set it was time for a much needed and well deserved bar break but as everyone headed for the bar I thought I could hear sleigh bells and I wondered if we be getting visited by a very special guest.
On returning from the bar break I noticed that Santa had indeed arrived in the wee back room and he insisted on getting up to tell all the poets a story on the true meaning of Christmas. It does have to said that on closer inspection Santa did look a lot like Paddy Hannrahan whose wife Mary was sitting quietly amongst the gathering.
When Santa or Paddy finished his story it was time for our featured writer and in Katherine Walker we had a cracker of a choice for our Christmas gathering. Often when I hear people say they can all their talents to the table what really mean is their egos. Katherine Walker however is a different story altogether. You see Katherine really does have talents, so many in fact there was a real Christmas feast waiting for us and when she opened up her poetic selection box we were not disappointed.
Katherine started her set a poem called Facing It and then moved on to one which she said had come second in the Words and Music Open Poetry Competition for the Hughie Healy Memorial Trophy which she says it is an ambition of hers to win. To have Katherine say that about the man who in many ways mentored me was fantastic and the poem Little Fish is I have to say outstanding and it took a really good poem by a really good poet Katherine Beaumont to beat it. With a set which included poems on Genealogy, Being Human, Of The State, and the Evolution of the Poet you may be forgiven for thinking that this was a sombre and sober set from a poet far too sensible for her own good. If you harbour such thoughts would you be very wrong, as Katherine’s set also contained a very entertaining tale on how Three French Hens ended up in Castlemilk. I’m A Poet Mad With Love And My Purest Romance show a poet who can both the romantic and humorous side as to where your affections can take you. I Won’t shows a poet unafraid to speak from the heart on what is and isn’t acceptable. It’s Time made me think of the challenges we all face and then there was perhaps my favourite poem of what was a brilliant featured set The Other Christmas in which Katherine describes the nightmare of Santa on minimum wage due to the climate of austerity. This is satire at it’s brilliant best, not only that, this was poetry at it’s brilliant best and proof if any were needed that Katherine Walker is a poet with a voice we need to hear more of.
After Katherine it was the turn of Harry MacDonald to take the stage. This was the first time we had seen Harry who performed a set of four poems since the independence referendum and his poem entitled On Dependence which to me was the highlight of an excellent and enjoyable set did not miss the mark and may have given some of the more unionist minded amongst us a sharp reminder of exactly what they voted for.
As Harry went back to take his seat amongst the company Jim Ewing became the penultimate reader for both the evening and the year and performed only one poem but what a poem it was. Jim’s tribute to those who died in the Clutha helicopter tinged as it is with his unmistakable belief in God is a fantastic poem which is surely destined to stand the test of time.
As Jim went back to his seat we had reached the end of not only another night of Words and Music but another year and as with Christmas being Christmas and me being me I decided to take just a wee bit longer than usual to read as many seasonal poems as possible from my many and varied selection. I started with a look at the dangers of Mr or Ms Wrong in the poem Mistletoe And Crackpots I then moved on to Christmas Lies ( Just What I’ve Always Wanted) about the presents you can’t wait to take back to the shops. I followed it up with Thorn Amongst The Roses. Though not specifically written about Christmas, it could certainly be applied to that awkward Christmas dinner situation which has been faced by more than young lesbian fends of mine who on coming out have went from golden girl to social leper until the family realised that their girl would always be their girl she just want a beautiful princess instead of a handsome prince.
After this one I remembered that this wasn’t just the First Monday of the month it was also the 1st of the month. This meant that the previous day had been St Andrews Day so I really had no choice but to perform My Scotland which is the nearest I’ve ever went to writing anything remotely sentimental on my country. This one went down well, it always does but I think the fact that in this first post referendum Christmas I put even greater emphasis on the lines ‘ A welcome for everyone no matter where from’ demonstrated that poetry with inclusive sentiments can go a long way to crossing bridges and healing wounds and make no mistake Scotland needs to do both before it can take us to the next part of our journey and wherever that may lead us.
The next part of my set focused on the post Christmas celebration that is Celtic Connections with A Day For Donegal. This was written for a band I first got to know many years ago and who have since went on to win a Danny Kyle Open Stage Award in 2011 and my friend and fellow poet Monica Pitman says it’s one of those poems which gets me all emotional. Trust me Monica is bang on this one.
I finished the night and the year with my final poem of the set and since I wanted to leave everyone laughing I decided to read Stocking Thrillers. This tells a tale of misadventure and gives a handy guide on where a girl shouldn’t place her mistletoe or a night of potential passion could have serious consequences.
With that, I wished everyone a merry Christmas and hoped that god or if they didn’t believe in him the god they worship at the temple of consumerism would be good to them and another year of Words and Music had come to an end. It has I think been a good year for Sammy’s and a year where we have heard and welcomed many new voices to our club as well as those more seasoned regulars. This is what Words and Music is all about and as we enter what will be our 25th year in 2015, we do so in good health, and the Christmas cracker was the perfect way to kick off the festive celebrations It was an entertaining night and though there was some jingle hell there was also lots of festive fun and poets mad with love, it all ended well with a visit from Santa and nobody told him any christmas lies.
As we said our goodbyes and wished each other well for the coming festivities, I thought It was however fitting that the last to leave the wee back room were amongst those to whom I’m closest such as Pete, Steve and Audrey and as we left I’m sure I could see a man smile down at us some of his favourite children from what he called the golden generation and reminded us of why words and music will always be wee bit a like a family. Yes we will all have our moments but we must never forget that our wee back room is like a family table with room for everyone who wants to be join us. That is what Sammy’s means to me and it is why I will always remember the importance of our family.
Love And Best Wishes