The Little Lessons Teach You A Lot About Yourself If You Listen To The Voices In Your Head

As I prepare for the March edition of Words and Music  it’s time to look back on the events of a very eventful February. To me February is the month when we cast aside our party clothes after the excesses of the festive season and return to a place of normality as we wait to see what the coming year will bring us. It was with this in mind that I allowed myself a quiet smile of satisfaction as we began to gather for the evening ahead. 

 You see it was at this last year when we started our enforced break having been told by our previous home only at the very last minute that  they no longer opened on Monday and Tuesday nights news which threw both myself and the event in to chaos. Eventually however we did find a new home and having settled in to it baptising with the kind of Christmas and New Year shenanigans that only we can have , it was now time to settle in  and enjoy it as the surroundings take on that comfortable feel you can only have when you feel truly secure on your journey to the future.  

Talking of journies, our featured writer had travelled from Edinburgh to be with us and Matt MacDonald being the kind of sensible organised man that he is had even arrived at the venue before I had. Now that’s what I call dedication and as we enjoyed some pre event social time Matt told me how much he was looking forward to the night. 

As the crowd gathered I got the night started dead on 8 o’clock as I tend to do these days. I think the change of home has been good in this respect as whilst at our old familiar venue that was our home for 25 years I was mindful that Pamela would often get me to hold back from starting to wait for some latecomers to arrive, however on moving home I decided to change this and start as soon as the clock strikes 8 and welcome others as they arrive. 

As soon as the clock told me to,  I started the evening with a new poem which hadn’t even been written when we gathered in January to bring in the bells.  The poem Winter Miracle, recalls a childhood memory in which I relate the story of a boy who had never seen before in arriving in Glasgow and how  our teacher didn’t share our excitement at sharing a winter memory with our classmate and friend.  

With my job done, it was time to move on and enjoy the rest of the night and who better to kick off the madness that will forever be Words and Music than Andy Fleming who marked his first appearance of the year by singing Voices In My Head. Now I don’t know if Andy does get voices in his head but if he does they must be very talented ones to produce the kind of work he does. 

Andy was followed to the stage by his friend and mine Alex Ftew who read three pieces Land Fever, No Parrots, and a cowboy story entitled Lannigan which reminded me of the kind of wild west programmes my dad used to watch in the 1970’s. 

As Alex returned to his seat it was the turn of another of Words and Music’s most regular contributors to entertain the company and Pete Faulkner did just that with a witty yet sensitive story about a shy boy who becomes a superhero This was an entertaining and heartwarming story with which despite the gender differences I could easily identify. Well it’s a little known fact that the minute I put my tights on I become the tartan wonder woman 

Anyway that’s enough of my ramblings for Pete’s sake and as Pete Faulkner left the stage it was another Pete or should I say Peter who was next to bring his talents to the table and trust me Peter Russell is a man of considerable talent. 

On this occasion, Peter read three poems The Becks Blue Blues, Mr Murray’s Words which is written as a tribute to Les Murray, before concluding his set with the brilliant America First, a poem which offers hope for a troubled country as he reminded us of the resilience of the American people 

Next up was one of my favourite poets and one of my favourite people, I refer of course to the excellent A R Crow. A R, started their set with a poem on mental health issues titled Ask Me If I’m OK. This is not only a wonderful piece of powerful thought provoking poetry but also serves as a reminder to the audience and society at large that we should be looking out for each other more in these turbulent times . 

A R continued their set with a poem on anxiety, before concluding on a poem entitled Queer Is This I poem I really enjoy despite the fact that as a trans woman  I would never use the word Queer to identify myself. I do however recognise that A R who identifies as a non binary person in other words does not identify with the notion of male or female gender identities is using the word in a positive context to empower themself rather than the negative stereotypes which were associated with it when I was growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s 

As A R rejoined the company it was time for Susan Milligan to claim her five minutes and take us on a trip to her world. On this occasion Susan performed Mia, Love Lust and Lullabies, My Not Sonnet , and A Laddie which was written in Scots, and finished as she usually does with a song . As Valentine’s Day was just a week away at the time of our event I think the song of choice which was the Conny Francis number Where The Boys Are was I think a fitting one and I know that it’s a song she likes singing. 

After Susan it was Alan McGlas who led us to the bar break as he performed three pieces which started his classic Honey Nonny Nay before moving on to Hors D’oeuvres and bringing the first part of the evening to a close with his take on A Happy Marriage. 

During the break I caught up with Robin Cairns who was making a welcome visit to Words and Music and he told me of a new project he’s working on which is by far his most ambitious to date and his most serious piece of theatre since Sawney Bean and believe me it sounds intriguing and like all of Robin’s projects I’m sure it will be top quality entertainment.  

Talking of quality we started the second half of the night in   traditional way with our featured writer and in Matt MacDonald we had the kind of poet whose thoughtful well crafted work is always a joy to hear  

Matt started his set with poems on his home city of Edinburgh kicking off with a poem on friendship entitled 29th September 2011. He followed it up with Bloodlines , before moving on to Arthur’s Seat and then the last  poem of this part of his set The Island Of Broken Sky. At the end of this poem Matt took us on a journey not to broken skies but to the Western Isles of his ancestors and in particular the isle of Harris which his cousins still call home.  In his first poem in this section of his set Whisky Pebbles relates a tale of childhood adventures that warmed the hearts of the audience as we travelled back in time to share the experience with him. This was followed by Little Lessons a poem Matt wrote for his grandfather.Matt then moved on to another Harris based poem and Packing Up in which he shares a memory of a trip he made with his mum. For  his final poem Matt (pictured below) read Signposts In Gaelic To My Edinburgh Eyes and in doing so completed a  truly magnificent set which was both educational and easy on the ear. This is a poet  worth hearing and enjoying a poet grounded both in the craft and his heritage who writes lovingly of his family and trust me his family have a lot to be proud of. 


Having  Matt travelling all the way from Edinburgh and being up to my neck in Celtic Connections for practically all of the festival meant there was no featured musician but this meant I decided to double Matt’s fee and I don’t think there was anyone who would object to my decision.  

After Matt’s sublime performance, it was Claire McCann who had the challenging task of following him and to be fair to Claire she  gave it her best shot performing  two poems The Room, and The Square. Personally I thought The Room, was the stronger of the two as it focused on the impact of social class on  friendships and relationships and I have to  say I quite enjoyed it 

Claire was followed by January’s featured writer Suzanne Egerton whose storytelling skills have won her many friends over the years she’s been attending Words and Music. On this occasion Suzanne read a story entitled Patience and as usual her characters were brought to life using the  warmth and gentle  wit for which she’s become know.

At the end of Suzanne’s set it was time for which the penultimate performer of the evening and it was great to welcome Robin Cairns back to the Words and Music stage. On introducing his set Robin said that he had been inspired by Eveline Pye’s set of poems which documented her time in Africa and as a result of this inspiration he has written his own set of poems on a topic he knows well and that topic is commerce and industry. In a highly enjoyable set Robin read commerce and industry before finishing with That’s Why The Lady Is A ….. in which he showed that if satire’s worth doing it’s worth doing well. 

With everyone who wanted to perform having done so , it was my job to conclude the night and bring it to a close. I did so by  performing two poems Global Warning which was based on my mother’s unique and slightly eccentric  reaction to the idea of climate change and Yesterday When I Was Young which takes a reflective look at my life to date

With the evening now satisfactorily concluded we made our way in to the night and started on our homeward journies. As we did so I mused on the fact that the little lessons teach a lot about yourself  if you listen to the voices in your head.  

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X 

  

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