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It’s Not The Gifts Beneath The Tree Which Bring You Christmas Cheer It’s Moments Of Mistletoe Madness When We Learn The Truth About Snow 

As we get ready to welcome in the Words And Music bells in the usual creative but chaotic  fashion these nights demand of us it’s time to look back on a Christmas Cracker which have all three E’s I would expect of these occasions it was eventful, enjoyable, and entertaining. 

As is always the case I kicked off the night bang on 8 o’ clock and I started with a couple of newly written festive or should that be festival themed poems.  I opened the night with a short Christmas poem titled Beneath The Tree in which I hope I captured the spirit of Christmas and the dreams, hopes, and expectations of the season. I followed this with a poem on the event which is without doubt my favourite musical highlight in the run up to Christmas and that and those who know me well will not surprised by this is the Scottish Traditional Music Awards also know as Na Trads. The poem titled Runrig For Milenials was inspired by my flatmate Janette who shall we say is not quite as well versed in the traditional music scene as I am and on seeing the bilingual band Tidelines said that they were the world’s first gaelic boyband. This gave me the idea for the poem and when I jokingly said they could be the new Runrig. I had no choice but to write it and Runrig For Milenials seemed like the only natural choice for the title. 

Having debued two new poems and got the night started in the usual manner it was now time to hand over the night to the billed performers and first up was a long standing friend of both myself and Words And Music and Steve Allan. On this occasion Steve shared two of his classic pieces starting with his excellent and thought provoking poem Anti-Clockwise before moving on to his hilarious story Bear Necessities. 

Steve was followed to the stage by debut girl Eileen Ellis whose excellent modern day take on the Christmas story Bridie And The Evil Warlock was a wonderfully heartwarming way to show her talent to a new and appreciative audience who I’m sure will see a lot more of her in the months and years to come. 

 Jim Ewing was next to take the stage and in a short but  enjoyable set he read Four Weeks In Advent and a told a joke about the Christmas Grinch .

As Jim went back to his seat I was reminded that it is Christmas brings families together and that includes poetry families so it was a lovely surprise to welcome my prodigal fierce big sister Lesley Traynor back in to the fold.  On taking the stage Lesley performed two poems Autumn Is A Good Month On Which To Float On Trees and Scones which she wrote on the Greenock poet W S Graham. 

As the prodigal sister exited stage left it was time to welcome Susan McKinestry to her first ever Christmas Cracker. After a few months of persuasion Susan finally made her debut in March this year and has become a club regular in the last few months with her hard hitting style of social commentaries becoming her trademark style for a performer who says it as she sees it.  Like many of the performers on the night Susan decided not to go down the seasonal route and instead performed two pieces Good News and Hey Listen which were more in keeping with her topical style. 

At the end of a thought provoking set, one Susan was replaced by another and  it was the turn of seasoned regular Susan Milligan to make her contribution to our cracker and she did it in the style she’s made her own with two poems a song. Susan started her set with In Ma Ain Wee Way and in it told the story of how she celebrates Christmas with her cats.  This was followed by Tinsil in which she had a gentle dig at the commercialisation of the festive season before finishing with a song entitled I’d Rather Be A Pauper Than In Debt and you know now that we’ve reached January I’m sure there are many families thinking it would be nice Susan if only we’d the choice. 

After Susan’s entertaining set I welcomed our very own Christmas Robin and the Robin in question was of course the maestro himself Robin Cairns. In this set Robin performed two poems the first of which Easy Tiger has the theme of compassion. This is a value which  fits in to the Christmas story as in it he narrates the story a young lad who had one mistake and why he cut him some slack when others of a more judgemental ilk wouldn’t have done so. Robin followed this with Socks a light hearted poem on what every man gets for Christmas when people can’t think of what else to buy them and I have to admit it got more than a few laughs from the assembled gathering. 

As Robin ended his contribution for the cracker and indeed the year it was time for Scotland’s best loved editor Alan MacGlas to take us to the bar break in his unique style and he did it by performing his enthralling piece Quarter Days in which he tells the story of people paying their debts to society. On that cheerful note it was time to conclude the events of an excellent first half of the night and look forward to fantastic featured acts. As I enjoyed catch up’s with old friends and new it was with anticipation I waited for the start of the second half 

As I brought the break to an end it was time to reveal what message I had found in the first of my Christmas crackers and that message was the name of our featured writer. Honestly I was gobsmacked at this revelation especially since this year the crackers had been put together not by Santa but by his assistant Buddy The Elf and Buddy you did an excellent job when you found me Karen Jones to step in to Christmas and on to the stage as featured writer for the Christmas Cracker of 2017. 

Karen for those of you who don’t know and have just arrived back from a parallel universe is a story teller of supreme quality and I was delighted to have a woman of her talents to lead us in to Christmas and beyond and eagerly anticipated a brilliant set which is exactly what I got from a performer of real star quality. 

Karen (pictured below) started her set with Clairvoyant a story about a boy who is best pals with his cousin and there close bond leads them to think they can read each other’s minds. This is anyone who has had such close bond will know is often a recipe for chaos, calamity and confusion but hey that’s entertainment and this highly entertaining story got Karen’s set off to the perfect start. 

Picture (1) Featured Writer Karen Jones leaves the audience spellbound with her storytelling magic at the Words And Music Christmas Cracker. 

In her next story Karen takes us back to her teenage years and the world before the days of the social media. In those days which were also my teenage years we had to resort to the magic art of letter writing and Karen captures this beautifully in her story The Truth About Snow where she recalls her distant relationship with her Japanese pen pal as she had wanted to write to someone from a more as she thought glamourous nation.  I confess here and now that had I been in Karen’s shoes I would have had exactly the same reaction. Disapointed that her pen pal only wanted to learn the truth about snow Karen longed for what she might have considered a proper pen pal with whom she could share teenage talk on music, boys and sex. Well it was and is perfectly natural to want to talk about these things I remember having these interests myself and if you substitute boys for men I still do. However there is a moral to this story which is to be careful what you wish for , as when  Karen finally got a Swedish pen pal she discovered more about real boys and real sex than she did when our 1970’s school teachers tried to give us that embarrassing facts of life chat that the school insisted they must and looking back at the end of a lovely trip down Karen concluded that she wished had made more of an effort to be kinder to her pen friend and wished she had told her the truth about snow. 

In typical Scottish style our storytelling sensation moved us with effortless ease from friendship to sectarianism when she detailed the challenges of working in her grandparents shop in the largely Celtic supporting Gorbals area of Glasgow  during the orange marching season. The story titled How Smiles Shine In Darkness which has since been published in The Nottingham Review shows the lengths people including me will go to in order to avoid this annual scar on a Glasgow summer. I loved the idea of the narrator’s grandparents bringing down the jukebox to drown out the tunes of hate. 

From sectarianism we journey to feminism and in Flipped, Karen relates the story of a woman who decides to stop domestic duties and fulfil her duty to herself and that was to be happy. This is a story which for very personal reasons I can strongly identify with and I have to admit listening to it was an empowering and liberating experience for me. 

Karen then went on to Grief For Beginners which is about a mine at a funeral and The Girl She Never Was which relates the story of a homeless girl in the railway station and the way society reacts to both her and her problems before finishing a wonderful 20 minutes with the heartwrenching story When Nobody’s Looking. This story narrated from the point of view of a child tells of an old woman who the child believes is dying but nobody listens to her believing that the child is exaggerating and the old woman should be left alone to enjoy her privacy. Unfortunately for the adults the child was proven right and the old woman slipped away when no-one was looking.  To me this story sums up the cultural attutude both in Scotland and the UK in this current climate. We have as the child in this  story moved away from caring for others to being a nation of individuals where everyone looks after number one and shuts the door on the rest of the world.  As this well told tale clearly illustrates we’ve created a country where nobody talks to anybody anymore.  This is bourne out by the fact in a recent survey 1 in 10 older people speak to someone less than once a week. This was a brilliant story on a really challenging topic and the perfect way to end an enjoyable and thought provoking set. 

As our fetured writer departed the stage it was time for our featured musican to entertain us and as I opened the second Christmas cracker this morning I knew that Buddy had been a very wise elf when he selected Bernadette Collier to perform this task. 

Needless to say Bernadette rose to the ocassion as I knew she would and performed six songs which not only showed the range of her repertoire but also won many new fans including some of the snooker players who stopped playing just to give her a listen. 

Bernadette (pictured below) started her set with A Proper Gardiner before moving on to the more up tempo Asking Us To Dance. This was followed by Travelling Soldier,  and My Old Friend The Blues, before concluding a fantastic set with   what 80’s comedian turned author Ben Elton would describe as a little bit of comedy with The Quine Who Did The Strip At Invarary and finishing up a real feel good 20 minutes with The Yorkshire Couple about a more mature couple who were at it like rabbits but not with each other. This was a brilliant way to end our featured slots for the year and I know we’ll get more great featured acts throughout 2018 and beyond. 

Picture (2) Our featured musican Bernadette Collier won a number of new fans with a wonderful set at the Words And Music Christmas Cracker.

Having had both our headline acts show exactly why I booked them and with nobody else left to perform it was left to me bring both the night and the year to a close and send us all in to what I hoped would be a funfilled Christmas poetry season with my final set of the year. I started with two new Christmas poems before finishing up the year with an old familiar favourite which hints at a wee bit of mischief which may have taken place. In my first poem Christmas Cheer which was inspired by the positive faith led actions of my friend Samantha Naidoo  I relate the tale of how the homeless are or at least appear to be locked out of our homes and our hearts on Christmas Day as we comfort ourselves with that seasonal combination of a  turkey dinner  and the Strictly Christmas Special.  

Moving on to my next poem A Good Result I show my faith at a more personal level by taking a light hearted look at the Christmas Fayre  which was held at my local church. This being my penultimate poem of the year I wanted to show a personal side to my work and how proud I am of a church which is rooted in our local community and I hope I did so with a touch of both reverance and humour. 

For my final poem I reverted to one of my Christmas classic and performed Stocking Thrillers. This poem tells the tragic tale of what happened when a girl sought the chance to spice up her love life by the misseltoe in a very unusual location. The result was chaos confusion and calamity at the end of which her boyfriend claims that this year’s present will be of a very different nature. 

And so it was over and another year of Words And Music goes in to the history books and becomes  part of the folklore of the event. As I look back on the last 12 months I see a year in which we have settled in to our new surroubdings and the made the Tin Hut home in the same way Sammy’s was for so many of us. It is with that thought that we head in 2018 in optimistic heart remembering that It’s Not The Gifts Beneath The Tree Which Bring You Christmas Cheer It’s Moments Of Mistletoe Madness When We Learn The Truth About Snow 

Till next time

Gayle X

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A Conservative Christmas Lesson From A Very British Bible

As a Christian who is conscious that this is the season of goodwill I remember that there are people in this country who believe that the goodwill most of us take for granted during the festive season should not be extended to those less fortunate than themselves. These people have a name by which we can identify them they are called The British Conservative And Unionist Party. 

These people most of whom have inherited fortunes the voters of Britain can only dream of, are constantly looking for new and more inventive ways to punish the poor for being…  Poor.  So in the spirit of the season I thought I would share this graphic which to me at least sums up perfectly this clueless government which is intend on doing everything but the day job they were elected to do. You see the Tories don’t believe in improving the life of our citizens they believe only in improving their wealth by any means they can. 

This being Christmas Eve those of us who attend churches  all over Scotland, Britain, and the world will hear the good news of the Christmas story as a babe born in a manger came to earth to save us and bring peace, love, and goodwill to all humankind. The picture above however represents a very conservative lesson from a very British bible. 

Now I don’t know who came up with this graphic but to them be the glory, praise, honour, and credit for telling it like it is. I love the idea of the book of morons to show the cold hearted thieving Tory profiteers up for what they are. To me this says all that needs to be said on the ayslum that Tory Britain has become and illustrates all too clearly why I want out of the United Kingdom rather than out of Europe. You see nowhere in any bible I have ever read any verse that says if there old abuse them or if there sick send them to work but that’s a Conservative Christmas and their scripture comes from a very British bible 

Till next time 

Gayle X

The Fan Who Got Lucky 

Yesterday would have been the birthday of one of Celtic’s true greats and this poem pays tribute to the flame haired genius that was is and ever shall be Tommy Burns. Tommy was in my opinion one of the most accomplished midfielders in the game and he had the best left foot of any player in Scotland. Whilst his talents spoke for him on the park off the park Tommy shunned the fame so loved by others and preferred to spend time with his family and friends. A devout Chtistian Tommy practiced his faith and was a member of Christians in sport an organisation which gives support to Christians in the sporting professions. Most of all however Tommy was born within the sound of Celtic Park where entertained a generation of fans for almost his entire career. If ever a player was born to wear the hoops that player was Tommy Burns I’ve titled it with his own words on describing what it meant to be a Celt those words were The Fan Who Got Lucky. I hope you enjoy the read. 

The Fan Who Got Lucky

Born in the Gallowgate 

A local boy he was in his own words

the fan who got lucky

with his flame red hair 

he was easy to spot on the park 

though his silky skills were what really set him apart 

from his contemporaries 

well that and the best left foot of any midfielder of his generation

 the master craftsmen was the inspiration 

for many a Celtic victory 

the perfect ambassador for our club 

on and off the pitch 

he wore the colours with dignity

and was proud to wear the hoops 

he had first worn as a fan 

 he knew what they represented and always will

the attacking style of his heroes

 was perfectly suited to his skills

his twists and turns showed a poet using a football

like his namesake used a pen 

to create his art

the Celtic number six played his part 

in our golden legacy 

he was taken from us far too early

now he rests with Jinky, and Mr Stein

our evergreen fan who got lucky

and gave us a treasure trove of memories 

Tommy knew what it meant to be Celtic 

his  football philosophy grounded

in faith and fairness 

both of which were part of the man he was 

a fisher of men who led by the example he set 

It is fitting his birth should have been in the season of advent 

and the arrival of the lord 

in whom he placed his trust 

in every way Tommy Burns was one of us 

and we will never forget

the cherished moments gifted to us

by the local boy who really was 

 the fan who got lucky 

© Gayle Smith 2017

Jesus Would Weep If He Could See The New Jerusalem Where People Are Dying For A Meal 

Read the words on this poster and weep for common decency. In a world where the rich boast obscene amounts of wealth there will be people dying as we tuck in to our Christmas Dinner And Jesus Will Weep.

As someone who has a home I know how lucky I am even if making ends meet can be difficult at times. Living in a United Kingdom in which greed is seen as good and  culture of selfishness is worshipped with almost god like reverence, I know that many people will die over the festive season and the real tragedy is that the great and the good of British society will only pretend to care for as long as gets them a headline in the press or an interview on the TV News or some other current affairs programme hosted by a fellow member of the comfortable classes. 

In his poem Jerusalem the poet William Blake who would if he were alive now be interviewed by the chattering classes, asked if Jesus walked ‘On England’s pleasant pastures green’ and put forward the idea that a new Jerusalem should be built in his country. 

Noble Sentiments, but sentiments is all they are as the gap between rich and poor grows wider by the day.  It is my opinion that if Jesus ever did walk on England’s pleasent pastures green or for that matter on Scotland’s and came back to check things out I think he would weep if he saw the New Jerusalem Blake wanted to inspire us to create. Well let’s be honest we are still light years from building it. If you don’t believe me this  one fact may change your mind. 

On Christmas Day 2017 There will be people dying for a dinner.  They’ll be dying because of the meal they didn’t get. 

Till next time 

Gayle X

Speaking My Thoughts On The  Human Rights Act 

I wrote this poem yesterday to celebrate the International Day Of Human Rights. I’ve written in the style of a chat we need to have with those who want to get rid of The Human Rights Act. You know the type, we’ve all met them. You know those who will shout very loudly about the rights they want for themselves but never give a thought for the rights of others. I’ve titled it Speaking My Thoughts On The Human Rights Act I hope you enjoy what I think will be a thought provoking read.

Speaking My Thoughts On The Human Rights Act 

So you want to get rid of the Human Rights Act? 

do you really want it scrapped ?

well here are some facts I think you need to know 

before you act in haste 

this act layed the foundation for the humanity we cherish

god help us if it should perish on the rocks of fear 

now let’s get a few things clear 

this act established the right to freedom from slavery 

to get rid of it would be stupidity not bravery 

it enshrines in law to the right to assemble 

and of freedom of speech 

in so many lands these are rights beyond the ordinary people 

and some powerful people here would remove them in a heartbeat 

we cannot afford to sleepwalk our freedoms away

so you still want to bin the Human Rights Act ?

all for the sake of a union flag or indeed any other

I think it’s time you learned some uncomfortable truths 

about what it can and does do

like establish your right to marry 

to raise a family and have a private life 

to gain access to education 

to freedom of conscience and thought 

whether governments like what your thinking or not doesn’t really matter 

don’t be fooled by the chatter of those with vested interests

we actually do need this legislation

as artists when we get inspiration our work is protected by copyright 

we have to fight for our rights in a way we shouldn’t need to do 

the right to shelter is a right you and I are given in this act 

though some will always fall the safety net 

when benefits and protections are cut in ever narrower patterns 

due to greed, inhumanity and deliberate lack of understanding 

by those who have too much and give too little in return 

we must campaign for freedoms which were hard won  in times before now

like the right to a fair wage and to join a trade union 

which stops profiteers exploiting you 

like your a commodity or a cash cow

do you still want rid of it now? 

well let’s see some other ways your protected 

it respects your right to a nationality 

gives you justice and equality 

supports your rights to live in a democracy 

provides you with the right to own property 

and gives you freedom from torture or inhumane treatment 

and to be innocent of any crimes 

until found guilty by a jury of your peers. 

your entitled freedom of movement

and a safe space to live away threats or fears of violence 

It gives you the right not to be silenced 

to say with pride I value my rights 

to life, liberty, and dignity 

I care about the univrsal declaration 

made by the United Nations

in which this act is grounded

I cherish what the founding signatories had in mind 

when they first wrote just after the second world war 

this is what we were fighting for 

this is why we couldn’t let Hitler’s Nazi’s win 

this was the new beginning we needed 

to protect individuals and nations

so I’m saying knowing what you  know now

would you still get rid of the Human Rights Act ?

would you remove the United Kingdom’s signature 

from the universal declaration ?

 if you say yes to that 

for the sake of an empire which will never return 

there is something I think you need to discover 

if you get your way and we lose these freedoms 

we have taken for granted for so long 

you may sing a song of sorrow

far sooner than you think 

you  yourselves may need to wear triangles 

yellow , pink or  other colours 

it won’t matter to those who take the possessions you prized 

if you fall for their lies then remember 

it was you who cried wolf so many times 

that nobody believed you when he stole all you had 

and feasted on the carcus of your trust 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Mince Pies 

This poem may appear to be written on a favourite festive food, but look beyond the title and you’ll find it’s really about the greed and self satisfaction that Christmas can sometimes bring and the cold hearted indifference in our attitudes to others and especially to those most in need of our help. I’ve given it the title Mince Pies I hope you find it a challenging and thought provoking read. 

Mince Pies

Mince pies 

a festive favourite 

with custard or on their own 

hot or cold 

perfect with coffee 

or even Irn Bru

comfort food until twelfth night 

then they disapeer from view

till mid November

when suddenly we remember 

that Santa will soon be coming to town 

thanks to adverts and christmas songs 

which are played non stop

on TV screens and shopping centres

in an effort to get us 

to part with our money 

as consumerism runs riot

masquerading as the feel good factor 

we are all told we need 

in a land where greed is sold as good 

is it any wonder we need comfort food

we need mince pies 

to survive the harsh realities 

of the bleakest mid winters 

where those with cold hearts 

walk past shop doorways 

where the dispossessed lie sleeping

as Jack Frost haunts their dreams 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

 The Year Of The Christmas Songs

In continuting my recent trend of posting Christmas themed poems I’ve written this one on Christmas music as I take a trip down memory lane and recall my last Christmas at primary school. I’ve titled it The Year Of The Christmas Songs I hope you enjoy the read. 

The Year Of The Christmas Songs 

1973,  my last Christmas at primary school

the first year real Christmas songs 

dominated the charts 

Elton John, Wizard, and Slade 

fought it out for the number one slot 

in the days when we all watched top of the pops 

before listening but not really listening to the Queen’s speech 

it was Slade who eventually reach the coveted number one position

though not hearbreakers like David Cassidy or Donny Osmond 

they had Noddy Holder with his booming voice and funny hat 

at 12 I thought Christmas was made for that kind of fun

and in the year of the Christmas songs 

they created something to last 

far longer than just one Christmas

© Gayle Smith 2017