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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 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 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 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 

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 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 

When A Jumped Up Proletarian Meets A Rock Chick From Devil Gate Drive We’ll All Find A Space For Reflections When Dreams Come Hame To Bide 

Before I could focus on our traditional Christmas Cracker (It happened last night and the story will be told later) I firstly had look back on the events of a November which showed in many ways what the real spirit of a Words And Music night is all about. This was a night that had a little bit of everything. It was both entertaining and thought provoking with equal measures of humour and the sensible stuff thrown in to create a winning recipe for an enjoyable evening of entertainment as only we know how.

Being November there were nods, as expected to Halloween, Bonfire Night, and the upcoming Remembrance commemorations in the work of some performers and it was with remembrance very much on my mind that I kicked off the night with a written by the man who introduced me to Words And Music the one and only Jim Craig. 

Jim as some of you will no doubt know was a former serving soldier in the second battalion the parachute regiment and on release this fiercely proud Scot wrote some of the anti war poetry I have ever heard. So it was in memory of one of the true Words And Music legends I started the night with his poem  The Last Post which he wrote in the form of a soldier’s letter to his mother.

Having kicked off the night in my usual fashion I called Angie Strachan to be the first of the billed readers to bring fireworks to  the Words And Music stage and believe me she didn’t disappoint. Angie kicked off her set with Shakespeare’s Sonnet Number 8 in Scots, before moving on to the brilliantly titled To all the pyjamas I’ve loved before. Weans, Dear BBC Weather, which was both topical and hilliarous and concluding a wonderful set with Negativity Bias which privided a very witty insight as to how people with mental health issues can often fear the worst in many different situations. This was a cracking way to end an amazing set which was thoroughly enjoyed by all who heard it.

As Angie went back to her seat it was the turn of Steve Allan to entertain the company and this month he did so by reminding us that train journies can be both stressful and hazardous especially when we have no control over who sits beside us. In his story entitled Reflections Steve recalled a particularly troublesome journey when his peace and quiet was interrupted by two pasengers who insisted boring the life out of him with every little detail of their day and relentlessly slaughtered a colleague who it is safe to say wasn’t within listening distance of their conversation. By the end of his journey Steve had not only been traumatised to within an inch of his sanity he had also reached the conclusion that the college these two fools were demonising was probably a really decent guy. It is my opinion that a story is only as good the writer who brings it to life and Steve Allen brought this story to live so vividly I actually believed I was on the journey with him. 

After two performers who are both well known faces to the gathering it was time to welcome a newcomer to make his debut on the Words and Music stage. I first met Ronan Doran at those fabulous Blue Chair Wednesday nights which were for so long a part of my life throughout 2015 and 20216 and it’s no secret I’ve wanted him to come to this event so naturally I was delighted to see him take up his invitation and make his long awaited debut and follow in the footsteps of fellow Blue Chair family such as Kirsty Nicholson, A R Crow , Molly McLachlan, and Caitlin Buchanan who made one of the outstanding debuts I have ever seen from a featured musican in all my years at Words And Music 

On an evening when he could got away with doing more than he did Ronan performed only one song Roll On Yesterday which he told us was about a trip to the East Antrim coast. I must admit I’ve always enjoyed Ronan’s relaxed style of delivery and after this brief glimpse in to his repitoire I’m sure he’ll have gained a few new fans and we’ll see a lot more often in the months and years to come. 

Next up was Susan Milligan who read two very thought provoking pieces Modern Gods which was amusing and at times cutting take on the topic of celebrity culture and What Will It Take which looked at the state of the world as we know it as she pondered what will it take to bring the changes she wants to see as a legacy for her nieces and nephews. As tradition dictates Susan ended what I consider to be her best set yet with a song which in this case was Blue Moon and provided a fitting climax to a top quality performance in both content and delivery.  

Next up to the stage was one of the best poets and performers in Scotland as the Tin Hut welcomed home one of our own as Robin Cairns made the stage his own as only he can. In an excellent performance the maestro delivered two of his most recent poems, The Coppernosed Stone which he recalled the events of his youth in Clydebank and The House I Grew Up In which is a brilliant poem on how the imagination can play with tricks with memory 

As Robin rejoined the company it was Susan McKinestry who was the unluckiest performer of the night. Well someone has to follow Robin and on this occasion it was her. If she was bothered about it certainly didn’t show in a performance which showed just how much she has settled in to the Words and Music since first gracing our stage earlier in the year. On this occasion Susan read two pieces Tall and Short and The Key which followed in her tradition of biting and hard hitting social commentary on the impact of austerity and attitudinal prejudices on those soceiety considers to be weak and vulnerable. Make no mistake this is a quality writer and commentator who gives a much needed voice to those marginalised by the rich and powerful. It is a voice I look forward to hearing a lot more of in 2018 and beyond. 

As Susan went back to her table Jim Ewing started his set with a Halloween Haiku before moving on to the story of a Gorbals ghost story with which he enthralls audiences every time he shares it I refer of course spookily amazing tale of The Man With The Iron Teeth. This enjoyable tale of ghastly and indeed ghostly goings on in the south side of Glasgow was followed by a reminder of the sacrifices made in the two World Wars in Jim’s Remembrance poem Remember What You Will in he stresses the importance of remembrance in what is in my opinion my favourite poem on the topic due to it’s raw power and sincerely expressed emotions. 

At the end of Jim’s set it was my great pleasure to welcome Pete Faulkner back to the stage for the first time since August and Pete, a veteran of many a Words and Music night, was the perfect man to lead us to the bar break which he did by reading a poem by Diane Du Prima and A monologue on St Joan.

After a much needed bar break it was time for the main business of the evening and that of course was our two featured acts starting as we usually always do with the featured writer. This month saw Katharinerine MacFarlane take her place in the spotlight and I must admit it gave me particular pleasure to introduce not only a fellow fierce woman but my fiercest sister from the whole of that tribe.

Katharine started her set with Spaces which set the tone for the quality to come. This was a poem vivid in its imagery which transported the audience to place where poetry meets the soul. This was followed with Being A Seal as our poet looks at life from the perspective of the seal and  attempts to see the problem we as humans may create for them. 

In Sholbost Katharine (pictured below) takes us to Orkney and shows the landscape of the area and the folk traditions that surrounds it. Staying on Orkney our featured superstar oops I mean writer took us to Mae’s Howe and followed it with Ba. Katherine then moved tom the Western Isles for This Island before enchanting us with a poem in Gaelic and the subsequent translation of it into English. Ever the patriot in the cultural sense of the word Katherine a keen scholar of our history and tradition performed St Andrew’s Bones a poem on our Patron Saint and his final resting place. After this she moved on to Kuris and the brilliant Listen, which captures the awe inspiring power of nature at it’s truly breathtaking best. Katharine wound up a mesmerising set with the Longing Of A Person and her final poem the amazingly beautiful Lang Go Lang.  This concluded a wonderful set of poetry which encompassed all that’s positive about Scotland. In 20 minutes Katharine explored our islands , our history, our langauges, our culture, and traditions in a way which was educational, entertaining, imformative and inspiring. Make no mistake, this was poetry at its very best and I was privileged to hear it.

Picture(1) Our Featured Writer Katharine MacFarlane entertains the gathering in two languages with poems in both English and Gaelic in her set )

From featured writer we moved on to our featured musician and were delighted to welcome back that weel kent Words And Music favourite Bob Leslie to fill the role with 20 minutes of musical madness as only he knows how to make it. 

Bob started his set by maintaining the link with the isles which Katharine had built in to her set with An Island Boy. He then moved on to sing of American culture we seldom if ever hear about in The Lands Of The Sioux And Cree. If that song contained a political message from the other side of the Atlantic his next song When Dreams Comes Hame To Bide had even stronger political content for an audience far closer to home. In A Jumped Up Proletarian Bob showed that being a good trade unionist doesn’t necessarily mean being a member of The Labour Party despite what Jeremy Corbyn may like to claim. From politics the focus switched to comedy for his next song Her Father Called Me Frankenstein  in which Bob recalls an unwanted nickname from his first girlfriend’s father due to the fact he towered over him. Well Bob (pictured below) is shall we say a very tall gentleman. This was supposed to be when the music stopped but I invoked the compare’s privilege and insisted on one last song and I also requested what it was. Of course Bob was happy to obliege and gave a rousing rendition of Big Dead Bob a song which tells the story that reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated. Needless to say we all joined the chorus and gave Bob’s set the ending it deserved. 

Picture (2) Our Featured Musician Bob Leslie belts out tunes old and new 

At the end of two fantastic sets it was time for the proceedings to return to normal or at least as normal as is allowed at Words And Music and our penultimate performer Claire McCann did her best to achieve this when she read her poem Open Book. This was an enjoyable piece which Claire performed well but as she went back to her seat, it was time for me for bring the night to a close with the final set of the evening. 

I started the set by looking back on the disappointment of Scotland’s failure to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia with a poem written about the drama of our last World Cup Qualifier in Slovenia which sums up how it’s been for us for the last 20 years entitled The Hope That Kills You. I followed this up with That’s Nice.  In this poem I explain the stereotypical reaction which poets often get when you tell friends and neighbours your going to a poetry event. From this slightly tongue in cheek poem I got just a wee bit more serious I read The Flying Winger. In this very personal poem  I reflect on the tragic circumstances which befell my late uncle Arthur and how life can be shaped by the choices we make and the chances we take or don’t. I finished both my set and the night with The Rock Chick From Devil Gate Drive  a poem which tells the story of Karaoke nights and the part they played in my coming out.  

Having brought the night to a close I made my way home to the village . As I did so I couldnt help but think that when a jumped up proletarian meets a rock chick from devil gate drive  we’ll all find a space for reflections when  dreams come hame to bide. 

Till next time

Gayle X

Runrig For Millennials

This poem was inspired by a comment from my friend and flatmate Janette whilst we were watching at my insistence the Scottish Traditional Music Awards (aka #NaTrads) On  seeing the band Tidelines and being more impresed than she thought she would by them (It has to be said traditional music is not Janette’s usaul area) she claimed they were the world’s first Gaelic boyband. It has to be said that this set me thinking and I’ve written this poem which I’ve titled Runrig For Millennials. I came up with this title purely because of the enduring popularity of Runrig over the years and I can assure you it has nothing to with the looks in which Tidelines definitely have the edge I hope you enjoy the read. 

Runrig For Millennials 

I  saw them at Na Trads

my flatmate called them a gaelic boyband

they can sing in two languages

stardom beckons within the traditional music world

and if enough girls follow them

they could be Runrig for millennials 

shining a light on the future

with songs for the 21st century

with positive progressive lyrics

and an identity shaped for the modern age

they will help to make our ancient language

relevant for a new generation

multi culturalism isn’t just confined

to gaining knowledge of Polish or Arabic

sometimes it can be found closer to home

in the understanding of our own language, culture, and traditions

so often mocked by those who beg for privilege 

and call our culture feinian talk

the colonials who walk in the loyal marching season

give no reason for their misplaced allegiance

I question why they give their loyalty to another country

but ugly shouting as all they’ve got 

meanwhile a new band shows the way forward

promoting understanding through stories told in songs

they cannot change the wrongs

of a past written before they were born

but instead tell the stories of this time 

their time to shine

like the stars you see

shining on a hebrideen sunset 

© Gayle Smith 2017

Christmas Cheer 

In my latest post I share my newly written poem on what I believe to be the greatest Christmas sin of the modern age namely the kind of contentment which could be easily be seen as smugness. This is something my friend Samantha Will never have as leading from the front she let’s her faith speak for her rather than her speaking for her faith. It is due to her positive example of a faith based life I have have written this poem which I have given the title Christmas Cheer. I hope you enjoy the read.

Christmas Cheer

We pretend to laugh at cracker jokes

though we know there not that funny 

we wear ridiculous party hats 

whilst stuffing our faces with a never ending turkey 

we watch the Strictly Christmas special 

after the queen and the Wizard of Oz

every year it’s same old traditions 

with lots of talk of Santa Claus 

We’re winding down on Christmas evening 

feeling happy and contented 

but somewhere far too close to home 

lies the abandoned, the abused, and neglected 

they received no treats or Christmas jumpers 

no invitations came their way

but insulated from their hardship 

at least we had cheer on Christmas Day .

© Gayle Smith 2017 

A Good Result

This poem is written with love and respect for all who attend St Andrew’s Church in Baillieston and tells the story of our recent and highly successful Christmas Fayre I’ve given it the title A Good Result I hope you enjoy the read.

A Good Result

In a church rooted in the local community 

the Christmas fayre was busy 

my half 11 start meant I had missed 

the chance of picking up a bargain 

far from disheartened I spent my money 

on home baking and small gifts for others 

as I shared some chat with stallholders and a Rangers supporting Santa

who said l was on the naughty list 

for supporting what he called that other mob 

and telling me Santa didn’t come to Celtic fans on Christmas day 

I said that was fine as long as brought our presents in May 

in the shape of flags and cups 

on hearing this he gave up 

as friends smiled and the only other Celtic fan  in the parish

gave me a knowing look 

next morning I was told we took in over four thousand pounds 

on the day with money still being counted 

so I think you could call it a success 

and at a time when finances are streched 

this is a good result 

for a church that doesn’t stand still 

and with boys and girls brigades and an active guild to support

we are rooted in our community

and when it really counts  I am pleased to report

our community is rooted in us. 

© Gayle Smith 20217

As I Get Older Death Stalks My Poetry 

As yet more well known faces from my childhood and teenage years go to their final resting place David Cassidy being perhaps the most surprising of them I am beginning to think that death is stalking my poetry. Whether it be celebrities or those closer to home I have noticed the increase in the number of memorial poems I have written in the last 18 months or so. It doesn’t escape my attention that what was once a once in a blue moon occurrence is now becomming a far more regular one. This is I think one of the inevitable consequences of aging and it is for this reason I have written this poem which I have tiled As I Get Older Death Stalks My Poetry. I hope you enjoy the read. 

As I Get Older Death Stalks My Poetry 
As I get older death stalkes my poetry 

I remember those gone from this realm 

who in some way shaped me with beliefs rooted in values

 friends,  family members , and occasionsl celebrities

 all played a part in building  the identity

of the woman you’ve come to know 

I am like most others the combination of two parts 

the private which only real friends will see 

and the public which is or at least can be put on for show. 

If I view my life through the scrapbook of my memories 

I know I am no longer as young as I would like to be 

music has claimed icons  from my teens 

stolen dreams I thought I’d keep forever 

I dont know if there really is life on mars 

and will be till the twelfth of never 

but I realise the world has lost a star man and a daydreamer 

and Saturday night stars from television screens 

have also been taken from our view

as my dad once claimed fame is only temporary 

a glimpse into the promised land of others normality 

the wealthy have an every day reality 

far removed from those in the schemes

only in heaven will ever know equality

in Scotland the gap between wealth and poverty gets wider 

due to the British class system remaining in place 

the priviliged are never challenged 

and always get more than their share

I despair of a  society which has never been good at rocking boats 

sitting uncomfortably and accepting their lot

this Scot comes from a family of fighters 

but many lights have gone out in the last few years 

I know one day mine will also cease to shine 

meanwhile I attempt to make the best 

of whatever days or years I have remaining 

when I see injustice I will be complaining loudly 

when a cause I believe in needs supporting I will do it proudly 

when my friends need me I will not be wanting 

the ghosts of my past will not need to haunt me 

in the darkest of nights 

now a poet I fight with the deadliest weapon of all

and as I write between sips of coffee 

I realise that as I get older 

like an unwelcome visitor 

death stalkes my poetry 

stealing my memories 

which she adds to my chain of life 

© Gayle Smith 2017