Archives

In Memory Of Catherine Walker 

On the evening of Sunday the 23rd of July  just after 9 PM I was scrolling down my Facebook feed when I saw a message from my friend Marc Sherland. This post left me both shocked and saddened as it told me of the death of our friend and fellow poet Catherine Walker who had been found dead in her flat earlier that day by Marc and another friend from the writers community of which Catherine was an important part , Stephen Smith. Marc and Stephen had made the discovery at around 1 PM on Sunday afternoon at a time when most of us would be enjoying social time with friends and family. Catherine Walker was only 55 years old. 

This picture shows Catherine relaxing at a friend’s barbecue 


Naturally Catherine’s unexpected death has come as a shock to all her many friends in the poetry community and beyond and many poets have  paid warm and affectionate tributes to her expressing their sadness at a the loss of an excellent poet and an even better woman. Her loss pains us all and to those of a similar vintage is a sharp remainder that our light can be  extinguished at any time and makes us all to aware of our mortality. 

It was her compassion for all inhabitants of our planet which made Catherine a keen environmentalist and eventually a vegetarian, but anyone who thinks that these beliefs would make this softly spoken poet one of the tweed and twee brigade whose poems could be dismissed, as airy fairy could not be further from the truth. It is my opinion that her Christmas poem Santa’s on minimum wage is one the most biting satirical critiques I have ever heard on the impact of austerity. 

Amongst the facts  I would never have known about Catherine was that she was a skilled amateur mathematician and was once married to a driving instructor and despite passing her test never drove and was as Marc readily confirms one of the most nervous passengers he has ever driven. 

It saddens me as it will many  others  that a woman of Catherine Walker’s talent has no volume of her  work to leave as her legacy. This was at least in part due to the fact that Catherine, a shy and on occasion nervous woman lacked belief to see, what others who knew her work  would describe as her considerable abilities. 

This was due to be rectified as Marc  Sherland had been  due to publish a book of her poetry sometime this year . However  in January Catherine requested that he put it on hold as she had lost faith in her poetic voice. A modest woman with more talent than she ever knew  her loss will be deeply felt by all whose lives she touched but perhaps most keenly by Marc Shetland who she viewed as her non biological brother and whose family she adopted as her own 

For those who wish to celebrate Catherine’s life there will be a gathering at The Blue Chair Cafe 85 High Street on Wednesday the 2nd August from 7 to 10 PM 

My Thanks go to Marc R Sherland for his assistance with this task 

Till next time 

Gayle X 

This post was first published on Mumble Words on 31/07/2017 

My Thoughts On The Manchester Terror Attack

​ Last night the people of Manchester were the victims of a cruel and barabic attack as another misguided individual used religion to justify evil. 

I first heard of the attack as I scrolled down my Twitter feed to catch up the events of the night. On doing so I imeadiately switched my television on to the BBC news channel to catch up on the latest developments on this breaking story. As I did so , I was stunned and heartbroken to hear there had been both injuries and unfortunately fatalities. 

Now those who know me well will know I family in Manchester and though my cousins who are a fair bit older than me would be nowhere near the Ariela Grande  concert where the bomb blast took place, there is a possibility that their grandchildren could have been in the crowd. However, strange as it may seem it wasn’t my biological family who were foremost in my thoughts last night It was my blogging family and one member of that family in particular. 

Yes you did hear me correctly I do have a blogging family and that family are a very diverse crowd who come from far and wide. My blogging family is like my poetry, traditional music families,  a family which is both local and global and in that tight knit clan, I know and count as friends, many younger bloggers from the North of England who are shall we say of the age appropriate demographic to be attending the event themselves or taking a younger sibling along to see their favourite pop star. 

Now due to the interactive nature of Twitter blog chats it is possible to form friendships across the miles and I have developed a number of such friendships with a demographic young enough to have been my children had I been able or lucky enough to have any. It was due to one of these friendships that I gave a Twitter shout to one younger blogger who I know to be from the Manchester area and asked her to contact me to let me know she was safe. Naturally I was delighted and relived to receive her tweet telling me she was safe though she told me had been in the area and it was very scary. 

On hearing her news we had a short conversation and she said there was a sadness about the city today. This is I think underestandle in such horrific circumstances but from both mainstream news and my social media feed there seems to be  a determination not to let the terrorists win nor to scapegoat the local Muslim community.

That is as it should be, and I hope during these difficult days people  remember to cherish the diversity for which their city is known and stand proud of the multi cultural melting pot that is modern Manchester. It is by doing this that they can and will defeat the forces of prejudice and hate no matter where they come from or what disguise they wear.  

Till next time

Gayle X

The Clothes Of An Honest Man 

Hey Readers On what would have been his 90th Birthday I post a poem I’ve spent the whole day working on in loving memory of my father John James Smith. I would have liked to post it earlier but I had to get it just right before sharing it. My dad was an engineering inspector and would have expected no less. I am however pleased to say that I have finally completed it to my satisfaction and it will be posted on time. I have given it the title The Clothes Of An Honest Man. I hope you enjoy the read.

The Clothes Of An Honest Man

 
Born at the time of depression 

he was the fifth of nine children 

eight of whom survived to adult years

In reflective moments my dad wept tears for Alexander 

the wee brother who died 

in infancy 

a quiet man who kept his dignity 

he never showed emotions

in front of others 

I was the exception to his rule 

he encouraged me to do well at school 

and knew my rebellious streak 

was his gift to his youngest child 

he couldn’t deny the reality 

even if he wanted to try 

too many others knew the truth 

with proof from his younger days 

used as evidence to convict him 

the man who lost his religion

but never his team

 green  and white till the day he died

though the faith of his fathers lapsed 

when a priest threw a book at him 

for forgetting his catacisim 

in class 

never again did my dad go to mass 

and when he was told  

he couldn’t marry outside the church 

he told the priest what he thought 

a proud pragmatic Scot 

he often went fishing 

though he seldom caught a fish 

as for his politics he had a very clear vision 

of a better nation 

 which he claimed much to my mother’s annoyance 

could only come with independence

like most unionists I knew growing up 

 she avoided poltical debate 

having what my dad called  Mrs Bouquet syndrome 

and I  knew what he meant 

she was content to leave the world to it’s fate 

claiming it was just the way it was 

I got more sense out of Santa Claus 

than I got from my mum 

too many friends of her family 

 banged on the empty drums 

of a lost cause 

and could never forgive her 

for marrying a catholic 

even if he did raise his children 

in the faith these people walked for 

but seldom if ever practiced 

and to those who thought 

that the wee man should know his place 

I answer that he did 

and it was way beyond 

anywhere they could ever reach 

this was a man who never gave up on me 

when I was ill and doctors claimed  

I wouldn’t see my first birthday

he told them  I would come through  

because I was a fighter 

on my graduation day 

he knew the truth of his prediction 

my honours gained by the hard work and commitment

which were the hallmark of a skilled engineer 

who rose to the rank of inspector 

in the job he held for 30 years

till Thatcher closed the gates 

in the name of electoral geography 

and votes in marginal seats in the midlands

in this united kingdom

which he said was united only in name 

whilst the so-called workers party 

did union jack to help others 

I have long since discovered the truth of the words 

he spoke in anger on that fair Friday night 

when he said Labour had always  played the Westminster game 

and must be viewed with suspicion 

in everything they do 

they would he said

 always put the red and white 

before the blue  

 they were the  secret enemy

 whose mask would eventually slip 

his daughter I now attend the kirk 

though this socialist republican Scot 

is an internationalist to the core 

my father never wore a sash 

preferring the clothes of an honest man 

Maggie and Arthur can be proud of their son 

the  boy from the scheme 

who was equally at home in the countryside

may have been a rebel 

but during his time among us 

he taught me the values I keep to this day 

fair play,  honesty, and being the best you can be 

whilst doing your best to help  others 

were the marks of the man 

the quiet rebel  

I am proud to call dad 

@ Gayle Smith 2017 

Prescription For Happiness (A Poem In Memory Of George Michael ) 

Hey Readers 

It was with sadness that on Christmas Day I learned of the passing of George Michael who died peacefully at his home aged 53. In a year which has seen the music world robbed of the talents of David Bowie, Lemmy from Motorhead, Prince , Status Quo guitarist Rick Parfitt  and the genius that was  Leonard Cohen, George Michael’s death was for me at least the hardest of all to take in. 

You see talented as the others undoubtedly were I never fancied any of them. I did however have the hots for George Michael since his band Wham first appeared on Top Of The Tops in 1982 and I and millions of others loved the fact that he had that winning combination of good looks and genuine talent. 

George Michael, was an artist in the true sense of the word. Not only was he a brilliant live performer he was also a gifted songwriter and one of the few musicians from the world of popular music to win the coveted Ivor Novello award. His death has left me saddened, shocked, and acutely aware of my own mortality since he was two years younger than me. After taking time to collect my thoughts I have written my personal tribute to the man and his legacy and given it the title Prescription For Happiness I hope you enjoy the read.

Prescription For Happiness. 

I loved his songs I sang along 

as I danced to  young guns, bad boys, and club tropicana 

the feel good music a prescription for happiness 

in the days when Thatcher’s reign 

left a nation polarised and fragmented 

split between those who had and others who hadn’t 

on the covers of magazines

he  gladdened the hearts of the young 

of which I was one 

and in the days when my gender identity 

had to be kept secret 

he gave me dreams 

as a young trans woman 

from the scheme on the edge of nowhere 

he took me to the edge of heaven 

of course I fancied him 

like millions of others 

including Princess Diana 

at a time when ambition was privatised 

I can’t deny the gorgeous one gave me hope 

wake me up an anthem for a generation of girls 

who wanted him as part of our world 

and yes I did have lustful thoughts 

how could I not 

when I checked out that body on top of the pops

it sent my heart soaring 

there was no ignoring the reality 

he awakened feelings 

I never knew existed 

younger friends kissed his picture 

but for me it was slightly different

he had filled the void which lay empty 

since the Osmond’s and the Rollers 

were the secret poster boys 

in my Jackie reading years 

when he came out tabloids labelled him queer 

preferring to focus on his sexuality

rather than the music he made

the venues he sold out 

and the principles he made sure he  kept 

it was Erasure who sang a little respect 

but he deserved much more than that 

now as he begins his eternal sleep 

I sit in my flat and reflecting on an award winning musician

and a life cut shorter than mine 

though he had so much more to give than I 

the stars know the truth genius never dies

his music provided a backdrop for the lives of those 

who listened without prejudice 

 had the faith to let his words speak to our hearts 

whilst remembering careless whispers

would be used to wrap our chips 

@ Gayle Smith 2016 

A Little Town Laments (The Story Of Christmas In Bethlehem) 

In my  23rd  Blogmas post  I honour a promise to the Scottish Palestinian Society which I made on a trip to Edinburgh last month when supporters held an information session in the chill of a November afternoon as on en  route to the Scottish Poetry Library for an all day  Women’s poetry symposium.  

As I chatted to one of the volunteers who was staffing the stall he gave me a Christmas card and asked me to put it up alongside the others I would get.  Needless to say I promised I would and not only that I promised I would I write a poem on the information it gave me and this is that poem I’ve given it the title A Little Town Laments I hope you find it an enjoyable and thought provoking read. 

A Little Town Laments 

It was in Bethlehem a child was born in stable 

laid in a manger to rest on hay

fast forward to the present 

ask what would Jesus say 

about the fact there are 22 illegal settlements 

where people stay in fear of their lives 

there, are barriers to movement 

no room for inclusion or improvement 

for those branded terrorists

ordinary Palestinian citizens

 are hemmed in by fortresses and walls 

bombs could drop on them 

at any time of day or night 

Isreali air strikes a permanent reninder

of the occupation of their lands 

Christian and Muslim both understand

 they cannot worship openly 

practising their faith is almost impossible 

restricted as they are 

by a rule which is in many ways similar to Herod’s 

at the time of Christ’s arrival 

when survival was the name of the game 

It’s sad to think the story’s still the same 

as a little town laments the causalities of hate 

In another bleak mid winter 

@ Gayle Smith 2016 

We Are The People Of The Football Community And We Are United In Grief

Hey Readers

I had not long arrived home from an enjoyable Saturday with friends when I heard the horrible news that a Rangers fan died this afternoon when the supporters bus he was on overturned on the road to the game against Partick Thistle at Ibrox.

To hear this kind of news makes me sad beyond measure and my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this terrible time. I hope they will be comforted to know that the whole football community is devastated by the tragic news and fans of all clubs will be standing with them in their time of grief. 

Speaking as a Celtic supporter whose best friend and flatmate is a Rangers fan I know better than most that there is a time and place for rivalry and a time to put it aside and focus on what really matters. It is fair to say that we have had some interesting times during our 16 year friendship and there have been times when we haven’t spoken for a few days because of the result of a game or a controversial incident or two in the events surrounding a game.  This has usually been my fault, or at least so I’ve been told as the controversial incident has usually though not exclusively been a result of me not returning from either Celtic Park or  the Hoops Bar at the time I said I would.  That aside however we get on well and look out for each other in the way that sisters do. 

Coming from a small community I can only imagine how the family and friends of the deceased man will be feeling right now as they not only grieve over the loss of one friend but fear he may not be the last causality  as three more of their friends are still critically ill in hospital.  Naturally I hope this is not the case and those who are currently fighting for their lives win their most important battle and return safely home to their families.

I conclude this article by saying what many people have said it so many times before which is that no-one should ever go to a game of football and never return. My hope is that this tragedy will unite Scotland’s football community and take us to a place beyond rivalries. It is I think important to remember that our opponents are only our 90 minute  enemies, and  after the final whistle they go back to being people many of whom may live in the same streets as us with the same hopes and dreams for their families as we have for ours.  After all, we are all human beings, and we share one common bond .We are the people of the football community  and tonight regardless of what team we support we grieve for one of our own. 

image

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

A Stain On The Sunshine 

Hey Readers  It had to happen. This poem had been waiting to be written since the Orlando shootings earlier this year. I’ve given it the title Stain On The Sunshine I hope you enjoy what I hope is a challenging and thought provoking read. 

A Stain On The Sunshine. 

A rainbow is sprinkled with decorations 

a symbol of peace, of hope for a better humanity 

as Glasgow stood in dignified silence 

and remembered the slaughter in Orlando 

Why it happened we will never truly know 

was the killer fighting a war with himself 

against his same sex attraction 

or was he something more sinister

I and others  like me can only guess 

at the reasons why 49 innocents 

had to die as a pulse stopped beating 

in the middle of the dance 

as lovers kissed for one final time 

a nightclub became a crime scene 

and blood red wine stained the Florida sun 

meanwhile Glasgow wept at a world where 

the actions of one man caused pain 

beyond the comprehension.

of  those decent souls 

who are not blinded by prejudice and fear 

and now I understand in the clear of evening sky 

why I am what I am means so much to all  who are able to say it 

@ Gayle Smith 2016: