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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 

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The Verdict

Hey Readers

In this poem entitled The Verdict i aim my sights firmly in the direction of the UK Parliament and ask why our political leaders talk a lot of hot air and put profit before people whilst doing as a little as they think they can get away with on climate change. It is my opinion that lack of action will not be viewed favourably when these politicians meet their makar it is for this reason I’ve given it the title The Verdict I hope you enjoy the read 

 The Verdict 

It seems to me that British politicians

talk a lot of hot air

when it comes to making changes

trying to avoid them just in case

they might not work

we they claim, are by nature risk averse

preferring safety first

or better the devil you know

personally I think this is madness

you can’t keep doing the same thing

and expecting different results

that is not how the world works

but this is something Britain fails to understand

an isolated island we are told

we are a happy land

and those who want change

are viewed with distrust

or even suspicion

blamed for causing divisions

which in reality have always existed

no matter what Westminster thinks

you can’t paper over cracks

by wrapping everything in union flags

yet they seem to believe

that singing a chorus of Rule Britannia

will make everything better

there will be no surrender to the truth

facts will be dismissed

as lies which get in the way of a good story

the British establishment live in a bubble

unable to comprehend

the importance of taking care of the land

or that the world has evolved over time

and may not want the benefit of our advice

which will always come at a price

when it’s wrapped in corporate pin stripes

by the city of London

as gamblers disguised as traders

get away with whatever they like

it’s the way they play the game

meanwhile the ragged trousered philanthropists

live in poverty in areas where dreams died long ago

I thought they would have known by now

this is the inevitable result

of trusting Tories with democracy

it is they and their wealthy friends

who want to frack the land for profit

extract shale gas from under the ground

without a thought for the long term damage

this could do our environment

not to mention the impact

on our tourist industry

food crops or drinking water

whilst gullible sheep are led to the pen of self interest

and deliberately misformed by the press and media

to ignore these trendy liberal leftie causes

as many gladly will

preferring tabloid horror stories

which are exaggerated for effect

by journalists who know

there is always someone to blame

and that rule applies

whatever the problem may be

the UK leaders need to be made to see

what Scots Sudanese , Senegalese, and Swedes already know

this is not the time for showboating and grandstanding

we need to develop an understanding of our habitat

and stop referring to those who value nature

as tree huggers

those who put profit before people

are no better than muggers

stealing priceless gifts of nature  which do not  belong to them

if you think that sounds like

I’m singing a song of sustainability

then that would be correct

I value my world I treat it with respect

this plundering of the planet

cannot be allowed to continue unchecked

we need to learn where things are at

and see that next summit we attend

debating the problems facing the earth

we have to open our eyes and see the solution

if this takes a revolution in our thinking then so be it

we can’t just wish these issues away

global warning does  exist

we must open our eyes and actually listen

believe it or not the world does not revolve round the united kingdom

far less the stockbroker belt in the home counties of England

we have bigger issues to consider

than playing petty political games

where short term goals

are all that can be scored

a problem ignored is a problem doubled

if we don’t sort it out

we’re heading for trouble

we need to focus on cleaner greener energy

cutting down on waste

not acting in haste now

and regretting decisions at a later date

for the sake of humanity the future can’t wait

we need to act locally, nationally, and globally

or slowly like desertification

tomorrow will speak of our shame

when that happens the judge of the earth

will deliver a verdict on our environmental vandalism

and the scandal is that

on the charge of death by hot air

we will be found guilty of murder by apathy

@ Gayle Smith 2017

Causalities Of Greed 

Hey Readers 

Later this month I will be reading at the January edition of  Extra Second spoken word event at The Blue Chair on the theme of Climate Change. As a Geography and Politics graduate this topic really  appeals to me and I want to do it justice by writing some new poetry to the theme of the evening. This poem freshly written this afternoon, is one I will consider performing at the event. I have given it the title Causalities Of Greed. I hope enjoy the read. 

Causalities Of Greed 

It’s been gradual 

a slow change 

which happened over time 

an environmental crime 

 caught us unaware

as we were guilty of neglect

for our living space 

our disgrace was the fact 

we failed to realise the problem

the damage it could do 

was doing will continue to do 

If we don’t change 

some dismiss it as strange 

the product of liberal thinking 

unpatriotic 

a fantasy which gets in the way of their profit 

their right to be a money making machine 

ensure their security and wealth 

those in robust health don’t think of long term solutions 

the damage pollution causes 

interested only in short term gains 

they conveniently ignore the victims 

as they watch the world chocking 

unaware they too 

will be causalities of greed 

@ Gayle Smith 2017 

From Daddy’s Girls To Optimists To A Green Man Whose Really Switched On Every Living Witness Knows The Same God Knows Loves Us All

Hey Readers

As you will know if you are a regular reader of this blog I am a regular attender at church and consider myself to be a practising Christian. So yesterday morning I took my usual place in the pews at my local church and enjoyed an excellent and thought provoking sermon delivered by The Reverend Roy Tuton who was standing in for our usual ministerial team. 

In the sermon the Reverend Tuton preached from the book of Exodus and emphasised the value of difference as he pointed out that no matter where we may be in the world it is the same god who cares for and loves us all.

This god he told us, is the god of Sturgeon the god of Davidson, the god of Dugdale,  the god of Harvie, and the god of Rennie. This to me was a masterstroke in how to connect with all hues and views in the rainbow which I am sure make up every parish in Scotland and really spoke to my condition as a political activist and member of the SNP.

You see this comment made me think on a similar quote by my friend and fellow poet Jim Monaghan made during the independence referendum in 2014. When chatting to me during the referendum campaign Jim said that it was important to remember that your  fiercest opponent in one fight could be and more than likely would be your staunchest ally in another. Needless to say I agreed wholeheartedly with those sentiments when Jim expressed them so it should come as no surprise that I still agree with them now. 

On hearing them yesterday morning I reflected during the quiet times the sermon gives us of what I may have in common with those who are my political opponents and I must admit I found admirable qualities in each and every one of them.

In Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson I found a woman of deeply held principles and though I disagree strongly with on the constitutional issue this is a woman worthy of respect who has a very likable personality.

I also have something else with Ruth, and that is that I too identify as an LGBT Christian. As she and I both know this is not an easy journey but we are I hope comforted by the fact that god has placed us in our communities to show faith to others and be living witnesses to the fact that no matter how we are perceived the inescapable truth is that god loves us all and celebrates us for who we are.

I now move on to Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale. When I thought of Kezia I thought of someone who is a lot more like me than she’d like to think. For example like me, Kezia’s politics are driven by passion and the desire to see a fairer more equal society.  A classic example of this came when she led the fight to abolish pay day loans as she saw the horrors these loans brought upon the poorest and most vulnerable of our country’s citizens. Like me Kezia is a Daddy’s girl and I envy the fact that she still has hers here to take pride in her success and I know from reading his tweets just how proud of his daughter her dad actually is.

To be honest her dad, whose political leanings are closer to mine than Kezia’s is I’m sure delighted that his daughter has gone so far up the political ladder in what is after all a reasonably short period of time.  Personally I think she got the right job before she was ready for it as circumstances thrust it upon her but through it all she has maintained a dignity during what have been difficult and challenging times for her party and which involved a very public coming out as a lesbian during the recent Scottish election campaign. Despite our political differences this led to me writing a poem in support of her decision to go public about her sexuality entitled Journey To Pride to show my solidarity with her on this issue.

When it comes to Patrick Harvie I could eulogise all day on the good points about the most switched on green man in Scotland. I had the privilege of campaigning with Patrick during the independence referendum and contrary to what The Daily Mail may have you believe I found him to be polite, charming, and willing to give his time to anyone if he was able to do so. I will admit I share many of Patrick’s political principles especially on sustainable communities and fracking which I pray will never be allowed to destroy Scotland for the sake of a one off payment of fool’s gold. Like Patrick I believe this would be environmental vandalism of the worst possible kind and would have profound implications for the future of our nation which would be negative and long lasting.

Finally I look at Willie Rennie who for those who don’t know is the highly optimistic leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.  I like Willie and I like his boundless enthusiasm for his party. I find it refreshing that far from giving up on them during what have obviously been a very challenging few years for them Willie is even more determined than ever to win hearts , minds, and coverts to the cause of Liberal Democracy. Trust me there are no limits to this man’s optimism he’s even tried to get me to join his party because I signed a petition agreeing with their stance on one particular issue and we all know that he has as much chance of that happening as there is of me climbing Mount Everest and I’m terrified of heights.

My fear of heights aside however Scottish politics needs people like Willie Rennie as it needs all the leaders mentioned in this post. To me and to democrats everywhere choice of political viewpoints is essential to a healthy democracy. We in Scotland are lucky to have plenty of parties to choose from. We are also at least in my opinion, fortunate that we have politicians of substance and talent who are willing to lead them and put themselves forward to take difficult and challenging decisions in the name of their beliefs.

It is thanks to my belief in the living god that I am able at least to some extent to see past the party colours and focus on the individual and the circumstances that shaped them because when it comes down to it each party member and for that matter voter no matter how similar we may be in some ways will have had different life experiences which will have played a part in who making us who we are. Now whilst I appreciate that this may be difficult for some people to understand particularly those obsessed by social class I think it is something worth celebrating that as different as we may be that one fact unites us no matter what views we hold or where we are in the world and that is that from daddy’s girls to optimists and a green man whose really switched on, every living witness knows the same god loves us all.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

If A Picture Paints A Thousand Words It Can Show My Political Colours

Hey Readers

Last Saturday I attended two flash demonstrations at the Buchanan Street steps to fight against two of the greatest evils in any civilised society. The first was to oppose the renewal of trident nuclear missile system which is based less than 30 miles from my home.

To say that I hate these weapons of mass murder with a burning fury would I think be the understatement to end them all. So it was good to see my political comrade sisters Frances McGlinchy and Catherine Baird (see picture 1) voice their opposition to the renewal of these evil instruments of death which are so hated in Scotland and so beloved by that parcel of rogues at Westminster.

Picture (1) Frances McGlinchy in green jacket and Catherine Baird in red showing their political colours and uniting in common cause.

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Like Frances and Catherine I too believe that the removal of these disgusting obscene weapons of death and destruction from Scottish soil are of paramount importance. Indeed to me they are and remain such a red flag that they were one of the main reasons I voted yes in the 2014 independence referendum. Believe me I am proud of my yes vote and will gladly repeat it over and over again at any and every opportunity until the Butcher’s apron of the union flag or as Frankie Boyle so rightly calls it the Jolly Roger is taken down from the mast for the final time. You see I can’t and won’t stand by and watch the wanton destruction of my nation just so some pompous deluded fools who if they even had a penny to their name would still have more money than sense get their political viagra to make them feel like big boys

To me having these weapons does not make you hard it makes you look impotent in the eyes of the world. To anyone who suggests otherwise especially the imperialist wing of The Labour Party, I ask only this if nuclear weapons really were a deterrent why were they powerless to stop 9/11, 7/7 or the more recent attacks in Paris, and Nice?

This is a question those who support this evil can never answer just as they can never justify why these weapons are stored directly in the line of Scotland’s biggest population centre when there are far less densely populated areas of England and Wales where they could be stored with far less threat to human life.

Not that I would advocate they be stored in these areas however. You see I believe the only safe place to store them is in the dustbin of history as being a friendly and sociable neighbour I wish the people of England and Wales no harm only the sovereignty to become independent nations with whom we enjoy comradely relations as they take the decisions which they believe to be in the best interests of their citizens.

As the trident demonstration ended many of attending stayed in place to support refugees and asylum seekers and reject the evils of racism. Like trident, racism has the capacity to destroy lives as by singling out those the dominant group sees as other it demonises who don’t fit their narrow view of what society should be.

As picture 2 illustrates people travelled from far and wide to stand against xenophobia for example Fife People’s Assembly were proud to stand beside us on the steps. I loved this banner as it clearly states a powerful anti austerity message against government cuts. This is an important message to get across at anti racist demonstration as it is more often that those at the sharpest end of such cuts who are targeted by the forces of racism as they seek to recruit from the economically and socially marginalised members of society.

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Picture 2. The Fife People’s Assembly

Our next picture shows two banners both with equally important messages. On the right, the red banner proclaims support from the Glasgow campaign to support refugees, whilst on the left there is a banner with a very important not just for refugees but for all of us and that message is no justice no peace. This to me symbolises there can be no justice for anyone until there is peace for us all.

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Picture 3 Spreading The Word And The Good News Of Glasgow Refugees Are Welcome In This City.

I followed this up with arguably my favourite image of either of the demonstrations which captures Glasgow Green Party councillor Martha Wardrope in full flow as she delivered and passionate yet measured speech against the rise of racism and xenophobia which is currently sweeping Europe and for the first time in decades making inroads in to Scottish and British society. Under her party banner and standing next to one which encouraged us to stand up to racism and fascism Martha warned of the dangers of scapegoating others and the places that could take us. The fact that she did this, not in a loud aggressive manner but with a reasoned respectable voice made her argument all the more powerful.

As you can see Martha is right in the centre of the steps and this gives you the best panoramic view of the surrounding environment and the shot gives a good view of both The Royal Concert Hall and John Lewis which you could say is the very place where culture meets consumerism.

Picture 4 Martha Wardrope Addresses The Crowd At The Anti Racist Demonstration

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My final photograph shows two flags flying in the cool of an afternoon breeze. On the left we have the banner of the Scottish Green Party whose principled brand of environmental politics has won them many admirers in recent years. Meanwhile on the right we have a rainbow flag with the word peace emblazoned at the centre of it. This to me was the best flag of the day as the rainbow has room for all colours and within it. This is a highly appropriate flag an anti racist demonstration and the peace message is perfect not only for this cause but to tell the warmongers who support that we don’t want their killing machines on the Clyde or anywhere else on earth.

Picture 5 A Tale Of Two Flags Where The Green Global Commonwealth Has Room For All Colours.

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Well that’s me told my story of a very enjoyable Saturday where my principles meant I had to speak out against the weapons of fear. Be it Trident , be it racism or any other form of injustice you can be sure I’ll have something to say about it and believe me I’ll never shirk from saying it as I see it.

As conclude my review of two important protests I hope you’ve enjoyed my descriptions and my images I’ve used to capture the spirit of the day. I would also like to think that if a picture paints a thousand words it can show my political colours and maybe just maybe make it easier for you to see the circumstances which made me the woman I am and shaped my political journey.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

In Defence Of Patrick Harvie (The Thoughts Of An SNP Activist).

Hey Readers It was with a sense of bemusement that I saw some on the more fundamentalist wing of my party express what I can only describe as their self righteous anger at the fact that the six Green Party MSP’s did not vote for Nicola Sturgeon in her ultimately successful bid to be re-elected as First Minister of Scotland.  The fact the party did not vote for her opponent Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and instead choose to  abstain  seems to have been conveniently ignored by those concerned

Let me say that I do approve of this kind of politics it is not my way of doing things and though I may have got a wee bit tribal during the referendum it was mainly because I had to as I was faced with hostility which was based on my gender identity and my perceived religious beliefs by some of the less enlightened unionists. These however are different times and Scotland has returned more towards party politics rather than a politics of
causes and campaigns which dominated Scotland in the two years leading up to the referendum vote.

The fact that some people on both sides of the divide haven’t yet moved on is something which personally I find very sad especially when those doing the sniping are taking cheap shots against a party with which many SNP supporters have a healthy degree of affinity. This is why I as an SNP member have decided to write this post in defence of Patrick Harvie a principled politician I admire and respect

It is with some degree of sadness that I have to say that some of the comments I viewed on my twitter feed regarding Patrick’s decision not to support Nicola in her vote to be re-elected First Minister were to say the very least annoying. I found the anger directed at Patrick to be both unjustified and offensive.  The idea that somehow the SNP supporters who voted green on the list loaned the greens their votes and that means that Patrick and his fellow MSP’s must therefore back Nicola on every vote is to my mind ridiculous and does nothing to advance  the cause of independence, a cause on which the greens stood shoulder to shoulder with my party two years ago and as they will again when the comes. In the meantime, we should respect the fact that the greens are and an independent party who are under no obligation to the SNP be it leadership or voters. 

You see I have a real problem with this kind of high handed attitude from SNP supporters and I’ll explain why. To me the cause of independence means nothing if it is not about building a better nation and doing so on the four pillars of equality, diversity, fairness, and inclusion. The key to this Scotland is the acceptance of all shades of political traditions even those we profoundly disagree with to quote the words of Voltaire ‘ I disagree with what you say but will defend until death your right to say it ‘. This to me is what true freedom is about and the right to make our choices is a fundamental part of any truly free society. 

Now I won’t lie and say that I wouldn’t have liked Patrick Harvie and his colleagues to have voted for Nicola Sturgeon yesterday. I mean let’s be honest I would have liked Willie Rennie to have voted for Nicola yesterday but I live in the real world and therefore accept that that you can’t always get what you want on every occasion If you could I would have been married to Donny Osmond since the 11th July 1981 the year of my 20th Birthday I would have at least 10 children, Childbirth would be pain for every woman men would have time of the month plus interest,  Celtic would have won so many league  championships and European Cups it would actually be embarrassing, an independent Scotland and fully united Ireland would be the two richest countries on earth, no-one would ever go blind, or be in any sort of pain and all our dreams would come true every day of our lives. Tragically such a world is not possible if it were I would be a Scottish version of Marilyn Monroe with a bit of s Madonna thrown in to the mix for good measure. That however is a wish list, the stuff of dreams and to me at least wish lists are the preserve of poets and idealists.
Meanwhile in the adult world of politics, people are often forced to make some more realistic choices in which they will hopefully be guided by value based principles as Patrick and his colleagues were on this occasion.

The fact he and his party choose to abstain rather than vote for Nicola shows that whilst both he and his party’s wider membership may admire many of her personal qualities including her style of leadership he does not believe that the SNP are friendly enough to the environment on the issues that matter to green party members to  merit his party’s support just yet. This decision was not a personal slight on Nicola Sturgeon nor was it an insult to the SNP it was a balanced verdict made on behalf of the party he leads. 

I make this point because I believe it needs to made and made loudly and clearly. Despite what some zealots may like to believe the SNP does not own the yes movement nor does it own the votes of the yes movement. The yes movement that glorious movement of which I was so proud to be a part was and remains are diverse movement in which people from all political hues were and must continue to be made welcome. I state this purely because if we spend two and a half years attempting to and in my opinion succeeding in convincing the people of our country that voting yes was not a vote for the SNP or my party’s then leader Alex Salmond we can hardly say now oh we’ve changed on our mind on this and all yes voters must vote yes as an article of faith.  This is not the way to win friends and influence potential voters in fact to go down this road could lose the cause of independence votes which people like me fought far too hard to win and I’ll be damn well dead before I let that happen. 

It is in my opinion very good news for the long term aim of independence that greens did make the decision to abstain in this vote as proves to the unionists that you can have two or indeed more parties on the yes of the independence movement who may have very different visions of what they want the future independent Scotland to be like.

Finally I say to those who would criticise the actions of Patrick Harvie and the Green MSP’s take a step back and think for a minute. I have often supported you when you have said that the pro unionist parties in Scotland are no more than branch offices of their UK parties who will always put the needs of Westminster before the people of Scotland. So having said that I now ask you this do you want to give the unionists the chance to say to the voters of our country that the Scottish Green Party are no more than a branch office of the SNP who will put the electoral needs of the SNP before the greater concerns of how best to protect the environment.  I know I don’t and I don’t think you do either. Let’s celebrate the differences that make our yes family such a great inclusive place to be and remember that even the closest of families won’t agree on everything and that is exactly how
It should be

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

Spoken Words

Hey Readers On day 11 of NaPoWriMo my poem covers the
topic of spoken word nights so I have given it an appropriate title and called it Spoken Words. I hope you enjoy the read

Spoken Words

To anyone who thinks that poetry is all about daffodils and daisies
weddings, birthdays or new born babies
I challenge you to attend a spoken word night
if you do you’ll find
rhymers telling the world our views
expressing our thoughts on what passes for news
whilst you muse on our sentences and sonnets
we remove the bees from our bonnets
on serious topics like the environment education and wealth
or the state of the nation’s cultural health
maybe the way we are seen by others
we might even be letting you see what goes on
between the covers of our notepads
or revealing secret dreams
relating stories of housing schemes in the 1970’s
gender transitioning whilst maintaining our dignity
and just enough secrets to guard our privacy
giving our opinions on civil liberties
and other topics including
fracking, union jacking, and the state of the press
or why in the Indy ref we voted yes
or in less enlightened cases no
and yes I am showing my personal colours in that last line 
as a poet I don’t do the crime
of indifference
I know the power of resistance
and I will resist those who oppose equality
who won’t take action on poverty
or reducing the attainment gap
I may take the mic but I won’t take the rap
for the  sins committed by others
as a feminist I have discovered
the power of rage
so when I take the stage
you might hear carefully managed anger
but like my fellow performers
I come from a place of passion
on subjects from fascism to fashion
I and others will speak our minds
say it as we find it
not as we would like it to be
the only guarantee I can make
is to say you won’t like it all
but something from someone
will speak your truth
remind you of a memory from your youth
now it may drive you crazy
but if you want to hear poems which are not about daffodils, daisies or even new born babies
if you want to know what other voices are saying
you won’t find the answers
on the sanitised BBC version of our nation
so come and attend a spoken word night
come and see us take the mic
and take the rise out of the pompous and vain
come once and I promise you’ll come back again

@ Gayle Smith 2016