Archives

A Memorable Journey Where Bards Were The Stars And Musicians Made Magic In Song  (My Cultural Review Of 2017)

As I look back on the year just ended it is fair to say that it has been both enjoyable and challenging and that some of the challenges in both poetry and blogging have proved to be both enjoyable and rewarding in ways I would never have expected . 

 As I started 2017 I did so with my customary optimism.  Well I’ve always been a glass half full kinda girl and my year got off to a good start as I met my first challenge and completed a whole new set of poems specifically written on climate change for my first billed appearance at Extra Second. With that and an excellent Celtic Connections and SNP Burns Supper under my belt and a good start to my poetry events at both Words And Music and Rio I had hit the ground running and given the New Year the start it deserved.  

February slowed me down as usually always does, well if nothing else it gave me time to reflect and focus on my writing. It was towards the end of the month I wrote what I believe was my best poem of the year in a highly personal tribute to my late dad it was also around this time I wrote Game Changer a poem in support of LGBT football fans and made what has so far been my only visit to Aloud. 

As we moved towards the lighter nights I not only hosted Words And Music I was once again a billed reader for Extra Second and this time the subject was Mental Health and yet again I produced a completely new set of poems for the night. I also attended the Visable Women festival at the Kinning Park complex on the first Saturday of the month where I was privileged to see Confessionals a brilliant hour long spoken word show by my friend Victoria McNulty and the  last ever last Monday at Cafe Rio as we bid  an emotional farewell to one of the spoken word scene’s most loved poetry homes hosted for 10 years by the genial Robin Cairns. On a more personal note I was delighted to learn that I had two poems selected for publication in the Mind The Time football memories anthology. The poems chosen were Rampant Lionesees about Scotland’s Women becomming the first team to represent our country at a major championship for 20 years and Through The Hoops which was written about my journey as a transsexual Celtic fan.  

April started quitely enough in terms of performance and continued  in the same vein till the middle of the month.  This however can be a blessing particularly during a period when some poets like this are demented enough to participate in the NaPoWriMo challenge of writing 30 poems in 30 days. As the month wore on I made the opening night of Last Monday at Waterstones during which Robin had asked me to captain a team in the four ages slam at The Tron in mid May. Needless to say I accepted the challenge and relished the idea of it. Though I must admit that putting a team together is a harder job than you think.  By the end of the month  I had added a new event to my list of places to go as I made my debut appearance at Express Yourself which is excellently hosted by Carla Woodburn. However on the Wednesday after Rio I had a nasty fall whilst returning from the newsagents where I had gone to play the lottery. Make no mistake this was a bad one which resulted in a sprained ankle and left me unable to walk for around 10 days and a distinctly wobbly feeling for most of the summer. 

Unsurprisingly perhaps my injury meant that I had to cancel Words And Music and that May was almost a poetry free zone. I say almost because I did honour my promise to Robin and captained my team at the four ages slam. Not only that I captained them to victory though it has to be said that my team mates Angie Strachan , and Lesley Traynor (see picture below) were the real stars of the show especially Angie who actually won the individual event and a place at the 2018 Scottish Slam Finals.  The day after this momentous victory I decided to launch a second blog skirting round my life also on wordpress. Wheras tartan tights is as you know the place for my general musings I decided this one would focus more on trans and women’s issues. Yes I know I’m mad but you know what its improved the quality of my blogging and I’m glad I decided to do it as allows me to show a more personal side and I think it helps readers to get what makes me who I am.  

Also on the blogging front I was invited to join the hosting team for the Bloggers Do It Better twitter chat This was a challenge I accepted and embraced and I’m delighted to still be part of the team as we move in the new year. Don’t get me wrong it’s not easy and can be stressful at times but it is also really enjoyable  and the buzz I get from hosting is incredible. 

Picture (1) Angela, Myself and Lesley pose for a victory photo after winning The Four Ages Slam At The Tron. 

If May had been quiet due to injury June at least initially looked like being the same, and though I did manage to attend the Extra Second snap election special and also to focus on my main priority which was to host Words And Music. To be honest I thought that might be all I’d make  it to, particularly since injury prevented me from taking my usual place at a polling station to help the party I’m member of win my local constituency.  Still, there was a positive in this situation as at least I didn’t need a lift to the polling place as I did to the local elections just one month earlier. As it turned out with a new candidate in place my party did hold the seat though with a much reduced majority on a night which wasn’t our best.  If ever I needed a pick me up it was now and it came that Saturday at the annual McGonagall supper which I made a last minute decision to attend. Though my mobility was far from perfect it felt great just to be in the company of friends. 

It was another last minute decision the faith/unbelief open poetry competition the following Saturday which gave me my biggest surprise of the year as I went on to win the title and a £50 book token which has since been very well spent.  I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at this result if only because my poem Faithful Daughter which is my poetic appeal for the Church of Scotland to modernise may have been a bit too controversial for some people’s tastes. 

With Edinburgh and the fringe looming ever closer it is no great surprise that I was very cagey during July appearing only at my own event at Words and Music and an Extra Second for which the theme of activism was too strong to resist and yet again I got on the billed readers list and produced another new set of poems tailored to suit the occasion. I also returned to express yourself for the first time since my fall but time I was purely there to enjoy the evening and believe me I did as some of us including yours truly ended walking all the way from The Project Cafe in the heart of Cowcaddens to Delmonicas and eventually Speakeasy in the heart of the Merchant City and that by the way is a longer walk than you think. 

Come August and all roads led to the fringe. Well they did eventually though not before my usual stint at Words And Music, my attendance at the funeral of our much loved sister poet Catherine Walker, my participation in Pride’s Got Talent, where I tried my hand at stand up comedy and a fantastic Extra Second on Sexuality to coincide with the upcoming Glasgow Pride weekend. As a trans woman this one had my name on it and  I made sure I was not only on the bill but that I produced my set yet and believe me judging by the compliments I received I think it’s safe to say I delivered.  

When I eventually did get to the fringe I was welcomed with open arms by fringe favourites and friends such as Jenni Pascoe, Fay Roberts, David Lee Morgan, Hannah Chutzpah, Sophia Blackwell, and Matt Panesh, to name a few. I may not have made it through as often as I wanted but I saw all the shows I needed to see and some extra gems which were recommended by friends including what was in my opinion the best show of fringe 2017 The Door To Door Poet By Rowan McCabe. All that and I still managed to take part in three shows including my now compulsory appearance at Other Voices. Well let’s be honest the fringe would never have been the same without it. 

Picture (2) Sophia Blackwell rockin it at The Banshee Labyrinth as part of the Edinburgh Fringe

As the fringe ended for another year it was back to Glasgow and last Monday at Waterstones. With that we moved on to September and the usual round of cultural engagements in what was a low key month for yours truly in terms of performing my poetry but not in terms of culture. However this slight shift in scene was just what I needed after the drama that was August. It has to be said however the highlight of what was  an enjoyable month when I actually had time to relax, was without doubt the official launch of the women with fierce words poetry anthology at the Griffin Bar in Glasgow city centre. This was an amazing and uplifting night and shows what can done when a group of women have both talent and determination. On a slightly different note the following Saturday I attended the  hope over fear rally and on the same night I went to see a play called Adam  about a young transgender man and it was a brilliant and thought provoking peace of theatre.   I also made my return to the last Monday stage and believe me it felt good. To conclude the month I received the news that one of my poems had been published in the 10 Red anthology and on  the final Thursday and a week earlier than usual I was one of the hosts of the National Poetry Event at the Gallery Of Modern Art which had been moved from its usual slot on the first Thursday of October to accomadate Hull’s place as city of culture.  

October saw me doing my stuff at Words And Music and at Last Monday at Waterstones with another team slam sandwiched inbetween. My team didn’t win this team but hey you can’t win them all.  I was also interviewed for a spoken word radio show by my friend Carla Woodburn which I have to say was an interesting  and enjoyable experience, and thanks to impromptu Facebook conversation with Jim Monaghan I managed to get a last minute ticket for what had to be Glasgow’s poetry event of the year with Hollie McNish at Oran Mor. Now I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again Hollie McNish is the best poet in Britain today. Well when you’ve got Liz Lochhead as your support act it speaks volumes for your ability. I also had a lovely night at Extra Second where I ended up on a date with a gorgeous man called Brendan. We finished our evening at Katie’s Bar where we enjoyed each other’s company in a relaxed and intimate manner. 

As we got to November Words and Music kicked off the month in style with brilliant featured sets from featured writer Katharine MacFarlane and featured musician Bob Leslie. It was then back to the Tron for another Sunday team slam but this time I was on the judging panel along with Kevin Cadwallender. After that I performed at Extra Second even though I didn’t expect to as it turned out this would though I didn’t know it at the time be my last apperance at the Blue Chair before it closed its doors for the final time. It was as always an enjoyable night made even better by the fact Brendan turned up and just like the last time we ended up at Katie’s for more special times. During what was an eventful month I made my second appearance at Express Yourself which just so happened to be on Angela Strachan’s birthday and ended up forming the female version of The Proclaimers with my new karaoke partner the wonderful Antonia Seaward. Honestly the regulars of Lauder’s Bar have never heard anything quite like it. I finished the month at Waterstones where I gave my best performance since the move from and ended November on a high. 

December saw me have a quiter month than I’d planned managing to attend only three events as a combination of icy weather and a seasonal illness ruled me out of at least four events I had planned to attend. I did however host an excellent Words And Music Christmas Cracker  at the Tin Hut with Karen Jones and Bernadette Collier in outstanding form as the featured acts. My final performance of the year at the Tinsil Tales event at the Gallery of Modern Art on the Thursday before Christmas when I compared the first section of this four hour poetry marathon before focusing on  my set. In my set I lulled the auduence in to a false sense of security by reading two new sensible Christmas  poems on consumerism and homelessness before reverting to two of my Christmas comedy classics to have the audience howling louder than a winter gale to finish my performances for the year on a high. 

For my last event of the year I journeyed west as I accompanied my friend Janet Crawford the Dram Bar where she was competing in the Loud Poets political slam which was deservedly won by Jim Monaghan to finish off the year 

So there you have it my poetic year. Thanks to all who made it what it was, a memorable journey where bards were the stars and musicians made magic in song . Here’s hoping that the next twelve months will be just as exciting. So I’ll close by wishing all my readers A Happy, Peaceful, Successful, New Year.   I hope you’ll keep reading tartan tights throughout 2018. 

Till next time 

Gayle X 

Advertisements

Watchnight Service 

This poem is written on the most intimate of all services the watchnight service which takes us through Christmas Eve in to Christmas Day. It is for that reason alone I have named it Watchnight Service I hope you enjoy the read

Watchnight Service 

I always look to forward to this service 

though the church is quieter than usual 

full of empty pews 

but for those who do make it along 

there is an intimacy in the watchnight service

which can only be found at this time of year

as the birth of the christ child draws near

we wait in anticipation 

for the arrival of the saviour 

who came as a child in a manger 

under the Bethlehem skies

and contemplate the meaning 

of a precious life given 

as a gift to us all 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Born In The Cold 

This poem was written in 2012 and I wrote it in the hope it would  make us think a wee bit more on the true meaning of Christmas. It’s for that reason I titled it Born In The Cold I hope you enjoy the read.

Born In The Cold

Everyone rushes round the shops
or spends time on the net
to search for a million presents
just in case we forget
the long lost aunt or cousin
we haven’t seen for years
but buy for every Christmas
in a temporary moment of cheer

We’re stressed to the hilt at home and work
we never stop to pause
we max out all our store cards
in the name of Santa Claus
we never think about the poor
who live only minutes away
we don’t want them to invade our thoughts
not on Christmas Day

And yet 2,000 years ago a stable was the place
for a child to be born
who came to earth
as a gift for the human race
what would he say at the fact we neglect
the unemployed and old
the man who died for everyone
was the babe who was born in the cold

 © Gayle Smith 2012

A Christmas Thought For The Festive Season 


The picture above shows a man holding a note. This is a note that isn’t just for Christmas or the extended festive period. It says it  doesn’t matter if you can quote the bible if you act like you’ve never opened it. You see it’s one thing reading something but understanding it is what really matters and sometimes that can  be more challenging than we like to admit. It’s at times like this I thank god for the babe who was born in a manager to knows us better than we know ourselves. 

Till next time 

Gayle X

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 Real Christmas Story Is The Gift Of Giving 

As I’m sure I’ve said before, my local church has strong roots in our community and this is the case throughout the year but never more so than at Christmas. The pictures above and below the text show some of presents given by the  parishioners to help local charities when the parish held what the minister called a gift Sunday.  Well it’s often said that when it comes to presents it’s better to give  than to receive and this is especially true at this time of year when I can honestly say nothing beats the gift of giving. After all the gift given to us in the form of the babe in the manger is the real story of Christmas.  

Till next time

Gayle X

 Carol Service 

One of the things I enjoy in the run up to Christmas is attending that first Christmas Carol service I don’t know why but it really resonates with me it’s almost as if it brings together communities who are often too busy to talk for the rest of the year. It really is a magical occasion and with this in mind I’ve written this poem entitled  Carol Service I hope you enjoy the read. 

 Carol Service

I don’t know why

 but I get really emotional

at the Christmas carol service 

I often think what I have done

to deserve this 

that a helpness babe would come into the world for my sins

some of the hymns can really pull at the heartstrings

when considering the birth

I think of Away In A Manger 

whilst Good King Wencelassless 

and In The Bleak Mid Winter 

show the importance of being kind to strangers 

and Silent Night the majestic power of the unfolding events 

which would forever change the face of humanity 

and show us all the saviour

who waits to meet us 

at this or any other time of year

© Gayle Smith 2017