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 

The Longest Fortnight

As this weekend starts the period that was traditionally known as the Glasgow Fair Fortnight I thought I would write a poem about this late lamented part of Glasgow history the significance of which has become somewhat diluted since my teenage years of the late 1970’s due to the diverse nature of the post industrial nature of our economy and the greater flexibility and choice both of timing of holidays and potential destinations. As  I struggled to think of a suitable title for the poem I asked friends for some ideas and as usual on these occasions there were plenty of replies. Eventually , I decided that The Longest Fortnight suggested by fellow poet, and independence campaigner Shaun Moore best summed up the sentiments expressed in the piece which captures the  memory of a Glasgow which has slowly faded in to history. I hope you enjoy the read. 

The Longest Fortnight

This was the day the factory gates closed early 
and  the shipyards and steelworks ceased production

as Glasgow shut down for the fair   

for many this meant a holiday by the sea

usually the Ayrshire coast or Blackpool 

If they could afford it 

budgets were a factor which couldn’t be  ignored 

of course I had dreams 

but living within our means 

was a lesson learned early 

looking back on my memories 

those days seem like yesterday

reality is the thief of time 

and time the burglar of years

now I realise the hopes and fears 

my parents had 

which adolescent me dismissed as sad 

were genuine to them 

but on this the first day of the workers break

I thought not of where we would go 

that was tomorrow’s concern 

I learned only of possible options 

in the Scotland of 1970’s 

and  knew boredom would drive me up the wall 

meanwhile my mother paced the hall 

wondering when my dad would come home from the pub 

and what state he’d been in on arrival 

looking back on my childhood memories

I realise the workers were celebrating their survival 

with their well earned break 

their work was hard work 

what my dad called a real job

where they were given a weekly wage 

for their eight or nine hour shifts

no wonder so many homes were rented 

people were conditioned to be content 

with what they were told they could afford 

our families accepted these attitudes

and showed gratitude by saving their  pennies

for what my mother would call rainy days

It was important she said to have some spare change 

for essentials and a few wee luxuries

the fair fortnight was an escape 

from the drudgery of their routine 

for the other 50 weeks year in year out 

when there were such things as jobs for life

where people worked from leaving school till retirement 

the ability to graft and learn on the job 

the main requirements for success

in the not so good old days 

so revered by those on nostalgia trips

eventually and usually a lot later than my mother liked

my dad would  come home mildly drunk 

with fish suppers in hand 

 a fair Friday tradition you understand 

on the day the factories closed 

and a city took a fortnightly break 

until one by one the jobs disappeared 

and the gates were closed 

for the final time 

and the last to leave switched off the lights. 

© Gayle Smith 2017

When Cheeky Boys Met Karaoke Queens We Talked Of Childhood Days  And When We  Went To The Rock Jam Night We Knocked On Heaven’s Door 

​It seems slightly mad that my post on the June edition of Words And Music is being posted nearly a week after the July event  has taken  place. Note to self I really must stop misplacing my notebook .That said it  was with a sense of relief that the night actually went ahead.  I say this because the May edition of our event had to be cancelled as  your  host was unable to attend  due to a leg injury and not having a replacement compere on standby who could have stepped in to take over. Though not fully recovered from my setback I was in no doubt the show had to go on even if it meant taking a taxi to the venue and arriving before it had officially opened.  

There was at least one up side to my early arrival which was that I was there to welcome each and every guest as they arrived to play their part in the evening’s entertainment. This helped me to get myself in the mood for whatever the would bring and  as is always the case with any Words and Music event it would be what it would be and I for one was glad for whatever that was 

As I started I had some good news to share with the assembled company and that was that a team made at Words And Music and captained by yours truly  had won the Four Ages Slam which had been the only event I had attended in the  whole of May. Well as team captain I had not only to attend but lead by example and my teammates who were  our two previous featured writers for March and April Lesley Traynor and Angie Strachan were absolutely brilliant. This was of course exactly what you’d expect from two stalwarts of our club and shows the standard of featured writers I try to being to the club. 

Having performed my duties, I thought it was only fair to start the night with one of the poems I performed in our team’s set so I opened the night with Jewel Of The Clyde in which I take a reflective look to back to 1990 and Glasgow’s year as city of culture and examine the legacy it left it us both. culturally and politically.  

Having done my job and opened the night it was now time to crack on with the billed readers. First up was Derek Read and he had told me prior the event kicking off that he wanted to read what he teffered to as long poem which was written in memory of his former partner Gilbert particularly since this coincided with the anniversary of Gilbert’s death.  Unfortunately the occasion got a bit too much for Derek and he found himself too chocked with emotion to perform and asked if someone else could read it on his behalf.  Since I had met Gilbert on a few occasions I was more than happy to undertake the task of reading Luss Pilgrimage and I’m pleased to report that Derek thought I had performed it well. Derek then returned to the stage to read a short poem entitled Power before taking his seat to enjoy the rest of the evening. 

Next up was Susan Milligan who gave arguably her best performance so far at Words And Music with a themed set on friendship. Susan started  her set with a poem on friendship with in the family unit with a very moving poem entitled Absent Friends which was written in memory of her dad and youngest of her brothers who was her words taken far too early. She then moved on to her now customary song  giving us her rendition of the Andrew Gold hit from the late 1970’s Thank You For Being A Friend. 

As we thanked Susan for her contribution it was time to welcome another well kent face to entertain the gathering and that was Alex Frew who as is so often the case brought his own brand of mischief to proceedings. Alex started his set with a piece on Childhood Days though I’m not sure they any way resemble any childhood days I can ever recall. Alex than shared a song written by his friend Michelle who like Alex attends the South West Writers group. The song titled I Love Your Bum attracted more than a few chuckles and kinda made me think on The Cheeky Girls. Alex then concluded an entertaining set with what he calls his cycling songs Big Chunky Buttocks which I have to say has a very catchy chorus 

Next up was Alex’s partner in rhyme, crime, song, and lunacy , yes it was the other half of the Ayrshire version of the Cheeky Boys the one and only Andy Fleming. Andy performed three songs two of his own and one in tribute to a much loved late friend of our nights. Andy started his set with  Odin’s Dedication aka  There’s No Mention Of The Clitoris In The Bible and The Rock Jam which though not one of his  most sing a long songs is strangely enough a song I love singing along to and demonstrates his talent for writing brilliant and bitingly clever lyrics. Having treated us to two of his own catalogue Andy concluded his set with a song made famous by one of our former favourites Crispin Allen titled footprints On The Dashboard Upside Down .For those of a certain vintage and I mean that in Words And Music years it brought back more than a few memories of a consummate performer  from another consummate performer.  

As Andy rejoined the company it was Alan McGlas who led us to the bar break with  his story A Small Boy in which he recalls memories of his grandfather and why he seldom talked  about the war.  This  is a very moving story narrated with warmth, compassion, and dignity told in an authentic voice of which his grandad would be proud. 

After the bar break it was time for our featured writer and on this occasion the slot was filled by a Words And Music regular Pete Faulkner. Being a writer who is equally at home with poetry and prose I wondered what Pete would treat us to in his 20 minutes in the spotlight  

As it turned out Pete’s treat was to share a couple of chapters from his  novel in which the hapless  lead character a young English teacher Christopher Isherwood  is a facing a very stressful day at work and his journey to the school where he teaches makes a day which is already potentially fraught even worse as everything that can go wrong does so and that was just the start of the day from every young teacher’s hell 

On arrival at School the idealistic Isherwood would face an assessment from one of his harshest critics, who just happens to be head of department. As she sits in on his class she watches in despair as Christopher is continually interrupted by the class clown who interjects  with the comment ‘And what’s that got to do with the price of fish at every chance he gets and of course encouraged to do so by his peers who see this act as some sort of teenage rebellion and no doubt see themselves as very anti establishment in their actions. 

The fact that Christopher would in all probability as Pete hints but never states be a far better teacher for them if they had given him the chance to do his job is completely missed by his students who only seemed interested in what act of rebellion they could become known for.  

It hard not to feel at least some empathy for likable but hapless Christopher and I think the fact that Pete is a teacher by profession shows in the very real way he portrays his character complete with all the faults , flaws, and idiocincracies  which made him so authentic just the writer who created him. 

As Pete went back to his seat it was time for our featured musician to take stage and it was a pleasure to welcome Darryl Sperry (Pictured Below back to the Words And Music It was especially fitting that it was a pleasant evening in June when he made his return as it was exactly a year since he made his Words And Music debut as our first featured musician in our new venue.

(Picture 1 Darryl Sperry our featured musician)

Darryl started his set which was mainly comprised of his own songs with Seagull before to moving on to Me Myself And I. This was followed by I Don’t Wanna Be Everybody. This song illustrates the pressures of trying to be everything to everbody, pressures which I think are unfairly placed on so many people particularly the millennial generation. 

Darryl then moved on to  my favourite song of his set  The Sun Is Out Today. I love the fact that this song is so relaxing and the melodies are absolutely sublime. This is a top quality song from a top quality musician. Darryl concluded an excellent set which, showed why I booked him with an excellent version of the Bob Dylan classic Knocking On Heaven’s Door . Honestly this was an amazing set which was thoroughly enjoyed by the small but intimate crowd (well there were  only 9 of us in attendance and to those who haven’t seen yet , please rectify that  at your earliest convenient  opportunity I guarantee you’ll enjoy the  talent of one of the rising stars of the Scottish Indy music scene.  

At the end of Darryl’s set ànd with no-one else left to read it was up to me to bring the night to a conclusion. I did this by reading a set of four poems starting with Smelling The Roses in which I look inside the mind of a UKIP voter and reveal what I believe they are secretly thinking.  Well, I had to perform a political poem on this occasion. I had  no real choice to make ,especially as  it was only two days before the snap General Election Theresa  May had insisted on calling and I’m pleased to report that my satirical take on the kippers was very well received. 

From political comedy I moved on to more observational humour as read Lost The Plot which tells the story of a Glasgow girl’s Saturday Night at the dancing. This is one of my favourite  poems to perform and it always seems to get a good reaction. For my penultimate poem I paid a very personal tribute to former Words And Music stalwart  Ian Davison who died on Christmas Day with  my poem Glasgow Boy which was written in his memory. I finished my  set with one of my best known poems and one of the few I can perform  completely from memory or at least I can on most occasions  but this time I seemed to miss a verse of Karaoke Queen. The fact that nobody seemed to notice is neither here nor there . I noticed and me being the perfectionist I am I was somewhat less than pleased about it. Other than that I was happy enough with my performance on the other poems I read. 

As I made my way home I reflected that my little trip on my final poem should guard as a warning against complacency. However , all things considered it was an enjoyable night,  indeed you could say that when cheeky boys met karaoke  queens we talked of childhood days and when we  went to the rock jam night we knocked on heaven’s door.

Till next time 

Gayle X

Founders Of The Feast 

On a lovely summer Saturday it was my privilege to, attend a poetry themed barbecue in honour of the world’s worst  poet otherwise known as William Topaz McGonagall. This annual event now in its 12th year is hosted by my good friends Colin and Irene Storrie who every year open their hearts and open their home for a fantastic day of poetry, music, and friendship where having celebrated the best poet in the world at our Burns Suppers in January we can focus on commemorating the self styled worst poet in the world who even on our worst days can make every one us look like a genius. That’s why I dedicate this year’s McGonagall poem to them. I’ve given it the title Founders Of The Feast I hope  you enjoy the read.  

Founders Of The Feast 

​It is one of my favourite my summer traditions 

In the land we call the United Kingdom of Great Britain 

as we gather together the many and not the few 

to have good food and companionship 

and enjoy a very sociable barbecue

   
It is always great fun, but I cannot deny 

that sometimes it is not just the food which will be grilled or fried 

as the natives of our land have a tendency get very badly burned 

when we see that big yellow object 

which is know by  metrologists and weather forecasters as the sun 

 This is however, not something about which we should complaining

as in Scotland and the United Kingdom Of Great Britain 

the weather has a nasty habit of raining 

If this is the Almighty’s idea of a summer joke 

I do not find it funny as many of out citizens 

could get caught in a downpour and end up getting soaked. 

This I fear would not be very good 

however I hope it would not spoil their day or stop them enjoying their food 

for that would be a very great shame 

especially at the poets barbecue 

which every year since 2006 

has been held to celebrate the honour of my name. 

This barbecue is not held in the Magdalene Green or the fair city of Dundee

Nor even in Edinburgh the city that gave birth to the poetic genius I was born to be 

it takes place in the heart of Glasgow’s East End 

and founded by most uniquely talented collection of friends

it is however to the founders of the feast 

I must now proclaim my gratitude

though I have heard said they prefer good companions

 to a diet of well meant  platitudes 

but alas as the my story has now reached it’s end 

I ask you to raise your glasses 

and toast, Irene , Colin, and the company of  friends.  

© Gayle Smith 2017 

One Of The Girls 

On day 27 of NaPoWriMo I look at teenage memories as made by magazines we read as girls and how what we learned between the covers of our favourite magazine went on to play a significant role  in shaping the women we’ve become.

 I was inspired to write this poem after visiting the Scottish Memories Facebook  group where members chat about what we remember growing up and after chatting to members from various demographics within the group on the topic of childhood games I decided to ask the women of the group what was their magazines of choice growing up. Needless to say I was inundated with comments and it was those comments which helped me to write this poem. 

 On completing the poem I had to find a title for it , and having came up with a few suggestions I  consulted with friends on what the most suitable selection should be. On putting it to the vote, the will of the people  decided that the best and most appropriate title  was One Of The Girls and being a believer in poetry democracy in action that is the title I’m going with. I hope you enjoy the read.  
One Of The Girls 
I was a Jackie girl. 

this was the magazine

 which shaped my formative years 

concerns and fears about not being cool enough for school 

briefly removed as I was transported to a place of dreams 

Donny Osmond would never visit the scheme I lived in 

not even on his tours of Britain 

but his posters adorned my bedroom wall 

and turned it in to shrine for my first crush 

the puppy love who made me realise I was one of the girls 

and made me go funny inside 

I blushed the impure thoughts 

I wasn’t supposed to have 

but could never hide from my mother 

I kept my secret stash of magazines

 hidden under the bed in a box filled with memories 

for older generations of girls 

 titles like  Romeo and Valentine 

reminded them of a more innocent world 

whilst those younger than me 

were caught up in the celebrity culture 

created by top of the pops 

and the weekly chart shows on the radio 

Smash Hits and Number One 

were the best sellers for the girls who just wanted to have fun 

and knew that Madonna sang songs that were made for dancing 

potential Prince Charming’s would need to have cold hard cash 

to be the material girl’s Mr Right 

and the mum’s who were brought up with Judy and Bunty 

were far removed from their daughters reality 

as some in the media expressed disdain 

that the new teens were reading stuff on sexuality 

progressive parents thought it was better 

to know the facts of life 

rather than have pregnancies due to ignorance 

changing times meant changing tastes 

on the magazine rack 

and when More arrived 

Jackie’s days were numbered 

well photo stories couldn’t compete 

with  groundbreaking content like  position of the week

it made some of my teenage reading 

look so meek and mild 

there was no longer a market for  the magazines I grew up with 

and part of my childhood died 

as I became a new woman 

with a taste for company and glamour. 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Comfort Zone 

On day 21 of NaPoWriMo My poem  takes a look at the topic of Privacy. I do so with the issue of locality very much on my mind and that’s why I set it in the most personal places of all, well you can’t get more personal than your street and your home. It is for this  reason I’ve run with the title suggested by my Facebook friend Karen Campbell and titled it Comfort Zone I hope you enjoy the read. 
Comfort Zone 
It’s nice here 

I have nice friends

a nice home 

and a very nice life 

and believe me that is exactly how 

I want it to stay

nothing will take me from my comfort zone 

you see I give money 

to those less fortunate than myself 

I look after my health 

take care of myself 

I know it sounds so middle class

but I’m not I’m just cautious

I’ve always been honest 

maybe it’s because I’m single 

I may mix and mingle 

as much as anyone 

and believe me this girl 

has known how to have fun 

since before Cyndi Lauper hit the charts 

with the song that became an anthem 

but as a Cosmo girl I learned early 

to value my independence 

so when I shut the door behind me 

at the end of the night 

I like to keep myself right 

lock the door on the world 

and retreat to the space I call mine 

my home  is my comfort zone 

the place I can truly be me 

and have the privacy to freely 

express myself 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Disciples 

On day 15 of NaPoWriMo my poem is on the topic of faith and was inspired by my friend and fellow poet Janet Crawford.Like me Janet is a woman of faith and church plays an important part in her life  so it really was no surprise that when I asked for suggestions for potential topics she  came up something which is deeply personal to both of us and enables me to write my personal take on the Easter story. As for  the title , there really was only one logical choice and that of course is  Disciples I hope you enjoy the read. 
Disciples 
Hanged on a cross 

an innocent man 

paid the price for our sins 

as Pontius Pilot washed his hands 

of the truth he knew 

in the heat of that Friday afternoon

he turned his face to the father 

pleaded for sinners

 asking forgiveness 

he interceded on our behalf 

the crowds laughed and cheered 

when the spotless one 

the lamb of God 

was brutally put to death 

by those who didn’t understand 

saw him as a pest 

but God knew his mission 

and that come Sunday 

he would be risen 

the conquering  son 

would give him the glory 

the tomb would be empty 

and death would lie defeated 

faith triumphant 

he would once more walk among us 

till ascending to heaven 

at the time he knew was right 

and the father made disciples of us all 

@ Gayle Smith 2017