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Speaking My Thoughts On The  Human Rights Act 

I wrote this poem yesterday to celebrate the International Day Of Human Rights. I’ve written in the style of a chat we need to have with those who want to get rid of The Human Rights Act. You know the type, we’ve all met them. You know those who will shout very loudly about the rights they want for themselves but never give a thought for the rights of others. I’ve titled it Speaking My Thoughts On The Human Rights Act I hope you enjoy what I think will be a thought provoking read.

Speaking My Thoughts On The Human Rights Act 

So you want to get rid of the Human Rights Act? 

do you really want it scrapped ?

well here are some facts I think you need to know 

before you act in haste 

this act layed the foundation for the humanity we cherish

god help us if it should perish on the rocks of fear 

now let’s get a few things clear 

this act established the right to freedom from slavery 

to get rid of it would be stupidity not bravery 

it enshrines in law to the right to assemble 

and of freedom of speech 

in so many lands these are rights beyond the ordinary people 

and some powerful people here would remove them in a heartbeat 

we cannot afford to sleepwalk our freedoms away

so you still want to bin the Human Rights Act ?

all for the sake of a union flag or indeed any other

I think it’s time you learned some uncomfortable truths 

about what it can and does do

like establish your right to marry 

to raise a family and have a private life 

to gain access to education 

to freedom of conscience and thought 

whether governments like what your thinking or not doesn’t really matter 

don’t be fooled by the chatter of those with vested interests

we actually do need this legislation

as artists when we get inspiration our work is protected by copyright 

we have to fight for our rights in a way we shouldn’t need to do 

the right to shelter is a right you and I are given in this act 

though some will always fall the safety net 

when benefits and protections are cut in ever narrower patterns 

due to greed, inhumanity and deliberate lack of understanding 

by those who have too much and give too little in return 

we must campaign for freedoms which were hard won  in times before now

like the right to a fair wage and to join a trade union 

which stops profiteers exploiting you 

like your a commodity or a cash cow

do you still want rid of it now? 

well let’s see some other ways your protected 

it respects your right to a nationality 

gives you justice and equality 

supports your rights to live in a democracy 

provides you with the right to own property 

and gives you freedom from torture or inhumane treatment 

and to be innocent of any crimes 

until found guilty by a jury of your peers. 

your entitled freedom of movement

and a safe space to live away threats or fears of violence 

It gives you the right not to be silenced 

to say with pride I value my rights 

to life, liberty, and dignity 

I care about the univrsal declaration 

made by the United Nations

in which this act is grounded

I cherish what the founding signatories had in mind 

when they first wrote just after the second world war 

this is what we were fighting for 

this is why we couldn’t let Hitler’s Nazi’s win 

this was the new beginning we needed 

to protect individuals and nations

so I’m saying knowing what you  know now

would you still get rid of the Human Rights Act ?

would you remove the United Kingdom’s signature 

from the universal declaration ?

 if you say yes to that 

for the sake of an empire which will never return 

there is something I think you need to discover 

if you get your way and we lose these freedoms 

we have taken for granted for so long 

you may sing a song of sorrow

far sooner than you think 

you  yourselves may need to wear triangles 

yellow , pink or  other colours 

it won’t matter to those who take the possessions you prized 

if you fall for their lies then remember 

it was you who cried wolf so many times 

that nobody believed you when he stole all you had 

and feasted on the carcus of your trust 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

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Mince Pies 

This poem may appear to be written on a favourite festive food, but look beyond the title and you’ll find it’s really about the greed self satisfaction that Christmas can sometimes bring and the cold hearted indifference in our attitudes to others and especially to those most in need of our help. I’ve given it the title Mince Pies I hope you find it a challenging and thought provoking read. 

Mince Pies

Mince pies 

a festive favourite 

with custard or on their own 

hot or cold 

perfect with coffee 

or even Irn Bru

comfort food until twelfth night 

then they disapeer from view

till mid November

when we remember 

that Santa will soon be coming to town 

thanks to adverts and christmas songs 

which are played non stop

on TV screens and shopping centres

in an effort to get us to us 

to part with our money 

as consumerism runs riot

masquerading as the feel good factor 

we are all told we need 

in a land where greed is sold as good 

is it any wonder we need comfort food

we need mince pies 

to survive the harsh realities 

of the bleakest mid winters 

where those with cold hearts 

walk past shop doorways 

where the dispossessed lie sleeping

as Jack Frost haunts their dreams 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

 The Year Of The Christmas Songs

In continuting my recent trend of posting Christmas themed poems I’ve written this one on Christmas music as I take a trip down memory lane and recall my last Christmas at primary school. I’ve titled it The Year Of The Christmas Songs I hope you enjoy the read. 

The Year Of The Christmas Songs 

1973,  my last Christmas at primary school

the first year real Christmas songs 

dominated the charts 

Elton John, Wizard, and Slade 

fought it out for the number one slot 

in the days when we all watched top of the pops 

before listening but not really listening to the Queen’s speech 

it was Slade who eventually reach the coveted number one position

though not hearbreakers like David Cassidy or Donny Osmond 

they had Noddy Holder with his booming voice and funny hat 

at 12 I thought Christmas was made for that kind of fun

and in the year of the Christmas songs 

they created something to last 

far longer than just one Christmas

© Gayle Smith 2017 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till next time

Gayle X

Runrig For Millennials

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

Runrig For Millennials 

I  saw them at Na Trads

my flatmate called them a gaelic boyband

they can sing in two languages

stardom beckons within the traditional music world

and if enough girls follow them

they could be Runrig for millennials 

shining a light on the future

with songs for the 21st century

with positive progressive lyrics

and an identity shaped for the modern age

they will help to make our ancient language

relevant for a new generation

multi culturalism isn’t just confined

to gaining knowledge of Polish or Arabic

sometimes it can be found closer to home

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

so often mocked by those who beg for privilege 

and call our culture feinian talk

the colonials who walk in the loyal marching season

give no reason for their misplaced allegiance

I question why they give their loyalty to another country

but ugly shouting as all they’ve got 

meanwhile a new band shows the way forward

promoting understanding through stories told in songs

they cannot change the wrongs

of a past written before they were born

but instead tell the stories of this time 

their time to shine

like the stars you see

shining on a hebrideen sunset 

© Gayle Smith 2017

A Good Result

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

A Good Result

In a church rooted in the local community 

the Christmas fayre was busy 

my half 11 start meant I had missed 

the chance of picking up a bargain 

far from disheartened I spent my money 

on home baking and small gifts for others 

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

who said l was on the naughty list 

for supporting what he called that other mob 

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

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

in the shape of flags and cups 

on hearing this he gave up 

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

gave me a knowing look 

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

on the day with money still being counted 

so I think you could call it a success 

and at a time when finances are streched 

this is a good result 

for a church that doesn’t stand still 

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

we are rooted in our community

and when it really counts  I am pleased to report

our community is rooted in us. 

© Gayle Smith 20217

Beneath The Tree

It’s December so it must be blogmas. This is the time for Christmas themed posts on all things festive, so I start this year’s blogmas with a new poem entitled Beneath The Tree. I hope you enjoy the read.  

 Beneath The Tree 

Presents placed beneath the tree 

hopefully everyone gets what they’ve asked for

on Christmas eve it’s early to bed 

as everyone waits for a visit from Santa 

excited children watch from windows 

I remember when that was me 

on Christmas morning I’d get up early 

and see my presents

beneath the tree 

© Gayle Smith 2017