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Bonfire Of Promises 

On a night when some people celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes with celebrations and firework displays I take a slightly different look at bonfire night. I do this by  taking an alternative look  at the issues of austerity and the homelessness it can and does to lead to. In this poem I explain why I believe the I’m alright Jack mentality has resulted in a culture of apathy in which people are content for others to suffer so long as the suffering doesn’t reach their door and this allows the more reactionary Conservative forces within the UK establishment to have a bonfire of promises. It is with this in mind I have titled my poem Bonfire Of Promises I hope you enjoy the read. 

Bonfire Of Promises 

As I stand in the cold

watching fireworks explode

 a cavalcade of colours

light up the evening sky

like a rainbow

but with no pots of gold at the end

I am lucky when the evening concludes

I will return to the shelter of my flat

after time spent with friends

enjoying the warmth of their company

as the weather turns colder

I walk past a homeless girl

checking my pockets to see if change can be spared 

on this occasion only goodwill can be shared 

and that won’t fill empty stomachs

or remove hunger pains 

in a world where nobody listens

and politicians feed the public a diet of slogans 

designed to blame others for our problems

scapegoating is the road to ignorance

and acceptance of rules

made by others to tighten their grip 

on us and our circumstances

till we believe change is no longer possible

and as long as we’re alright everything is going to be fine 

all we need to do is shut the door

on the outside world

and pretend it doesn’t exist 

but there is a warning in my words 

if we do take this road it will be the vulnerable who suffer 

as we start to view minorities as others 

and allow governments to make

a bonfire of promises

 © Gayle Smith 2017

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Other Voices

A long time ago in a haunted banqueting hall I promised Fay Roberts a poem. For those of you who don’t know who Fay Roberts is allow me to culturally enlighten you.  You see not only is Fay a valued mentor and friend, she also hosts Other Voices every year at the PBH free fringe and Other Voices which gives a platform to LGBT and other performers who are under represented on the bills on mainstream poetry nights is one of my favourite spoken word events not  just at the Edinburgh fringe but anywhere. So with this in mind  I made Fay a promise to write a poem to say in  my words what other voices means to me and I’m delighted to say that promise has now been honoured with this poem which strangely enough entitled Other Voices I hope you enjoy the read. 

Other Voices

Other voices 

far away from mainstream stages

come see us performing without fear 

poets who identify as LGBT 

some who proclaim boldly 

their queer or non binary status,

love us or hate us come and see us first 

before making your decision on how we should be perceived

we have stories to share with you

some of which you would never believe

listen to our words let us woo you 

with our tales of adventure, heartbreak, love, and lust 

place your trust in us to be your guides

in the majestic underground cave 

that is our spiritual home 

at this crazy time of year

come and see us perform without fear

far away from mainstream stages 

hear the sage advice that you will never give yourself  

it may even be good for your mental health 

and make you start a poetic journey of your own 

on the other hand you might just become 

a regular audience member 

we have no agenda except to entertain 

listen to us seduce  your ears with sentences 

rapped with rhyme and reason 

and delivered with the rhythm method 

we will pepper the air with salty phrases

if the need arises

 but should that be the case 

 it will be done with style 

we will make you think, cry and smile

 as we provide you with an hour of fun filled frivolity

in the banqueting hall of Madame Fay’s boudoir 

and when you see the brightest stars

the stars that  will dance but never lie 

when you are mesmerised by  them in an evening sky 

long after the show you came to see 

you will hear the cry of the banshee

and when you least expect it 

 you will remember us 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Inaurguration 

On the day Donald J Trump becomes the 45th President of The United States Of America I post my thoughts on his inaurguration and what it may mean for my American friends. I’ve given it the title Inurgaration I hope you enjoy the read.
Inurgaration

As I watched the inauguration of President Trump

my thoughts were with my American friends

poets like Carly a former Scottish slam champion

who says what she sees

expresses her concerns for humanity

with words of empathy and compassion

I remember she told of her embarrassment at the fact

that though she loved Texas

she couldn’t take it to parties anymore

and Katie who wrote a letter to her future daughter

which will let her know how valued and cherished she will be

by a mother whose poetry and love for life

will empower her beyond anything

she could have imagined

these women weave words

in patterns Uncle Sam can be proud to have shaped

These are the voices which can make America great

the founding mothers and fathers

know this to be true

they had a global view of the world

because they knew their children came from other lands

to blend together in melting pot that is the USA

It is this land that has given me

the gift of strong women

poets who have something to say

about the human condition

which makes us who we are

the land of the star spangled banner

has bequeathed me a personal legacy

in which Brittany played her part

as I enjoyed her words and sentiments behind them

when it comes to friends

I won’t get better than Arielle

who holds me in her heart

viewing me as her aunt across the Atlantic

now I am frantic with worry

about what this may mean for them

their families and communities

for the American dream and equality

for democracy and human rights

Trump supporters will say

this is the day that America starts to fight back

but to those of us watching in Scotland and elsewhere

this imperialist agenda smacks of despair

and a country which had given us

the reasoned voices of Lincoln , Roosevelt, Parks, Kennedy, and King

was singing a chorus of desperation

a once proud nation reduced to this

empty words replacing visions

ambitions limited only to those who can afford them

the rest of the people will be ignored

discarded in the void

the old and unemployed left to rot

Women treated as second class citizens

as for immigrants the land which was built by them

will be a very difficult place

for those starting out on that road

in a land of opportunity , freedom, and choice

the only voices respected

will be those of the wealthy

whose influence will increase

at the expense of the poor

meanwhile the giants carved on Mount Rushmore

look down on a deeply divided country

in which things could turn ugly

as I watched the transfer of power

I prayed for the poets, the thinkers, the liberals

at this critical time in their history

In the knowledge that the next four years.

will be testing times

and the land of the free

will have to be

the home of the brave

@ Gayle Smith 2017

The Coldest Season 

On day 10 of Blogmas I share a poem where I look at the the commercial side of our so-called festive season and why when we are wandering round the shops we should stop for a moment and think on others who may not be as fortunate as we are and what if anything we can do to help those abandoned by a society which is becoming more individualistic by the day as Conservative values take hold of western democracies and demonise those in need of genuine help I’ve given it the title The Coldest season I hope enjoy the read.

The Coldest Season

Winter, the coldest season 

where those discarded by a society 

in which winner takes all 

are refused access to the festive cheer 

whilst the rest of us spend 

more than we can afford 

on relatives we’ve ignored 

since last Christmas when we had that argument 

and brought up things best left unsaid 

or if we’re still not talking to them 

we’ll spend  our cash on  new friends 

get in to more debt that a small country 

all because that advert was lovely 

and filled us with the joys of the season 

it is after all time for glad tidings

silver linings of comfort and joy 

we’ll be in good voice singing carols 

at the church we attend once a year 

It’s Santa not Jesus in whom we place our trust 

to meet our needs in the season of goodwill 

but what about the old, the homeless, the ill

thrown to the wolves so others can jingle tills 

in the name of profit 

 of which they will see just enough 

to pay the bills and not a penny extra

this is the not so secret agenda 

of those who would kill the Christmas spirit 

by taking others to the brink

watching them sink from a world 

so immune to their pain 

we don’t see the irony 

when we hurry through shopping malls 

in this the coldest season of the year 

and the song we hear is do they know it’s Christmas. 

@ Gayle Smith 2016 

When The World Came To Glasgow The Result Was Positive Change

Hey Readers

As you may have noticed I’ve been on a wee bit of a break for the past week and I haven’t posted since my rather emotional birthday letter to a certain blogger who was celebrating her 21st birthday last Tuesday.  Yes I do mean you Jessica Lauren Hatcher.

To say a lot has happened in the intervening days would I think be an understatement. So bearing that in mind  I’ve decided not to bother saying things that have already been said on Theresa May’s ascension in to Number 10, far less the barbaric attack on the innocent citizens of Nice, or the attempted military coup in Turkey. Though tartan tights is by nature a  topical blog, it is I think appropriate on this occasion  to leave the bad  news for others to comment on and focus on one of most heartwarming events I have ever attended the 2016 Homeless World Cup which was held in Glasgow from the 10th to the 16th of July.

It’s an oft repeated phrase that sport brings people together and to me this was never more accurate than it was during this week long football marathon in which 64 teams from 52 countries competed  for both male and female versions of the world’s most famous sporting trophy

To capture the amazing atmosphere and spirit which shone in our city’s main square during the past will take more than post so I thought I would write one for the qualifying rounds and another to paint my personal picture of the magic of finals day.

Though I would have loved to attend every day reality meant this just wasn’t possible and I missed the opening ceremony which I have to say is my biggest regret of the tournament especially when I heard later that it was a carnival of colour which could easily have put the west end festival to shame. This is not easy but believe me I heard it was a spectacular occasion truly befitting of my home city.

As for the tournament itself Scotland may have been the last team to enter the arena but as hosts they were first on to the pitch and and they opened the World Cup in style by beating Hong Kong 11-1. Alas this was not to be Scotland’s year and by the time I made my first trip to the tournament on Wednesday evening it was obvious that brave though there hearts may have been their legs weren’t quite up to facing teams whose players were 10 to 15 years younger.

My first match was Brazil V Bulgaria (see picture below ) which was won 7-2 by the Brazilians who treated us to some samba soccer in the square on a glorious Wednesday night but whose defence showed some frailties which better teams would exploit.

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My next stop was South Korea V Wales which was followed by Germany V Belgium both are pictured below and the later was one of the most entertaining games of the week with goals flying in from all angles with one of the Belgian strikes being of particularly stunning quality. 

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South Korea V Wales

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Germany V Belgium

At this point I decided to take a walk round the venue and meet some of the players and support team who had brought their skills and enthusiasm to put a smile on a Glasgow summer.

It was during my wandering that I was warmly greeted by one of Scotland’s women’s team Courtney Lynn. You see I know Courtney from a different environment which is located around ten minutes from the square. I refer to Glasgow’s hidden gem that is the Blue Chair Cafe where Courtney and I  are  often found amongst the regulars for the Wednesday night open mic where I perform my poems and Courtney is known to treat us to a song or two.

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With me being in a chatty mood I decided to talk to a couple of the stewards who were only too happy to share their stories of how the event had unfolded and pose for a picture with the coach of Namibia for me.

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For a competitive tournament and believe me it was fiercely competitive, it has to be said that there was an atmosphere of friendship throughout the event. At a time when many sports stars are viewed perhaps unfairly as overpaid prima donnas this was good to see but I think this particular group of footballers who have had to endure many hardships have can do attitude to sport because having faced prejudice and social exclusion they know the truth of what is printed on the t-shirts and that to me sums up what the homeless world cup is all about.

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On walking past the support stall I saw someone I thought I knew and had to do a double take before I realised it wasn’t my fellow poet Sam Small but a very friendly lookalike called Tyler who was advised by yours truly to Google his poetic lookalike and be happy he was paid such a compliment.

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Next up on my personal tour of the world were a fine group of lads from Northern Ireland. This lot were a very friendly bunch who represented their country brilliantly both on the field and off it and were great ambassadors for the tournament. This picture shows the lads happy and relaxed and in a very positive frame of mind.

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Not content with a team picture these lads insisted that I joined them for a selfie and since I melt at an Irish accent this was an offer I wasn’t going to turn down.

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I then captured an action of Zimbabwe V Bukino Faso (see below)
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After this I stuck with African teams and managed to get a close up of this handsome lad from the Ivory Coast. This was a particularly pleasing shot to get as his team had just a thrilling game to the Netherlands and many players would not have been in the mood to pose for photographs in such circumstances.

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After this it was turn of the Romanian players to pose for the camera and they were in confident mood though they said their English wasn’t good. I joked that living in the East End of Glasgow my English wasn’t perfect either. Now I don’t know why but this joke seemed to work and put them at their ease.

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After this photograph was taken my next shot was of a man who spends his time his time stopping them, and the Polish goalie cut a fine figure in this little number. It’s my guess that his country went for this choice because it would startle opponents in to missing what we in Scotland call sitters and therefore give his country a better chance of qualifying for the knock out stages of the competition.

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In my next picture I got an action shot of Austrian substitutes watching their game against Cambodia as they patiently waited for their moment.

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Our Bosnian friends shown in this photograph capture the very essence of team spirit with a look says togetherness and determination will always be part of this team and since they had just come off the back of a very positive result I think this was a good time to get a shot of them.
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If the Bosnians were happy the same can said of the Norwegians in this picture and having just come off the pitch after an 8-2 win over Slovenia I think their smiles tell me they may have been in the mood to party.
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My next picture has to be one of my personal highlights not only of the evening but of the entire tournament as I managed to get a team picture of my national team before our game with Indonesia which was the last game of the evening. I will speak more about that game later in this post but for now I was just happy to get a picture of our brave hearted heroes who were all proud to wear the bonnie blue of Scotland.
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After Scotland it was Austria’s turn to be put in the picture with this shot taken not long after their game against Cambodia.

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Now
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I don’t know about you but I’ve always believed that every world cup needs both eye candy and a hero and you can trust the Irish to deliver them. On this occasion it was the Republic of Ireland’s Jamie Geoghagen who provided both at once and prove that Glasgow miracles do actually happen.

My wandering complete at least for now, it was time to take in some more football and this game between Poland and Namibia (pictured below) was a real cracker.

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This was fast paced football at it’s best and let’s just say both teams like to play an attacking game and this may account for the number of goals scored.

This was followed by Ireland against Street Stars United and this game was won convincingly by the Irish who despite their opponents best efforts managed to reach double figures. However it has to be said that the Street Stars team who were made up of players from the many nationalities resident in Glasgow gave it their best shot and showed some nifty footwork when given the chance.
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Finally it was time for the last game of the evening as Scotland faced Indonesia. The teams are pictured below before kick off.
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Now I don’t know why maybe it was the fact that Flower of Scotland raised the spirit skywards, or that Indonesia have never been renowned as an international footballing superpower but as we kicked off I was expecting a reasonably comfortable Scotland victory.

Yes I know I should have known better I was a teenager at the time of Ally’s Army and our ill fated trip to Argentina but I thought this would be different. Alas it wasn’t and Indonesia deservedly beat us 10-3 and it could have been worse they were_10-0 up with a minute to go before Scotland roared in to action with three goals in the last minute (yes these things can happen in street soccer) to make the final score look a wee bit more respectable.

After the game I joked with Scotland goalkeeper Paul Chalmers that I was going to start an online petition to only count the last minute of the game for the final result so we could turn a 10-3 defeat into a 3-0 victory. Paul said he thought this was a great idea but I think we both knew it would have been very unfair on a brilliant young Indonesian side who must have had the loudest supporters in the tournament with the possible exceptions of Scotland and Mexico.

As I prepared to leave the square and go to the Blue Chair open mic for the second half of my night I
was introduced to Jamie MacLean (see picture) who I was told was Scotland’s greatest ever street soccer star.

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As we chatted, Jamie told me that playing for his country was a brilliant experience that he wouldn’t have swapped for the world. Naturally I wanted to find out the longer term impact it had on him and whether or not it had resulted in the positive change that is hoped for by those competing. I was delighted when Jamie told me it had resulted in a very positive outcome for him as he was now working as part of the homelessness team at Glasgow Association For Mental Health and helping and supporting people who are in the position which he himself was in.

This to me is what The Homeless World Cup is really all about and I can’t think of a better man to advise those who need advice than someone who has been at the sharpest end of society and has first hand experience of the perils and pitfalls they may encounter and how to empower people to overcome the barriers they face.

My final picture of what was a wonderful evening was of two young Irish players Brian in the traditional green of his country hails from Longford in what the chattering classes would call middle Ireland, and Colin in the blue jersey who comes from Cork in the south of the country. These highly pleasant lads were a credit to their country and represented all that is best about Ireland. Like so many others across all nations these two team mates come from different parts of their country and would probably never have met had they not got involved in their national street soccer programmes.

To me this spirit of friendship is a powerful symbol of what this World cup symbolises not just among their own team members but with rivals many of whom will have formed friendships across the miles. This will I hope help participants in the confidence building skills which many people who have been placed at the margins of society often lack.
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As I left the Square for the chair I reflected on a fantastic night, and I couldn’t help but be proud that when the world came to Glasgow the result was positive change not just for Scotland but for all competing nations. This was a wonderful advert for football and for friendship and that to me was best result of all.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X