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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 

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 

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

When Women Of A Certain Age Decide To Get Fierce The Golden Girls Can Really Rock The Mic. 

​Due to an unforseen accident in the last Wednesday of April, It’s fair to  say that May was a quieter month than usual in my poetry calendar. Indeed I had to postpone my own event due to a badly sprdined ankle.

This meant  there was no Words And Music at the Tin Hut on the first Tuesday of the month. I also missed cracking nights at Fail Better, Extra Second,  Express Yourself, and Last Monday At  Waterstones. In fact the only event I made in the whole of May was on the second Sunday of the month when I captained the over 40’s team in the four  ages slam at the Tron Theatre 

 This was an afternoon which I simply had to attend comes as 0ou I was  chosen by the host and organiser of the event Robin Cairns to captain the team for my spoken word demographic but also the fact that it was my first journey outside Baillieston since injuring my ankle at the tail end of last month Since I was still a bit shaky in the terms of my movement I got taxi’s to and from the venue well it made more sense than going for a bus and potentially making things worse. 

Having been made captain, I had to select my team for the events in which we would be doing battle with the teams representing teenagers twenty something’s and thirty something’s and with an emvarrasnent of  riches to choose from I made a few tentative enquires as to who may or may not be available for selection. Eventually I settled on my choices and in Angela Strachan and Lesley Traynor I knew I had chosen well, whether we would would be able to take on and beat the other teams would be as it is in all slams in the lap of the gods, the aududnce, and the judges.

I arrived early for the big event and was quickly joined by rival team captain and close friend Victoria McNulty who since she was taking a social media break had not heard of my recent accident. As we chatted I told her that this was only the second time I’d left the house since it happened and the other occasion was to cast my vote in the local elections. Eventually I was was joined by my team mates and other competitors including fellow team captains Carla Woodburn , Matt MacDonald. As kick off time drew ever closer we went through to the Victorian Bar took our seats on the stage and waited for the battle to  begin. The rules of the competition were simple all poets would perform twice in a round robin fashion and the two highest scoring teams after the two rounds  would progress through to the final to compete for the title of the Four Ages Slam Champions 

After the prelimaries like deciding  on team names and  the running order,  we were treated to a sacrificial poem from one of our judges Brighton based poet Deborah Martin. Sacrifice made It was time to start the competition and it  was the Young Team who were first to the mic as Aidan Rivett opened the slam with his take on Karaoke.One by one the  poets made our way to the mic when it came to our turn to put our first poem out there I decided to take a captain’s responsibility and lead from the front as I performed Jewel Of The Clyde in which I looked back the impact of Glasgow’s year as city of culture on both the politics and culture of our cityThis being my first ever team slam though I have competed in and judged individual ones, I was understandably nervous as I didn’t want to let Angela or Lesley down so I was glad to get it out of the way and get back to my seat. 

On a day when we played to what was a predominantly non poetry audience who had paid £7 for the privilege of seeing us I think we saw the poetry community at it’s best and those gathered  heard poems on a wide range of topic including domestic violence ( Victoria McNulty) family from both (Adam V Cheshire and Moki , male anger Loki, Sex and taming the bad guy Lesley Traynor with her hilarious take on the big bad wolf, nightclubs, me (lost the plot,) and Aidan Rivett , facebook friendships, Jess Smith , shopping and the perils of giving up  smoking (Angela Strachan) and the dangers of swallowing spiders  from Carla Woodburn. 

At the end of the second round of  poems it was four quality teams who waited for their fate to be decided by the judges two of whom would be judging every poem but the third judge was a different story as this was a different member of the audience for every poem and I must admit I rather liked the idea of what I call poetry democracy in action.

As we waited for the judges decisions I talked tactics with my team to decide what poems to perform if we made it through and also I had to consider who would be placed where in the running order. I took a captain’s decision that should we get through I would be going first , Lesley would follow me and Angela, would be our final poet standing. Eventually , the judges made their decision and we had qualified for the final where we would pit our wits against the young team. It was set up as the classic final a battle of youth against experience. 

Having lost the toss it was the young team who went up first then it was my turn to step up to the mic and I performed one of the few poems I know well enough not to need a paper copy or my phone  and when Karaoke Queen got a maximum score of 10 from the audience member I knew I had played my part to the best of my ability. 

One by one we took our turn at the mic and when Lesley performed her poem my sister sleeps I thought we had grounds for optimism and then finally it was Angela who went all out for glory to prove that the so-called oldies can be Goldie’s and believe me The Queen Of Modern Suburbia didn’t let us down.Now having done all we could do it was two nervous teams who awaited the decision of the judges 

Eventually, they made their call and much to my delight they called it for us. The wise ones had  won the day and our all female team had proven that when Women of a certain age decide to get fierce the golden girls can really rock the mic. 

Till next time 

Gayle X

I Learned Some Valuable Lessons From The Queen Of Modern Suburbia As I Discovered A Voice Which Said I Am My Mother’s Daughter

​​​It was a quieter night than usual on the First Tuesday of April for the monthly diet of Words And Music but as my gran always said it’s on nights like this that you learn to appreciate the little things and the small acts of kindness which make a difference to our lives. Before the night had started our featured writer Angela Strachan presented me with a gorgeous bunch of flowers. Needless to say this put me in good sprits for the night ahead and through we had more vacant spaces than a car park on Christmas morning the six  of us who did turn up enjoyed what was  a cosy wee gathering and made the most of the opportunity for what was a less formal night than is usually the case on these occasions.

As is customary I kicked off the night with one of my own poems which in this case was the most recent effort which was written on what was the third day of this year’s NaPoWriMo. The poem entitled Lessons was written on the lessons that I believe those of us who support an independent Scotland need to learn if we are to win the next referendum whenever that may be held. 

Having got the night under way I introduced the first of the readers on what was always going to be one of our  shorter  nights.  This was a writer I had only met three days before at a poetry workshop  on Gender and Sexuality and Alana, or AJ as she prefers to be known  made a very impressive debut with her  short prose piece Masterpiece. This was a highly enjoyable piece from a writer I look forward to hearing a lot more of. 

AJ was followed by Mary Wilson whose three poems Only Three Dozen,  More Parrots, and Garden Tigers showed that Mary , a poet we are only just getting to know, has wide variety of subjects in which she is interested and I’m sure we’ll hear more of her work in future. 

Next up was to stage was club regular Susan Milligan who read two pieces of her work entitled Present, and My Time before finishing her set with a song entitled Let Me Count The Ways This is a lovely song which Susan performed well and I hope she includes it in her set when she takes the featured musician slot in August.  

Claire McCann followed Susan and performed a very short piece entitled Chalk which took us up to a longer than usual break before it was it time to reconvene the evening in the only way we know and that was with our featured writer. 

On this occasion it was Angela Strachan who claimed that spot and those who missed her performance, missed a top quality writer who delivered a highly entertaining set which went down well with the small but appreciative audience. 

Angie (pictured below) started her with a poem for her granny before moving on to a poem about her dog entitled Old Jock. Though I’ve never been a dog owner I really enjoyed a piece which illustrated the bond between the dog and its owner. 

Picture (1) Our featured writer Angela Strachan 

Angela’s next poem was on Being  followed this one with Hair Of The Dog before moving on to one of my favourite poems of hers The Queen Of Modern Suburbia 

This poem  describes brilliantly the unrealistic pressures faced by professional middle class women in the 21st century as they try to cope with the ever increasing demands of modern life in the face of press and media pressure which tells them they are the have it all generation who need to have it all to be a real success. 

For her next poem Angie continued on the middle class suburban theme with The Book Group. This may be a rap on the unlikest of the topics, but it’s  also hilarious and it works. As, you may have gathered by now , Angie, has a tendency to draw from personal experience and in her penultimate poem  A Love Letter To Mr Berkeley Menthol she tells of her battle to quit smoking in a way which is filled with honesty and humour. On finishing her set with her final poem Slugs Angela Strachan had delivered a set filled with variety integrity, and intelligently crafted poems and believe me when I say this is a writer we’re going to hear a lot  more of in the months and years to come.

Having no featured musician, since Pauline Bradley had to call off due to an unavoidable last minute emergency I decided to treat the company to a song though under the Human Rights Act I’m not sure I should have done this. However cometh the hour cometh the woman  and I decided to go ahead with it. My song of choice was a favourite of mine by the Irish singer/songwriter Paddy Reilly entitled Flight Of Earls. The song tells the story of youth emigration from Ireland to seek greener pastures elsewhere. As I said in my introduction to the song which none of the company had heard before though this song relates to Ireland this in my opinion will be the future for Scotland’s youth, unless we gain our independence. Controversial I may be, but one thing nobody can say about me is that I don’t tell it as I see it.  

At the end of my impromptu rendition I asked anyone in the company if they wished to perform again. As nobody accepted my request I brought the evening to an end by performing three poems the first two of which, Sanctuary and Discovered, were were my first two efforts for this year’s NaPoWriMo  I read my final poem of the evening titled  My Mother’s Daughter.

This  was written on mothers day in memory of my mum and  though she had  her reservations about my transition I think she would be proud of this poem which deals with my relationship with her with honesty and integrity she always placed such importance on.It was she said a mark of your character to have qualities she regarded as essential in anyone with even a shred of decency. 

With my final poem completed  I concluded a night which though short on numbers wasn’t on heart or on quality and of which it can be said that I learned some valuable lessons from the queen of modern suburbia as I discovered a voice which said  I am my mother’s daughter.

Till  next time 

Gayle X 

I’m Back From A Break I Had To Take When Life Got In The Way 

As you may have noticed things have been a wee bit quiet on here in the last few days so I thought I’d better explain why I have taken my longest ever blogger break and why I’m delighted to be back.

As regular readers will be aware my last post was my final poem of this year’s NaPoWriMo. As any poet whose tried to write 30 poems in 30 days well tell you it is not an easy task.Whilst it may be enjoyable, it is also very challenging and can be emotionally draining. However draining though this was there were other factors at play  not least of which was the fact that just a few days before the end of NaPoWriMo I had a very bad fall just yards from my home as I walked home from the shops after purchasing my lottery ticket.  

The fall which occurred as I walked down a lane I have walked down thousands of times in my 15 years living in the area had a catastrophic impact on my social life and on my mental and emotional well being so I was shall we say a wee bit under motivated as I focused on my recovery from injury.  

There was also the not so small matter of the run up to the Scottish local elections to consider. Though I have my own very definate political views and will share them on here from time to time it is not uncommon for me to take a break of a few days in the lead up to the campaign as I am usually out assisting my party in whatever way I can but this year I couldn’t even do that and to make matters worse I couldn’t even jump up to celebrate Celtic’s goals in our 5-1 demolition job against Rangers at Ibrox and when I can’t celebrate our  second 5-1 thrashing of our main rivals this season ( we had already  done a job on them at our place last September) then you know that something is definitely wrong. 

Indeed it is fair to say that my social life has also been shredded since my accident and  it wasn’t just Celtic and the SNP who didn’t get the benefit of my natural cheerfulness and repartee my injury stopped me  from attending church last Sunday and also meant I had to cancel this month’s edition of Words and Music which was scheduled for  Tuesday evening. This was a very difficult decision to take but bearing in mind my inability to walk for more than a few paces it was the one I had to take. Well when the host can’t get to her own event there really is no other choice they can make. I mean things were so bad for a few days that I was given time off  from campaigning in the local elections a lift to my local station in order to cast my vote by our former constituency chairman Lachie McNeil. Needless to say I was grateful for the lift but was gutted that I couldn’t do my shift at Swinton Primary as I had hoped as I always enjoy the banter on election day with both voters and political opponents. 

On the subject of the local elections I  was going to post about them yesterday but with emotions still raw I decided to make this my comeback post and when I eventually do post my thoughts on them it will not be the usual analysis of results and  will be slightly more personal in tone as my blog is my space for me to share my thoughts and believe me that is exactly what I’ll be doing now I’m back on tartan tights.  
Finally I will end this post with an admission. I didn’t actually mean to take a blogging break it just kinda happened when life got in the way  and you know what , I’m glad that I did.  Looking back there are other times when I could and possibly should have taken one but plodded on regardless and I’m sure my content must have suffered at those times. Maybe I didn’t take a break because I was scared you would forget about me and I would  lose a readership I have worked hard to build. Now however I’m a more confident blogger and if I need to take a break I’ll do so and I’ll do confident in the knowledge I’ll come back refreshed and writing better content because of it. So that’s my self imposed blogging break over and it feels really good to be back writing and doing what I enjoy. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this post as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. 

Till Next Time 

Gayle X

When Rabbie’s Lass Got Fierce With Words And Mused On Political Valentines We Searched For Silver Linings In A Tapestry Of Talents 

Never before in the history of  Words And Music have we held the  April edition of our club before I’ve had to reflect on the events of a March,  but such is the madness of NaPoWriMo that is what’s happened on this occasion and if it ever happens again it’s bound to  be in  the chaos that is such a regular feature of April these days.

As I look back on this night I am happy to say that was a night in which women played a very prominent part. After having no musician in February I was delighted that Bernadette Collier a well known and respected voice in the Glasgow folk scene was making her debut at our event. As I kicked off the proceedings dead on 8 o’clock, I was as always excited yet nervous as to what the night would hold. Well I’ve been attending spoken word events long enough to know that the only thing you can predict about a night like this is its unpredictability.  

I started the evening by reading The Clothes Of An Honest Man a poem written in memory my late father John James Smith who would if still among us  have been celebrating his 90th Birthday in the last week of February. It is I think fair to say that like most poems on my family this one was not without controversy as raised a few topical issues such as   the political cultural differences between my parents and on these issues I was very definately a daddy’s girl. 

After the opening poem it was time to hand the night over to the company and get on with the show as only we know how. First to take the stage was Angela Strachan who was making her first appearance since our Christmas Cracker in December. Angela who is April’s featured writer celebrated her return to the fold by reading a story titled Dandelion Feicht which she narrated from the perspective of a teenaged boy. Before starting to read  Angela asked me if she could have a wee bit of extra time to read her story and I said that wouldn’t be a problem because unlike some performers over the years Angela had the decency to ask rather than assume she could take it and get away with it and I must it was an enjoyable story which was well worth hearing. 

Angela was followed by Mary Wilson who read three poems Pigeons On The Menu , Robotic Cleaner, and Fitting Time. Like Angela, Mary was also making her first visit of the year and it was good to see her back. 

As Mary returned to her seat it was the turn of a man who needs no introduction to Words And Music regulars as Alex Frew has been entertaining us for more than 20 years, both at Sammy Dow’s, and now in our new home at The Tin Hut . Be it poetry , prose , or music Alex can always be relied on make us smile and think in equal measure. This time, Alex chose to read  a story or should I say the first part of a which told a tale of childhood and I look forward to hearing the second part of The Note as and when he decides to share it with us. 

From an experienced performer we move on to a debut girl and Susan McKinstery showed why I moaned the face off her to come and share her work with two  excellent pieces When Bad Things Happen, and the brilliant You, I , Us. You know I’m really glad that Susan decided to come along as her powerful , thought provoking pieces challenged stereotypical prejudices and added something extra to the evening . 

Next up was the other half of Ayrshire’s dynamic duo Andy Fleming.  Like Alex, Andy has been coming to Words and Music for over two decades since making his debut in 1996.  Having attended pur monthly gathering for as long as he has, it is fair to say that Andy has a large volume of work so large in fact that he is never quite sure what to perform on any given night. Andy however is a great believer in democracy, and more often than not will let the people decide his set for the night by getting those of us in attendance to shout out random numbers and his set will be selected by whatever numbers we decide to call out. On this occasion Andy’s form of democratic participation meant that the audience were treated to three of his all time classics  and I for one thoroughly enjoyed One Star Review, Trashwalk, and his environmental rant You Are Not A Cyclist. This was a set which brought back memories for some of us and created them for those who are just getting to know a man I am proud to call my friend. 

Next up to the stage was Susan Milligan whose set focused on romance. This was no great surprise to me as this was the first Words And Music since Valentine’s Day. In this post Valentine’s set Susan read three poems Parting Kiss, One Last Look, and All Alone. I am also sure she sang a song and I enjoyed it but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was. 

As Susan took her bow and rejoined the company to enjoy the rest of the evening it was Alan McGlas in his now customary position who led us to the bar break with his hillirious piece titled Ten Reasons Why I Dislike Dying In Hospital. This piece of quality satirical brilliance was the perfect way to end the first half of the night and get us in the mood for our featured performers but first it was time to catch up with friends and enjoy the social side of life which always plays such an important part on nights like this.  

After the break it was time for the first of our featured performers and as always we started with the featured writer and this month that was was the none other than the fiercest woman in poetry otherwise known as Lesley Traynor. Now those of you know Lesley (picutured below) will know she has a naughty side and she showed that mischievous streak with her first poem Big Bad Wolf in which she got more than a wee bit suggestive about this character in a fun filled poem which gave us all a fit of the giggles.

Picture (1) Our featured writer Lesley Traynor takes tin hutters on a very interesting journey

Having shown us her naughty side, it was now time for her  to show her sensative side with her poem My Sister Sleeps. This poem illustrates Lesley’s gentle tenderness as it tells the story of her close bond with her sister with the use of loving evocative language and stunningly beautiful imagrgy. 

In her next poem Rabbie’s Lass Lesley looks at the relationship between our national bard Robert Burns and the love of his life Jean Armour and does so very much from Jean’s perspective. This is a poem which narrates a tale of compassion from a 21st century woman who would never have put with even half of Rabble’s chat but times were different in Jean’s day and Lesley shows genuine warmth towards her subject in a poem which takes a look at Burns through the lenses of both feminism and time. 

In her next two poems Dancing At La Garre , and Secret Place   Lesley tells of her time in Eithopia and the adventures she had and the challenges she faced as a young woman in what was at that time a  very troubled land. As if to demonstrate her versatility Lesley then moved on performing Threads before taking us on yet another adventure, this time to Milan where after visiting a gallery in the city she was inspired to write Cover My Mouth In Gold. 

Lesley then concluded an excellent set with her final poem Thrawn. This is a poem which is  close to her heart as it was written for the women with fierce words event she organised for the Scottish Poetry Library for the first day of the Edinburgh festival fringe. The idea behind the event was that every poet brought with them a poem and a fierce word which described something about them and Lesley chose the old Scottish word Thrawn which can be used to mean stubborn or determined and Lesley is determined to get as many women as possible to record it in as many unusual venues as possible to illustrate that there is no place on earth on which a woman can’t be thrawn which reminds me I’ve still to record my version of the poem outside Celtic Park. This was an excellent way to end a top quality set which was enjoyed by all in attendance. 
After Lesley it was time for our featured musician and this month that honour fell to Bernadette Collier. Though I’ve known Bernadette (pictured below) for many years this was her first time at the club. Bernie started her set with a song that appealed to my pro independence sentiments titled If You Were Free. She followed this with a jazz flavoured number Killing The Blue

Picture (2) Featured musician Bernadette Collier makes a long awaited debut at Words And Music supported by seasoned regular Bob Leslie.

 For her next number she was assisted by Bob Leslie, as they dueted on  one of Bob’s songs Hook Your Train Up To My Wagon. Bernie followed this up with another transport related song when she covered Chasing Cars. For her penultimate number Bernadette sang a Spanish song which I not knowing the title can’t spell, pronounce, or translate but I did enjoy it.  For her final song Bernadette sang Dance Me and with that she did the quickstep off stage to enjoy what was left of the evening 

As Bernadette and Bob rejoined the company it was time for the penultimate performer of the evening and this month it was Claire McCann who had the unenviable task of following the featured acts and she did it by singing a song titled Look Whose At The Door. 

As Claire concluded her performance it was my job to bring the evening to a close  I did so by performing four poems I kicked off my set with my tribute to the late great Tommy Gemmell. I titled this poem The Goal That Changed The Game as that is exactly what he did with the equaliser which broke Inter Milan’s defensive wall and with it their resistance thereby setting up Celtic up for my club’s and Scottish football’s greatest ever victory. I followed this up by reading Quartet.This is my tribute poem to Orcadian band Fara who I go to see at every chance I get. For my penultimate poem I decided on a bit of satire with my Valentine’s Day poem Political Musings On Valentine’s Day in which I take a no holes barred look at the Valentine’s that certain politicians and organisations should have got. For my final poem I stayed on the theme of politics and in Silver Linings I took a reflective look on my journey back to normality after the disappointment of the referendum and the part poets and musicians played in brightening my mood. 

It was with that optimistic note that I ended this edition of words and music and yet another night was written in to our history. It was a night when the 13 of us who made it along were thoroughly entertained.So when Rabbie’s Lass got fierce with words and mused on political valentines we searched for silver linings in a tapestry of talents. 

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X