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Brownies Bromances And Missing Bits From Bibles Really Was The Best Of Summer Nights 

As tradition dictates the summer brings a mellow mood to Words And Music I think it’s the combination of sunshine and the upcoming holiday season that does it. That said , whatever the reason for it there is always a relaxed atmosphere in the summer months, especially July and as the 12 performers and friends who made the night what it was would agree,  it’s the perfect opportunity for  faces  old and new  to showcase their talents. 

July is the kind  of month which suits the kind  of performers who are easy one on the ear it was with this in mind that I selected Jim Ewing to be featured writer and Charly Houston as featured musician. Well that was the plan but when Charly was unable to make it due to work commitments I had to get another musician at the last minute. Fortunately our resident multi tasker, Andy Fleming was ready and able to step in and take over that particular brief as he has so often in the past. 

Comforting as it is to see Andy and the core regulars who make our nights what they are  it’s always good to welcome new faces to the club and July saw two newcomers find a home at our place. In Natasha Newman and Moki Goddess Of Mischief both of whom I first met at the Blue Chair Extra Second nights I knew we had unearthed two stars of the future and was delighted they had graced us with their presence. 

As host it was my duty to this summer night off to the best possible start even if I shamelessly plugged the fact that I had won the Faith And Unbelief title with my opening poem Faithful Daughter which is my poetic warning to the Church of Scotland to modernise or die. 

Having kicked off the night it was time to introduce the first of the billed readers and Mary Wilson read two nature based poems Fledging Bluetits and Fledgling Sparrows based on her knowledge of watching new birds finding their way in the world .

After Mary’s gentle start to the evening, it was time to welcome the first of our newcomers to the stage, and Moki Goddess Of Mischief hit the ground running with a powerful thought provoking poetic package which was very well delivered by a poet who gets better with every performance. Her selection of The Demon Queen and Winching showed two very different sides to a poet of real potential who gave a very relaxed and confident performance. Like me Moki hails from the North of Glasgow and in fact grew up not only in the same scheme I had a few decades ago but in the very next street to the place I once called home so forgive me if I’m just a wee bit proud of a local girl made good who is keeping up the scheme’s reputation for producing quality poets and before you say anything yes I do mean me.  I have to say I enjoyed both of Moki’s poems and I did notice that The Demon Queen produced more than a few shocked expressions whereas Winching had the audience giggling and contained more than a few nuggets of comedy gold. 

With Moki’s debut over it was time for a seasoned regular to entertain us and in Alex Frew we had the perfect poet for the job. Well, I say poet but on this occasion Alex being the contrary type decided to start his set with a song Leonard’s Lactose Lament in tribute to Leonard Cohen and followed it up with a short stand up set. This wasn’t so much Not The Nine O’ Clock News, it was more like Not The Weekly News but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that it was both funny and enjoyable which it definitely was.  

After Alex it was the turn of Susan Milligan to take the stage. This month Susan performed two poems Changing Your Mind, and Political Effects Two, before finishing her set with a song Carolina Moon

As one Susan left the stage another took her place, and Susan McKinestry performed two fabulous poems on the impact of social and economic disadvantage which left the audience spellbound. This was an excellent performance from a poet who was making only her second appearance at Words And Music  and had to be coaxed in to making  her first. Trust me this is a poet you will hear a lot more of  and a voice which needs heard in the fight for compassion and equality a fight we shouldn’t need to be having in the 21st century but unfortunately it is more needed than its ever been. 

After Susan It was time for the second of our newcomers to take her place and be the latest poet to add her name to the tapestry which makes up the history of our event and trust me Natasha Newman didn’t disappoint. As she led us to the bar break Natasha preformed a set of  four poems of truly excellent quality.She started her set with Summer Executions in which she  gave us her thoughts on what was for her and many others myself included was  a very disappointing election result. This was followed by Whole, before moving on to  the brilliantly titled Destination Unknown. This is a place that this poet and many others have visited a  lot more than they will ever care to admit but it also sums up where the future will take us as nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. For her final poem of what was a top class debut set , Natasha read Ignited Rhymes.  This was a great way to conclude the  set and indeed the first half of the show as Natasha’s rhymes have certainly ignited the spoken word scene since this quiet softly spoken poet made her debut on it earlier  this year at Extra Second. Make no mistake this performance marks the  arrival of a major new talent and when I’m proved right then remember where you heard it first. 

After the break it was time for our featured writer and on this occasion it was Jim Ewing who entertained the gathering with a set which showcased his versatility at its best.  In 20 minutes Jim got through more subjects than mastermind as he took us on a journey through his work.

 Jim started his set with Trumped Up , a political haiku on American president Donald Trump . He then moved on to a poem l entitled For Her in which he described the lack of compassion shown by a mourner at the death of an addict . In his next poem To A Mother Jim illustrates the full horrors of the Orlando massacre and   his grief such  senseless slaughter

For his next poem Jim journeyed much further back in time and read Martyrs a poem on the political climate 100 years ago at  a time when the world was experiencing both wars and revolutions and the social and political upheavel that resulted from them. 

After this it was time for a change of direction as our featured writer showed his humorous side with the ghostly ghoulish goings on the world of The Man With The Iron Teeth. This was followed by  a trip to the past with Self Portrait 1900 before Carp Diem brought us back to the presen. Well it is the Latin for Seize The Day. 

In his next poem Bromance Jim took a light at the bonds of male friendship. This I have to say of one my favourite poems by any poet on this topic and is possibly only eclipsed by Robin Cairns Homeland Songs as my all time favourite on it.  

From this Jim moved on to Neil’s Prayer before reading  his Dusty Springfield poem Definitely  He followed this with Retrospective before concluding his set with Men At Lunch. 

As regular readers will know the featured writer is usually followed by the featured musician. However as Charly couldn’t make it due to other commitments  there was no featured musician at least not officially I was able to make an intelligent adaptation to the programme and let Pete Faulkner take the stage. This was a very good move as Pete is highly entertaining as well as being a consummate performer 

As was the case in June when he was featured writer, Pete read an extract from his novel. In this chapter the school is visited by a group French students as part of a foreign exchange and  Christopher is mortified by both students and staff alike particularly by the head of department who is doing the stereotypical Scot routine to perfection. 

As Pete returned to his seat it was time for Andy Fleming to be the featured musician for the night . As regular attenders will know Andy has more than one than string to his bow, and when he takes the  stage, you never quite know what happen you only know you’ll enjoy it when it does. 

Andy started his set by reading a very short  poem from his girlfriend Christine  before getting on to the serious stuff with his word association poem Genetic Typing Pool Shark Bait. I hadn’t heard this poem in  a long time and I really enjoyed listening to it again. He followed this with another piece from the achieve and it was great to hear and sing along to  the Job Centre Plus song.  From unemployment Andy moved on the topic of neighbours and aimed his creative fire at the kind of neighbours we would all hope never to have with  his classic poem Neighbours , Everybody Needs Good Neighbours ,  But Mine Are A Shower Of  Bastards. This poem never fails to hit the spot as almost everyone has had or knows someone whose had neighbours like the ones Andy so eloquently describes in this piece. 

Andy followed this up with  his own unique take on the disco classic I Will Survive before moving on to Roadrunner before concluding his set with that nice little sing a long number There’s No Mention Of The Clitoris In The Bible.

With Andy’s set completed it was up to me to finish up the night  and I did so with a  set  of four poems . I started with  Slice Of Faith ,  a poem on celebrating. the end of  lent by getting back on the chocolate by enjoying  my favourite chocolate based treat otherwise known as the Blue Chair Brownie. Well if Burns can  do it for haggis than why can’t I do it for the brownies. I mean  it seems fair to me. 

I then got slightly more political as I read Scroungers which explains what can happen when people are faced with the reality that the press and media don’t always tell the  truth  and. you face them with alternative arguments they may not have been exposed to. 

 I then moved on to a poem on activism  entitled  Snowflake which illustrates that those who use this term to insult us are making  a big mistake as snowflakes like activists never arrive on their own.

I concluded  my  set with a poem the place I call home and My Glasgow showed you exactly that  my city for better or worse in what I hope is an affectionate but realistic portrayal of   my city. 

With that, another Words And Music came to an end  and as I made my way home I reflected on an evening of brownies, bromances, and missing bits  from bibles really was the best of summer nights. 

Till next time

Gayle X

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

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

Glasgow Boy 

On day 30 I reach the end of my third NaPoWriMo with a poem in tribute to the late Scottish folk singer Ian Davison who  died on Christmas day last year after a battle with illness.I first got to know Ian at a Songwriting workshop in the summer of 1995 and over the years he became a regular guest musician at the Words and Music event I now host. It is therefore fitting that I post my last poem of this year’s NaPoWriMo in honour of his friendship and his memory. I hope I’ve  done justice to a fine singer and songwriter and a gentleman I am proud to have called a friend. I have titled the poem Glasgow  Boy I hope you enjoy the read. 

Glasgow Boy 

 
A man I knew well 

a friendship formed through mutual friends and music 

Ian was a Glasgow boy 

whose clydeside roots were rooted in internationalism

his socialism flavoured songs 

 written with hope for a better world 

he saw Mandela dance 

and said there was room for us all 

as lyrics told  stories of hogmaney parties 

and the welcome we give to others 

reminding us to have a dram 

and raise a glass to friends and neighbours .

both at home and overseas 

Maryhill or McKinleyville 

it mattered not to a proud Scot 

and even prouder global citizen 

with a mission for peace 

ring fenced by a red heart and a CND membership card 

this was a man who marched in October 1982

and even the man in the Whitehouse knew 

knew the power in his songs 

as did an innocent man 

in the jails of echolon 

on whose case he educated me 

now at last his body free from pain 

I can listen to the Glasgow boy 

wrapped in the warmth of memories 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

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

The Little Lessons Teach You A Lot About Yourself If You Listen To The Voices In Your Head

As I prepare for the March edition of Words and Music  it’s time to look back on the events of a very eventful February. To me February is the month when we cast aside our party clothes after the excesses of the festive season and return to a place of normality as we wait to see what the coming year will bring us. It was with this in mind that I allowed myself a quiet smile of satisfaction as we began to gather for the evening ahead. 

 You see it was at this last year when we started our enforced break having been told by our previous home only at the very last minute that  they no longer opened on Monday and Tuesday nights news which threw both myself and the event in to chaos. Eventually however we did find a new home and having settled in to it baptising with the kind of Christmas and New Year shenanigans that only we can have , it was now time to settle in  and enjoy it as the surroundings take on that comfortable feel you can only have when you feel truly secure on your journey to the future.  

Talking of journies, our featured writer had travelled from Edinburgh to be with us and Matt MacDonald being the kind of sensible organised man that he is had even arrived at the venue before I had. Now that’s what I call dedication and as we enjoyed some pre event social time Matt told me how much he was looking forward to the night. 

As the crowd gathered I got the night started dead on 8 o’clock as I tend to do these days. I think the change of home has been good in this respect as whilst at our old familiar venue that was our home for 25 years I was mindful that Pamela would often get me to hold back from starting to wait for some latecomers to arrive, however on moving home I decided to change this and start as soon as the clock strikes 8 and welcome others as they arrive. 

As soon as the clock told me to,  I started the evening with a new poem which hadn’t even been written when we gathered in January to bring in the bells.  The poem Winter Miracle, recalls a childhood memory in which I relate the story of a boy who had never seen before in arriving in Glasgow and how  our teacher didn’t share our excitement at sharing a winter memory with our classmate and friend.  

With my job done, it was time to move on and enjoy the rest of the night and who better to kick off the madness that will forever be Words and Music than Andy Fleming who marked his first appearance of the year by singing Voices In My Head. Now I don’t know if Andy does get voices in his head but if he does they must be very talented ones to produce the kind of work he does. 

Andy was followed to the stage by his friend and mine Alex Ftew who read three pieces Land Fever, No Parrots, and a cowboy story entitled Lannigan which reminded me of the kind of wild west programmes my dad used to watch in the 1970’s. 

As Alex returned to his seat it was the turn of another of Words and Music’s most regular contributors to entertain the company and Pete Faulkner did just that with a witty yet sensitive story about a shy boy who becomes a superhero This was an entertaining and heartwarming story with which despite the gender differences I could easily identify. Well it’s a little known fact that the minute I put my tights on I become the tartan wonder woman 

Anyway that’s enough of my ramblings for Pete’s sake and as Pete Faulkner left the stage it was another Pete or should I say Peter who was next to bring his talents to the table and trust me Peter Russell is a man of considerable talent. 

On this occasion, Peter read three poems The Becks Blue Blues, Mr Murray’s Words which is written as a tribute to Les Murray, before concluding his set with the brilliant America First, a poem which offers hope for a troubled country as he reminded us of the resilience of the American people 

Next up was one of my favourite poets and one of my favourite people, I refer of course to the excellent A R Crow. A R, started their set with a poem on mental health issues titled Ask Me If I’m OK. This is not only a wonderful piece of powerful thought provoking poetry but also serves as a reminder to the audience and society at large that we should be looking out for each other more in these turbulent times . 

A R continued their set with a poem on anxiety, before concluding on a poem entitled Queer Is This I poem I really enjoy despite the fact that as a trans woman  I would never use the word Queer to identify myself. I do however recognise that A R who identifies as a non binary person in other words does not identify with the notion of male or female gender identities is using the word in a positive context to empower themself rather than the negative stereotypes which were associated with it when I was growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s 

As A R rejoined the company it was time for Susan Milligan to claim her five minutes and take us on a trip to her world. On this occasion Susan performed Mia, Love Lust and Lullabies, My Not Sonnet , and A Laddie which was written in Scots, and finished as she usually does with a song . As Valentine’s Day was just a week away at the time of our event I think the song of choice which was the Conny Francis number Where The Boys Are was I think a fitting one and I know that it’s a song she likes singing. 

After Susan it was Alan McGlas who led us to the bar break as he performed three pieces which started his classic Honey Nonny Nay before moving on to Hors D’oeuvres and bringing the first part of the evening to a close with his take on A Happy Marriage. 

During the break I caught up with Robin Cairns who was making a welcome visit to Words and Music and he told me of a new project he’s working on which is by far his most ambitious to date and his most serious piece of theatre since Sawney Bean and believe me it sounds intriguing and like all of Robin’s projects I’m sure it will be top quality entertainment.  

Talking of quality we started the second half of the night in   traditional way with our featured writer and in Matt MacDonald we had the kind of poet whose thoughtful well crafted work is always a joy to hear  

Matt started his set with poems on his home city of Edinburgh kicking off with a poem on friendship entitled 29th September 2011. He followed it up with Bloodlines , before moving on to Arthur’s Seat and then the last  poem of this part of his set The Island Of Broken Sky. At the end of this poem Matt took us on a journey not to broken skies but to the Western Isles of his ancestors and in particular the isle of Harris which his cousins still call home.  In his first poem in this section of his set Whisky Pebbles relates a tale of childhood adventures that warmed the hearts of the audience as we travelled back in time to share the experience with him. This was followed by Little Lessons a poem Matt wrote for his grandfather.Matt then moved on to another Harris based poem and Packing Up in which he shares a memory of a trip he made with his mum. For  his final poem Matt (pictured below) read Signposts In Gaelic To My Edinburgh Eyes and in doing so completed a  truly magnificent set which was both educational and easy on the ear. This is a poet  worth hearing and enjoying a poet grounded both in the craft and his heritage who writes lovingly of his family and trust me his family have a lot to be proud of. 


Having  Matt travelling all the way from Edinburgh and being up to my neck in Celtic Connections for practically all of the festival meant there was no featured musician but this meant I decided to double Matt’s fee and I don’t think there was anyone who would object to my decision.  

After Matt’s sublime performance, it was Claire McCann who had the challenging task of following him and to be fair to Claire she  gave it her best shot performing  two poems The Room, and The Square. Personally I thought The Room, was the stronger of the two as it focused on the impact of social class on  friendships and relationships and I have to  say I quite enjoyed it 

Claire was followed by January’s featured writer Suzanne Egerton whose storytelling skills have won her many friends over the years she’s been attending Words and Music. On this occasion Suzanne read a story entitled Patience and as usual her characters were brought to life using the  warmth and gentle  wit for which she’s become know.

At the end of Suzanne’s set it was time for which the penultimate performer of the evening and it was great to welcome Robin Cairns back to the Words and Music stage. On introducing his set Robin said that he had been inspired by Eveline Pye’s set of poems which documented her time in Africa and as a result of this inspiration he has written his own set of poems on a topic he knows well and that topic is commerce and industry. In a highly enjoyable set Robin read commerce and industry before finishing with That’s Why The Lady Is A ….. in which he showed that if satire’s worth doing it’s worth doing well. 

With everyone who wanted to perform having done so , it was my job to conclude the night and bring it to a close. I did so by  performing two poems Global Warning which was based on my mother’s unique and slightly eccentric  reaction to the idea of climate change and Yesterday When I Was Young which takes a reflective look at my life to date

With the evening now satisfactorily concluded we made our way in to the night and started on our homeward journies. As we did so I mused on the fact that the little lessons teach a lot about yourself  if you listen to the voices in your head.  

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X