Tag Archive | Britain

As Lands Lie Bleeding 

On Remembrance Day I write a poem which is based on the concerns of a 94 year old veteran who served in the Second World War. This former soldier believes that we are now standing at the brink of a third world war and potential global catastrophe due to what he calls the greed and self interest of a group of sociopathetic leaders who have no compassion or empathy for those they lead or for the greater human race as they seek only power no matter the cost to the rest of us. I hope I have done justice to the words of Harry Leslie Smith in this poem which I’ve titled As Lands Lie Bleeding. I hope you enjoy the read. 

As Lands Lie Bleeding 

I can’t stand by and watch the world explode

these are not my words 

but those of a former soldier

in the winter of his years

who genuinely fears for our human race 

this is a man who has faced unspeakable horrors

the likes of which we hoped we would never see again 

like hearing whilst stationed in Germany 

that atomatic bombs had been dropped on japanese cities

and turned the souls of inhabitants 

in to what he describes as chalk marked stenciled drawings on pavements 

in the fragile peace of a cold war world

we had believed those days were behind us 

yet now we stand at a crossroads

not seen since the 1930’s and rise of Nazi Germany

as once more the conservative right 

squares  up for a fight without realising the consequences 

these people have a glorified sense of self 

but no sense of other nor compassion for their plight 

without a moral compass they play games with our lives 

in contrast to those who rebuilt a shattered continent 

at the end of the last global conflict 

who in this country brought us

The NHS and welfare state 

but now the politics of fear and hate are on the rise again 

as the disadvantaged look for scapegoats

to blame for their decline 

shortage of housing and rising crime statistics

blame it on the forigners not the British 

say those who preach exclusion 

as if by doing so we magically solve all problems 

I support an independent Scotland 

but I recognise that independence alone would not solve our problems overnight 

however in the dreamworld of the British Conservative right

they are prepared to make no such admissions about their United Kingdom

and by perpuating their delusions 

they are sacrificing the ambitions of their children 

to live in a better world than this 

an old soldier is warning us 

with autocratic governments in positions of power 

the world stands at the darkest hour 

since the days of Hitler and the reich 

life he says cannot go on like this 

something has to give.

we are standing on the brink of war 

he urges us to take a step back 

not for the Saltaire, stars and stripes, or union flag 

but for humanity 

he worries about the sanity of sociopathetic leaders 

with no respect  for others 

as they lust for power at all costs

and watch lands lie bleeding 

as they play war games by remote control 

 © Gayle Smith 2017 

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No Room For Rainbows

In my latest poem I look at what it meant to be a young trans woman in the very conservative 1980’s. To set the context to this work I should perhaps explain that as we started this  decade homosexuality wàs still illegal in Scotland and though this changed in 1981 bringing the law in to line with England and Wales where this had been the case since 1967 it was at a time when there was a climate of fear against the LGBT community and when homophobia and transphobia as we know them today didn’t exist and merely thought of as normal everyday behaviour. 

Seriously, that’s how it was back in the day.Thankfully times have moved on since those dark days and now living permanently as the woman I’ve always known I was I’ve taken a retrospective look at that part of my story and I think I’ve gained a better understanding of my mother’s issues with my trans identity by doing so. I honestly believe that my mother was a good woman who was probably afraid for my safety and that’s what shaped her views on it. 

As is the case with some poems I had difficulty in deciding the title because I had thought of more than one potential option for it. Bearing this in mind I asked my virtual villagers to make the choice for me  and it was Michelle Campbell SNP councillor for Erskine And Inchinan who was first up with her suggestion of No Room For Rainbows which I think is the perfect fit for a poem written about darker days than now. So I’ve to run with it and I hope you enjoy the read.  
No Room For Rainbows 

In the 80’s I danced to Madonna 

and sometimes to a bit of Donna Summer 

well much to my mother’s consternation 

there were some things from the 70’s 

I just couldn’t give up.  

 I wanted a bit of hot stuff 

well though this material girl enjoyed her freedom years 

dancing in my fishnets and body suit 

in the peace and quiet of my room

was the closest I could get to being me

in the days when myths and misconceptions 

were par for the course if you were LGBT

due to the climate of the time 

anti gay hate crime was worse then than now

and trans women were figures of ridicule 

so I can understand my  mother’s attitude 

in trying to wish my identity away 

write it off as a phase

but all the wishing in the world 

wasn’t going to make me straight 

at least not in the male sense of the word 

the very idea of it is completely absurd 

though I get why she hung on to it 

tighter than any child clings to a comfort blanket 

the 80’s were uncomfortable times 

for anyone considered different 

she was probably scared I’d be attacked 

as Thatcher used force 

to unite her Britain under a union flag 

made of second hand rags and material concerns 

with no room left for rainbows 

© Gayle Smith 2017

Speak To The Night

On day 26 of NaPoWriMo my poem looks at women’s safety and is based on the story of what  happened as I waited for a bus on my road from an enjoyable Last Monday at Waterston’s and why I was grateful to have the companionship of another woman at the bus stop as drunks and beggars stopped to give us their chat. Like it or not I do feel vulnerable in this situation and if there is one thing I’ve noticed since I started living as a woman it’s the fact that  you never see men get this kind of unwanted attention. This is as every woman knows one of the perils of living in a blatantly patriarchal society. Believe me the need for feminism in 21st  Century Scotland/ Britain is as strong or maybe even stronger than it’s ever been, I wish it wasn’t but it is. 

 As you can imagine thinking of a title for this poem wasn’t easy which is why I called on the services of my friend and National columnist Nadine McBay who suggested the title should be Speak To The Night which I think describes perfectly how my companion and I felt as the drunk guy approached us, so that is the title I’m running with. 
Trust me when I say that this is a very difficult topic to talk about as no woman should ever feel vulnerable on any streets in a so-called civilised society but the fact is many of us do and that’s why I had to write this poem.   I hope you find it  a challenging and thought provoking read.  

Speak To The Night 

At a bus stop, two women wait 

for different buses to take us

on homeward journies 

in the distance a drunk man appears 

we show no fear 

but hope he won’t stop for a chat 

unfortunately, he does exactly that 

evening girls he says you alright 

the silence broken he speaks to the night 

I worry my tartan tights may attract attention 

he slurs words beyond my comprehension 

my younger companion assures him we are fine 

 eventually he gives up  taking the hint 

we just want to be left alone 

he staggers on convinced we are either lesbians 

or a mother and daughter out for some women time 

as he goes in whatever direction

the wind blows him 

a begger approaches asking if we have any change 

we politely say we have none 

he shuffles on his way 

as we both complain about the unseasonably cold weather

we enjoy a blether 

 about what men would call women’s stuff 

finally a bus arrives 

I feel  guilty on leaving 

a girl I don’t know 

to face the night alone 

and like a mother I pray 

she gets home safe 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

The Verdict

Hey Readers

In this poem entitled The Verdict i aim my sights firmly in the direction of the UK Parliament and ask why our political leaders talk a lot of hot air and put profit before people whilst doing as a little as they think they can get away with on climate change. It is my opinion that lack of action will not be viewed favourably when these politicians meet their makar it is for this reason I’ve given it the title The Verdict I hope you enjoy the read 

 The Verdict 

It seems to me that British politicians

talk a lot of hot air

when it comes to making changes

trying to avoid them just in case

they might not work

we they claim, are by nature risk averse

preferring safety first

or better the devil you know

personally I think this is madness

you can’t keep doing the same thing

and expecting different results

that is not how the world works

but this is something Britain fails to understand

an isolated island we are told

we are a happy land

and those who want change

are viewed with distrust

or even suspicion

blamed for causing divisions

which in reality have always existed

no matter what Westminster thinks

you can’t paper over cracks

by wrapping everything in union flags

yet they seem to believe

that singing a chorus of Rule Britannia

will make everything better

there will be no surrender to the truth

facts will be dismissed

as lies which get in the way of a good story

the British establishment live in a bubble

unable to comprehend

the importance of taking care of the land

or that the world has evolved over time

and may not want the benefit of our advice

which will always come at a price

when it’s wrapped in corporate pin stripes

by the city of London

as gamblers disguised as traders

get away with whatever they like

it’s the way they play the game

meanwhile the ragged trousered philanthropists

live in poverty in areas where dreams died long ago

I thought they would have known by now

this is the inevitable result

of trusting Tories with democracy

it is they and their wealthy friends

who want to frack the land for profit

extract shale gas from under the ground

without a thought for the long term damage

this could do our environment

not to mention the impact

on our tourist industry

food crops or drinking water

whilst gullible sheep are led to the pen of self interest

and deliberately misformed by the press and media

to ignore these trendy liberal leftie causes

as many gladly will

preferring tabloid horror stories

which are exaggerated for effect

by journalists who know

there is always someone to blame

and that rule applies

whatever the problem may be

the UK leaders need to be made to see

what Scots Sudanese , Senegalese, and Swedes already know

this is not the time for showboating and grandstanding

we need to develop an understanding of our habitat

and stop referring to those who value nature

as tree huggers

those who put profit before people

are no better than muggers

stealing priceless gifts of nature  which do not  belong to them

if you think that sounds like

I’m singing a song of sustainability

then that would be correct

I value my world I treat it with respect

this plundering of the planet

cannot be allowed to continue unchecked

we need to learn where things are at

and see that next summit we attend

debating the problems facing the earth

we have to open our eyes and see the solution

if this takes a revolution in our thinking then so be it

we can’t just wish these issues away

global warning does  exist

we must open our eyes and actually listen

believe it or not the world does not revolve round the united kingdom

far less the stockbroker belt in the home counties of England

we have bigger issues to consider

than playing petty political games

where short term goals

are all that can be scored

a problem ignored is a problem doubled

if we don’t sort it out

we’re heading for trouble

we need to focus on cleaner greener energy

cutting down on waste

not acting in haste now

and regretting decisions at a later date

for the sake of humanity the future can’t wait

we need to act locally, nationally, and globally

or slowly like desertification

tomorrow will speak of our shame

when that happens the judge of the earth

will deliver a verdict on our environmental vandalism

and the scandal is that

on the charge of death by hot air

we will be found guilty of murder by apathy

@ Gayle Smith 2017

Tainted Gold

Hey Readers.

This poem looks at Britain’s history as the first industrial nation and how the past still shapes the present especially with regards to the class divide which was enhanced during that period and how this impacts on us even now when it comes to how we view our environment. I have given it the title Tainted Gold I hope you find it an enjoyable and thought provoking read.

Tainted Gold

As children we were taught to be proud
Britain was the first industrial nation
the first country to break
from the agrarian way of life
we took a scythe to communities
which had lasted for centuries in the name of modernity and profit
cottage industries died
and wealth was no longer shared
but concentrated in the hands of a few
the capitalist class had been born
and the gap between rich and poor grew wider
a trend that continues to this day
the bard would shake his head in dismay
at the destruction of what he called ‘nature’s social union’
all for the wealth of an elite
this revolution far from eradicating poverty
or at least driving it in to retreat
has made the situation worse
whilst destroying resources
both at home and overseas
lust for wealth led to an obsessive greed
as leaders hunted for colonies
and built an empire in the name of the crown
this we were told was something
on which the sun would never go down
lest we forget the real facts of the matter
the chattering classes can’t hide
no amount of propaganda disguised as pride
can stem the tide of nature
or change the narrative of the story
it’s embarrassing to see
a country which claims to be
amongst the most developed on earth
embark on a policy of apathetic indifference
when it comes to maintaining the health of the world
whilst city boys and girls rake in obscene profits
and the landed gentry shoot the grouse
on the glorious 12th
the mind thy self mentality
cares more about fictional characters
in TV soaps
than improving our quality of life
as our leaders yet again
use the scythe
to cut the earth
in the endless search
for tainted gold

@ Gayle Smith 2017

Flag In The Wind ( A Christmas Message For The Comfortable Tendency)

Hey Readers

On day 7 of Blogmas I’m getting ever so slightly political as I send an uncompromising message to those Brexiters who are in the I’m alright union jack brigade., You know, the comfortable tendency who seem to think that the only threat to the Britain they love is whoever the Tory press tells them it is rather than realising they will never get the change they seek by supporting the establishment and demonising people whose only crime is to move to this country as migrants have always done in search of a better life.

It was to get rid of these xenophobic attitudes I voted yes to independence 2014 and to remain in the European Union earlier this year. You see I recognise the contribution that migrants have made to both Scottish and British society. Indeed a few generations ago some members of the paternal side came over Ireland to settle in Scotland and it’s with those roots firmly planted in my heart that I say no to the Brexiters and their toxic anti immigrant views. I have given the poem the title Flag In The Wind I hope you find it a thought provoking read.

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Flag In The Wind.

Britain must ban migrants

says a man who;waves his flag in the wind

standing isolated on the edge of the cliff

he tells me we’ve started to win

our country back for its citizens

I listen not wanting to reply

before hearing him out

he tells me about our glorious history

of the magna carta and defeating the Armada

I politely inform him his story is English not British

the United Kingdom didn’t come to being

till long after these events

he seems nervous as if I’ve shattered his contented view

of this mythical green and pleasant land

he was brought up to believe in

I say as a Glasgow girl I have different priorities

and excluding those he calls foreigners

it not amongst them

he claims it’s disgusting what they do

says he believes in the red, white, and blue

I ask him how he came to this conclusion

he countered it’s the right solution for our country

If we don’t get rid of them

things could turn ugly

after all they are stealing our jobs and our money

taking our homes and not contributing to our economy

no wonder our country’s in poverty

he stops for breath as if collecting his thoughts

I inform him there are many of us

who wouldn’t agree with his beliefs on migration

people from other nations

have always done their bit for our economic health

done the jobs natives felt beneath them

as a Glaswegian I know my city was built on immigration

the beating heart of the nation

and the empire’s second city

imported workers to fill the jobs

in heavy industries like coal and shipbuilding.

the Irish turned parts of the city green

the Italians, Poles, and Lithuanians

filled the gaps left by Scots

who ventured to Canada and Australia

Immigrants are not money grabbing failures

they are made out to be

by UKIP, Britain First , and BNP

and the Conservatives and the Labour Party

should not be pandering to this belief

when the evidence supports the opposite view

we don’t need to teach anyone British values

or Scottish ones come to that

Diaspora’s have generations of success

to use as examples to the Romanian family in Castlemilk

or the Syrians who settled in Shettleston

and see that Baby in Bethlehem

he was a Palestinian

I challenge him by saying

If you’re going to call yourself a Christian

then act in the way that Jesus would want

don’t haunt the hearts of the gullible

this country may be in trouble

but it’s not the so-called foreigners who cause it

I know there’s unemployment

but it’s Tory austerity that’s causing the issues

the man then says Scotland should let Westminster decide what’s best

I tell him attitudes like that

are the reason I voted yes

and though we didn’t gain our independence

we got a large enough vote share to make the city nervous

but why you would want to leave us

he asks without a trace of irony

not realising that Thatcher and Blair left a toxic trail

Jesus was nailed to a cross for less

but this member of the comfortable tendency

still refused to blame anyone but those the daily mail demonises

I tried mentioning the House Of Lords

making him aware of how much of his money is spent

on this unnecessary white elephant

the only purpose of which is to gift the wealthy elderly

the chance to sleep indoors

rather than face the cold they gift to others

less fortunate than themselves

he shakes his head refusing to understand

his poverty will never be cured

by the establishment he defends

they have no interest in him

to pretend otherwise is to lie only to himself

and wave a flag in the wind

which will blow him away on the coldest night of winter.

@ Gayle Smith 2016

Till Santa Delivers Equality I Would Sooner Wear Pink Than Be Pitied. 

Hey Readers

On day 3 of Blogmas, I take a step back in time to move on to a better future. I promise it will make sense when you read it, so with that in mind let’s journey back a Sunday in mid October and the final day of this year’s SNP conference 

Featured Picture Me (Gayle) and Bemis spokesman, and fellow Celtic Connections regular  Danny Boyle at the SNP Equalities Conference October 2016. 

Picture (1) The Picture Shows The Headline So I Can Tell The Story

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A couple of months ago on a calm autumn Sunday I attended, the SNP equalities conference. It was a very enjoyable day where I listened to a variety of speeches from a number of contributors both from within the party and from spokespeople representing a range of campaign groups who are united in their aim in fighting for a fairer more inclusive Scotland so why you may ask did I wait till now before talking about it.

Well there is a simple and honest explanation namely that this was a day when I learned not only about campaigns and causes it was a day I learned about myself and what I learned and will reveal on this international day of disabled people will shock and even anger some people but as someone who is both a disabled person and a transsexual woman I have no hesitation in saying that given the choice to identify as disabled or trans I would choose trans and I would do it every single time.

Now before some disabled people completely lose the plot let me say that having to make choices of identifying with one part of me over another part of me is something I should never have to do. As someone who worked as a disability equality trainer I recognise the value of a united equality movement working together to achieve a better society for our people.By this I mean a society that values everyone whether it be Women, People From Black And Minority Ethnic Communities, Disabled people, Trans people and values them equally

This however is I regret to say not the case at the moment and on this particular day the disabled members forum was meeting at the same time as the LGBT members forum and superwoman though I try to be even I can’t be in two places at once. So on the grounds everyone who was at the disabled people’s conference was a disabled person but that trans people and especially trans woman are underrepresented in politics I thought it was important that my voice was heard at the LGBT conference which was excellently hosted by Kirsty McAlpine and the Right Honourable Stewart MacDonald MP see picture below.

Picture 2 Stewart MacDonald MP gives his opening address to SNP LGBT members conference with Kirsty McAlpine looking on

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Taken in isolation one might think I am saying to declare as trans rather than disabled was a spur of the moment decision relevant only on the day of the conference but believe me this is not the case. So why do I think that my trans identity for all the difficulties trans people face is more positive than identifying as disabled person? Well I’ll tell you why it all comes down to preconceived assumptions which in turn lead to stereotypes which have an impact on wider society. In other words, it really is in the words of Robert Burns about seeing ourselves as others see us.

You see as a trans woman though I may experience some transphobic abuse as I go about my daily business I believe I still have a far better quality of life than I would if I identified only as a disabled person. Now I realise this isn’t fair and for some people it will make very uncomfortable reading but facts are facts and can’t be changed just because some people don’t like them. You see the truth of the matter is that disabled people are unfairly viewed as a burden on society.

This view has always been a popular myth within society but it to has to be said that aided and abetted by the right wing Conservative press it has increased dramatically since the climate of austerity become the accepted norm in UK politics after the 2010 General Election. The idea that that somehow disabled people are on the make and are making false claims on the benefit system has to a large extent gone unchallenged by the UK political mainstream as with help from their friends in a compliant media they have established this discourse as part of a national narrative which seeks to demonise anyone who is viewed as in any way different.

Be under no illusion it is fair to say that trans people are to a significant extent also viewed as other. In spite of this and the fact that we do experience a degree of hostility from some of our less enlightened members of society I honestly believe that disabled people get far worse treatment than the trans community in early 21st Century Britain.

It seems there is hardly a day goes by without politically motivated story appearing in the less erudite sections of the tabloid press labelling disabled people as lazy, workshy, benefit cheating, scroungers who aren’t really disabled but who are in it to milk the system.

This is hysteria, pure and simple and yet the British government have the nerve to wonder why more disabled people than ever before are being targeted by hate squads and many are choosing to end their own lives rather than take this daily torrent of abuse from those who are too narrow minded to see they are being played by a Westminster elite who would sooner spend billions on weapons of mass destruction than creating the conditions for genuine equality.

So why are disabled people the new acceptable scapegoats which allows them to be treated in ways which if it were a BME citizen we would be screaming racism or a woman we’d be shouting misogyny. Personally I believe it’s all about perception and disabled people are still perceived by some people as being less able than they are even when the facts don’t support this line of thinking. Many less intellectually able members of our society believe that disabled people are weak, and possibly even stupid and they believe this line of argument without anything to back it up except for the pre historic opinion that physical strength equals intelligence. Surely if this was the case then I as the first disabled person in my family would not have been the first university graduate but I was. 

It does however have to be said that in spite of many examples which disprove this outdated theory  it is a popular myth which has been around for hundreds of years and has been  carefully socially and culturally constructed over time to find a place in the national pysche. This attitude annoying though it is will not evaporate overnight and even now we are seeing disabled people being pitied and patronised rather than treated as equal citizens and it with this last comment you can begin to see why I would sooner identify as trans than as a disabled person.

Speaking from the heart and as a trans woman, (trans men can speak for themselves ) I will explain why I take what some would see as a challenging stance on this issue. For me my justification for this viewpoint is that it really is all about equality. You see as a trans woman I am never even on my most difficult days told what clothes I can wear, where I can travel or socialise or what time  I can get up or go to bed. Yet the basic right to make these and other choices are denied to disabled people. This to me is obscene and though being trans is not without it’s problems as I know only too well I say again what I’ve said throughout this post which is until Santa delivers real equality for all I would sooner wear pink than be pitied or to put it in even more brutal terms I would sooner declare as a trans woman than I would  as a disabled person

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X