Tag Archive | Colin Storrie

Founders Of The Feast 

On a lovely summer Saturday it was my privilege to, attend a poetry themed barbecue in honour of the world’s worst  poet otherwise known as William Topaz McGonagall. This annual event now in its 12th year is hosted by my good friends Colin and Irene Storrie who every year open their hearts and open their home for a fantastic day of poetry, music, and friendship where having celebrated the best poet in the world at our Burns Suppers in January we can focus on commemorating the self styled worst poet in the world who even on our worst days can make every one us look like a genius. That’s why I dedicate this year’s McGonagall poem to them. I’ve given it the title Founders Of The Feast I hope  you enjoy the read.  

Founders Of The Feast 

​It is one of my favourite my summer traditions 

In the land we call the United Kingdom of Great Britain 

as we gather together the many and not the few 

to have good food and companionship 

and enjoy a very sociable barbecue

   
It is always great fun, but I cannot deny 

that sometimes it is not just the food which will be grilled or fried 

as the natives of our land have a tendency get very badly burned 

when we see that big yellow object 

which is know by  metrologists and weather forecasters as the sun 

 This is however, not something about which we should complaining

as in Scotland and the United Kingdom Of Great Britain 

the weather has a nasty habit of raining 

If this is the Almighty’s idea of a summer joke 

I do not find it funny as many of out citizens 

could get caught in a downpour and end up getting soaked. 

This I fear would not be very good 

however I hope it would not spoil their day or stop them enjoying their food 

for that would be a very great shame 

especially at the poets barbecue 

which every year since 2006 

has been held to celebrate the honour of my name. 

This barbecue is not held in the Magdalene Green or the fair city of Dundee

Nor even in Edinburgh the city that gave birth to the poetic genius I was born to be 

it takes place in the heart of Glasgow’s East End 

and founded by most uniquely talented collection of friends

it is however to the founders of the feast 

I must now proclaim my gratitude

though I have heard said they prefer good companions

 to a diet of well meant  platitudes 

but alas as the my story has now reached it’s end 

I ask you to raise your glasses 

and toast, Irene , Colin, and the company of  friends.  

© Gayle Smith 2017 

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Photographic Memories From Christmases Past 

On Day 11 of Blogmas If I ask you what links the following  photographs? It should take all of 30 seconds to realise that the answer is me and Christmas. You see in this post I thought I would share some photographic memories of Christmases past and explain why they mean so much to me. 

Picture (1) Is of last year’s Glasgow lights at George Square. Like every other town and city in Scotland, Britain and the world, the big switch on is always a great if choatic day and signals the start of our festive spending spree. 

Picture (2) Shows the Pavilion Theatre in which I’ve seen many great Glasgow pantomime’s over the years 

Picture (3) Has a picture of the advert for Jackie the musical that I went to see this summer at the Kings Theatre but as a teenager and even just before it, this was the annual I wanted on Christmas morning.

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Picture (4) Is of two of the genuine good guys belting out a tune in the Tollcross Winter Gardens with Colin Storrie on guitar and Derek Read on recorder at the Christmas Bards in the Park in 2009. Alas for a number this event is no longer part of our festive poetry calendar and the Glasgow spoken word scene is much the poorer for its absence

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Picture (5) This shot shows a seasonal theme as the church gets festive and the three wise go on their travels to see the Christ child and worship the new born king.
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Picture (6) For me Christmas always starts with the December edition of Words and Music as or I prefer to call it the Christmas Cracker. This picture shows Kirsty Nicholson looking rather festive on what turned out to be our last ever Christmas at our original home at Sammy Dow’s. You know it doesn’t seem like a year since this picture was taken especially since we’re now safely settled in our new home at the Tin Hut but if we had to move on which we did at least we can say we had a fantastic featured writer to see us through our final festive season.

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Picture (7) Illustrates that every girl loves getting pampered at this time of year
as I show off my newly polished nails in a very seasonal shade of red.

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Picture 8 This picture is what I call my and finally moment as it’s my last photograph in this particular post and it takes me on a journey, to Christmas 2009 when I was only one year in to my transition and just getting ready to start my hormones. Whilst not the clearest picture of me, ( I’m seen here second from right with from left to right Frances Fairweather, Linda Grant, and Jane Overton) you can see just enough to notice that I’ve undergone a lot of changes since those early days not least of which is my taste in leg wear. I mean check those tights out. In my defence I’ll plead either insanity, or delayed teenage years, though I think the first one would be the more realistic. At least it would be if you listen to my friends.

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Anyway that’s me finally completed my walk through Christmases past and I hope you’ve enjoyed my photographic journey.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

The Thoughts Of McGonagall On The European Union Referendum And Why We Should Vote To Remain

Hey Readers.

I’m relaxing at home after an enjoyable and highly entertaining day at the 2016 McGonagall Supper hosted as always by Irene and Colin Storrie. This annual homage to the the man dubbed the worst poet in the world is now in its 11th year and that is entirely due to the fantastic hospitality given by Irene and Colin who have created an event which is one of the highlights of my summer poetry calendar.

Amongst those in attendance this evening were Words and Music regulars Andy Fleming, Alex Frew , Jane Overton , Lesley MacKay , Derek Read, Jim Ewing, Jim Monaghan, and our club’s founding mother Pamela Duncan who brought some family members along to enjoy the day. It was also lovely to share in Rosie Mappleback’s birthday celebrations and meet Andy Fleming’s new girlfriend Christine who paid the gathering what I think must be the ultimate complement when she said that it was being amongst family. I think in that one sentence she summed up what this day really is all about. It was a wonderful afternoon and early evening spent with a great group of friends as is always the case on this occasion.

As one of the originals who was at the first McGonagall supper, I have now attended 10 out 11 McGonagall’s which is no mean feat. So believe me, I know only too clearly the tradition which needs to be observed, namely that poets who attend this gathering must not only read a poem by our bard in celebration of his work but should compose a poem in McGonagall style it is with this in mind that I write a new McGonagall poem every year and this year my topic is the upcoming referendum where McGonagall declares for Remain. I have have given it the title The Thoughts Of McGonagall On The European Union Referendum And Why We Should Vote To Remain I hope you enjoy the read.

The Thoughts Of McGonagall On The European Union Referendum And Why We Should Vote To Remain

Dear voters of the United Kingdom of Great Britain
On Thursday 23rd of June you will have to make a very important decision
This is the time when you must make a choice and you must never again complain
As with regards to the European Union you have to vote to leave or to remain

Now this referendum is leaving many people feeling most vexed
Some are positively bewildered whilst others are just plain perplexed
I myself even now am by this matter most bemused
Whilst some of the less well read are it seems very easily confused

I have read many comments on facebook which make me smile
They were by written those who should appear on Jeremy Kyle
These people I have to proclaim are most uneducated
And if they appeared on his show Jeremy Kyle would quickly be very frustrated

The leave campaign in full of union jacks and most scary stories
It is great to see George Galloway pals with Nigel Farage and the Tories
This man has a heart filled with hate and which we all clearly see
And is an insult to the Magdaline Green and the beautiful city of Dundee

This scallywag is the patron saint of bandanas
But the whole leave campaign is beginning to drive me bananas
It caused me distress when I saw Boris Johnson on This Morning
Waken up voters please heed my words of wisdom as a warning

You see if you vote for Brexit it will be most sinister
When you waken up with Bo Jo as your Prime Minister
This is something I would in a most earnest manner caution against
As he would make Margaret Thatcher look like Tony Benn

There is I am afraid in my heart a real fear we will leave
By I as McGonagall’s voice do declare and believe
That in spite of Cameron, Blair and Osborne and Brown
Being on the same side as myself
that you will not let us down

So dear undecided voters of the United Kingdom of Great Britain
On Thursday 23rd of June when you make your decision
If your not in the club then will have no right to complain
So with that in mind please remember to vote Remain

@ Gayle Smith 2016

From Poetry To Protest Marches From Pews To Pamphlet Launches I Shared A Common Space Or Two In The Name Of Faith And Friendship

Hey  everyone  Not only was Sunday was the longest day of the year but this weekend was the longest and most action packed weekend I’ve had for a very long time.  Honestly even with all those extra hours of daylight and the added bonus of sunshine and believe me it a bonus if you live in Scotland I still quite how I managed to fit everything in. I am however a woman and women as you know just get on with things and ain’t that the truth. Well we have to, we have no other choice.

Anyway, i was as i said active from beginning to end of a very busy weekend and is was a weekend which offered plenty of variety. It started with me making my now mandatory appearance at Baillieston Library to print a  copy of my poem for this year’s McGonagall supper which was happening later on Saturday afternoon. Print job completed i headed off to my monthly trans support for the first  time in longer than i care to remember.

Though i arrived later than i would have liked i still had time for a coffee and a chat with other women in a similiar position and when you’re trans peer support even in the smallest of ways is always a very handy thing to have. Being a political activist and member of the SNP  i gave my campaign report to the group from a trans perspective and said that i had been generally received by voters during my work on street stalls which goes to prove that our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was  right when she told me not to worry about a trans-phobic comments as the voters would judge me on the comment of my character and the merits of our party’s policies and not on the content of my wardrobe.  I also took great pleasure in reporting that my party candidate now local MP Natalie McGarry  used my talents and skills to the full and that this had been one of the best campaign’s i have ever been involved in.

In other news i said that i now felt more comfortable in my own skin than ever before and i believed that making the transition far from narrowing my friendship base had actually increased it.  It does however have to be said that not everyone is as confident as i am and  i have to say that i had a full and frank exchange of views with someone who said that they felt it was unfair that we have to live as women 24/7 to qualify for gender reassignment surgery. Needless to say i disagreed profoundly with this comment as i believe that the rest life test serves a very valuable purpose which is to demonstrate our commitment to living in our acquired gender and therefore avoid any mistakes being made in the process. The person concerned tried to fob me off by saying that they lived in  a rough area  and were too well known in the area to take the risk. Unfortunately for them however this is an area i know having grown up in a neighbouring  area  and i wouldn’t say it’s any rougher than the parts of the East End i need to travel through to get home or the area i used to work in. That said however we parted on amicable terms and i got on with the rest of my Saturday.

On leaving the group I decided to take a wee wander down to George Square or as the yes  movement call it Freedom Square. Personally I think this is a far more suitable name for my city’s civic  square than an outdated name which stinks of wealth and empire. This however is not how our city fathers see the issue.  Remember fellow citizens our glorious guardians are members of the anything for ermine brigade and would sooner see it retain the name of a long dead German king than rename it after a noble concept.  Re-naming it they say would to be concede that those horrible yes voters were right all along and the Loyal British Labour And Unionist Party will never surrender to that. Talking about no surrender it was really nice that our city guardians allowed that nice orange order to have a cultural day at the beginning of the month? Well it was in their opinion even if that opinion was not shared by those of us who put Scotland first  and believe in  a fairer more equal society. Anyway the square  was still pretty packed at around to 2.30

As tradition dictates I always bump in to a fair few fimiliar faces and believe me I wasn’t disappointed. I saw many friends from struggles past and struggles yet to come in a crowd much than the official figures of the press and media. Star attraction amongst them however goes to Mandy Morgan who informed me that she was about to be vetted to put her name forward as an SNP candidate for the Scottish Parliament and should she be successful in the vetting process it is likely that she will consider putting her name forward for the Provan constituncy.  Let me take this opportunity to say that I hope she has been successful in the vetting process and that she goes on to win the party’s nomination for Provan the seat in which she was born and raised.

After listening to some excellent speeches, mingling with everyone of all pollitical hues from Business For Scotland to the SNP from Communists to Greens  and being entertained by Gerry Cinnamen I finally left the square and made my way to Riddrie to the home of Colin and Irene Storrie for the 10th annual McGonagall Supper which Colin and Irene have turned in to a unique cultural feast where we pay homage to the man who has become renowned as the worst poet. in the world Dundee’s very own adopted son  William Topaz  McGonagall.

This is always an excellent day as most of those in attendance enter in to the spirit of the event with one noticable exception whose eyes are bigger than their belly and who only turns up for the food.

The format of the event is simple. We have some social time at  the beginning of the day and then after our genial host welcomes us all to the day we then get down to the business of celebrating the Bard of the Tay.

In the first part of the day we play to Oor Wullie by reading something from the great man’s work. Having done we adjourn to feed our faces, some more than others it has to be said, before reconveining to read our tributes to McGonagalll as we read the poems written in the style of the man whose name we honour. Topical topics this year included Glasgow city council leader Gordon Mathieson, who was brilliantly saterised by Catherine Baird, who was making her McGongall debut.  Alex Frew wrote about unfair pay and conditions in the workplace I tackled the topic of climate change and its impact on the Scottish weather and Andy Fleming wrote on the impact of austerity on the diet of the vegitarian proletariat. These were but a few highlights of what was a memorable event for all  the right reasons. As is always the case this event did not finish early and it was not until the wee small hours of Sunday morning that I finally returned to the village.

Bearing in mind my rather late arrival back home it was perhaps a wee bit of a miracle that I made it to church on Sunday morning but I did grace the kirk on the corner with my presence.  I have to admit though I was shattered and I think making to church did me the world of good and set me up for the rest of the day and it was good to be in attendance on the day of our Sunday School prizegiving.

After the service and the social time for fellowship with friends,  I made my way back to the flat for a quick coffee and freshen up before heading to the Art School for the Common Space launch party

Though it started six months ago this was the official launch for an innovative new media project whose aim is to break the news stories that the mainstream would tend to leave unreported. Having said that however Common Space which was set up in the aftermath of  the independence  referendum to provide an alternative service to the pro unionist media believes in collabaration rather than competition and this point was made by its editor Angela Haggerty in her welcome speech to a well attended gathering.

During what was a busy and productive afternoon for me I was chatting not only to fellow members of the SNP but to Greens and members of  Left Scotland and general movers and shakers within this much needed new media organisation. I even managed to get both a word and a couple of selfies with Angela Haggerty and chatted with Common Space journalist Liam O’Hare. I also enjoyed brief chats with video and technology expert Stephen Paton, and Kaleido Scot’s editor  Dan Littaeur . Well part of my reason for attending the event was to mix and mingle with those who are attempting to bring us the brave new journalism that Scotland wants, needs, deserves, and in my opinion has every right to demand.

One of the most informative parts of the day was the meet the bloggers which was held in the downstairs cafe. During this relaxed informal session i chatted with one of my favourite political bloggers James Kelly of ScotGoesPop.  It was at this time that I also caught up with some of those who have worked for Common Space. On meeting them I was quick to let it be known that I was a blogger who may be interested in covering the Scottish trans scene such as it is and reporting the issues that concern one of my many communities of interest. I said I had spoken to Angela about this and she had given me her e-mail address and advised to look for the Scottish angle on trans issues rather than just thinking of the issue in a more generic way. 

On returning upstairs i  had the same conversation with Dan Littaeur and he like Angela said that  he would welcome my input at Kaleido Scot as the mainstream LBGT  media tended to be biased in favour of gay men but Kaleido Scot already had two trans reporters and were far more receptive to trans related stories.  

Looking back on the event I would say that it was not only an enjoyable day but also a highly productive one for me at which I made what may yet turn out to be some really useful contacts. 

At the end of the event I went to the CCA for a wee refreshment before heading to The Griffin for what was my last event of an action packed weekend. This was a double pamphlet launch of two poetry collections Notes On AQuarter Life Crisis and The Man Who Loved Beer by the excellent Kevin PGilday.

On arrival we had a brief chat in which Kevin said that I had  probably heard all the poems in his set at least  a hundred  times. Personally I think that the ever modest Kevin is underselling himself as I couldn’t  give a flying fish supper how many times I’ve heard them because I never get tired of listening to quality and believe me Kevin P Gilday is a poet of very considerable quality 

However though he was without doubt the star of the evening and gave his audience which included friends and fellow poets Kirsty Nicholson and Jim Ewing a brilliant set of some of his classic poems such as Welcome To Dennistoun Hitler’s Moustache, The Man Who Loved Beer, Middle Class Love, Jesus In Possil, and The Workie, Kevin wasn’t content to keep the spotlight to himself and prefered to share it with fellow performers In what has to be one of the best most entertaining variety nights I have ever been lucky enough to attend.  

In young comeadianne Gemma Flynn Kevin had the perfect act to kick off the night. With material which could best be described as Guardian reading girl with Cosmopollitian lifestyle  Gemma took us all on a journey  in to Gemma’s world with carefully constructed lines which were fiesty, female, and funny. As I chatted  to her after her set this very talented twenty something said she had a show  at the Edinburgh fringe in August. Now I have to say that’s one show I’ll be going to see and I recommend dear readers you also put it on your must see list  

Next up was Edinburgh based musician A Dull Boy. Now if ever a performer didn’t live up to his name then this was that performer and I for one really enjoyed his set which was filled with quality songs from start to finish. In my opinion 21st century man was probably my favourite song of the selection but that said there  wasn’t a single bad song in his repretoire.

Next up was the main man in whose honour we had gathered the one and only Kevin P Gilday. Since I’ve already listed my favourite poems from his selection I don’t think I need to say anymore except that I will be buying both books at the earliest financial opportunity. 

At the end of his set a happy but exhausted Kevin introduced our final act of the night and believe me when I say I don’t think I have ever seen anything like The Creative Martyrs in all my years on earth. Honestly this dynamic duo were breathtaking from beginning to end of a set which was both high octaine and high quality and tackled the issues many safer performers tend to stand well clear like state control, war and death. I particularly lked their opening number The List in which they launched a brilliant attack on the horrors of too much state control and had Kevin’s wee sister the ever lovable Lisa doubled up with laughter,well it was either or terror during a song in which she was singled out for particular attention.

As they started the next song I wondered where they could go next and we didn’t have long to find out as they continued their all out assult on capitalism by reminding why the capitalist system loves war. Now when an act can openly engage an audience to think of this idea no matter how disgusting we may find it that act really does deserve those over used titles radical and cutting edge and believe me this act are worthy of these descriptions. I do however have to say that I felt really sorry for poor Lisa when yet she was the target for their brilliant if ruthless banter in the hillarious Spare Parts Baby.  

At the end of a wonderful event perhaps the wisest words of the night were spoken by Jim Ewing who advised me to ‘Get them to Sammy’s. With this very much on my mind I went over to the guys and, congratulated  them on a mind blowing set and asked them if they would ever consider appearing at our words and music night and much to my surprise and delight they were only too happy to take the details of it

And so  it was over. The busiest and best weekend I’ve had in months maybe even years. This was a weekend I will remember for the diversity of the cultural, poltical, and social opportunaties it provided  From poetry to protest marches from pews  pamphlet launches I think to its safe to say I shared a common space or two in the name of faith and friendship.

 Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X

The Day The Tesco Five Made Our Own Immortal Memories

Hey everyone It is now Burns day and I am looking back on the events of Friday afternoon when I was down at Shettleston Tesco. Normally, the idea of a middle aged transwoman going to Tesco on a Friday afternoon would not be headline news but this Friday however was no ordinary day.

As it was the Friday before Burns night, when Scotland and the world celebrates the birthday of our national bard Robert Burns Shettleston Tesco decided to play their part in this year’s commemorations by staging a Burns themed event involving both a poetry reading and a haggis eating competition. As a member of the local Tollcross writers group and also the local Bards in the Park performance group I was invited to attend this event on Thursday night by my good friend and fellow member of both groups Derek Read who described it as another one of Colin Storrie’s hair brained schemes during a short telephone conversation on the issue.

I smiled on hearing this and said to Derek that this was either genius or insanity or maybe a combination of both. After a bit of debate I decided to go for it as I thought why not, well there is more than a grain of truth in the saying nothing ventured nothing gained. So at 11.30 on Friday morning Colin picked me up in his car and chauffeured me for the 10 minute journey from my home in Baillieston to the venue.

As we made our way to the supermarket I asked Colin how he got involved in the event and he explained that he heard of it from another poet friend of ours Sandy Hutchison. As it turns out it was Sandy who had been initially approached for the gig but he contacted Colin as he had another event and he isn’t really much of a Burns fan. As we reached the Tesco car park Colin said to myself and our fellow performer Damo Bullen this was poetry on the frontline and brought back memories of nights at the bars such as the Waverley and the Prince Charlie and community events like the Peace and Jam festival of which Colin was the main driving force for two great and glorious years.

On arriving at Tesco, Derek joined our small but happy band and were we met by members of the customer service team who took us to a private area until the staff set up our performance space which was as close to the haggis tasting stand as was physically possible. At 12 noon the event kicked off and we were welcomed in by Hayley the piper who was a very welcome addition to the team. This is a team which will from now on, forever be known as the Tesco five.

The day opened with each of us performing a selection of Burns poems in the lead up to the piping in of the haggis and the start of the first of two haggis eating competitions where the object of the exercise was to eat a pound of the bard’s favourite dish in the shortest available time before collapsing in a heap. For those who are struggling to imagine what this would be like I can only say it’s a wee bit like that man vs food programme you sometimes see on the food network where the presenter is given a food based challenge which would defeat 99% of ordinary mortals including Rocky, Rambo, and the SAS. This however is a food challenge Glasgow style and there is one major difference between that and any TV challenge, that being that Glaswegians are not easily defeated.

Noting the seriousness of the event not to mention the hunger of the contestants I decided this was worthy of a prayer and what better prayer than written by the bard himself. Mercifully The Selkirk Grace is only four lines long but when your starving four lines is long enough. I think however these words say all that need said on such occasions.

‘Some hae meat a canna eat
and some would eat but want it
but we hae meat and we can eat sae let the lord be thank it’

This is poetry at its best short, sharp and straight to the point. Oh don’t get me wrong, Mr Burns could use flowery language as and when required but he could on occasion hit the target in just one verse. After all he was a busy farmer as well as a ladies man and his poems reflected that.

At the end of the competition of which Alastair was declared the winner we performed some of our own poems and some of the bards as we began to operate in the traditional East End style for which Tollcross is renowned. This meant we operated the rotating stage idea so popular at Bards over the years.

After Derek had played a tune on his recorder Colin was the first of the poets to take the stage performing his classic the Day I Went To Taynault. This poem about the value of real friendship shows that making promises after indulging and a glass or two of your favourite is not always the wisest thing to do. I love this poem as it gives Colin the chance to show his natural flair of good phrases which when combined with his ability as a performer makes him a force to be reckoned with.

When my first turn came I read two Burns themed poems based on my view of a 21st bard and what he would have written about or been up to were alive at the moment. In the opening section of the day I had read one of his classic works My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose and introduced as a poem even though it’s a song. I did this because such was the Bards lyrical quality that it can and does work when read in this style. On reminding them of this fact, I had said that the Rabbie as he is called in the press and media was very good at multi-tasking.

This is a fact to which the women of Ayrshire and Dumfrieshire would had they had the technology to do so, all too readily have testified as his multi-tasking often involved him dating more than one female friend at a time. I do have to say however that I couldn’t help but wonder if he had been so randy today that he may have had his own regular chair on a very known chat show. So my first poem from my own work Guest Appearance, was based on the bard’s potential appearance on the Jeremy Kyle show.

This seemed to go down with amongst those who were listening and there were a few which isn’t bad when you consider that this is a busy supermarket and many people were in to get their weekend or weekly shop and seeing poets ranting raving and rhyming their work as well that of bard did lead to some very bemused looks. Undaunted we carried on regardless and I performed my second poem of the day which was written in true Burns style as a tribute to his address to the haggis. However, instead of attempting a poem to the haggis supper I read one I had written for a multi-cultural Burns night at the African-Caribbean Centre when I honoured Scotland’s other national dish with To A Curry.

At the end of my set I handed the stage to whoever was on next which on this occasion was Damo and for a Lancashire lad this boy does a mean Burns recital. Yes this Burnley boy did the bard proud and his rendition of To A Haggis was both heartwarming and brilliant.

As for Derek our Wirral born Tollcross lad reading out Burns thoughts on strong drink, this was both enjoyable and ironic. Enjoyable because I always enjoy it when Derek reads and ironic because some of us have seen Derek when he’s had a few strong drinks.

As the stage rotated thick and fast all of us read a number of our poems. Amongst my selection was Lost The Plot which shows what we ladies get up to on a girls night out whilst Colin entertained us with tales family life Glasgow style including a humorous one on his gran and his take on neighbourhood values. We also performed those of Burns and enjoyed Hayley’s piping. This was not just because it gave us a break but because this is a seriously talented young piper who really plays and plays well.

During one of our breaks I had the opportunity to chat to Hayley and I found out that our by now adopted honorary member of Tollcross Writers is a member of Shotts and Dykehead pipe band. This is one of the most famous pipe bands in both Scotland and the World and believe me the youngest member of the Tesco five certainly has the talent to take them to the top again.

This time was also good social time to catch up with each others comings and goings and not only that I also caught up with a former colleague who used to set up the training room for me when I delivered training on disability issues for health and social work staff and another friend I hadn’t seen in years who knew before my transition and now works at Shettleston Tesco. On chatting to her she said that before we spoke she kinda did a double take and thought to herself I’m sure I know that lassie. When I told her she did, and in what way, she said was both pleased and surprised, and that she had never even thought of me in my previous gender just as one of the girls. This pleased me greatly as good positive feedback is always very satisfying particularly when it comes from people you haven’t seen in a while.

At this we got back to the main event of the day which was of course celebrating the bard and his work. During this period Derek read To A Mouse which Colin had performed in the opening set. I have to say this poem showed Burns at his most humane and I especially like the lines ‘ I’m truly sorry man’s dominion has broken nature’s social union. This demonstrates that Burns had like all farmers an understanding of nature which many others among us seem to be lacking. I wonder if he would were he alive today be in the process of joining the Green Party? It certainly isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility.

When it was Demo’s turn to read he selected the Bard’s Address to the Toothache which correctly called ‘the hell o aw diseases’ Only a Jim Murphy speech could l think leave one in greater need of a painkiller and that’s because such a speech would be mind numbingly boring.

Now I don’t know if any of the customers were bored or not but we certainly attracted a fair bit of attention throughout the day and this section produced a few interesting choices of material. I selected Burns short stanza on hearing a church minister give for a military victory and to say he wasn’t impressed would I think be putting it mildly, as yet again the master craftsman proves you can say an awful lot in just a few lines when the lines are as deadly as these. ‘Ye hypocrites are these your pranks? To murder men and give god thanks. for if they are proceed no further god won’t accept your thanks for murder. Fine anti-war sentiments which many of today’s politicians would do well to heed. Are you listening Mr Blair? No I didn’t think you were and neither it seems are your party when they vote to keep nuclear weapons on the Clyde. It was with this in mind that I read my anti war poem Tights Before Trident which using the genius of the Legally Blonde School Of Economic Theory proves that the price of a pair of tights is of more significant value to Scottish economy than deadly weapons we can never afford to use. And of course it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t read Scots Wha Hae which I think is a strong contender for any future Scottish National Anthem.

It was during this section Derek read Burns Farewell poem which was written at the time when he thought he may have had to have taken a job in Jamaica to support his family and in this poem Burns shows that he was no different to any other Scot when it comes to leaving the homeland and got a wee bit misty eyed and sentimental at the prospect of having to take his leave of us.

In a busy day for but enjoyable day I performed two of my more personal poems to inform any readers that I am a woman in that finest Glaswegian tradition a gab with a heart A Day For Donegal which speaks with pride of my cultural identity and Thorn Among The Roses which was written for a young lesbian friend show I think the more gentle softer side to my nature.

As we moved towards the second haggis eating contest Derek performed Hip Gip a poem about his pain before his hip operation Colin then decided to stick to the Glasgow themed poems which had served him so well throughout a day in which he had previously performed his classic The Sparra’s Appeal in which he tells the story of who really killed Cock Robin. This time however he read poems on
the tale of a midgie raker and a rather unusual meeting at Glasgow Green. At this Colin I thought it would be an appropriate moment to take stage and give a reading of two of my favourite poems both themed round a Glasgow Saturday Night. The poems I selected were To A Curry to which I gave its second reading of the day only this time to a much bigger crowd and Karaoke Queen both of these were well received but particularly Karaoke Queen which had some of the girls on the staff breaking into either giggles or knowing smiles.

After one or two more poems it was time for the piping in of the haggis, the Selkirk Grace, and the second of the haggis eating competitions. This time we had an entrant in our very own Damo, who I think may have finished last but he certainly didn’t disgrace himself in a event which was I think a two horse race between eventual winner Paul and bookies favourite Madge.

With the Scottish version of man vs food finally complete it was finally time for us to take our leave from Tesco if not from our senses, many including myself would say we had done that years ago. At the end of the set, and indeed the session I took some feedback from staff members as to which style of poetry they had preferred and on this momentous occasion I have to say that they preferred the community poetry of the Tollcross Writers to that of our national bard with a number of those I spoke to saying that they liked the fact it spoke on issues or situations they themselves had faced or been in citing Karaoke Queen as one such example.

Before finishing a post which I hope has captured the spirit of the day I would however like to say a few very well deserved thank yous. Firstly to Sandy Hutchison for politely declining the offer taking the event and passing it on to ourselves to represent our local writers group. Also to MacIntosh Foods for the haggis tasting sessions for customers. I have to say I buy the company products on a regular basis and believe me when I say my stomach highly recommends them. Last but by no means least my thanks to Tesco for staging such an innovative event and supplying thirsty poets with much needed sustenance during the during the event. Well all this talking can be seriously thirsty work you know. I would also like the staff in particular Lisa, Louise, and Kerry for providing the performers with a very generous Burns themed goodie bag which not only contained haggis, neeps, and tatties, the essential ingredients for any Burns Supper but also two litre bottles of Irn Bru to wash it down with. This was a magnificent gesture which was appreciated by all. So on the day world celebrates the birth of our national bard, I’m sure Robert Burns would be proud of the day the Tesco five made their own immortal memories and just like the bard we did it with tunes from our tradition and words from the heart.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

Poetic Thoughts On The Commonwealth Games Facial Hair, And Tragadies Were Followed By Some Opera In The Garden As Mid Summer Mayhem Came To Town In The Name Of The Great McGonagall

Hey everyone. On Saturday the poetry clan gathered to celebrate the life and rhymes of one of Scotland’s true immortals. Mention the name Robert Burns and I’ll guarantee you’ll get every member of the great and the good of the proud Scots if you get my meaning, coming up with the only lines they know and often embarrassing themselves in the process.

Contrast this if you will, to the mention of the man many consider to be Scotland’s alternative bard William Topaz McGonagall and you will be met with either ignorance or howls or derision. However it was in his name that a group of poets gathered at the home of Colin and Irene Storrie to celebrate a poet some would claim to have a long way to go before he reached ordinary but whom we honour as a poet most extraordinary.

As the crowd descended on our genial hosts we were greeted by lovely mid summer skies to celebrate the longest day of the year which is the traditional day of this cultural feast. As is often the case with this event the majority of the crowd arrived somewhere between four and five pm. There were however some early birds such as Susan Milligan, Chris Young, myself, and Jim Monaghan.

After getting tucked in to some sweets and nibble and quenching our thirst with our tipple of choice in my case an Irn Bru we waited on the others to arrive. Amongst their number was a certain Derek Read who had just celebrated passing his course. Our congratulations go to him on his well deserved success, we know how hard he worked to achieve it.

As one by the throng gathered Colin called us to order and we assembled in the garden as he declared 9th McGonagall super underway.

As always, the first round of recitals were readings from the works of the poet himself before stopping for the feast and then reconvening for our tribute poems in his honour. By this time Derek’s all too brief appearance had come to an end as he had a prior engagement to attend a play at the Tron Theatre. The rest of us however had made no such arrangement and promptly got on with the business of enjoying ourselves.

Topics for this year’s tributes included The Tragedian by Alex Frew, Derek Read selected The Man With The Yellow Umbrella which on his behalf by Jim Ewing who then went on to perform his own effort The Great McGonagall and gave us an excellent debut with a thoroughly enjoyable poem. Chris Young wrote his poem on the theme of Beards Jim Monaghan another McGonagall debutant or as he said McGonagall virgin wrote a cracking poem entitled Beautiful Govanhill, and my topic of choice was the Commonwealth Games. So I think you’ll agree there was a wide and varied selection of material on offer.

At the end of the formal proceedings Colin proposed a toast to absent friends and I thought of Danny O’Connor, Marc Sherland, Paddy Hannrahan, Lesley MacKay, Etta Dunn and Freddie Fingers amongst many others who have graced the stage at previous McGonagall’s but perhaps most ironically of all I thought on Barry Dubber whose Beautiful Balmoral poem is the benchmark against which all future McGonagall poems must be judged.

He then opened the stage to anyone who wished perform any of their own work. This led to a brilliant set from Andy Fleming and Alex Frew under their musical comedy names of Frobisher and Gleeson as they performed classics such as the Pound Shop, There’s No Mention Of The Clitoris In The Bible, And David Icke with which I decided to give them a wee bit of assistance whether they wanted it or not as it is one of my favourite songs of theirs. However there was one song they did for the company with which I wasn’t too familiar though I have to say I am now as I managed to get on my video phone and that was Rock jam which I thought was brilliant.

During this less formal part of there were also golden moments from Jim Ewing whose poem Bromance never fails to make me chuckle. Jane Overton, Susan Milligan,whose rendition of As Tears Go By was as emotional as it was heartfelt, Monica Pitman though her choice of the Peter Sarsteadt song Where Do You Go To My Lovely did seem to annoy Jane a wee bit however unintentionally.
There was also a cracking wee story from Rosie Mapplebeck and Colin sang a few of his songs including one of the legendary Tollcross anthems Alcohol.

I read two poems The Tartan Ronaldo on the pressures of fame and young footballers, and Tights Before Trident in which I argue that the price of a pair of tights is far more important to Scotland’s economy than having weapons we cannot afford to fire. You may not be surprised to know that I take my lesson from the Elle Woods school of economic theory and remember Elle Woods was smarter than anyone gave her credit for.

The highlight of the evening however was as it so often is Chris Young. Chris demonstrated the full range of his talents by performing A Loud Marriage giving in it his reasons why he believes Scotland should within the UK. After a brief break he went on again to do his famous and highly entertaining poem on the environment and then he left us all speechless with a stunning operatic performance. So I think you could say we had found the perfect way to celebrate mid summer’s day and I am sure a certain Tayside bard would have approved of our endeavours. Well any event which includes poetic thoughts on the commonwealth games facial hair, and tragedies then concludes with opera in the garden is living proof that mid summer mayhem came to town in the name of the great McGonagall.

Finally I couldn’t finish my post on this glorious day without recording my thanks and that of the assembled company to our hosts Colin and Irene Storrie for their generous hospitality to all who attended this wonderful event. You know it was Colin’s idea back in 2006 to have a McGonagall supper. Since that initial event he and Irene have made this one of the must attend gatherings of the spoken word summer and as I left at around 10.30. I couldn’t help but think that as the traditional summer bonfire lit up the Riddrie skies friendships made in poetry’s name will never be extinguished.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

Republicans Rainbows And Songs From The Front Line This Family Gathering Is Nothing Like The Waltons

Hey everyone. As you know I always post my Words and Music blog around about now so I think it’s time to share my thoughts on this month’s event. After taking time to reflect on what was our busiest night of the year so far I have to say that I haven’t seen so many yes badges outside a Yes Scotland meeting or a national collective event and you know what makes it better? The fact that I, a confirmed yes voter never had to persuade anyone to wear them.

So never mind the national collective what about the Sammy’s collective? What was April like for us? Well for starters we welcomed back some old friends and made some new ones as is always the way at Words and Music. I do have to say though, it is even more appropriate to welcome new voices and faces in April as that our club’s birthday and this year we reached the grand old age of 24. Yes 24 and still going strong it doesn’t seem like yesterday since our 21st birthday party and next year it will be our silver jubilee.

Having been a regular at the club since 1993 I have seen many new poetry ventures some of which have had great success whilst others like rainbows have appeared for a short time Words and Music has survived to tell our tales be it in poetry prose or song and I’m glad to say that this month was in that respect no different to any other I’ve attended in my almost 21 years and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As is now becoming customary I kicked off the evening with Just Like The Waltons a poem on family life in 1970’s Glasgow which I have to say contrasted greatly with that on Walton’s mountain. Well the West of Scotland was and for that matter still is a wee bit from West Virginia.

Having got the evening under way it was time to introduce the first of the programmed readers Alex Frew. Alex is always entertaining and his material is more thought provoking than he is given credit for. On this occasion he treated us to a poem webs which focused on the complexity of relationships and Marlon Brando’s Fedora which was written in the style of a monologue.

After Alex it was Susan Milligan who took the stage and performed a set of three poems Letter To Henry and Call Up which were on the theme of the First World War and Tears Of Laughter which was written about her cats. I have to say I found this set slightly strange, and the first poem of the set positively cringeworthy. To me this represented unionist jingoism of the worst possible kind.

Next up to the stage was a woman of character substance and wit and living proof of the song things can only get better as Sammy’s welcomed the return of Catherine Baird. On this occasion Catherine performed a story on the Falkirk Kelpies called Whur’s The Rest Of Those Kelpies? This showed Catherine’s skill with both language and imagery as an excellent storyteller of the highest calibre and it was great to see my chosen wee sis back in her rightful place among the Words and Music family.

Talking of welcome returns it was good to see A C Clarke make her first appearance of the year. As always Anne graced the stage with style and proved why she has many more fans than she realises Her first poem which was translated from French as Be Drunk was highly entertaining and is something which I am glad to say Words and Music regulars did not take as an instruction. She also read a poem on children who can’t speak and not those like me whose parents I mean mother, wished they couldn’t speak.

As Anne returned to her seat It was Steve Allan who had the company in a fit of the giggles which only goes to prove you should always be careful when a mischievous genie says he can grant you three wishes. Well for some bizarre reason he ended up with the weird combination of midgets and parrots. Some guys have all luck and others don’t have any.

After this brief visit to the very strange world of planet Allan it was time to welcome a new voice to Words and Music and Alistair McIver didn’t disappoint. Usually a storyteller I had come across Alistair at other venues, Alistair departed from his usual style and read two poems. His first effort was a love poem but it was his second poem Lavatory Requiem which will linger longer than the average bog standard rants.

It was Lesley McKay who had the unenviable task of flushing Alistair comic effort from our memories and she did so by entertaining the gathering with a diverse set of four poems. The first two showed Lesley at one with nature and herself and both Wild Swimmers and Loch Ard illustrated a peaceful serenity with some breathtaking description which gave the listener a real sense of place.

This is always appreciated by someone who like myself took geography as my principle subject in my joint honours degree. However like football poetry can be a game of two halves and this sporting metaphor can certainly be applied to Lesley’s set, the second half of which was themed more around struggle and sacrifice as she read 14 a poem based on World War 1, and 67 Minutes which was about the former South African President Nelson Mandela and the amount of years he spent in public service.

As Lesley returned to her seat it was the turn of John McGlade to regale the company with his own unique style of entertainment. Amongst a diverse set of poems were The Last Man, Booked, Perpetual Motion Machine, Department Of Linguistics, and Vicky Road Field Trip. I have to say I particularly enjoyed Department of Linguistics which illustrated how important language really is in communicating a message and how it can be manipulated by those with agenda’s.

Suzanne Egerton had the task of following John but she made it look easy and departed from tradition to do it. You see Suzanne is a novelist and usually reads extracts from her novel which focuses on the adventures of mature lesbian Fin and chronicles her coming out. Not this month however. This month Suzanne decided to read some of her poetry Tuppence For Him, and Hello Again Doreen Spragg. As she began her set Suzanne said she was nervous about reading her poetry in a room full of excellent poets. By the end of her set her hidden talent had been shown to the gathering and you know I always thought she was a multi talented multi tasker.
After shocking us all and showing the company that she had more talent than she thought or perhaps more accurately let on. It was the turn of the pied piper of Tollcross to lead us not in to temptation but deliver us to the bar break and my good friend Derek Read did it in style. In a set of three poems Derek covered memories with his poem Number 45 about his brother’s former home. He then moved on to the tricky subject of emotions in the Birthday Card which offered an olive branch to a friend whose friendship had gone cold, before concluding his set with a poem on drink and socialising with friends in the quaintly titled Meditations On Mannequins At The Olde Burnt Barnes. In this my favourite poem of a very high quality set, Derek explores the themes of struggle and socialism, republicianism and rainbows as the LGBT community ventured in to the no man’s land or should that be every man’s land between the working class East End and the somewhat more gentrified Merchant City. Thus having confused us by leading us in more directions than the Grand Old Duke Of York it was only right and proper that he led us to the bar.

After the bar break it was time for our featured writer and what a treat we had as the current Makar of The Federation Of Writers Scotland Ann Connolly delivered a brilliant 20 minutes of top quality poetry enjoyed by all who were lucky enough to be attendance.

Ann started her set with How To Be A Politician. This though a serious piece of work had bits of biting satire which shone like stars in the black night sky. She followed this up with Stone Pillow. Before reciting this poem which tells the story of an awakening as sleeping on the stone pillow helped to concentrate the mind. Ann told us that the Irish Bards took 12 years to learn their craft. There is a message of diligence in learning to be taken from this poem as no Bard in parks or other places will ever fulfil their potential if they do not work at their art.

Anne followed this up with Deserted Village, Tally Man before reading one of my personal favourites the story of Martha and Mary written from Martha’s perspective as the elder of the two sisters. This was a beautifully written piece in which the issue of sibling rivalries was explored with warmth humanity and that famous Connolly wit. Anne then moved on to Reflection which she wrote for her mother Swingmyjig about learning the dancing of her Irish homeland, The Wobbly Inn, before finishing her set with Almost Blooms Day about preparing for a time which is almost upon us. Now I may be wrong but I can’t help but feel that this poem may be about the rebirth of an Independent Scotland or the reunification of a 32 county Ireland. This was a fantastic set from a poet of genuine quality.

From the Featured Writer we moved on to the Featured Musician or perhaps I should say musicians as this month it was the dynamic duo of Colin Storrie and Damo Bullen who performed for the gathering under the name of The Colinists. Now I don’t know why but something told me this sounded like of musical guerilla movement singing songs from the front line and you know what I wasn’t wrong. This unique double act started off with My First Poem which was a tribute to the Irish poet William Butler Yates. They then lulled the audience in to a very false sense of security as they sang a cover version of that well known classic All I Have To Do Is Dream before following it up by the singing the Silly Slang Song which Bards in the Park regulars refer to as the Tollcross Anthem. I have to say this went down particularly well on a night when there were many Tollcross regulars to help out with the chorus. This was followed up with another old favourite, The Wild Rover has always been a favourite at many a Glasgow sing-a-long and this one was no different. As if this wasn’t enough for a compare in musical heaven the next song of choice was is and ever shall be my favourite Anti-War song of all time written by Glasgow’s very own Matt McGinn My Name Is Whatever You Call Me went down an absolute storm and summed up the futility of war. This was another Tollcross classic as was the song that followed it Alcohol which warns of the horrors of the demon drink but still makes want to celebrate what it can do for you. As Damo finished the set with a solo rendition of own of his own numbers Rock Me, I and the rest of those in attendance felt privileged to have seen such excellent featured acts.

Having had the main courses you would have thought that our appetite for quality cuisine may have waned slightly, however I am delighted to say you would have been wrong. So as Andy Fleming took to the stage we knew the quality just wouldn’t let up and we were of course correct. On this occasion he had his friend and sidekick Alex Frew to accompany him on two songs Scottish Weather and Being Boiled. Now I hate to tell someone who is far more learned than I, but being boiled is something you are very unlikely to get in the Scottish weather.

As we edged ever closer to the end of an excellent evening it was great to see Jim Goldie take his place on the Sammy’s stage and as is his want he performed tributes to both Walter McCorrisken and William McGonagall. He also performed Piddles and Puddles. Now I don’t know about you but It seems to me that Ayrshire poets have a thing about the weather. Jim then got tore in to that darling of the British establishment Cliff Richard in his poem Christmas So This Is. After this he performed a couple of serious poems Slaughter Of The Innocents and the brilliant A Backward Compliment to complete a set which like all wee goldies was refreshing, quality and nippy when it needed to be.

After Jim it was the turn of our penultimate performer of the evening and that came in the shape of Colin Storrie. Yes that’s right the same Colin Storrie who was part of our successful musical double act from earlier on in the evening. You see as well as being an excellent musician Colin is also a well respected poet and has won the prestigious Stanza Slam Championship on two occasions. On this occasion Colin performed two poems both on the theme of the forthcoming independence referendum. National Conversation which was urging people to vote in any direction of their choice and a more definite pro independence declaring his stance on the currency union and for any of my unionist friends reading this I have a shock in store for you. Even I am more diplomatic on this issue than the big man.

As Colin concluded his short but topical set it was now up to me to bring the evening to a close. I concluded events by reading a set of four poems. The first one was a Tribute to the unique Scottish poetry genius that is William Topaz McGonagall entitled from Shettleston to San Francisco or I Wanna Dance With Somebody For A Bit Of Night Fever. My purpose for reading this was to announce that the date for this year’s McGonagall Supper is Saturday 21st June and it will be held at the home of Colin and Irene Storrie. I have to say that reading this poem certainly put me in the mood for a brilliant social gathering. I followed this by reading Blackout. This is the poem which I am convinced will be the post referendum Scotland in the event of a no vote. No news, no books and no way of finding out the facts and the bleakest of all bleak futures.

After depressing the audience it’s called playing project fear at their own game. I decided the room needed cheered up so I decided to read Tears Of A Style Goddess about the shopping tragedies that only we girls fully understand. I then finished my set by performing one of my own personal favourites from my work The Promise Of Summer. This poem sends out a very important message to those seek to judge teenage girls and that message comes straight from the book judge least ye be judged.

With that cautionary tale I ended another cracking night at the home of Words and Music and look forward to more of the same of the same on the First Monday In May. So how would I sum up this crazy, chaotic evening? I think in all honesty I would have to say that it was a night where republicans rainbows and songs from the front line showed that this family gathering is nothing like the Waltons

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X