Tag Archive | Damo Bullen

In Memory Of Catherine Walker 

On the evening of Sunday the 23rd of July  just after 9 PM I was scrolling down my Facebook feed when I saw a message from my friend Marc Sherland. This post left me both shocked and saddened as it told me of the death of our friend and fellow poet Catherine Walker who had been found dead in her flat earlier that day by Marc and another friend from the writers community of which Catherine was an important part , Stephen Smith. Marc and Stephen had made the discovery at around 1 PM on Sunday afternoon at a time when most of us would be enjoying social time with friends and family. Catherine Walker was only 55 years old. 

This picture shows Catherine relaxing at a friend’s barbecue 


Naturally Catherine’s unexpected death has come as a shock to all her many friends in the poetry community and beyond and many poets have  paid warm and affectionate tributes to her expressing their sadness at a the loss of an excellent poet and an even better woman. Her loss pains us all and to those of a similar vintage is a sharp remainder that our light can be  extinguished at any time and makes us all to aware of our mortality. 

It was her compassion for all inhabitants of our planet which made Catherine a keen environmentalist and eventually a vegetarian, but anyone who thinks that these beliefs would make this softly spoken poet one of the tweed and twee brigade whose poems could be dismissed, as airy fairy could not be further from the truth. It is my opinion that her Christmas poem Santa’s on minimum wage is one the most biting satirical critiques I have ever heard on the impact of austerity. 

Amongst the facts  I would never have known about Catherine was that she was a skilled amateur mathematician and was once married to a driving instructor and despite passing her test never drove and was as Marc readily confirms one of the most nervous passengers he has ever driven. 

It saddens me as it will many  others  that a woman of Catherine Walker’s talent has no volume of her  work to leave as her legacy. This was at least in part due to the fact that Catherine, a shy and on occasion nervous woman lacked belief to see, what others who knew her work  would describe as her considerable abilities. 

This was due to be rectified as Marc  Sherland had been  due to publish a book of her poetry sometime this year . However  in January Catherine requested that he put it on hold as she had lost faith in her poetic voice. A modest woman with more talent than she ever knew  her loss will be deeply felt by all whose lives she touched but perhaps most keenly by Marc Shetland who she viewed as her non biological brother and whose family she adopted as her own 

For those who wish to celebrate Catherine’s life there will be a gathering at The Blue Chair Cafe 85 High Street on Wednesday the 2nd August from 7 to 10 PM 

My Thanks go to Marc R Sherland for his assistance with this task 

Till next time 

Gayle X 

This post was first published on Mumble Words on 31/07/2017 

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Weve Been On The Road To God Knows Where The Story Of Three Years In Tartan Tights.

Hey everyone Today marks the third anniversary of my entry into blogging. Yes it really does seem like yesterday that tartan tights was born but times really does fly when a girl’s having fun. During the last three years I have tackled a lot of different issues and I hope I have done so with honesty and integrity. No matter whether they be poetic, political, or just general musings on my life, I Hope you have found at least some of them to be interesting and informative.

Who knows! you may even have found some of them to be entertaining or possibly educational in some way about a subject which you may have wanted to learn about but were too afraid to ask the questions which needed asking. I certainly hope this is the case and will try as hard as I can to keep tartan tights as fresh as I can.

Perhaps some of you could tell me what your favourite posts are and what it is about them you enjoyed most. This is important in the respect that it lets me know what works and maybe what doesn’t.

I know during the early stages of my blog and indeed right up till the immediate aftermath of the independence referendum this was the topic which I thought tended to dominate my postings. However to be fair, it also dominated the Scottish political landscape during this period to such an extent I often wondered in what direction I could take tartan tights in a post referendum Scotland. Well to quote the lyrics to that well song of freedom ‘we’re on the one road maybe the long road but it’s the road to god knows where’. And that dear readers is the journey we’ve been taking together ever since the day I started tartan tights and certainly summed my thoughts about where to go next in the aftermath of the referendum.

Needless to say I eventually found my answer. This does not mean there will be no more posts on the topic, believe me there will be. Independence will always remain a live issue for this blogger until the day and hour it’s achieved. It is though fair to say that those posts have become a lot less frequent as is only right and proper given the circumstances. Therefore I have focused more social and community issues and the political posts I have written tend to be on topics which though written by an SNP member can attract some cross party support. Indeed one of my most recent was in support of the Liberal Democrats campaign against my government’s plan to introduce a national super database and by writing this post I honoured a promise made to Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie.

Other issues covered in an eventful first three years range from foodbanks to faith from transgender issues to trident. I hope the fact I try to cover a wide range of issues provides variety and in a world which is too dull too often.

In many ways blogging is a skill like writing poetry or playing a musical instrument. The more practice you put in to it the better you get and the better you get the more people want to read your musings. With this mind I would like to thank some fellow bloggers who have assisted me and helped me develop in the course of my journey so far. Needless to say I start with Kate Higgins whose blog A BurdzEyeView inspired me to get started on this journey. I also have to thank the lovely Caron Lindsay at Caron’s Musings for providing strength, support, and encouragement especially in the early stages of my adventures. Ellen Arnison at In A Bun Dance, Angeline Dickson Brunnel at Daft Mama, Jodie Louise Young at A Little Bit Young, Laura Pearson-Smith At A Life With Frills, Paul Kavanagh at the highly entertaining Wee Ginger Dug, Graham Stewart at Political Tourist, and Lisa Marie Ferla at Last Year’s Girl have also helped me more than they know. Indeed Paul gave me my first guest post last year when he asked me to write a post explaining why as a transwoman I was voting yes in the independence referendum. Also, I can’t forget, Damo Bullen at The Mumble for whom I have currently written two posts and will hopefully write many more and the teams at both Bella Caledonia and National Collective who have provoked thoughts which have motivated me to write more late night poetry than they will ever actually realise.

A blog however would be nothing without its readers and I know I have a core of regular and semi regular devotees who take the time to read my latest whitterings. Most of these readers come from the cultural and political communities with the names of Andy Fleming, Bob Leslie, Catherine Baird, Chris Stephens, Caron Lindsay, Daniel Hunter, Etta Dunn, Graham Stewart, Heather Caldwell, Jim Carruth Jim Monaghan, John McGlade, Jenni Pascoe, Lisa Marie Ferla, Laura Doherty, Marc R Sherland, Margaret McCabe, Paddy Callaghan, Sophie Bridger,Sophia Blackwell, and Stephen Watt, probably the most prominent. Though to be fair, there are others and they are far too many to mention.

There is however one issue which I would like to raise with my readers and since it is on positive feedback it is I think appropriate that I raise it in a positive way. So bearing that in mind I would ask if you have anything to say on a particular post could you please post it on the comments page for the site rather than on another platform such as facebook as it’s better for my blog traffic. That said I’ve had a really enjoyable first three years and hope you have enjoyed the journey with me so far. I have a funny feeling we’ve a long way still to travel.

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