Tag Archive | History

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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Golden Age 

I write this poem on the topic of hate crimes which have seen a dramatic rise since the UK voted to leave the European Union after being sold what I believe was the political version of magic beans in the form of a vision of a British Golden Age where Westminster would take back control of their country. This of course is a complete and total fantasy but conned by a very euro sceptic and xenophobic press and media they bought in to this idea of Brexit and a general distrust of foreigners. I’ve given it the title Golden Age I hope you enjoy the read .
Golden Age

Boots the uniform of the heavy handed 

are regulation wear for little boys in adult bodies 

those with attitudes and anger management issues 

against anyone they see as different

or in other words not like them 

the colonial types who live in a world far removed from reality 

where disability and sexuality were never discussed 

and those of a different race knew their place 

in a land where men were men 

 women were women 

and nobody ever complained 

where every family had roast dinners on Sunday 

and watched a John Wayne movie

where the indians were the bad guys 

but sometimes history tells us lies 

facts according to some are known to be the mythology of others

as the world moved on we discovered

the indians as Hollywood called them 

were actually the real native Americans 

who  ruled their lands peacefully 

before Europeans ever knew they existed

some people would say that this traditional view of life 

with the male breadwinner and stay at home wife 

was what made Britain great 

they want to take us back to this golden age 

a simple time when it was legal to hate without question 

where suppression of self was normal

but at least they had formal rules to follow 

which shaped their socially conservative views 

taught them to mind their P’s and Q’s 

whilst leaving their betters 

to make the rules they never kept themselves 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

The North British Cringe 

Four years ago to the day I marched with 30,000 others  through the streets of Edinburgh in support of my country’s independence . Alas when the vote was held we were defeated by the forces of apathy and fear and our nation remains what the author John Steinbeck described in a conversation with President Kennedy as an unwon cause. It is my opinion that one of the key reasons for this is what some people refer as the Scottish cringe. You know the idea, that we alone of the nations on earth are too wee, too poor , and too stupid to run our own affairs. It is my considered opinion that this is a form of cultural oppression and this cringe is anything but Scottish. Indeed I believe it was in fact born in Westminster by those who are absolutely terrified to see Scotland become an independent nation namely the British establishment whose vested interests in our country be they economic or political make them and their all too willing servants  overtly hostile to our independence. It is for this reason that I have written this poem and given it the title The North British Cringe . I hope you enjoy the read. 

The North British Cringe 

We are told by the establishment and their friends in the press

Scotland is not oppressed 

Well if that the case 

why is Scotland’s population

which was a 1/3 of England’s at the formation of the United Kingdom 

now less than a 1/10 

they cringe when I tell them 

 there pro union argument makes no sense 

yet when we contest this notion we are scorned 

told we are idealistic but ill informed

but it’s our accusers who are deluded

the idea of not being oppressed because we’re Scots is misguided 

If you don’t believe me let’s look at the evidence 

we’ll start with the rough wooing in the period leading up to union 

When The Ailen Act was passed by a Westminster government 

determined to secure their unity at all costs

even their anthem talks about crushing rebellious Scots

then there was the banning of the Gaelic, the pipes, and the tartan after the 45

this is a ban unionists choose to ignore 

preferring to bang on empty drums about the sashes their fathers wore 

whilst never mentioning the privileges it brought them 

too many in Scotland are ignorant of our history 

so I’ll start by informing them 

that much to our disgrace 

this prohibition of our language, culture , and tradition did take place 

and wasn’t lifted until 1782

almost 40 years after Culloden 

if that wasn’t an attempt to keep us downtrodden I don’t know what is 

It was a deliberate attempt to show resistance was futile 

and the beginning of a campaign to keep Scotland in our place

the more fanatical sycophants

even tried have our country’s name wiped from existence

and replaced by North Britain 

I still believe this to be your career unionist’s wet dream 

but this girl from the schemes 

is wise to Westminster and their establishment’s never ending lies

whilst the truth cries tears at the endless myths and misconceptions 

their parties will use to gain votes at election time 

these practioners of the dark arts 

are well versed when it comes to the crimes of  deception and duplicity 

as we can see when they use their carefully worded propaganda

they fraudulently call British history 

this has been manufactured in the interests of the elite 

by their friendly Oxbridge historians

I afford them no credibility especially the Tory ones 

the hope and glory brigade

 who will claim we played a part in shaping the new world and the politics of empire 

and maybe we did but not in the way they would have you believe

you see there was no voluntary migration to Canada in 1773

In the real world this has another name

It was called the clearances 

as tens of thousands of families were evicted from their land 

to make way for sheep 

yet you dare to tell me we are not oppressed 

I weep when I think of the martyrs of Tolpuddle 

or the massacre at Peterloo 

but I do so in an international context

 as I ask with respect 

why I was taught about these events at school

rather than the Paisley mill girls 

or the fact that Scottish radicals 

were executed by cold hearted killers 

for demanding independence in 1820

these facts are hidden from our young 

just in case knowing them, might turn them against this precious union

the myth that took centuries to build

by those skilled in the art of the cringe 

the 90 minute patriots who claim we can’t possibly be oppressed 

as we are allowed to wear kilts

and support our national football team 

though when I remind them we can’t watch Scotland games on TV

I am told I am fanatical SNP

and unpatriotic to Britain

they make fools of themselves 

by going on about British highlands , whisky, and bridges

and saying that by being allowed to vote 

we can’t possibly be undermined in any way 

this is the garbage spouted by those Proud Scots 

 who read The Daily Mail , watch EastEnders and Match of the Day 

the ignorance of these people astounds me and suggests 

they know nothing of the place they are ashamed to call home 

and that’s the way they need it to stay 

they ignore the fact that their Westminster masters can’t stand them 

or even tolerate them 

they’ve never been informed about the Scottish potato famine 

which though nowhere near the genocide 

faced by our Irish kin 

still happened nonetheless 

our oppression was and remains more covert in nature

the press and media used as tools to surpress 

any feelings of national identity 

and cover up any events the Brits would rather hide 

like the Govan rent strikes or the socialists of Red Clydeside

and why not because we are oppressed 

by the British is best brigade 

who make sure this history 

our real history is never taught in schools

it would undermine their right to rule 

to which they believe their entitled 

reality however paints a different picture to the one they want to see 

through the prism of their union jack blinkers 

these not so liberal thinkers 

who think narrow minds are prized possessions 

would still deny our oppression 

or while part of this United Kingdom 

some Scots oppressed those in other lands and their own 

In the name of empire crown and glory 

working class Protestants encouraged to vote Tory 

and many still do 

In fear of an imaginary Irish Catholic takeover 

wrapping themselves in the red, white, and blue of union

believing themselves to be the true blue Scots 

yet boasting that they are Brits

from an early age these hypocrites were and still are 

indoctrinated in to hating the Highlander,  the Irish , the French , and Jew

with Muslims now perceived to be enemy 

the Irish and the others used to be 

as Voltaire once said it is difficult to free fools 

from the chains they revere 

on teaching our history 

we must make it clear 

Scotland’s story is not an easy read 

but read it we must 

if we are ever to conquer the cringe 

that of all nations only we 

are too wee, too poor , and too stupid to be free

this is complete drivel 

and the perpetrators must be called out as liars

as a nation we have to aim higher 

but first we must come to terms with our past and our  present 

and facing up to our continued oppression 

this can only end with independence 

and becoming the authors of our destiny 

only then can we look the world in the eye 

as no longer conditioned to be shy 

we will say to every nation 

we are equal to you

the cringe has been conquered at last 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

The Cultural Manifesto Of A  Man Who Speaks For Fairness ( A Review Of Freedom By Matt Panesh)

In the comfort of the cinema room in my favourite Edinburgh bar on a busy festival Friday I did something I’ve been doing for the last eight years and I allowed myself to be entertained by the cheeky chappie of the Edinburgh fringe Matt Panesh. Matt aka Monkey Poet is always on my must see list and this year’s show was no different. In fact the fact  that Matt made it known that this would be his last full run after nine successive years of entertaining the crowds at the fringe eight of them at the Banshee Labyrinth often with two full snows made it if anything all the more important to see a man who over the years has become a valued member of my fringe family. 

For this year’s show Matt (pictured below) departed from his usual monkey poet style ramblings I’ve come to know and enjoy and instead was just Matt Panesh. However I should perhaps explain that there is no such thing as just Matt Panesh. Trust me, this guy is a consummate performer and an excellent storyteller who knows how to engage his audience right from the get go. 

Picture (Matt Panesh on stage in the Cinema Room of The Banshee Labyrinth)

The topic for this show entitled Freedom, was the fringe and what the idea of fringe theatre means to him .  In his opening line which marked the start of an hour of top quality entertainment Matt reminded us that the Edinburgh festival wás celebrating its 70th birthday this year as it was born from the rubble of the Second World War when the people of Britain and Europe needed something to cheer them up after the horrors of the most brutal conflict in human history in which 60 million people died. Matt however had a reason to be grateful for the war as his Polish and Russian grandparents who  met in an Austrian refugee camp and married in Italy and had to cross the alpes twice before eventually settling in Britain  would never have got together otherwise. It is due to the story I’ve just related that Matt has never told told his grandmother it’s a long way to the shops. 

Having given the audience an insight in to his own background Matt then went to inform us of the reason that the festival came to Edinburgh rather any other British or European city. The reasoning was simple Edinburgh wás the only one which hadn’t been blown to bits by the ravages of war and so the biggest arts festival wás born.

Matt then gave us his unique take on how he started doing fringes and he started in not in Edinburgh but in Canada, and Canadian fringes are a wee bit different to Scottish or UK festivals. You see in Canada the fringes aren’t held in big cities like Toronto, Ottawa, or Montreal, but in small towns  like Winnipeg where the culture comes to visit for two weeks a year and then disappears again for the rest of the year. It was during this time of doing festivals in Canada and the USA Matt began to realise the benefits of having what the locals would call an exotic accent but also saw for himself the benefits of what culture can do for the economy of particular geographic locations. 

As an established regular performer  on the Edinburgh scene Matt spoke with passion on what we have come to know as the free fringe which celebrated its 22nd birthday and without which he and countless other performers couldn’t afford to bring their shows to be part of the festival. Gradually Matt became more involved with the free fringe and along with Fay Roberts programs the spoken word section of it. This as he told us is rewarding but not without potential hazards but as he rightly says it saves performers a fortune as they get the venues for free and any money they make from public donations is their own and with all the premises for the free fringe given free by local Edinburgh businesses it brings a host of performers to the city who would not otherwise be able to attend the event.

In being so directly involved with the free fringe Matt has seen for himself the benefits that it can bring to the area in terms of both tourism and finance and is therefore a staunch supporter of this kind of festival and the platform it can provide for the creative arts. Having relocated from Manchester to the coastal town of Morecambe after last year’s fringe Matt found that opportunities for potential nights out were a wee bit limited as the place he now called home didn’t have any spoken word venue and there wasn’t a single comedy club anywhere in the town. However,  those of you who know Matt will also know he is if nothing else a man brimming with ideas and after thinking about this cultural dilemma he faced he started sounding out local venues and businesses about the idea of a fringe festival in Morecambe. After an initially cautious reaction Matt told us how he won them round to the idea by persuading them of the economic advantages both for the town and the wider geographic area. 

Initially this year’s  Morecambe fringe which started tonight will be a weekend affair with it expanding to a week  long event next year. Being the cheeky and persuasive  chappie I know he  can be , it came as no surprise to me that  he even managed to convince Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn,( on whom by  his own admission he has an enormous man crush) of the merits of his brainchild which he says will be run on a small scale version of the Edinburgh model. 

At the end of a journey through time, culture, and history Matt said he  might as well finish with a poem and asked the audience which poem he should do. Knowing his work better than most people in attendance I suggested Understanding, which Matt said he has since retitled How To Be Patriotic Without Sounding  Like A White Supremasist in response to the rise of far right parties like The BNP and UKIP. This uplifting poem sets out Matt’s vision of a Britain for everyone and more than any other poem sums up the cultural manifesto of a man who speaks for fairness  

Till next time.

Gayle X

Tapestry

In my final poem for this year’s pride I bring my story up to date by relating the events from the 1990’s to the present day. I’ve given it the title Tapestry as it completes my story so far. I hope you enjoy the read. 
Tapestry

It’s been a long journey to get to where I am 

though from the 90’s onwards 

attitudes began to get better 

slowly at first, but they speeded up 

when we reached the millennium bell

things had been improving bit by bit

as more people began to be open 

to say without fear I am what I am

a friend of Dorothy who walks the yellowbrick road

in red shoes of whatever style I like

the T was finally included 

in what had been thought of as LGB rights

for me the journey would take just a few more years 

with smiles and tears along the way 

now in my 50’s I can safely say

I’m having the time of my life 

I’m more daring than I ever believed I could be 

yet at the same time respectable 

when the occasion demands 

no longer content to bury my head in the sand

I face the world and say 

this is me take it or leave it

but you won’t change me 

I only go back to the past

to collect memories which I join together 

crafting with care the tapestry of my story 

© Gayle Smith 2017

The Day The Phoenix Rises 

This poem draws on the stories of my ancestors who told me about the importance of the phoenix in guarding the laws of Scotland and Ireland and the belief that our countries will finally be free of British rule on the day the phoenix rises. It is for that reason I have given it the title The Day The Phoenix Rises. I hope you enjoy the read. 
The Day The Phoenix Rises

Outsiders

we were scorned on arrival 

in a cold uncaring place 

 locals claimed we were not the same as them 

using language and religion as excuses to label us 

boasting of their achievements

as part of an empire

they were unaware their own culture was scorned 

Scots or Irish a Celt can never be 

reborn as a Brit

when they were told this 

the new order got angry 

they were beyond unhappy

when the Irish community formed a football club 

which would be open to those of  all faiths and none 

when trophies were won we were feared and hated 

the angry brigade felt threatened 

that their fragile identity had been questioned 

there were suggestions we should go home 

as those with blood on their hands

conveniently forgot  it was they 

who did the clearing 

which left us dispossessed 

the victims of cultural genocide

in the Celtic heartlands from which I am descended 

 I’ve always known my blood is the blood of twin tribes 

both of which were marginalised 

the Irish  and the Islanders share 

a history of oppression

with stolen lands taken from the people 

and given to those who would obey colonial orders

without questioning why 

in Culloden and Atherny 

the pain lives on  in the lyrics of our songs

and the hearts of those who know 

the history the oppressers tried to ban 

along with our culture and traditions 

that however was a big mistake to make

in their determination to break us 

they inspired a spirit of resistance

they will not quell 

hell will freeze over before we ever accept 

the label outsiders 

It is not who we are nor will it ever be 

our freedom will come on the day the phoenix rises 

to take us home from the ashes of a ruined estate 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Active Citizens 

As a spoken word poet I am rightly proud of our tradition of activism on just about every topic you could name. From Apartheid to Women’s rights poets have opinions on everything and not afraid to voice them. This is something we share with all performers, but in this poem I take a look at musicians both folk and pop, and in particular the protest songs written over the years to express support of causes and campaigns to document an important part of social history . Whilst some of the songs, I’ve incorporated in to this poem may be very obviously political others may initially at least  strike you as slightly less so but when you look closely at the lyrics you’ll see they may be more radical than you think . I’ve given it the title Active Citizens as I have  long held the belief that the creative community are often a government’s more effective critics. I hope you enjoy the read. 
Active Citizens
My journey started with McGinn of The Calton 

who sang of  a may day for the ordinary people

and women pining for the pill .

Glen Daly told the story

of a wild colonial boy 

whose spirit will always live 

in the hearts of rebels with or without causes

the Corries took me over the sea to Skye 

while the hills of Donegal 

and the fields of Anthery 

showed the other side of my family tree 

both sides displaced in the name of the great white sheep 

and generations later the Proclaimers 

lamented the industrial clearances 

when they sent a letter from America

and narrated Scotland’s story 

as a  land of migrants 

throughout our history 

our so-called masters have ignored us 

attempted to silence our voices 

in the name of their false unity 

but our community remains strong

writing and  singing  the protest songs 

that expose them and their cruel deeds

carried out in the name of greed and personal gain 

meanwhile though she took a train to Leeds Central in 1989.  

we are still  looking for Linda 

and when we find her 

she will know she is one of  Jock Tamsons Bairns 

regardless of where she was born 

you see  where you are from can only be the first verse 

the starting point of the protest song

what follows is the journey about where your going to

and  how we help you get there 

by listening to the lyrics 

and the lessons they teach us for the future 

we can’t afford to be seduced and abandoned

by falling for lies and false promises 

or ignoring the 1 in 10 

we need to send the selfish homeward 

make them think again on the consequences of their behaviour 

their attitudes that make me a very angry girl 

I come from the generation who dared to feed the world 

and ask when there would be a harvest for it 

a harvest we could share 

with west end girls and smalltown boys 

we can’t let politicians create 100 000 Allentown’s 

or hold back the years in a vain attempt 

to keep us in what they think is our place 

in the rat trap they’ve created over years and centuries

to preserve what they see as the natural order 

with those McGinn sang of at the bottom 

with independence lies the hope of a better Scotland 

though we will still have our problems 

and protest songs to sing 

in the hope of the finding solutions 

as creatives we have always been political 

critical of our establishment regardless of party colours

and as our future governments will discover

we will always be active citizens

speaking out on the issues that matter. 

.© Gayle Smith 2017