Tag Archive | Robin Cairns

When Women Of A Certain Age Decide To Get Fierce The Golden Girls Can Really Rock The Mic. 

​Due to an unforseen accident in the last Wednesday of April, It’s fair to  say that May was a quieter month than usual in my poetry calendar. Indeed I had to postpone my own event due to a badly sprdined ankle.

This meant  there was no Words And Music at the Tin Hut on the first Tuesday of the month. I also missed cracking nights at Fail Better, Extra Second,  Express Yourself, and Last Monday At  Waterstones. In fact the only event I made in the whole of May was on the second Sunday of the month when I captained the over 40’s team in the four  ages slam at the Tron Theatre 

 This was an afternoon which I simply had to attend comes as 0ou I was  chosen by the host and organiser of the event Robin Cairns to captain the team for my spoken word demographic but also the fact that it was my first journey outside Baillieston since injuring my ankle at the tail end of last month Since I was still a bit shaky in the terms of my movement I got taxi’s to and from the venue well it made more sense than going for a bus and potentially making things worse. 

Having been made captain, I had to select my team for the events in which we would be doing battle with the teams representing teenagers twenty something’s and thirty something’s and with an emvarrasnent of  riches to choose from I made a few tentative enquires as to who may or may not be available for selection. Eventually I settled on my choices and in Angela Strachan and Lesley Traynor I knew I had chosen well, whether we would would be able to take on and beat the other teams would be as it is in all slams in the lap of the gods, the aududnce, and the judges.

I arrived early for the big event and was quickly joined by rival team captain and close friend Victoria McNulty who since she was taking a social media break had not heard of my recent accident. As we chatted I told her that this was only the second time I’d left the house since it happened and the other occasion was to cast my vote in the local elections. Eventually I was was joined by my team mates and other competitors including fellow team captains Carla Woodburn , Matt MacDonald. As kick off time drew ever closer we went through to the Victorian Bar took our seats on the stage and waited for the battle to  begin. The rules of the competition were simple all poets would perform twice in a round robin fashion and the two highest scoring teams after the two rounds  would progress through to the final to compete for the title of the Four Ages Slam Champions 

After the prelimaries like deciding  on team names and  the running order,  we were treated to a sacrificial poem from one of our judges Brighton based poet Deborah Martin. Sacrifice made It was time to start the competition and it  was the Young Team who were first to the mic as Aidan Rivett opened the slam with his take on Karaoke.One by one the  poets made our way to the mic when it came to our turn to put our first poem out there I decided to take a captain’s responsibility and lead from the front as I performed Jewel Of The Clyde in which I looked back the impact of Glasgow’s year as city of culture on both the politics and culture of our cityThis being my first ever team slam though I have competed in and judged individual ones, I was understandably nervous as I didn’t want to let Angela or Lesley down so I was glad to get it out of the way and get back to my seat. 

On a day when we played to what was a predominantly non poetry audience who had paid £7 for the privilege of seeing us I think we saw the poetry community at it’s best and those gathered  heard poems on a wide range of topic including domestic violence ( Victoria McNulty) family from both (Adam V Cheshire and Moki , male anger Loki, Sex and taming the bad guy Lesley Traynor with her hilarious take on the big bad wolf, nightclubs, me (lost the plot,) and Aidan Rivett , facebook friendships, Jess Smith , shopping and the perils of giving up  smoking (Angela Strachan) and the dangers of swallowing spiders  from Carla Woodburn. 

At the end of the second round of  poems it was four quality teams who waited for their fate to be decided by the judges two of whom would be judging every poem but the third judge was a different story as this was a different member of the audience for every poem and I must admit I rather liked the idea of what I call poetry democracy in action.

As we waited for the judges decisions I talked tactics with my team to decide what poems to perform if we made it through and also I had to consider who would be placed where in the running order. I took a captain’s decision that should we get through I would be going first , Lesley would follow me and Angela, would be our final poet standing. Eventually , the judges made their decision and we had qualified for the final where we would pit our wits against the young team. It was set up as the classic final a battle of youth against experience. 

Having lost the toss it was the young team who went up first then it was my turn to step up to the mic and I performed one of the few poems I know well enough not to need a paper copy or my phone  and when Karaoke Queen got a maximum score of 10 from the audience member I knew I had played my part to the best of my ability. 

One by one we took our turn at the mic and when Lesley performed her poem my sister sleeps I thought we had grounds for optimism and then finally it was Angela who went all out for glory to prove that the so-called oldies can be Goldie’s and believe me The Queen Of Modern Suburbia didn’t let us down.Now having done all we could do it was two nervous teams who awaited the decision of the judges 

Eventually, they made their call and much to my delight they called it for us. The wise ones had  won the day and our all female team had proven that when Women of a certain age decide to get fierce the golden girls can really rock the mic. 

Till next time 

Gayle X

A Treasure Trove Of Memories In A Room Full Of Friends As We Came To One Last Carnival And Said Farewell To Rio 

Last night was an emotional one for the Scottish poetry community as it signalled the end of the cultural institution that is , was and ever shall be Last Monday at Rio after 10 amazing years in the heart of the both the west end and the Glasgow spoken word scene.  

 
Picture (1) The main man and host of this event Robin Cairns kicks off the final night of his reign at this cracking wee venue by taking us down memory lane as he performed the poem that opened the very first night at Rio and we meet the school teacher called Old Lochgelly. 

Picture (2) Peter Russell takes his turn at the mic 

Picture (3) Shows A R Crow and Shannon McGregor relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere of the night 

Picture (4) Sees Jim Monaghan share his thoughts on Rio and why it will always have a special place in his heart. It is the mark of a man of principal that Jim would sooner speak with integrity on the part that Rio has played on his spoken word journey than perform on such an important occasion. 

Picture (5) Is of a stalwart of this event and many others over the years. A man who has entertained us in his boxer shorts and worn his party candidate rosette on stage and had his hand up so many puppets that he could were he not so principled get a job as a Tory Chief Whip. I refer of course to the one and only Chris Young. 

Picture (6) Shows Shannon McGregor taking her turn to entertain the company .

Picture (7) It was an emotional night for Stephen Watt who regarded Rio as his poetry home and has done since making his performance debut on this stage in 2010. Over the years since first meeting him in this cracking wee cafe I have come to respect Stephen as a poet and even more so as a man and have valued his friendship support and advice. 

Picture (8) Has our very own Falkirk bairn Janet Crawford at the mic. In her introduction last night Janet informed us that it was Stephen Watt who encouraged her to go west with her poetry and I for one am very glad he did. 

Picture (9)  Shows a poet whom you can always rely on to raise the bar, the brilliant Katharine MacFarlane who went for a poem on sex and brought us all in to a fit of the giggles.  

Picture (10) Shows the man whose had more headline slots at Rio than anyone else the man who Robin described as the best poet in Scotland today the amazing poetic tour de force that is Kevin Cadwallender. 

Picture (11) Sometimes in life it’s the small things that make us happy and that’s certainly the case in the poetry world when Sam Small performs his work. 

Picture (12) As reached the penultimate open mic slot it was time for A R Crow to share their thoughts on what happens when Scots get a glimpse of the sunshine with their hilarious poem Taps Aff. 

Picture (13) Kirsty Nicolson makes history as the last open mic poet ever to grace the stage at Cafe Rio with one of my favourite ever poems Being From Lewis Is on the stereotypical images people have on the island where she was raised and her family roots are planted.

Picture (14) Our last ever headliner who took not only to the end of the night but to the end of an era was the excellent Hamish MacDonald. A consummate performer Hamish’s poem Ma Bit is an outstanding example of what can happen when people become too territorial and attempt to exclude others from what they believe to be ‘their’ communities.

And so it was over. 10 years of not only of quality spoken word but a valuable part of Glasgow’s cultural and social history. During a decade in which Glasgow has undergone many changes we have heard 1,000 voices speak their truths on a wide variety of topics and listened to everyone who shared them.  In doing so we have created a treasure trove of memories and we’ve done it in a room full of friends. I can think of no better legacy than that. 

Picture (15 ) Our host and compere for the last 10 years.

Thanks Robin. 

See you somewhere else. 
Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X 

  

On The Night A Piper Played To Win Scotland Found A Champion

Hey Readers

On a dark Saturday night in the cold of a Scottish winter I made my way to the Tron Theatre to enjoy a top quality night of spoken word poetry as I attended the 2017 Scottish poetry slam championship final.

This is always one of my favourite nights of the year as Scotland’s premier poetic talents battle it out for the prestige of being Scotland’s national slam champion and the honour of representing their country in the poetry slam world series in Paris later in the year

As expected the Tron was packed to capacity for such an important cultural occasion and all stars of the Scottish spoken word scene including this blogger were out in force to support those judged throughout the year to be the cream of this year’s crop. Amongst those I chatted to was Jane Overton who was one of the judges for the event. I also had a quick word with David Forrest who like myself was there to enjoy the evening, and other audience members Kevin Cadwallender, Anna Crow, Janet Crawford, Lesley Traynor , and Shannon McGregor. Amongst the contenders I had early chats with Katharine McFarlane, Lloyd Robinson, Matt MacDonald, Molly McLachlan and Victoria McNulty and wished them well for the night ahead.

As tradition dictates the event was compared by the maestro Mr Robin Cairns who brought the occasion to us as only he knows how. After revealing that there would be two abaebtees from the list Robin took nominations from poets in the audience for a wild card entry and though a few poets themselves forward such as Jade Mitchell, and Shannon McGregor it was Ben Rogers whose name was pulled out of the hat and in to the slam.

In the first round, the poets were drawn in to four groups of four competitors each with two from each group going through to the second round and three (well that was the plan )going through to the final where the eventual winner would be declared Scottish Poetry Slam Champion 2017

As the draw was made we were all hoping that our choice or choices would make the final. For the record this totally unbiased blogger was trying her best to remain as neutral as possible , but even I have favourites though I’m not going to say who they are. Well I get on well with all the poets in the final so I’m not going to name any names as to who I may or may not have been supporting.

In an excellent first heat  we heard work of outstanding quality from Elise Hadgraft on Homelessness Aiden Rivet and his Wonderwall poem Daniel Piper and his cleverly crafted poem DJ Veg. This was followed by Max Sratchman whose poem on how a woman’s quest for love could have been filled by a Down’s syndrome baby she chose not to have tugged at more than a few heartstrings, and believe me this group set the standard for the other contestants to follow.

When we did get in to the second group there were yet more stunning performances. These came most notably from Katharine MacFarlane whose poem on her sister’s very traumatic rape and the ordeal which followed and now makes her fearful  as a mother with a daughter of her own This poem was so powerful that it blew the Richter scale to bits, and Lay La Josephine whose poem I Think She Was A She gave a very powerful and passionate portrayal of the way women who have abortions are made to feel guilty by a society in which these issues are not talked about as openly as they should be. It should also be noted that Molly McLachlan was in this group as was wildcard entry  Ben Rogers and I thought Molly who was the only contestant to get the hooter in the opening round performed well in this company. However , and I’m only saying because I love Molly to bits, it is my opinion she started her poem too slowly and in such a tight group the marks I’m sure it cost her illustrates how difficult competing at the top level really is especially when I believe there could be less than 10 points between those who qualified for the semi finals and those who missed out.

The third group was kicked off by Victoria McNulty whose poem Coffins From Derry is in my opinion a very strong piece in support of refugees in which McNulty draws on her own Irish heritage and the hostility towards the early Irish immigrants to demonstrate why as someone whose blood as she says ‘ is cut from refugees ‘ supports those she describes in the final line of poem as ‘ the displaced people residing in Scotland today ‘ Next up was the excellent Bibi June with her entertaining and thought provoking poem Simon Says . This poem was funny and disturbing in equal measure and demonstrates just how easily sheep can be led to whatever pen the establishment want to go to with alarming ease.

Hamish MacDonald’s poem Ma Bit focused strongly on tensions between rival communities both local and global and real and imagined as it explored the potential for conflict that territorial geographies can and do provide where borders are contested. Ellen Renton performed a thoughtful and considered poem on her love for both Glasgow and Edinburgh in which she produced the line of the night with the words ‘ I can still belong to Glasgow with my heart in Midlothian. This in my book was absolute genius and poetic imagery at its brilliant best. It was a wonderful way to conclude what I believe was the toughest group of all the first round qualifiers.

It was Matt MacDonald who will be February’s featured writer at Words and Music who kicked off the final qualifying group with his poem Fibonacci. Matt was followed by the pint sized pocket rocket that is the brilliant Hannah Raymond Cox. After Hannah it was time for the penultimate performer in the first round and Jack McMillan was climbing the ladder of spoken word success and finally Lloyd Robinson brought the first round to a close with his poetic take on those right wingers who voted for Brexit with I’m Ready To Stop Being English. This was a real crowd pleaser as the anti Brexit sentiment went down very well with the predominately West of Scotland audience.

As we headed for a well deserved bar break everyone had our own mental list of who we thought would qualify for semi finals but only the judges would make that decision and I for one didn’t envy Andy Jackson, George Miller, Jane Overton one little bit. 

As we reconvened after the break Robin gave us the results of the judges deliberations and it’s fair to say that for some members of the audience there were a couple of surprises amongst the qualifiers. I have to say however that I called most of them right, well 7 out of 8 isn’t bad by anyone’s standards and yes I did see hurricane Hannah qualifying from the final group because I’ve performed with Hannah at Other Voices and know how good she actually is. Trust me Hannah, is one of the best performers you will ever see on a poetry stage and I’m not understating the case when I say that she a talent ten times the size of herself.

As the semi finalists were announced we managed to get what very few political cabinets ever do the perfect gender balance of four male and female qualifiers. As the draw was made, you would have been given more than decent odds on the two heats being exclusively single sex but that is exactly how it turned out with the first heat being all female and the second heat all male. Now I can’t prove it, but it is my educated guess that the minute the judges saw these single sex battles was also the minute they decided to up the number of finalists from three to four.

In the first heat it was the turn of the girls to spice up the night and believe me they did exactly that with some truly mesmerising poetry as all four poets were outstanding and produced the kind of work which made me proud to have heard it. As for calling it I thought Katharine was a certainty for the final with her poem Bonnie Scotland speaking to my rebel heart in the gentlest and most passionate of ways.

As for the others I changed my mind at least half a dozen times before giving the nod to Hannah Raymond Cox for her poem The Revolution Will Be Televised. This poem shows why I rate Hannah as highly as I do as it combined wit and warmth in such a newsy style I thought I was being patronised by the BBC.

As for the boys to me only Lloyd whose poem Jump written on the theme of suicide was met with the kind of silence a poet only gets when you know the audience have really listened to every word was a safe bet for the final. As for the others Ben , Daniel, and Hamish’s were all quality poems but I struggled to call second place though I did eventually decide for Hamish, but as I said I wasn’t in the judge’s seat and it was up those who were to give there decision and as we waited expectantly for their decision we were entertained superbly as Robin performed a poem from his extensive and varied catalogue

With tension building and the excitement palpable the judges handed their findings to our host who announced that it was going to be a final four and not a final three as originally planned. After making the announcement Robin named the finalists as Katharine MacFarlane , Elise Hadgraft, Lloyd Robinson, and Daniel Piper. On the night of all nights the audience were ready for our finalists to do battle one last time to decide who would be crowned Scottish Slam Champion 2017

And so as we started what was going to be a cracking final it was Daniel Piper who was first up with a poem on rave culture which used humour to explore a potentially challenging issue.

Daniel was followed by Katharine MacFarlane whose poem on her the use of language and its power to value or devalue people really spoke to my heart. I say this not only as a trans woman but also as a former equality trainer who used to have a section on language use in every course I ever delivered. I love this poem and the fact that it was written for her daughter adds to the power of a fantastic thought provoking poem which contained many examples of wonderful imagery which is the trademark of this gifted poet.

As Katharine left the stage our penultimate poet of this year’s slam to make her case for victory and believe me Elise Hadgraft delivered her best poem of the night right on cue and the brilliantly titled I Want To Wear Your Clothes showed that this is a poet with serious talent whose use of suggestion as intimacy was in my view an absolute masterstroke in a poem which spanned a range of emotions including love, lust, and a liberal sprinkling of humour and made her a genuine contender for the title. 

So it fell to Lloyd Robinson to be the final contender in this year’s final and yet again Lloyd delivered an excellent poem on the theme of suicide which was well received by an appreciative audience who gave all competitors the respect they deserved on such an important occasion. Now having done all they could do the fate of our final four lay in the hands of the judges and finally the decision was reached. In my heart I had called it for Katharine but alas this night was not to be hers.

As Robin announced the result I held my breathe in expectation. As is the case in Strictly and other important events the verdict was given in reverse order. So at the end of great night for Scottish poetry 4th place went to Lloyd Robinson with Katharine MacFarlane in 3rd. Our runner up was Elise Hadgraft which meant our new Scottish Slam Champion was Daniel Piper and it is Daniel who will take with him the good wishes of everyone involved in the Scottish spoken word scene as he goes to Paris as our representative in the world series in May.

I make this point because if there is one thing the Scottish spoken word community is good at it is supporting each other when it really matters and trust me this matters. We want our champion to be the best in the world and I’m sure Daniel will do us proud.

As the end of the evening a number of us both audience members and performers including Anna Crow, Aiden Rivet, Hamish MacDonald, Heather Duffy, Lay La, and Molly McLachlan, and of course Daniel enjoyed a post event drink in the salubrious surroundings of the Tron Bar. As I chatted to our newly crowned champion, Daniel said he felt a wee bit guilty about winning the title since he only moved up to Scotland at the end of last year and won the very last slam before the cut off date.

On hearing this very honest opinion, I replied that he didn’t need to feel guilty about anything as the only people in the position to deliver a verdict were the judges and there decision was that his poetry suited Scotland just fine. In fact what they really decided was that on the night a Piper played to win Scotland found a champion.

Congratulations Daniel Piper Scottish Poetry Slam Champion 2017.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

An Eclectic Cultural Selection Box Was Just What I’ve Always Wanted. (My Review Of The Christmas Last Monday At Rio) 

Hey Readers

I start this my 22nd Blogmas post  with a very serious question.

When is an event which is usually held on the last Monday of the last month held before the last Monday of the month?

The answer is when the event is Last Monday at Rio. Now come on readers especially the poets amongst you I said Last Monday at Rio. The poets should now be shouting Rio as they read this. You see the reason that there is a slight change of date for December is because the man I call the maestro and genial host of this amazing night, Robin Cairns likes to take a nice wee break during the festive season so by tradition we congregate just a wee bit earlier than ususal for the December edition of the event.

On this occasion coming so close to the day itself there was a very festive atmosphere with everyone in top form for what was for many of us myself included, our last performance of the year.

Amongst the highlights on excellent evening of entertainment were fantastic contributions Alisa Williamson whose set on the joys of married life made me wish I was in my mid 20’s rather than my mid 50’s, Jim Ewing (see picture below) whose poetic review of the year went down a treat and Suzanne Egerton whose story The Christmas Tree illustrated why I have selected her to bring in the cultural bells as January’s featured writer at the New Year Words and Music

Picture (1) Jim Ewing At Christmas Edition of Last Monday At Rio


There were also outstanding sets from Jane Overton who was this month’s featured writer at Words And Music, Anna Crow, Nancy Lippold Ingram, Peter Russell, Lesley Traynor, Janet Crawford whose poems about her love for sons had me welling up emotion, Alan McGlas who had us all in stitches with his bagatelles and Monica Pitman whose set included a traditional Lithuanian Christmas song. 

To perform in such exhaulted company is indeed a great honour but I seemed to get a few giggles and some audience reaction with my performance of Christmas Lies, (Just What I’ve Always Wanted ) Having enjoyed my short spell on the stage I decided I wanted to do only  one poem to get maximum impact, I went back to my seat to take in the rest of what was a fantastic night with Karen Jones, (see picture below) and Alain English the pick of a very merry bunch open of mic slots. 

Picture (2) The brilliant Karen Jones entertains the company as Karen Cairns, Suzanne Egerton, and Alain English look on. 

As for our featured act Colin Donatti I must admit to having a very slight bias. You see, Colin was one of my earliest influences as he was one of my first writing tutors back in the early 1990’s. So I knew I would be getting a writer of quality and substance as that was exactly what we got as Colin shared his poetic thoughts and musings with a crowd who were only too willing to listen. 

And so ended this year’s Last Monday at Rio and with my performances for 2016. You know it’s strange to think that despite the event now coming up for its 10th birthday which I believe Robin said it celebrates this coming April and me having hosted an event for 11 years and performed at venues at various locations in Glasgow, Edinburgh and beyond, it took me till March this year to make my debut at this event. Now however, I’ve performed a fair few times at this excellent evening and see it as an important part of my cultural landscape. One thing I love about Rio is the variety of acts and topics which make up this manic but magical Monday and from Christmas Trees to reviews of the year and Lithuanian Carol’s this electic cultural selection box really was just what I’ve always wanted  

Love And Best Wishes 

Gayle X 

In A Busy Month For Poets Filled With Festivals And Fringes I Made Fierce Friends And Partied On Wherever Words Were Spoken 

Hey  Readers 

I’m two thirds of the way through October and I’m finally ready to post my photographic journey through August. Yes I know its late, this is late even by my standards but you see though I often claim to be a lady of leisure this isn’t strictly true as  I attend so many events these days that I quite often meet myself coming back and this is why there has been such a delay in putting this post together.  Well that’s my excuse and I’m damn well sticking to it as it happens to be at least 90percent true. 
Anyway I hope your getting ready for a rollercoaster ride because believe me this is a journey well worth sharing and like all or at least most of my journies it starts and ends in Glasgow though I will concede that for this month at least most of the action took place in a city 50 miles to the East and yes I do mean Edinburgh. However, as is almost always going to be the case our story starts on a Tuesday night on the south side of Glasgow in a place that’s made for Words and Music 

Picture (1) In what is the busiest month of the year for us poets is taken at Words and Music where featured writer Victoria McNulty held court entertaining a small but select gathering

Picture (2) is of Bob Leslie who provided the music for the company on that early August evening.

Picture (3) takes me on the the first of many visits to Edinburgh. The venue is the salubrious surroundings of the Merlin Hotel for the Pick Of The Fringe night organised by Rose Ritchie. Here you can see Rose on the right with Michelle Hogg belting out a song to the highly receptive audience.

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Picture (4) This sees us at the Scottish Poetry Library where the amazing Katharine MacFarlane was a joy to behold at the Women with fierce words event.

Picture 5 Is one you could makar up as current Federation of Writers Scotland makar Elizabeth Rimmer imparts her words of wisdom to the gathering.

Picture (6)  Sees me reading my poem The Lemon Dress on the topic of transformation

Picture (7) We were fierce, female and fabulous and we were prepared to shout it from the rooftops and here’s the evidence to prove it as Katharine and I show what it’s like to be on the top of the world or at least the Poetry library with Nancy Lippold Ingram smiling in the background.

Picture (8) By this time the fierce women had left the poetry library and were enjoying each other’s company over a coffee in the local Starbucks.This picture shows from left to right  Rose, Michelle, and the otganiser of the event Lesley Traynor

Picture (9) This is possibly the best action shot I’ve taken so far as Carla Woodburn has her warrior moment as she performs a poem from her phone.

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Picture (10) Shows a poet I always look forward to seeing and not just for his poetry but I also enjoy the company of  David Lee Morgan as this is a man who always has interesting stories to share. Here I capture the man outside the place I call home at every Edinburgh fringe the Banshee Laberinyth.

In Picture (11) The girls are banging the drum for Glasgow and who better to do it than Sheboom, Glasgow’s finest all female drumming band who had been playing at the Merchant City festival earlier that morning

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In Picture (12) I’m in political mode as I attend the campaign launch of Tommy Sheppard’s bid to become Depute Leader of the SNP. This picture shows me smiling for the camera with the candidate I am proud to have supported.

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Picture (13) Shows me bargain hunting at River Island which is one of my favourite fashion Festival

Picture (14)  was taken at the indoor market at the Merchant City Festival at the indoor market and showcases some of the amazing jewellery on offer at very reasonable prices.

Picture (15) Was also taken at the indoor market and contains the best advice anyone can ever be given. If you look really closely you will see it written in pink.

Picture (16) Shows me standing at the entry to my home in my new dress from Logo and if any bloggers reading this post think you recognise the dress you would be right as I have since featured it in an outfit of the day post.

Picture (17) features James Christopher whose one man show What’s The Tory Mourning Glory? took a very witty and topical look at the fiasco surrounding Brexit.

Picture (18) reminds me that I’ll always make time to for music especially when the music is provided by one of my favourite musicians the lovely Josephine Sillars in salubrious surroundings of the Gin Bar.

Picture (19) Sees me tired but happy as I make my way down the North Bridge to get the late night bus from Edinburgh back home to a very sleepy Baillieston. Well it was sleepy by the time I finally got back to the village.

Picture (20)  Demonstrates that the more things change the more they stay the same as I make my annual visit to see my good friend Matt Panesh aka Monkey Poet entertain the audience in the Cinema Room in the Banshee Laberinyth.

Picture (21) Shows the lovely Catriona Knapman performing poems from the heart at the Merlin Hotel at part of the pick of the fringe event.

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Picture (22) sees us back at the Banshee for some early evening entertainment in the company of David Lee Morgan

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Picture (23) Shows that Every girl loves her girl cave and on a wet and windy Friday night the girlie comedy of Harriet Kelmsley seen here really was just the tonic I needed.

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Picture 24 Takes me yet again to the Banshee or as I prefer to call it my Edinburgh home as I attend a show which shows no topic is off limits as the brilliant Chella Quint talks periods in a most unusual way. Now I know you might not think that this is a topic for a comedy show but this is an educational comedy show as Chella takes us through Adventures In Mensuration.

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Picture (25) Is the sign that all performers want to see on the venue door before they start the show.

Picture (26) Shows the best poetic fitness instructor on the planet Katharine MacFarlane in her show Home Words. It was during this show I learnt of the ancient Scottish tradition of Waulking and the lovable if slightly mischievous Katharine made sure I learned of it the hard way along  with fellow fierce woman Emma Mooney, and Janet Crawford as we tried this traditional job and reached the conclusion that the women of the Highlands and Islands would never need to go the gym after such heavy manual labour.

(Picture 27) Is of yet another poet Tyrone Lewis. (Yes I know a lot of them) This was taken on a lovely Sunday when I went to the Pilgrim Bar just across the road from the Banshee (The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree) for an event which I’m sure which will keep pulling me back every year from now on. Poetry at the Boomerang Club was an excellent way to spend an hour and I even managed to perform one of my poems (Two Hours) on my first of two visits I made to this night.

Picture (28) Sees  me back at the Cinema Room at the Banshee for some late night comedy from Kane Brown 

Picture (29) Sees me back on home turf attending the launch of Verse Clique Glasgow’s newest spoken word night which is hosted by one of the most exciting new talents in years the highly likable Michelle Fisher.

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Picture (30) Shows the amazing Hollie McNish rocking the opening night at Verse Cliqueimage

Picture (31) Sees Jenny Lindsay performing Verse Clique on what was a spectacular opening bill.
and a great night for Scottish poetry

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Picture (32) Mark McGhee and his band the Giro Babies supply the music to provide a fitting finale for the first ever Verse Clique. Michelle Fisher should be very proud she put on such a fantastic night.

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Picture (33) Every year there is one show you need to see twice and this year it was Chella Quint’s Adventures In Mensuration. This picture was taken on my second visit to the show and shows me embracing the stain for every girl whose ever had a difficult period.

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Picture 34 Shows a poet at work as Jenni Pascoe inspired by the muse suddenly decides to get writing.

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Picture 35  Captures my friend and fellow poet Andy Bennett in thoughtful mood as he muses over the fringe in that part of the Banshee which will forever be his office. 

Picture 36 Shows the wonderful Tina Seiderholme during her final performance of her show Till Debt Do Us Part.

Picture (37) This picture sums up what the fringe is all about to me. The wee stage in the banqueting hall is where I have made more appreances that any other venue except for the poetry library and the majority of those appearances have been at Other Voices cabaret. This groundbreaking event gives a voice to those who are traditionally underrepresented in mainstream poetry such as members of the LGBTIQ community, disabled people, people of minority ethnic groups, and women. Superbly hosted by the brilliant Fay Roberts, this is an event I am so proud to play my part in and it is also a place  where I have taken risks and made friends I know I’ll have for the rest of my life. 

Picture (38) is for the woman I call boss and I mean that in the nicest possible way as it shows the wonderful Fay Roberts doing what she does best performing at other voices. 

Picture (39)  This picture is of a poet will never need Permission to read her thought provoking poetry and that’s why I love Hannah Chutzpah.

Picture (40) This is the face of poetry’s future and her name is Malaika Kegode 

Picture (41) is of a power packed poem who performs with passion and pride that poet is Katherine McMahon 

Picture (42) Demonstrates as if there were ever a doubt that can’t visit Edinburgh without doing the tourist bit and if ever a shop summed up Scotland it’s this one. 

Picture 43 Shows a view of Scotland’s seat of power  Edinburgh castle. 

Picture (44) Shows that though locations may change the spoken word world never stops. So with the fringe over and Edinburgh drawing drawing the curtains after three weeks of excess we move to the wild west. Well the wild west end of Glasgow where I spied a young poet with a great future in Ross MacFarlane who was first familiar of the many I saw at Last Monday at Rio 

Picture (45) Shows Robin Cairns back in his rightful place as our genial host welcomes us back to Glasgow and Last Monday at Rio much to the delight of the expectant crowd 

Picture (46)  Having got the crowd in focus I decided to get a clearer picture of the man I call the maestro commanding an audience as only he can and I think this action shot shows Robin at his best 

Picture (47) As is always the case at Rio Robin had lined up a top quality poet as his headline act for the night  and this month it was brilliant Edinburgh based poet Kevin Cadwallender who I hadn’t managed to see in the whole run of the fringe. Kevin is in my opinion a poet I always enjoy seeing as anyone who can give beauty tips to daleks is a man to be taken seriously. Well I was scared of the daleks when I was wee so anybody brave enough to tell them to clean up their act has got to be admired. 

So that was my journey through what was I’m sure you’ll agree a very busy month but it  was also a month when I made a fierce friends and partied on wherever words were spoken. It was a month in which I made friendships and memories which will warm my heart in the coldest days of winter.

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X 

As A Crow Came To Nest In The Place We Call Home Jock Tamson’s Bairns Were Delighted As Stories Were Told And Songs Were Shared In The Name Of A Good Night Out.

Hey Readers

It’s that time of the month again when poets, musicians, storytellers, and culture lovers will make their way to the Tin Hut in the name of a good night out.

As I look back on the events of July it is fair to say I do so with fondness as this was a night when the atmosphere was as warm as the summer sun which shone on our performers. One by one they took the stage and claimed it as their own and you know what we may only have been two nights in to our residency but everyone felt at home in our new surroundings.

Now, those who know Words and Music will also know that no two nights are ever alike and as if to prove the point our team for the evening was apart from two or three us a completely different line up from the one who graced the stage on our first night at our new venue.  This I suspect may well be the case for the next few months as more Words and Music regulars find their way home. Not to worry though I think everyone who needs to make their Tin Hut debuts should have done so by the first Tuesday of December or at the very latest January.

To those who have still to make their first journey to the Tin Hut I can guarantee them the sane warm welcome they always got at Sammy’s. Well though it’s true to say that times change and so do people there is also the fact that the more things change the more they stay the same.

As host it was my job to get the night started and I did so by reading Spoken Word, the poem that is rapidly becoming my poetic manifesto. I have to admit that I really enjoyed writing this poem and I’m enjoying performing it even more.  I believe it challenges the preconceived ideas some people may have about spoken word nights and the type of people who attend them and anything that can tackle that kind of inverted snobbery has to be a good thing

Having started the night it was now my pleasure to call up the first of the billed readers and as is so often the case that honour feel to John Moody. Never a man to duck the important issues John did a set of three poems The Screaming Never Stops, Laburnum Seeds, and Canister all of which tackled difficult topics with the poetic skills and sensitivity for which John is rapidly becoming known. 

Next up to the stage was Derek Read whose set of three poems Signed Song, Rabymere, and Tartan Trip showed the variety of his work and effective use of both imagery and well placed humour.  It is no secret that Derek has suffered from ill health in the past few years particularly last year when he had a mild stroke. This impacted on Derek’s mobility for a number of months and he is still  in recovery from his issues but slowly and surely his confidence is coming back and I for one am delighted to see it.  

As Derek returned to his seat it was the turn of A C Clarke to entertain us. Needless to say she did this by making us think with a set of three poems on very challenging topics In her first poem Viewpoint she made us think about Glasgow’s relationship with the slave trade before moving on to a poem entitled Territory which made us think of issues around borders. This was an excellent choice of poem when one considers the Brexit vote was less than a fortnight before the event.  Anne concluded her set with a poem which was ironically enough entitled The Poem and explains how a poem is actually written.  This was a phenomenal set from a very accomplished poet. A C Clarke is if you like the poets other poets look up to and respect.

Following a poet of the calibre of A C Clarke is never an easy shift but Susan Milligan gave it her best shot with a set which comprised of two poems and a song. Susan started with the bizarrely titled When I Perceive I’m Going Mad Like Plants. This was followed by Permanence in which she asked some interesting questions about death. Susan then concluded her set with a song I’ve never heard before entitled A Grand Old Painter. Personally, I prefer A Grand Old Team but that as they say is a different story.

As Susan returned to her seat it was the turn of Linda Grant to take her five minutes in the spotlight. In a short set Linda read three poems  starting Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under? before moving on Music And My Heart’s Desire and concluding with her most well known poem to Darling Daughter which is written about her long suffering daughter Louise. I have to say though enjoyed her set Linda needs to put more effort in to coming up with better titles as the first two titles in this set
don’t do justice to the poems concerned.

Next up to the stage was to quote the comedian Bob Doolally one of the truly great players of the game and as if to prove it he had went to Paisley the previous Saturday and won the Paisley slam. Well there are times when a poet has to do what a poet has to do especially that poet is the man I call the maestro and that man is Robin Cairns.

On this occasion Robin entertained the gathering by telling us the tale of The Old Once Upona. This was a tale of love, lust,  and passions stirred on adventures under the sun kissed skies of the  Mediterranean. As he regaled us with his story he transported the listeners to exotic places only viewed in our imaginations. Well you don’t get sunshine on a day trip to the Costa Del Clyde.

After another masterful performance Robin rejoined the company and Alex Cuthbert was charged with the job of following him. Like Robin, Alex is an accomplished poet and on this occasion he read two poems Old
Lags which was a poem written for his father and Alarm Bells a brilliant poem from his back catalogue which was written in 2002 as a warning of things to come and contained some biting satire which give Tony the Tory Blair his character and showed him up for the fraud was, is, and ever shall be.  Personally I think the fact the Chillcot Report in to the Iraq war was due to be published the next day may have had a bearing on his decision to read it. To say it was well received would I think be an understatement, and given words and music’s shall we say left wing political tradition this should come as no great surprise to anyone. 

It was Suzanne Egerton who followed Alex to the stage and led us to the bar break with a story written in two voices. In the first voice Suzanne wrote from the perspective of the fitness instructor who viewed one of her participants as lazy and probably a bit on the snooty side. To her this was the type of women who loved to be centre of attention and tended to do stuff for effect.

When she switched voices Suzanne showed that far from being the snooty nosed Tory voter the fitness instructor had perceived her to be the participant who wasn’t the fastest or fittest in the class, the woman was in fact lonely and looking for companionship as she struggled to come to terms with her husband’s death.

By taking this approach Suzanne demonstrated how two people can look at the same event and view it from very different angles. This was a well written story with brilliantly crafted believable characters brought to life by a woman who has a genuine warmth and humanity which shows in her writing. This heartwarming tale  was the perfect place to bring the first half of the night to a close and enjoy a bar break in which we could catch up with each other’s news. 

During our break I chatted Robin about his upcoming show at the Edinburgh fringe and he was telling me that he had already put in 85 hours of rehearsal for Morningside Malcolm’s  latest adventure in The Good, The Bad, And The Weegie . Believe me this is a show I’m looking forward to seeing on one of many visits to the fringe. As I’ve already said on numerous occasions Robin is a consummate performer and his shows are always entertaining and as someone who has always supported Words and Music whenever possible  I think it’s important that we support a valued member of our spoken word family.

As our featured writer got ready for their sets I chatted to the friends they had brought along to support them and one of those friends Neil Anderson, said he remembered me from many years ago when I
co-hosted a Friday night event titled Costa Culture at Costa coffee with Sean McBride, and our mutual friend Kenny McColl. This of course was back in my pre  transition days and he said there is a marked difference in me now to the me he knew at the turn of this millennium as I am now much more comfortable in my own skin than I was back in the day.  However,  when he said that my late friend Christine would have been proud of the woman I’ve become. I knew I have to go the ladies to check my non existent mascara and compose my to introduce Anna Crow who was our featured writer for the evening.

As I welcomed Anna to the stage this principled, passionate, poet
started her set with a poem which asked Why Do We Create and then explained why we need art. This was followed by one of my favourite Anna poems I Got Sirred And I Liked It. In this poem Anna who identifies as a non binary individual who refuses to accept to  the traditional male and female gender roles explains what it’s like to live as a non binary person and why being taken for a person who is not the gender Anna (pictured below) has been conditioned to be is in her view perfectly acceptable. 

Featured Writer Anna Crow
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This groundbreaking writer then proved that poetry wasn’t the only string to their bow by reading a piece of fiction in which related the story of Finn and Anna. This was an engaging piece of writing which held the attention of the audience and contained some excellent examples of Anna’s humour and as well as showing the darker parts of the human condition that you can’t really explore in poetry. 

On moving back to poetry Anna read a poem which was written in the wake of the Orlando shootings entitled Save This Last Dance For Me. This is in my opinion one of the best poems I’ve heard this year and the fact that Anna managed retained her composure reading what was a very emotional poem speaks volumes for her skills as a performer.

Anna then moved to her festival poem. This poem entitled Beware shows the sinister side not so much of festivals but of people’s attitude to them. An attitude shaped by the big brother society of the Conservative Party, BBC, The Blairite New Labour Party, and the right wing printed media. This poem has very dark undertones to it and shows a very unpleasant side to Britain in the early 21st century.

Alex Cuthbert And A C Clarke listen intently to words of our featured writer with Robin Cairns looking on in the background.

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Suzanne Egerton And Derek Read focus on Anna’s words of wisdom.

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This brought Anna to the penultimate poem of the set and in Sunday Lunch Anna explores the dynamics of family relationships and the difficulties faced by someone who is very much an individual and values that individuality yet at the same time loves her family and cherishes the bonds that gives them strength.

In the final poem of the set Anna a member of the Green Party and peace campaigner performed what I regard as her calling card the anti  trident poem It Felt Like A Party. In this poem Anna describes what it was like to go on a demonstration to the Fasslane peace camp and the unity of purpose of the demonstrators. This is a real feel good poem for political types like me and it was the perfect way to end an amazing 20 minutes. 

As tradition dictates the featured writer was followed by our featured musician and it was great to welcome an old friend of Words and Music Steven Clark in to our new home. This was Stevie ee’s first appearance at Words and Music for a few years and I have to is was all my fault as I always tried to get him at the last minute and never quite managed it I wonder why that could be. Anyway this made his return all the more welcome and I knew we were in for a quality night from a real class act.

Steve (pictured below) started his set with Referendum Waltz. In this song he expressed his disappointment with recent EU referendum result though I think the original version
was written for,a different referendum with which like me he was also disheartened with the  result .

Our Featured Musician Steve Clark

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This was followed by the Lobby Dosser song which was written in tribute to the cartoon character created by Glasgow cartoonist Bud Neil. Steve then moved on to a song with one of the most unusual titles I’ve ever heard in my life You’d Better Smile While You’ve Still Got Teeth In Your Head. Despite the bizarre title this was quite a catchy wee number, and it didn’t take long till we were all singing along to the chorus.

In his penultimate song Steve paid tribute to the genius of the late great Michael Marra by giving a terrific rendition of Marra’s song Magi Shaw before completing his set with the song I regard as his personal anthem Jock Tamson’s Bairns. This song speaks of my Scotland, a Scotland which welcomes refugees and people from other national communities as part of the fabric of our nation.

At the end of an excellent set it was up to me to bring the evening to a close and I did so by performing three poems two of which I had read at The June edition of Words and Music but I thought since there was only a handful of people who were in attendance that night I could do a couple of them again. I started my set with Learning Swedish which I wrote for Agnes Török and I followed it up by reading Faithful Daughter which sets out not only my personal faith but also the battles the church must win if it is to be relevant in 21st century Scotland. This poem may be controversial to some people but I hope it comes from a good place which has the best interests of the church at heart.

Feeling pleased with myself I decided to perform a poem which I should and do off by heart but the minute I told those in attendance I wouldn’t need the sheet for Karaoke Queen, God decided to teach me that pride comes before a fall and I needed two attempts to perform a poem I should have been able to recite in my sleep.

Lesson learned it was time wind up the night and make my way home to Baillieston. As I reflected on the events of a highly entertaining evening in the best Words and Music tradition, I couldn’t help but smile at how well things had gone. You see when a crow came to nest in the place we call home Jock Tamson’s bairns were delighted as stories were told and songs were shared in the name of a good night out .

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X