Tag Archive | Scotland

When A Jumped Up Proletarian Meets A Rock Chick From Devil Gate Drive We’ll All Find A Space For Reflections When Dreams Come Hame To Bide 

Before I could focus on our traditional Christmas Cracker (It happened last night and the story will be told later) I firstly had look back on the events of a November which showed in many ways what the real spirit of a Words And Music night is all about. This was a night that had a little bit of everything. It was both entertaining and thought provoking with equal measures of humour and the sensible stuff thrown in to create a winning recipe for an enjoyable evening of entertainment as only we know how.

Being November there were nods, as expected to Halloween, Bonfire Night, and the upcoming Remembrance commemorations in the work of some performers and it was with remembrance very much on my mind that I kicked off the night with a written by the man who introduced me to Words And Music the one and only Jim Craig. 

Jim as some of you will no doubt know was a former serving soldier in the second battalion the parachute regiment and on release this fiercely proud Scot wrote some of the anti war poetry I have ever heard. So it was in memory of one of the true Words And Music legends I started the night with his poem  The Last Post which he wrote in the form of a soldier’s letter to his mother.

Having kicked off the night in my usual fashion I called Angie Strachan to be the first of the billed readers to bring fireworks to  the Words And Music stage and believe me she didn’t disappoint. Angie kicked off her set with Shakespeare’s Sonnet Number 8 in Scots, before moving on to the brilliantly titled To all the pyjamas I’ve loved before. Weans, Dear BBC Weather, which was both topical and hilliarous and concluding a wonderful set with Negativity Bias which privided a very witty insight as to how people with mental health issues can often fear the worst in many different situations. This was a cracking way to end an amazing set which was thoroughly enjoyed by all who heard it.

As Angie went back to her seat it was the turn of Steve Allan to entertain the company and this month he did so by reminding us that train journies can be both stressful and hazardous especially when we have no control over who sits beside us. In his story entitled Reflections Steve recalled a particularly troublesome journey when his peace and quiet was interrupted by two pasengers who insisted boring the life out of him with every little detail of their day and relentlessly slaughtered a colleague who it is safe to say wasn’t within listening distance of their conversation. By the end of his journey Steve had not only been traumatised to within an inch of his sanity he had also reached the conclusion that the college these two fools were demonising was probably a really decent guy. It is my opinion that a story is only as good the writer who brings it to life and Steve Allen brought this story to live so vividly I actually believed I was on the journey with him. 

After two performers who are both well known faces to the gathering it was time to welcome a newcomer to make his debut on the Words and Music stage. I first met Ronan Doran at those fabulous Blue Chair Wednesday nights which were for so long a part of my life throughout 2015 and 20216 and it’s no secret I’ve wanted him to come to this event so naturally I was delighted to see him take up his invitation and make his long awaited debut and follow in the footsteps of fellow Blue Chair family such as Kirsty Nicholson, A R Crow , Molly McLachlan, and Caitlin Buchanan who made one of the outstanding debuts I have ever seen from a featured musican in all my years at Words And Music 

On an evening when he could got away with doing more than he did Ronan performed only one song Roll On Yesterday which he told us was about a trip to the East Antrim coast. I must admit I’ve always enjoyed Ronan’s relaxed style of delivery and after this brief glimpse in to his repitoire I’m sure he’ll have gained a few new fans and we’ll see a lot more often in the months and years to come. 

Next up was Susan Milligan who read two very thought provoking pieces Modern Gods which was amusing and at times cutting take on the topic of celebrity culture and What Will It Take which looked at the state of the world as we know it as she pondered what will it take to bring the changes she wants to see as a legacy for her nieces and nephews. As tradition dictates Susan ended what I consider to be her best set yet with a song which in this case was Blue Moon and provided a fitting climax to a top quality performance in both content and delivery.  

Next up to the stage was one of the best poets and performers in Scotland as the Tin Hut welcomed home one of our own as Robin Cairns made the stage his own as only he can. In an excellent performance the maestro delivered two of his most recent poems, The Coppernosed Stone which he recalled the events of his youth in Clydebank and The House I Grew Up In which is a brilliant poem on how the imagination can play with tricks with memory 

As Robin rejoined the company it was Susan McKinestry who was the unluckiest performer of the night. Well someone has to follow Robin and on this occasion it was her. If she was bothered about it certainly didn’t show in a performance which showed just how much she has settled in to the Words and Music since first gracing our stage earlier in the year. On this occasion Susan read two pieces Tall and Short and The Key which followed in her tradition of biting and hard hitting social commentary on the impact of austerity and attitudinal prejudices on those soceiety considers to be weak and vulnerable. Make no mistake this is a quality writer and commentator who gives a much needed voice to those marginalised by the rich and powerful. It is a voice I look forward to hearing a lot more of in 2018 and beyond. 

As Susan went back to her table Jim Ewing started his set with a Halloween Haiku before moving on to the story of a Gorbals ghost story with which he enthralls audiences every time he shares it I refer of course spookily amazing tale of The Man With The Iron Teeth. This enjoyable tale of ghastly and indeed ghostly goings on in the south side of Glasgow was followed by a reminder of the sacrifices made in the two World Wars in Jim’s Remembrance poem Remember What You Will in he stresses the importance of remembrance in what is in my opinion my favourite poem on the topic due to it’s raw power and sincerely expressed emotions. 

At the end of Jim’s set it was my great pleasure to welcome Pete Faulkner back to the stage for the first time since August and Pete, a veteran of many a Words and Music night, was the perfect man to lead us to the bar break which he did by reading a poem by Diane Du Prima and A monologue on St Joan.

After a much needed bar break it was time for the main business of the evening and that of course was our two featured acts starting as we usually always do with the featured writer. This month saw Katharinerine MacFarlane take her place in the spotlight and I must admit it gave me particular pleasure to introduce not only a fellow fierce woman but my fiercest sister from the whole of that tribe.

Katharine started her set with Spaces which set the tone for the quality to come. This was a poem vivid in its imagery which transported the audience to place where poetry meets the soul. This was followed with Being A Seal as our poet looks at life from the perspective of the seal and  attempts to see the problem we as humans may create for them. 

In Sholbost Katharine (pictured below) takes us to Orkney and shows the landscape of the area and the folk traditions that surrounds it. Staying on Orkney our featured superstar oops I mean writer took us to Mae’s Howe and followed it with Ba. Katherine then moved tom the Western Isles for This Island before enchanting us with a poem in Gaelic and the subsequent translation of it into English. Ever the patriot in the cultural sense of the word Katherine a keen scholar of our history and tradition performed St Andrew’s Bones a poem on our Patron Saint and his final resting place. After this she moved on to Kuris and the brilliant Listen, which captures the awe inspiring power of nature at it’s truly breathtaking best. Katharine wound up a mesmerising set with the Longing Of A Person and her final poem the amazingly beautiful Lang Go Lang.  This concluded a wonderful set of poetry which encompassed all that’s positive about Scotland. In 20 minutes Katharine explored our islands , our history, our langauges, our culture, and traditions in a way which was educational, entertaining, imformative and inspiring. Make no mistake, this was poetry at its very best and I was privileged to hear it.

Picture(1) Our Featured Writer Katharine MacFarlane entertains the gathering in two languages with poems in both English and Gaelic in her set )

From featured writer we moved on to our featured musician and were delighted to welcome back that weel kent Words And Music favourite Bob Leslie to fill the role with 20 minutes of musical madness as only he knows how to make it. 

Bob started his set by maintaining the link with the isles which Katharine had built in to her set with An Island Boy. He then moved on to sing of American culture we seldom if ever hear about in The Lands Of The Sioux And Cree. If that song contained a political message from the other side of the Atlantic his next song When Dreams Comes Hame To Bide had even stronger political content for an audience far closer to home. In A Jumped Up Proletarian Bob showed that being a good trade unionist doesn’t necessarily mean being a member of The Labour Party despite what Jeremy Corbyn may like to claim. From politics the focus switched to comedy for his next song Her Father Called Me Frankenstein  in which Bob recalls an unwanted nickname from his first girlfriend’s father due to the fact he towered over him. Well Bob (pictured below) is shall we say a very tall gentleman. This was supposed to be when the music stopped but I invoked the compare’s privilege and insisted on one last song and I also requested what it was. Of course Bob was happy to obliege and gave a rousing rendition of Big Dead Bob a song which tells the story that reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated. Needless to say we all joined the chorus and gave Bob’s set the ending it deserved. 

Picture (2) Our Featured Musician Bob Leslie belts out tunes old and new 

At the end of two fantastic sets it was time for the proceedings to return to normal or at least as normal as is allowed at Words And Music and our penultimate performer Claire McCann did her best to achieve this when she read her poem Open Book. This was an enjoyable piece which Claire performed well but as she went back to her seat, it was time for me for bring the night to a close with the final set of the evening. 

I started the set by looking back on the disappointment of Scotland’s failure to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia with a poem written about the drama of our last World Cup Qualifier in Slovenia which sums up how it’s been for us for the last 20 years entitled The Hope That Kills You. I followed this up with That’s Nice.  In this poem I explain the stereotypical reaction which poets often get when you tell friends and neighbours your going to a poetry event. From this slightly tongue in cheek poem I got just a wee bit more serious I read The Flying Winger. In this very personal poem  I reflect on the tragic circumstances which befell my late uncle Arthur and how life can be shaped by the choices we make and the chances we take or don’t. I finished both my set and the night with The Rock Chick From Devil Gate Drive  a poem which tells the story of Karaoke nights and the part they played in my coming out.  

Having brought the night to a close I made my way home to the village . As I did so I couldnt help but think that when a jumped up proletarian meets a rock chick from devil gate drive  we’ll all find a space for reflections when  dreams come hame to bide. 

Till next time

Gayle X

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Irn Bru And Optimism

On St Andrew’s Day I thought it only fair to take what I hope is a light hearted look at my country which I love in spite of its flaws and in some cases maybe even because of them. I’ve given it the title Irn Bru And Optimism I hope you enjoy the read. 

Irn Bru and Optimism 

limits placed on my ambition

Calvinism, and Sunday schools

a land of far too many rules 

Scenary and shortbread tins

national teams that nearly win

McIlvanney, Morgan, Lochhead 

inspired me to write my Scotland 

Telling stories through my poetry 

remembering tales my granny told me

of Jimmy Reid and John MacLean 

Scots and socialists worth the name

Spoken word and traditional songs. 

It doesn’t matter where your from

Govan , Maybole , Tain, Dumbarton

even Cumnock’s got some talent.

So on our nation’s national day

I’ve only thing left to say 

let’s place no limits on our ambitions

and toast Irn Bru and Optimism 

© Gayle Smith 2017

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 

Envious Eyes 

On the morning after Catalonia declares her independence from Spain I declare my support for independent state of Catalonia and Catalan people in taking this step and as I do so part of me is wishing it was Scotland. It is for that reason I have written this poem and titled it Envious Eyes I hope you enjoy the read. Envious Eyes 

As a new nation declares its right to exist 

I look on with envious eyes 

proud of Catalonia as it takes its first steps 

yet this Glasgweigan wishes it was Scotland 

and is certain it will be in our time 

for the moment however I am proud of our comrades

as they move forward to a better day

having decided that their story could no longer be told in Spanish

it had to be authentically Catalonian 

meanwhile Madrid attempts to bring in draconian laws

to stop the tide of history 

losing any sense of dignity it may have had

as Franco’s heirs live on at least in their minds 

and those who want to bring Dickensian times to Scotland

in the name of a United Kingdom 

which is the one of the most unequal  socieies in the democratic world 

where the poor go hungry so the rich can be fed 

and disabled people are being  financially bled

and are told by some unelected lord

they aren’t even worth the minimum wage 

as Catalonia takes centre stage 

I recall how bravely they fought

feel ashamed of pro union Scots 

so gullible they sing of saving a  monarch

who will out live many of them 

and are too deluded to see 

that short term gain comes with a long term loss

and I will shed no tears when it arrives at their door 

they will have only themselves to blame

as they worship false gods dressed in ermine

whose true uniform is sackcloath and ashes

so as Catalonia prepares for the first day of a new future 

I look with optimism of a Scotland free from class ridden snobbery

where poverty and inequality will be things of the past 

and dreams and ambitions realised 

so as I say Viva Catalonia I must admit 

though I look at you proudly

I do so with envious eyes 

 © Gayle Smith 2017

I May Not Be A Person Of Interest But I Do Have An Interesting Life

As a blogger of over five years I would like to say there are few if any issues which have caused me concern since starting tartan tights in March 2012 .

I have put a lot of effort in to what I hope is now a site worth reading and strive to create quality content on a number of diverse topics in which I could be said to have an interest. This has not been an easy journey but it has in the main been an enjoyable and rewarding one . However at this stage of my blogging history I am perhaps for the first time experiencing a very slight unease and if you’ll allow me the privilege I’ll explain the reason why 

It started at the beginning of this month when I suddenly noticed a spike in my stats. Now normally this would be a good thing which would leave me feeling pretty positive but to me at least it was a problem, you see though the views were substantially up the only real increase was in my home page. When added to the fact that this increase was coming not from the UK (my site doesn’t give separate figures for Scotland) but from the United States I was shall we say ever so slighty puzzled .

As a political activist I worried that since I hold views which would lead to the alt right calling me a snowflake that I may have become a person of interest but even for a Celtic fan that may be taking paranoia to a whole new level. I mean I know I have been a vocal critic of President Trump and his friends in the UK Conservative Party but person of interest surely not.  

After putting my paranoia to bed I thought about other potential reasons for this sudden spike in my stats, and the only reason I can possibly think of is that unlike my genuine American readership they don’t actually know what my blog is about and perhaps because of the name they believe it to be focused on one of the following areas. 

(1) Tartan 

(2) Tights

(3) Both 

When they discover it is about neither the tartans of the clans of Scotland or the latest fashion hoisery I can only begin to imagine the horror in their faces, no doubt this will be made even worse when they realise that the blogger concerned is a spoken word poet who is also a transsexual woman and an ardent supporter of both Scottish independence and environmental issues such as climate change. Yes I am really what some would a liberal minded progressive which in Scotland we call normal. I guess this is why most of them don’t make it past the home page. To me the fact they don’t read my posts is their loss rather than mine and message to them is clear if you don’t want to read my content then don’t re-visit my site in the hope it will change,  because it wont and neither will I. Anyway as you should know the definition of insanity is repeating the same action and hoping for a different result. 

So having made all the points I wanted to make,  I will conclude by saying this is my blog. It is my space on the information super highway that is the internet . It a place where I’ll share my thoughts in my way and I’ll try to produce the kind of content I know my regular readers enjoy reading and after five and a half years of tartan tights I think I know what that might be. Why do I say this you may ask, well I’ll tell you why and it all comes down this simple fact, I may not be a person of interest, but I do have an interesting life. 

Till next time

Gayle X

The Hope That Kills You 

As Scotland fail to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia I’ve written a poem to sum up how it feels to be a Scotland fan as we miss out on a major football tournament I’ve given the title The Hope That Kills You I hope you enjoy the read 
The Hope That Kills You 

It’s the hope that kills you 

we always take it to the wire 

we’re always 90 minutes from glory 

but  happy endings have been absent from our story 

for too many years 

still we’ll cheer them on

it’s just the way we are 

we’ve had tragic stories of open goals missed

the shots that hit the bar with keepers rooted to the spot 

if only it had been an inch or two lower 

or we hadn’t been ball watching 

when they scored that last minute goal

we controlled the game but never put them away

god knows we had the chances

now as we look back on the campaign

we know we should have tasted success 

but yet again it’s the same old story 

when your 90 minutes from glory 

it really is the hope that kills you. 

  © Gayle Smith 2017 

Storm Of Sorrow

On the day of the Catalan Independence Referendum the Spainish state is tainted as Prime Minister Rajoy tries to deny reality and employs both sabotage and brute force to stop people exercising their democratic right to vote. These tactics are an insult to democracy and reminiscent of Franco’s fascist dictatorship As I watched the scenes unravel on my phone I was sickened to see pictures of people covered in blood and yet the UK government statement talked only of Spain and how valuable an ally they are to the UK without giving so much as a moment  to consider the victims of these unprovoked attacks. Having csmpaigned for Scotland’s independence in 2014 I remember the support we received from our Catalan comrades and outraged at their treatment I wrote this poem in support of both Catalonia and their right to exercise their democratic mandate. Ive given it the title Storm Of Sorrow I hope you enjoy the read

Storm Of Sorrow

Carnage in Catalan streets

citizens shot down by riot police.

as people go to exercise their right to vote

on seeing images of bloodsoaked protesters

British politicians gloat on social networks

unable to continue their glee

before removing their offensive tweets.

this will teach the SNP they claim

on the day democracy is less important than blame

and Franco’s heirs flaunt their hate

they should be ashamed to side with Spain

but they do

the red white and blue is bloodstained again

as democracy weeps it whispers the truth

with tears used as punctuation

you can judge a nation’s leaders

by the company they keep

and people who lecture others on internationalism

fall silent in the storm of sorrow

© Gayle Smith 2017