Tag Archive | The NHS

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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From Liking Pink Instead Of Blue To Taking The Stage For My Country I Am The Woman Who Will Never Be Cast In Stereotypical Roles

Hey everyone As it was my birthday on Friday i thought that i would take time to reflect on the circumstances which have made me the woman I am and how they have shaped not only my values and beliefs, but my hopes and ambitions for the future. Undertaking this task has not been easy, but I believe if a job’s worth doing then it’s worth doing well.

The first thing to say that i am and will always be a woman. I knew growing up in the wrong body who i really was but trying to explain that to good but culturally conservative parents was not easy especially as a young teenager in the mid 1970’s. My mother in particular resisted any talk of this despite the fact see had seen me in wearing her outfits it was the curse of having no sisters. From a very early age I knew I had to wear my mother’s dresses. It was if though she wanted a daughter but felt she had to play by the rules, and even though my friends at school were more likely to have names like Aileen rather than Alan, or Julie rather than Jim the idea that I might I want to be a girl was something my mum never really thought about. I have to say though I thought it was blatantly obvious.

Indeed such was my natural affinity towards female friendships my dad in a moment of genius once said i should be wearing skirts and tights as maybe I was meant to be one of the girls. Believe me wasn’t wrong I told him as much one day in very private moment that he may not be. I felt that though this statement was overly cautious it was also about as far as i could have gone at the time though he did find the full story later as was as supportive as any Glaswegian dad of his generation could be.

My poetry on my gender identity including. The Lemon Dress and A Trans Daughter Remembers Her Mother tends to focus on my relationship with my mother rather than that with my Dad because my mother knew far more than my dad did and yet made no attempt to discuss the issue preferring to either dismiss it as a phase or sweep it under the nearest available carpet in the hope however deluded that she could somehow wish it away.
Perhaps this is why I am so upfront and honest about as I am and if people can’t deal with I regard it as their problem and not mine. Therefore to live my life as a woman is not only something I need to do but something I deserve to without the prejudice, fear, and ignorance of a society where significant numbers of people were far too obsessed with window watching rather than getting on with their lives.

The next significant aspect in my life has been my cultural identity. To me i am both Scottish and a Global Citizen of planet earth. One thing I will never be however is British. To me the reasons for this are very simple and again can be traced back to family. You see it is I think fair to say that far being the outward looking and inclusive nation that those in the leafy lanes of Suburbia will claim it to be, i from a very age picked up the fact that those within both my family the neighbourhood i grew up in who were most proud to be British were proud of it for all the wrong reasons. They were proud of the imperial past, they were proud of orange walks, they were proud that Britain was white and protestant and mocked anyone they perceived to be a threat to their Britishness or was in any way different to them. I was told, repeatedly, often, and in no uncertain terms that I should prefer Gary Glitter to Donny Osmond, thank god I resisted that one. I was also taunted for my interest in Scottish and Irish traditional culture with the line why do you listen to that feinian crap? If you read my poem Letterkenny Memories you will understand where I’m coming from on this issue. Statements like this were often used as common refrains from an elder brother and other relatives and neighbours who not only couldn’t lead by example but couldn’t lead a queue for a bus.
These remarks were I thought such stupid comments that i wouldn’t give them the dignity of an intelligent answer which those who made them obviously lacked the capacity to understand.

I was also informed that the there was no such thing as Scottishness except for the fact we had an international football and rugby teams and could compete in the Commonwealth Games because England I think they meant Westminster allowed us to. Yes folks, i kid you not the loyal orange wing of the Labour Party were thicker than so many plates of mince and doughballs that their stupidity alone could have fed the entire developing world for 100 billion years and we would never have needed live aid. Yet to think these were the people who said that I would amount to nothing. Aye right dream on. It is fair to say that I amounted to a damn sight more than my detractors which should come as no great surprise to anyone.

My detractors did however do me two favours without realising they had done so. The first was to make to make sure I valued my education and the second was to fire me with an interest in politics. Having had to endure too much teenage illness due mainly to epilepsy, I was a mature student before I graduated from the University of Strathclyde with my BA Honours in Geography and Politics. This however has left me with almost evangelical zeal that all people should be allowed to reach their maximum potential. Therefore I cannot express how passionate I am that the unique Scottish system of a four year degree course is maintained and that all Scottish Governments work closely with the educational authorities to improve both early learning and the high school curriculum to the best possible standard to make our record of excellence in this area is improved at every opportunity we get.

This educational advancement is important not only for the needs of our country but for needs of economic markets and the greater good of humanity. I not only want a improved education system I want one which will be the envy of the world because it shines a light of each and every citizen of our nation and allows those who are non academic to develop the skills they are good at rather than mock them for perceived areas of weakness.

I also mentioned that I am interested in politics and I make no apologies for that as I want to see a better, fairer, more prosperous world and to achieve this we must get rid of the old ways. This is why I will be voting yes in this year’s independence referendum.

To me my reason for voting yes will be to win for the first time in our history a truly democratic system of government for our people. This does not come down to what politicians or parties we like, or what we think of particular party leaders. Those choices are to be made in elections and that is for another day. This vote is in my opinion not even about politics, it is about the choice between two societies and comes down to whether we are comfortable or content with a system of patronage and corruption where between general elections Scotland will forever be an afterthought neglected and forgotten about until Westminster parties come begging for our votes, or whether we wish to create a better fairer society that independence can help us achieve.

To this end however I say to my fellow independence campaigners independence in itself is not the end game. Winning this referendum no matter how hard it will be will only be the beginning of the journey, the real hard work starts on day one of an independent Scotland. The road ahead will not be easy and we will make mistakes I am however, certain that with our talents, drive, and ambition,we can and will create the better more inclusive nation we seek to build poems such as A Nation Of Equals, and In Place Of Fear, illustrate the kind of Scotland I believe we can win for our people with a yes vote.

That said however we will have to make choices rather than have others make them for us. So it is important to know what we stand for rather than just knowing what we stand against. It is all very well saying we will save money from getting rid of trident and paying for the House of Lords where old party hacks with delusions of relevance call themselves lord snooty or lady muck. It is however important in fact I would say critical, to state where our money will spent and it my belief we must start by placing the health of our of our people at the core of this new society by saving Scotland’s NHS from the almost certain death it will face if we are gullible enough to believe the lies of project fear and vote no.

You see the provision of better health care is a particular passion of mine. Had it not been for the NHS I would not have celebrated my 53rd birthday on Friday because I wouldn’t have survived to see my 1st birthday. So you see I owe a debt to the NHS which I can never repay except by campaigning to ensure its survival which I will with every fibre of my being. Yes I repeat that I will fight to save the NHS with every fibre of my being. However it should be noted that unlike David Cameron, Gordon Brown, and Tory B-Liar I wonder who that could be, when I say I will fight with every fibre of being I actually mean it especially when you consider how much I have benefited from the NHS.

Being someone who has epilepsy which is controlled by medication, who has glaucoma which is controlled by eye drops, and has to take to hormone patches for my gender reassignment, you could say I am a walking advert for the NHS and you know what you would perfectly justified in doing so. This is why I am so passionate about saving the NHS from disaster. I am also passionate because when first my dad then my mum both died from cancer they received brilliant care from MacMillan nurses. I am passionate because I have a flatmate who has depression and has whenever needed received brilliant care from hospital staff. I am passionate about the NHS because I value the humanity of doctors, nurses and all NHS staff far more than the insanity of bankers and bombers who make up the front benches of Westminster governments who make a mess of our finances by doing more dodgy deals than Del Boy Trotter and then have the nerve to make us pay for the failure of their get rich quick schemes and to top it off march us in to illegal wars for their own personal gain. This is not the type of government I want to take decisions in my name. As I show in poems such as The Champagne Socialist, The View From Living Room Window, and Self Service Cafe I believe in equality and inclusion not segregation and exclusion.

It should therefore come as no surprise that I worked as an equality trainer with disability as my specialisation. It was a job I enjoyed and the real buzz came not on the day I delivered the training but weeks or months later when recognised by a participant on a course they would tell me how much they enjoyed the day and how it benefited them in their career.

One of the reasons I was given the job was I told because of my background in performance as I was an established performance poet at the event I now compare who had tried my hand at comedy and had in the words of my former boss the gift of the gab. Though it is fair to say our contrasting backgrounds meant we would clash on the odd occasion I have to concede he may have been accurate in this assessment of me.

As you may have noticed I can go on a bit. Well I am a poet so I have plenty to say for myself on any and every topic of interest. To me poetry and creative writing in general comes from the most personal place in your heart. This is I think particularly true of poetry which is why out of all the creative arts this is the one which has given me my voice with which I speak to the world or at least all who are willing to listen as I did as recently as last night the Glasgow National Collective session last night where I along with others took the stage for Scotland in support of our independence movement I read
two poems. The first of these poems Twenty Four Romanians was on one the favourite topics of project fear, yes that’s right immigration. Well we all know how they love talking about foreigners rather than global citizens. It’s such a shame for them that we in the yes camp are a lot more liberal minded on this topic and so many others.

My second poem I Am National Collective sets out the reasons why I am so proud to be a part of this brilliant movement to bring democracy home listing what the visions I do support and making more than a passing mention of those I find unacceptable and which illustrate why the United Kingdom has never been truly united except for those and such as those in the Westminster Village. Needless to say this poem went down a storm but to be told by a Romanian yes voting Scot that they had enjoyed Twenty Four Romanians was my personal highlight of a fantastic evening.

So now you know what kind of poems I write, it’s time to mention my poetic influences. In reality, I would have to say they are far too many to name but this list of containing just a few examples provides a balanced mix of established and performance poets. Names which spring to mind include Robert Burns, Edwin Morgan, Seamus Heaney, and Liz Lochhead, Anne Connolly, Jenny Lindsay, Robin Cairns, Viv Gee, Matt Panesh, Colin Will Jim Higo, Sophia Blackwell, and Chris Young. No doubt most of you will have heard of the more well known names amongst those I’ve named. If however there are names in this list who are less familiar to you go on the internet and research them, I have a feeling you may just like what you find. If you read my poem A Life Of Rhyme you will understand before you read the suggested poets you may see why I admire and respect the quality of their work.

As for my own poetry it is most definitely an ambition of mine to get a collection in to print. I believe I have a good enough body of work. As for what poems would go in to the anthology I’m afraid that is a decision I would have to leave to others.

As with writing in general, it is fair to say that the old truth about writing about what you know still holds true and my poetry reflects my interests which by the way are far more varied than some people may like to think as they search for a box to put me in which will in their eyes justify their stereotypical view of society be it in Scotland, the UK, or the wider world. I am you if you like the woman who can’t be stereotyped, though I must admit I am amused at just how hard some people try.

A classic example of this occurred when a very gullible woman who seriously needs to get out more asked on my transition are all your friends the same as you? by which I suspect she meant are all my transsexual .This I thought was a very stupid question it was about as daft as me asking if her friends were thick, you know as she so obviously was. I however would never be so rude or ill mannered as to take that line of questioning. I do have to say however, I have a particularly caustic sense of humour and these people are often the victims of it whether they know it or not. You see I won’t accept labelling of any kind and judging me on only one aspect my personality may not be the smartest move you’ll ever make.
So having dismantled this kind of prejudice and dealt with outdated attitudes better left in the stone age I think it is safe to say I have many different friends gathered over the course of my rich and varied life from my many communities of interests. I have friends from school, my local community, the theatre, the words and music scene, politics both in my own party and rival ones, church the LGBT scene, and far too many other places to mention in the space of one post on my blog.

So there you have it a potted history of my story so far. From liking pink instead of blue to taking the stage for my country I am the woman who will never be cast in the stereotypical roles and believes that the journey to the future will always be worth the risk.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

The Reluctant Convert Put Rights Before Rhetoric And He Did It By Using The Head

Hey everyone It has come to my attention that a recent opinion poll on voting intentions for our independence referendum shows that the biggest battle may not be that between the two rival campaigns or even the respective leader of our devolved parliament and First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron. It may not even come down to the quality of the debate or who is winning the argument. It may be won or lost by not arguments between rivals or political opponents instead the decision on the future of our nation could be won or lost by a debate thousands if not hundreds of thousands of voters will be having with themselves. The title of these of internal debates can be summed up by that well known Clash classic Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

I make this point as the poll concerned states that between a fifth and a quarter of those questioned said whilst their hearts said yes their heads remained doubtful and they would likely to vote no in September. Needless to say this was seized upon by better together spokesman Jim Murphy. The East Renfrewshire MP said this demonstrated the fact that many Scots believed themselves to have the best of both worlds with a strong Scottish voice within a strong United Kingdom.

Though he never said it in so many words Mr Murphy implied with his carefully selected choice of words that a vote for Independence would be an emotional vote made from the heart. In contrast a vote to remain in the UK would he implied be the hard headed but ultimately better and safer choice.

Mr Murphy is and I will be honest about this a cleverer more astute politician than many of his unionist colleagues particularly it has to be said some in his own party who if truth be told should be thankful that intelligence is not measured in light as if it was they would have enough to light a candle in a power cut. I can certainly think of some of his Westminster colleagues whom I would place in that category and they are not all in the house of commons. In fact some of the worst offenders are so-called nobility though god knows there is nothing noble about them or their intentions. Mr Murphy is of a more personable disposition than those I’m thinking of and knowing the Scottish personality as he does he knows we are a cautious lot who are maybe a wee bit risk averse and if we can find a way of not doing something till later on then we tend to believe it is our duty to do it. After all decisions can be messy sometimes and on the odd occasion we may even get things wrong. God forbid we should ever be put in that position by getting ideas above our station.

Thus is the crux of the better together argument. Their logic is the United Kingdom is bigger than Scotland therefore it must also be better than Scotland. Now I’m sorry to disappoint Jim Murphy and many other unionists whom I do actually respect but I not only do I refuse to buy in to this negative narrative I am actually going to turn it completely on its head and I say that it is the unionist argument which appeals more to the heart whilst those supporting independence are the ones who are presenting the more principled, pragmatic, positive vision of the future.

I make this case because growing up in a family which on my mother’s side was predominately but not totally unionist, and mostly of a liberal or socialist tradition though there were a few orange Tory voters amongst some of less educated members, I was brought up to believe that Britain was a land of freedom and fairness as this was the dominant view in my family. It was however by means exclusive as my gran, my uncle Tam and my dad were slightly less convinced of this mythical picture of a green and pleasant fantasy land.

It was my uncle Tam a Labour voter till Thatcher converted him to the SNP who made the most compelling case for Independence but I’m sorry to tell Jim Murphy it wasn’t made by an from an emotional call to the heart, it was made very much from the head.

You see Tam Russell was a leftie a socialist who preferred a wee dram to a glass of champagne. He was a man with whom I’m sure Jim Murphy would have got on well. After all they shared many of the same beliefs for example that Britain should be a land of opportunity where talent can truly flourish. Another common interest would be that both would support a strong trade union movement to protect the rights of workers all over these islands and both would oppose the cold and uncaring conservatism of the Thatcher years. Where they would differ however would be on the democratic deficit which Scotland would now face because of it. You see it was my uncle Tam’s belief that conservative rule of Scotland was never acceptable under any circumstances and that is where he and Jim Murphy would have had to agree to differ. Not for him the idea of voting for a party who continue to lose Westminster elections and tell us to wait till later. This to my uncle made no sense. It was no longer just a case of romantic idealism to support independence it was now he told me a necessary evil.

Remember this comes from a man who wanted to be a unionist and for most of his life was a unionist. He talked warmly of Labour figures such as Clement Atlee who led Labour to its post war landslide victory in 1945, He told me as that as a child who was supposed to die at 7 months it was the British NHS which had saved my life. His political heroes were people like Labour’s Scottish Secretary Tom Johnston and the architect of the NHS Nye Bevan and unusually for a Rangers fan the Irish Republican martyr James Connolly. Indeed it was he who taught me the words to a great crowd were gathered.
Other political figures he admired included Clydeside Red John McLean, Jimmy Reid, Michael Foot, Barbara Castle, the man who is now Yes Scotland’s very own Dennis Canavan, and Tony Benn, So as list shows this was not unlike my dad a man given to nationalism but rather a man who was wedded to the fundamental socialist principal of self determination. This was a man who came slowly and maybe even reluctantly to the cause of independence. This was a man whose blood was the deepest red of anyone I’ve ever known. Apart perhaps from his mum my wee rebel granny but unlike her eldest son she had always hated both the Labour Party and the unionist cause. However, I think having an auld orange witch of a stepmother who would make Cruella De Vile look like Cinderella and was a proud supporter of both may not have helped either cause gain my gran’s trust.

My uncle Tam however was a slow burner before eventually converting to independence. It was the events of 1984 which finally pushed him over the line. You see that was the year Thatcher decimated the coal industry in the name of union bashing but still found the time to rush through a British passport to South African born athlete Zola Budd in the name of Olympic glory. That’s it he said being British means nothing anymore, not when honest workers are denied a living wage and any wee South African can get a passport because she can run a bit. It stuck in his craw that the country he loved had been devalued in this way and that was indeed the final straw.

In many ways, his conversion was a bitter pill for him to swallow. He admitted as much to my Tory voting uncle Charlie a few weeks later in one of those debates that often happened during family gatherings when he said he would be voting SNP in all future elections and believed that independence was the only way forward for Scotland. My uncle Charlie was I have to say more than slightly shocked at this news and jokingly asked if he had been got at by either me or my dad to which my uncle Tam replied much as it pained a red like him to say it independence was now the only way to stop the Tories wrecking Scotland. Labour he said would need to come its senses and realise that this was the right way to go as by doing so Scotland could set examples for England and Wales to follow on protecting workers rights and banning nuclear weapons.

So you see Mr Murphy my Uncle Tam was the reluctant convert who became a supporter of independence not because he listened to his heart which would actually have told him to vote no, but because he used his head to put equality before emotions and rights before rhetoric and though he is no longer with us, the story of his change of heart seems to hit the mark when I share it with traditional Labour voters as it always brings another few to the cause of independence and you know I swear I can see him smiling as he stands on the shoulders of giants with a blood red banner he was so proud to carry in the name of the principles he taught me.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X