Skin Deep

It’s World Poetry Day and after some hunting about in the wicker basket of ancient papers, I found this poem I wrote when I was sixteen:

I don’t love you anymore

Don’t think I ever really did

It was all a pretence like our faces

Made up Geisha

White, red and black

I pretend to be not me                                        geisha

I am me but not

If you know what I mean

I don’t want to be me

Just want to be a reflection

Don’t want to see my face

White, red and black

Just want to be a piece of art

Just want to act, pretend

Reflect, dissipate, curve and bend

Your image of me

This is just my skin

I paint it every day

I dress to be somewhere else

I dress to impress me, not you

You and me are finished

I don’t love you anymore

I never really did




Setting the Scene – Life and the Stage

This week’s papers have had a number of articles about our theatres and what they produce, and in particular about the lack of women’s roles within companies, on the stage and as writers.

I can recall having this same discussion with a group of youth leaders and their concern over youth organisations being dominated by the white middle class male and how that could be changed. Can it be changed we wondered, if that’s how society  was put together.

There has been so much recently in the news and in our lives on this island about the behaviour and attitude of the dominant elite in our society and how they perceive the rest of us and how things should be.

Should – don’t like that term. Should belongs to the world of the safe. That’s not to say that we must do away with safe, but what we must add is a good breath of radicalism, diversity and difference.

Is it likely to happen? At the moment it all feels like a nationalistic convergence towards the sheep-like mentality preferred by the ‘Safe Shoulds’. We’ve rolled from Jubilee, to footie, to tennis, now the olympics. All of this is about conformity, we are compelled to join together during these tough times and prove ourselves to be a stoic society (yes I include Scotland in this too – asserting itself and conventionally so).

Will anything break this place of clinging to the conventional ways change and who will start it? I’ve no idea -most likely a writer though. I really do hope that it happens otherwise we are doomed to spend our existence in the straight jacket of safe for decades. Producing never-ending Shakespeare, Opera etc all in the same vein for ever and ever.

I have also  never understood why there aren’t more adaptations from literature to the stage where there are more FMC’s and young people as MC’s. What are we afraid of? And surely this is a good way to encourage young people in to the theatre too? I really enjoyed Something Wicked by NTS – as did my child. There were plenty of young people in the audience.

I have heard people in the arts say that young people should (there we go again) know their place in society and not be encouraged to be in charge, be too forward with their art. It seems some adults want to maintain their middle-class positions and their ‘right’ to play, go see what they want to and not allow young people to do as they wish. Pants to that!

But the articles are right in that theatre is a reflection of  how society is controlled – why would it be any different -what would make it radical? Same with any set-up. If a group mimics society then it will be no different in its aims and vision. If a group evolves around a community of the mind – maybe it will. But in there lies all means of radicalism -some of which I don’t care for either!

The changes begin earlier in life – by people realising that allowing free-spirit is a good thing for all of us. Conformity only brings staidness. This week our high school went about choosing their head boy and girl. My son went for the depute position, but was made head boy. He was surprised. I was obviously pleased not just for him, but for the school itself. The two people chosen for top positions represented the other side of society – the compassionate, articulate free-spirit radicals, working-class – who would gain from being trusted with responsible positions and have a huge amount to offer too. Some will complain and mutter as they do – but let them.

We have to accept that allowing and giving positions in our society to people from diverse backgrounds is a GOOD THING. You only have to look at what has happened in the lap of the white middle class male to Britain to see that. It has been a monumental cluster-fuck. Bring on the changes we need, and we will see our arts and culture bloom too – I hope! More women, more young people, more of everything else outwith the “Safe Shoulds”.

Dalai Lama: Young people first – it’s their future

Francois Matarasso: Diversity in art and culture will save us

The Friend

Pain. It’s tough being told by a close friend on their birthday, that they have cancer. It’s not easy to take it when you are fifteen. It’s not easy to then try and spend the rest of the weekend trying to enjoy a couple of nights out with that friend and others on their birthday.

To quote Pablo:

“The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.” Pablo Casals

A while ago I wrote two articles about music tuition and the lack of equal opportunity in the Highlands. It was met with both approval (as emails to myself stated and thank you to all of you) and some derision by those who didn’t quite understand that I was placing my own circumstances in the public eye, and that of my son’s as a metaphor of how the working classes are treated unequally when it comes to music tuition. The political is personal, always. But we don’t care about those who don’t care about inequality -it works both ways. You don’t care -well back at ya!

There is of course another story to tell. My life is relatively stable compared to many working class people, I consider myself to be ordinary, very lucky and very loved -so does my kid.

The story of the friend is different. He feels unloved by his family, and will spend most weekends away from home -camping when he can. He struggles to get to band practice on most days. He is studying music, but there is no tutor for guitar available at school, and he needs the help and support to improve. He loves music. Along with his friends, it sustains him. He is friendly, polite and smiles a lot. My son has offered to teach him to improve his guitar skills. But he just never makes it over.

When I have trained in child protection, I ask trainees to name different types of child abuse. They get all the ones expected. But everybody misses this one: Failure to Thrive Organically. It would make a good title for a song, wouldn’t it?

So why is music tuition important in this particular child’s life? I tell you what, I won’t patronise you by stating the obvious. But hey, the child must know that he is a miracle, that he has equal rights in society, that what he has to offer the world on the day that he is born, and no matter how short his life, is to love and be loved. And for the short time in his existence to bring the power of music into everyone’s lives.

We’re not going to let him slip away btw.We are all equally responsible for all our children.

Enjoy your day.