Wednesday, 30 May 2018

A humanist

Tom Leonard is a Glaswegian poet whose work deserves to be better known - and I am talking to myself here as much as you.

I thought I knew his writing quite well, until I came across this today: it's a wonderful, thought-provoking poem and I am delighted that he has given me permission to reproduce it here.

A humanist                                      

The son of an immigrant, he had eschewed the culture of his father as also that of the land into which he was born.

The religion of his father was once the religion of the indigenous natives, but they had rejected and overthrown it.

And the son was yet seen as of that tribe which corroded the native culture and language. 

An outsider, he felt at home with the art and culture of other outsiders, for many years he found companionship across space and time. 

But from within he came to realise himself as instance of the universal human. The universal human is inclusive and absolute, there is no individual outside it. 

This sense of the universal human is the home of all those who have won through to become themselves. 

And much trouble in the world is caused by those who remain self-sequestered in their perceived province of the exclusive. 

You can see more of Tom's writing on his web site - and you can buy his books there too.

Sunday, 27 May 2018


I was pleased to see that Cariad Lloyd's podcast on death won three prizes at the British Podcast Awards last week. Griefcast first came to my attention in 2016, thanks to this article in The Guardian, and it's since notched up more than 30 episodes.

Lloyd is a 35-year-old actress, comedian and writer from London whose father died of pancreatic cancer when she was 15. In her show, she talks to other actors and comedians about death, a topic that most people - and media - shy away from. 

You'll find the show wherever you normally download your podcasts, but this link will take you to it on iTunes. I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

A Cockney Jock

I've conducted a number of ceremonies recently for former members of the armed forces, and I've been very touched to see their old comrades turn out wearing their berets and regimental ties, accompanied by a standard bearer with the colours bearing their battle honours.

Peter's funeral had all of those elements, but what made it extra special was that it was almost entirely written by his family, and that two of his granddaughters had the courage to deliver it.

Sarah read us the tribute, in which we learned that Peter had survived being blown up by a V1 rocket during WWII, and that he'd joined the Scots Guards partly because the queue to join the Army at his local recruitment office was shorter than the queue to join the Royal Navy, and partly because he liked the uniform. 

Like many soldiers of his generation he served all over the world, from Borneo to Jamaica. He was a great cook, particularly renowned for his curries which is surprising because Peter couldn't stand curry, and he never ate it himself!  Not only had he cooked for both the Queen and the Queen Mother during his long career, he had even danced with Princess Margaret, so his was quite a tale...

Sarah delivered it with great aplomb and after we committed his body to its final end, her big sister Jenny read us a poem that Peter had written called 'Cockney Jock'. 

Peter had grown up in London, so of course he was an unusual recruit for The Scots Guards. He wrote this poem back in the 1960's and it was actually published in the Scots Guards Magazine in 1968. I don't think their archive is digitally available, so I asked the family if I could publish it here and I am very pleased they said yes.

Some years ago, I won’t say the date,
The Guards Depot I went, to learn of my fate,
The drilling, the shouting, was strange I admit,
But this wasn’t the strangest, no not a bit.

The language was strangest, not dirty I mean,
But different, and funny, not a bit like the Queen.
What made it so awkward and funny you see,
There were 39 others, all Scotsman and me.

Before I joined up, a “piper” was read,
Not some hairy monster who wakened the dead,
The places they came from were strange I do tell,
I couldn’t pronounce them, let alone spell.

There was Auchtermuchty, Kirkintilloch, Mull and Dunoon,
They could have been somewhere away on the moon,
These names sounded funny to a Cockney like me,
Not like ‘Ackney, and Stepney, or Sowf-end-on-Sea.

The Scots I’d been told spoke English so pure,
But awa tattie heed, yer limmer, and dour,
Now really I ask yer, wot can yer do,
Can’t they talk proper, like silly old moo?

There were times I thought, I’d really go barmy,
Or even perhaps, I’d joined the wrong Army,
But as time passed by, I started to learn,
With, it dinna tak me, it must be your turn.

I learnt of the bunnet and to have a few drams,
I learnt why a chuchter wore lang nicky tams,
I learnt of the pudden and hey yoo, geroot,
I’ve even scoffed dumplin, boilt in a cloot.

I’ve laughed and I’ve jibed at them many a time,
But of course the dialect is no worse than mine,
Now when others scoff them, or try to mock,
I say, hey yew, shurrup, cos, noo I’m a Jock.