Open University conference presentation

At the recent inter-university conference ‘Real Lives; Real Difference’ in Stirling, I was part of our OU Service Users and Carers Development Group presentation on the work of the group over the years since the group started. My part in the presentation was to outline some of the projects I have taken part in – including helping write ‘Telling Our Story’, an outline of that work and all the people who had played a part in building our group along with Mo McPhail, who leads the group as part of developing the OU honours Social Work degree.

And last year I also helped with student selection for the Nursing degree – applicants were all asked to write an essay of 250 words about Empathy and what it means, why it is so important in nursing. Fascinating to read those essays, and to think about the topic in much more depth than ever before, putting into a whole new perspective my own several operations and all the nurses I met along the way. 

Then there’s the recently started podcast project – making individual podcasts about personal experiences of professional support (or none) in very difficult times, for use in training…. 

I’ve really enjoyed being part of the group – a real privilege as well as so interesting to meet and work with so many folk with a common interest in sharing their own experiences as ‘service user’ (in the olden days, a patient or client) or family care giver, with the purpose of helping to build new material to use in training future social workers, nurses, and possibly others.  And I’ve learned so much along the way….all of which has given me ideas for helping develop my non-fiction writing. 

Choices, choices…

Life is full of endless choices…main work at the moment is revising and editing my book, going through each chapter and page to pick up typos, possibility of better phrasing etc, always seems to take much longer than I initially think it will! Plus I’m reluctant to abandon all the other interesting and fun activities I really like doing – for instance, going to a talk on personal security, taking part in a great series of singing workshops with Janet Weatherston in Aberdeen, going to see a friend’s exhibition of paintings in Montrose. Then there’s keeping up with all my other friends … great fun.

So many choices, all good. Wonderful to have so many options within easy reach, and to be able to do whatever I choose – much easier though when there’s only one thing I want to and agree to do, rather than 4 or 5 happening on same day, sometimes at the same time! Only so much time in a day, and of course only so much energy.

Looking forward to finishing work on the book and back to work on my novel which has been lying on the shelf since I started on non-fiction …a few years ago now. Certainly keeps me busy, can’t imagine ever being bored.  Keeps me out of mischief too of course…

Presenting workshop – Scots verse

TMSA – Traditional Music and Song Association – have asked me to present a workshop about Scots verse (favourite poems and how best to present them) at 10.30 am on Saturday May 4th, at the MacRobert Building, Room 55, Aberdeen University.  I’m looking forward to meeting everyone who comes along and to hearing their chosen favourites…

My own favourite is ‘The puddock sat by the lochan’s brim’ which we learned at school and all these years later – well, just a few! – I still love it, it still makes me laugh especially when it’s well presented with great feeling. 

Free admission, I just need to know numbers attending.  See you there?

Final stages of my new book…

Life has been incredibly busy over the last months as I’ve worked on the last revisions and editing of my new book for family and other informal carers before I send it off to the publisher…while trying to fit in all the other activities I really don’t want to fade (music and singing being the main ones, keeping up with friends) …plus much frustration trying to work out and work through various computer glitches …oh, and trying to fit in occasional bits of long-overdue tidying and housework…  at last, almost there and looking forward to getting on to the next stage and working with the editors.

Enjoying the lull…

Made it with the deadline with Routledge and sent off my manuscript, despite all the frustrations with new computer system etc.  Now really enjoying a wee bit of a lull while the copy editor reads over all my 10 chapters, thousands of words, before the next stage of work starts on turning them into a real book on the shelves– a lull in which I’m enjoying having time to catch up a bit with friends and family, with various other writing projects, thinking about future writing plans.  In the meantime planning to join a series of SCaT (Scottish Cultures and Traditions) singing workshops with Janet Weatherstone, starting end of this month – fingers crossed I can still sing!

Winter Sunset

Earth held its breath,

Watching the black filigree fingers reach to touch

The red, orange, yellow silk spread; lifting to catch

Pale blue ribbons drifting in the still clear air.

Silent, the hills lay back against the glowing cushions,

Breathing in the respite from winter death,

Stretched in dark protection round a silvered pool

Frozen in orange reflection.

A blackened shell of shelter,

The old croft absorbed the brilliant blessing,

Awaiting the beasts, warmth to bring back life,

Awaiting birth, awaiting rebirth.

Gráinne Smith

Winter sunset - Marie Shaw

Readings …and writing

Hale watter runklin doon the lane,

stair roddies stottin aff the tar,

branders hotterin, bubblin foo,

an ma soakit feet rinnin, rinnin tae get hame.

The roadie’s dryin, risin steam.

Blin storm gies wye tae a singin singin sky.

A splashin splooterin draas ma een -

starlins haein a dook in a reemin watter spoot.


rain on window

  Shoo’er by Gráinne Smith – written when Trix my dog and I got caught in a thunderstorm, thoroughly soaked…and by the time we reached home, just 15 minutes later, the sky had cleared.  At least the starling enjoyed the sudden downpour and their resulting bath in the rone pipe!  (And I’ve enjoyed having the poem published, and being asked to perform it many times…)

Wonderful last October to be asked to read some of my Doric stories and poems, including Shoo’er, at the Cookney concert, part of the TMSA Doric Festival…and this year I’ll be taking part again, this time at the ‘Mearns Hairst’ on Friday 28th Sept at the Grassic Gibbon Centre, Arbuthnott, along with songs and music from Geordie Murison, Anne Nicol, Jim and Kate Taylor.  Also really looking forward to being part of the audience at this year’s Cookney event, along with my French friends William and Jeth..

Then next Sunday, 30th Sept, looking forward to being part of ‘Poetry n Motion’ at Aberdeen Lemon Tree, along with other members of Lemon Tree Writers, Blue Salt Collective, City Moves Dance Agency, Morag Skene and Tom Dailly, Colin Edwards.  Just one of of the poems I’ll be reading that night (hard to imagine it was only a year since that great trip to Canada)

Fall – Sept 2011, Canada and Scotland

Red orange yellow flights,

leaves driven by the rough wind

lifting over armies of trees

reflected in the lake, landing

to meet and greet beavers

on deep paths leading

to the long dark

days ahead.

Quiet now the leaves lie

cold, a white-frosted

carpet on hard earth,

ready for the shining snowdrifts

later winds will bring, new falls

deep in woodland tangled with giant

branches and roots where

chipmunks, squirrels sleep,

deer hide, until signposts

appear signalling

Spring again.

I am home and clocks have changed.

not long now, then we can feed, rest, sleep.

Flying high in ever-changing lines against a lucid sky,

the geese tell winter’s here, winter’s here. keep going.

Still they arrive in straggled vees, another and another,

choosing to share our northern lot of short days, winds

driving rain, bright snow, cold. keep going

these seasoned travellers cry,

look ever onwards, to spring and growing days.

Again, again, the geese tell Winter’s here, Winter’s here.

Keep going.

Gráinne Smith


Also currently working hard on different side of my writing, ‘Teamwork in Tough Times: Families and Working Together Care’, (working title) my new non-fiction book for Routledge…chapters all written in draft now, still a few interviews to complete with family members in various different difficult circumstances who are currently supporting a vulnerable loved one… Fingers crossed that I keep to plan and meet the deadlines I have!

So very important that I too, just like the geese now arriving again in north Scotland, keep going, keep going…