WEEK FIFTY-TWO – Jackie Bird/Muriel Gray

>> Jackie Bird

Muriel Gray <<

jackiebird       murielgray

Scotland is recognised for its contribution to journalism over centuries, and here we feature two very different contemporary exponents of the journalistic arts. Jackie Bird is a weel-kent face on BBC Scotland over the years, mainly in what the American media would call the ‘anchor’ role on Reporting Scotland but also occasionally on other programmes. Despite the assumption that she is merely a newsreader, her journalistic reputation is quirkily impressive; the Glasgow Evening Times, The Sun and teenage magazine Jackie at the start of her career. Her cheery and effervescent demeanour makes her arguably the most recognisable face and voice in Scottish television news. By contrast, Muriel Gray is a more acerbic commentator, mainly on arts and culture in Scotland and beyond. Rising to fame through her appearances on 80’s cult music show The Tube, she went on to host shows in the field of fashion, arts and media and to write for a number of newspapers. A true polymath, she can speak on Punk Rock and 19th Century painting with equal passion and authority. Both our subjects have risen to journalistic prominence through their mastery of spoken and written word, but while one is the comforting face of daily news, the other is a more provocative voice on arts and culture.

Jackie Bird Bingo
by Kevin Williamson

Joining us tonight
on Live From Holyrook
are a peahen
and a cockatoo…

It’s an extraordinary situation!

It is indeed, Jackie.
The flock is restless.
We’re heron on the grapevine
there may be owls of protest
from local branches.
And there are malicious
rumours that flock leaders
have gone stork raven mad.
This is unprecedented.

How have the leaders responded?

With great anger, Jackie.
But they’re up against it.
They can rail all they want
about internal grousing
but the Opposition smell
blood and are crowing
about a possible
vote of no consequence.

Why is that?

Good question.
It could be they’ve genuinely
lost their way.
It is after all their third
tern in office
and their once
unassailable popularity
has been undermined
by a chorus of internal squawking
not to mention
a series of damaging scandals
involving prominent cocks.

Indeed. Remind us what happened.

Two cabinet wagtails
were caught feathering
their own nests using
bogus eggspence claims.
Party warblers claim
it was all just a lark
and that the avian press
are having yet another
snipe at them.
But as you know, Jackie
there’s no way back
if you’re caught
robin the tax payer.

What can the flock do now?

It’s too early to say, Jackie.
Hawkish right wingers
are clucking they should
hold their nerve
and refuse to finch
in the face of adversity.
But this is proving a bit much
for some left wingers to swallow.
They claim the flock
can’t duck its responsibilities
to the tits who elected them.

How will this affect ratings?

Recent polls say
they could be in Deep Trouble.
With the flock claiming
migration policy
is all over the place
is already flying high
in the Daily Gannet.
We’re also hearing rumours of discontented shags
and some consider the sight
of the flock leader swanning
about with the blue tits
to be a …

I’m going to have to interrupt.
we couldn’t get through
to our peahen chick
but as always swift
incisive analysis
from our roving cockatoo.


Prepare To Climb Your Muriel
by Beth McDonough

You’d not tabled her
Munro-glam, but check
that summit snow shock. Don’t
scale her down, don’t reckon on
some shilpit kind of Corbett. Expect

right feisty crags, belays to take
poke elbow turns. There is
no tourist path; she’s more
attitude than altitude. Screw
your courage and your

soup flask lid. Shove
your moleskins, shave your beard –
don’t think you’ll sneak
that back way up a rabbit track
through easygoing glens. A Rowan

springs one woman there, whittle fine
punkbright from East Kilbride (and you should know
she’s partly Yiddish). But
tarmac’s every chip as tough.
Carved sandstone gives no hold

even to prehensile toes.
Every crevice cracks
opens down her fissure face
as bastard flames scour out
our Toshy’s spooked wood dreams.

Mica glistens fierce in granite
to sharp and wit her supple strength. So
chank your belt, now catch that axe,
sling your hooks, clip crampons on –
watch up. Watch out.

No Pin, however sharp
is truly inaccessible. For this
more gallus one, pack kit. Allow
some careful recce time. Show
serious respect.




kevin-williamson-from-the-bongo-club-websiteKevin Williamson is a writer, publisher, poet and performer of Burns.  As half of Neu! Reekie!, in the past five years he has run almost 100 cultural events combining writing and music. He is also co-founder of the political and cultural publication, Bella Caledonia, and in the 1990s ran Rebel Inc, which published early work by authors including Alan Warner and Irvine Welsh.



beth-mcdonoughBeth McDonough trained in Silversmithing at Glasgow School of Art, and later completed an M.Litt in Writing Study and Practice at Dundee University. She was inaugural Writer in Residence at Dundee Contemporary Arts (2014-16).  She reviews for Dundee University Review of the Arts (DURA) and edits the poetry section there. Her recent pamphlet Handfast (with Ruth Aylett) was published in May 2016 by Mother’s Milk Books.




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