What is a Troll?

It’s snowing quite heavily here on this blog, though outside it’s warm and wet.  But today I want to discuss the question: What is a Troll?

Who is a troll?

I guess a troll is a person who feels safe posting nasty or insulting comments on-line.  It’s a kind of cowardice as mostly these are comments people would never make in real life; such as the vitriol that emerged when a boat-load of refugees drowned a few weeks ago off the coast of Italy.


‘Good riddance,’ said a shed-load of trolls*, ‘I hope they all drown.’  Yet not one of these people repeated their comments on the subsequent Radio 2 phone-in on the subject: in fact nearly all of the callers said they were shocked and disgusted by them.

It’s as if the internet is like the darkest, sludgiest part of your subconscious – the place where your worst thoughts and feelings come out to play.  We all have spiteful and mean thoughts but most of us boot them out whenever they show themselves, because we understand the damage they can do.  But clearly some of us don’t.

I have a troll.  He doesn’t pop up very often, and I suppose I should think myself lucky that I only have one, but it’s always a bit of a shock when his vitriol leaks out all over my comments box.  I enjoy getting comments on this blog, and usually click on the orange icon with every expectation of pleasure, so I was shocked yesterday to read instead of the usual pleasant chit-chat or informed opinion, that my poem was ‘doggerel’ and that my friends are ‘half-wits’.  The comment did not of course make it through my rigorous screening process, so for future reference, here are a few tips for would-be trolls on this blog:

1.  Make educated, thoughtful criticisms.  Don’t just say a poem is ‘doggerel’, say why it’s doggerel.  Was it the metre you didn’t like?  Was the language facile?  Did the poem not get the point across?  Quote a line or two to emphasise your thoughts.

2.  Be creative with your insults.  Don’t just call people ‘half-wits’ – call them ‘apish bull-headed abominations’ or ‘dull-brained blockheads’ or ‘rump-fed hornbeasts’.  If you want to be really rude, you could try ‘cockwomble’ or ‘globby bottle of cheap, stinking chip-oil.’  Shakespeare is a good source: try this dictionary for further ideas:


3.  Humble me.  Send me some of your own work so I can see just how intelligent you are and how far superior your own work is to mine.  Then maybe I’ll expire with disappointment or just stop writing in despair.

Ooooooooooooooor……………… alternatively, you could just stop being a troll and do something better instead!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kirk out

* not literally a shed-load

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There’s a War On, They Say – Anti-Bedroom Tax Campaign

Today there is a vote in Parliament on scrapping the Bedroom Tax.  This penny-pinching measure which penalises the worst-off whilst leaving MP’s second homes and expenses untouched, has aroused the ire and indignation of millions.  Add your voice to theirs now – and then come back here and read my anti-Bedroom Tax poem which compares the measure to the wars we are currently remembering.


There’s a War On

There’s a war on, they say

we must all make sacrifices

tighten our belts

there’s not enough money to go round

so we must

tighten the public purse-strings

because there’s a war on.

I thought that was all over and done.


We are all in this war together, they say

we are all fighting this war

but I am on the losing side.

Morale has plummeted

the troops are ill-equipped

rations are low.

The Captain says,

he says it won’t last long

but we don’t see him here on the front line

not here.


And now we must all be evacuated

we must move

we’ve got too much space, they say

too much living-room

an extra bedroom

we must evacuate



This is our home, we’ve lived here for years

but there’s a war on now.


And so they come with their long knives

and they slice up our benefits

we used to manage

but we can’t now

we have to move

we have to cut back

we have to

put that light out

put that light out

put that light out!

Don’t you know there’s a war on?

(c) Liz Gray, 2014

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The Heartbeat of Artbeat

What a lovely bunch the Artbeat crew are!  The organising group of the Clarendon Park Artbeat Festival are a wonder: a seriously organised set, equipped with digitising tablets, spreadsheets, notebooks and diaries (‘I can’t do the 20th, I’ll be in Verona’), they could so easily be forbidding and unfriendly – but they so aren’t.  Andrew and I, the newcomers, have been welcomed and included into the fold, our ideas taken on board and our plans listened to, just as if we were long-time members of the group; and when we went for a celebratory drink at the Cradock (it was safe, though I think I caught a glimpse of Creepy Guy) I was immediately part of things.  I met several new people including a teacher who is going to run a workshop on music journalism and a kinesiologist with an interest in ghosts who is proposing a mural project.  The group positively fizzes with ideas, and, more importantly, it seethes with the determination and ability to put them into practice.

They are also an extremely generous bunch.  I did a little pitch at the end for the Sound Cafe concert and, though no-one was available to come as they would all be in Italy, I got donations almost totalling the price of three tickets.  I’m so glad I joined them.

My bit of Artbeat, which will take place in June next year, is a poetry workshop followed by a performance in Fingerprints, plus pop-up poetry on Queen’s Rd.  I will also be one of a panel of writers talking about their work.

And just in case you don’t know, here’s the info about the Sound Cafe concert:

Beatitude Mass

for the Homeless

Leicester Sound Cafe, a Cathedral-supported project, announces the first performance of its Choir for the Homeless. This choir will be singing at a Beatitude Mass at Leicester Cathedral on 31st January at 7.30 pm. Liz Gray has tickets and information.

Mass for the Homeless

Leicester Cathedral

31st Jan, 7.30 pm

Tickets £5 from Liz Gray

Kirk out

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Filed under friends and family, money, music, poems, politics, short stories

Is It Safe To Go Back To The Pub?

Our Christmas lights are up – and whether it’s because putting ours up has made me notice other people’s, I don’t know – but it looks as if everyone else put theirs up on the same day.  We don’t observe the traditional rules about putting up decorations, which I think is to do them on Christmas Eve, but we do generally take them down by Twelfth Night.  I have a packed programme of seasonal engagements coming up; family meals, guests for Christmas dinner, carols by candlelight, shared lunch at the Quakers, plus a Solstice celebration – and tonight, a meeting of the Artbeat planning group which will end up at the Cradock.  It’s the first time I’ve been to our local pub since that ill-fated night when Mark and I went and were propositioned by a man who reminded us of a much slimmer Richard Griffiths in ‘Withnail and I’


but I think it may be safe to go back to the pub.  Anyway, here’s our tree:

which I think you’ll agree is very pretty.  Apart from the tree we have some lights up at the window and of course cards on every available surface.  I’ve sent out poems with this year’s cards; copies of one I wrote specially called ‘The Square Sparrow’ (being an antidote to the usual round robin which bores the pants of everyone:)


It begins:

Quite suddenly the year began

at midnight on the first of Jan

boxes filling in a panic

house resembling the Titanic

- we were moving in a week

and stuff was playing hide-and-seek.

Kirk out

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Meteor Drip

Last night there was a meteor shower said to be clearly visible in the night sky in Gemini.  We didn’t really think we’d get to see anything, not living in the city, but around 10 pm we went out anyway and as luck would have it, the sky was very, very clear.  I haven’t seen that many stars in a long time.  Mind you, I’ll never forget being somewhere right out in the sticks and going out at night and feeling utterly overwhelmed by the number of lights I could see in the sky.  They seemed so close, it was almost as if they were in your face.  I saw clusters and constellations and far-off lights I had never even glimpsed before.  I had no idea what any of them were.

Last night as we went out we could see a number of familiar constellations.  ‘Look, there’s the Plough,’ I said.

‘That’s Orion,’ retorted Mark.

‘Oh.  Well, Mars is bright tonight,’ I observed.

‘That’s Betelgeuse,’ he informed me.  So much for my astronomical knowledge.  Clearly I haven’t inherited my Mum’s ability to discern heavenly bodies: she was really into astronomy; she worshipped Patrick Moore and always watched The Sky at Night before watching the sky at night.

I can’t think of a better meditation than looking at the stars; and after just a few minutes, having located Castor and Pollux we saw a meteor streak across the sky, and then another.  Mark saw several, but I only glimpsed a couple – more a meteor drip than a meteor shower, but still an awesome sight.


Kirk out

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By, With, From, In or On the Isle of Wight

Have you ever noticed how we say ‘in Britain’ but ‘on the Isle of Wight’?  I hadn’t – not till Mark mentioned it this morning.  ‘Why do we do that?’ he asked, as though I were the fount of all knowledge.  ‘Maybe it’s because you’re on an island?’ I suggested.

‘Yes, but Britain is an island,’ he pointed out.  He had me there – and I started to think about why it was that we do that.  And I think it boils down to the fact that the Isle of Wight is a small island, so that you think of it a bit like standing on a rock; almost as though when you’re on it, you’re visible on the horizon.  Hence we say on the Isle of Wight, on the Isle of Man but in England.

‘And what about Madagascar?’ Mark put in.  I thought about it.  ‘We say in Madagascar,’ I said.  ‘Must be because it’s a big island.’

That set me thinking about the Isle of Man.  Incidentally, did you know that in Middle English ‘wight’ means ‘man’, so really the Isle of Wight is the Isle of Man?  There’s a fun fact to keep you going over Christmas…  But I’ve never been to the Isle of Man, and apart from going to see the TT races, I can’t think of any reason why I’d want to.  They were the last place to abolish hanging and they had the birch for punishment until about 2010.  It’s probably a haunt of UKIPpers now, unless they want to secede from Britain altogether and set up their own benighted state – which wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.

Oh, wait – apparently it’s still a Crown Dependency which means it’s self-governing in all but defence and foreign policy.  And they’re not part of the EU, which means they can get away with stuff like this:


The Isle of Wight, however, is closer both physically and culturally to the mainland.  Looking like a bit of biscuit broken off from the main cookie (or mother-cookie, if you will) it is mostly a holiday destination.  It is warmer in every sense, too; hosting cultural events like the revived pop festival as well as yachting races and jazz festivals.  Very hard to imagine a jazz festival on the Isle of Man, though I wouldn’t mind going to see the TT races some time:


Anyway, that’s all for today.  If you haven’t taken a look at my Mslexia post, go and do so now:


Kirk out


Filed under culcha, music, politics

My First Mslexia Post is Up!

Yes, it’s up – it’s official, it’s there and you can read it.  Just click on the link below:


I’m quite pleased with it, and the editor said it was great, so that’s all good.  In the coming weeks I shall be covering Mark’s journey on the Gender Dysphoria Express travelling from Mark to Amanda and stopping at Scarves, Mascara, Earrings, Lipstick and all stations to Full Female Appearance.  This train does not, however, go through to gender reassignment…

So watch this space – or rather, watch that space.  I’ll be keeping you posted as we go.

Happy Friday

Kirk out


Filed under friends and family, politics, The madness of Mark