I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Friday, January 18, 2013

In the Kingdom of the Blind, a one eyed man is screwed

‘In the Kingdom of the blind

…a one eyed man is king.

Beauty problems are redefined

The door bells do not ring.

A light bulb bursts like a blister

The only form of heat

Where a fellow sells his sister

Down the river

On Beasley St

I only need the most tenuous of connections to jump on any chance to quote some words from the Bard of Salford, John Cooper Clarke. Ever heard of him? He is, and always has been an absolute legend of the Northern punk scene of the late 70’s. The above words come from his greatest work, ‘Beasley St’, which caught the mood of everything from those half remembered dark days. Here you go, click the button and give Johnny a listen.

Anyone from my generation must surely have a small smile at the line

‘In an X Certificate exercise

Ex servicemen excrete‘

Keith Joseph smiles and a baby dies

In a box on Beasley St’

My hook for the Johnny Clarke connection is the fact that yesterday a one eyed guy was sent down to us by the Social Work for a food parcel. And no way was this particular one eyed man anywhere close to being any kind of king. On the flip side, it does seem more and more apparent that we are all residing in the Kingdom of the Blind these days. The call from the Social offered a small snapshot of Great Britain Plc in 2013.

I hope it’s OK so send a client round. He is experiencing difficulties. He has had his benefits severely cut and he can’t manage. We are referring him to Welfare Rights…. but…..


There always tends to be a ‘but’. The voice on the phone sounded fresh out of college and doing a stint on the front desk. The voice on the phone had a shaky quality about it. I pictured someone young, still trying to get their head around how quickly all the lights are being turned out right now. No doubt happy days in college saw essays about the Beveridge Report and the safety net dreams of 1945. And for a while, it really did seem like Britain had created something truly special out of the wreckage of our war against Hitler. After thousands of years of human evolution we had finally come up with a way to make sure nobody would hit the bricks and be left all alone to deal with it.

On the surface of things, the spirit of Sir William Beveridge still lives and breaths. Even George Osborne makes big claims to represent a warm and cuddly Government who would never dream of leaving a citizen in the shit.

But that’s the thing with politicians isn’t it? You just never really know how much of a line they are trying to peddle. But when you live in the Kingdom of the Blind, you can be forgiven for believing these politicain lines. They have a huge concrete monstrosity of a library in Pyongyang, North Korea. Inside the grey walls are something like a million books and until he drew his last breath, the Great Leader Kim Jong-Il was adamant that he had written every single one of them. Some guy! I’ve written twenty books over the last ten years or so and it has seemed like pretty hard work at times. Just imagine sitting down and knocking out a million. Wow. But that is why Kim was the Great Leader and I am just a two bit nobody. Or maybe, just maybe, he was being just a tad naughty and telling a porky pie. But North Korea is a Kingdom of the Blind if ever there was one. No doubt there are many who had their doubts as to whether Kim had really managed to pen a million books, but they probably keep such thoughts to themselves. To question the great man’s ability to complete 55 books a day for 50 years would have guaranteed a five year stay in a labour camp eating grass soup. But millions of North Koreans bought the line and not surprisingly they saw their main man as one hell of a guy. Well, who wouldn’t? 50 books a day for 50 years is seriously good going.

When this kind of nonsense is exposed as unmitigated crap it tends to come as a bit of a blow to those who had bought into it. We all want to believe in Santa and life is never quite the same when the truth is revealed.

I had a feeling that the girl on the other end of the phone was in process of learning that all those essays about Beveridge and his safety net have become yesterday’s news. The one eyed man at the other side of the counter of the reception desk was living proof that a new reality is now in place. At least George Osborne hasn’t got to claiming authorship of fifty books a day. Yet.


Five minutes later the one eyed man came in through the front door. And he came in with a story to tell. We get lots of stories at First Base.

For fifty years his life had been regulation. Bog standard. Family, school, house, job. No drama. Then one night as he made his way home, he was brutally attacked and left on the pavement as ambulance fodder. The legacy of Beveridge kicked in and he was duly delivered to the NHS to be put back together again. They did their stuff, patched him up and passed him along to the safety net wallahs. They examined his situation and weighed things up.
OK sir. Let’s have a look shall we? One eye gone completely and the one eye down to 50%. Mmmmm. Not so good really. Sadly we don’t think you will be able to work any more. But fear not. You see once upon a time there was this chap called Sir William Beveridge and he wrote this report and……

Well. Let’s not worry ourselves too much with the details. The thing is, the good news is that we are here to look after you. Isn’t that just completely smashing! Thank your lucky stars that you were born a citizen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We look after our one eyed men. If you had been born in Swaziland you would have been completely stuffed.

So they signed him off onto the list of the permanently sick and he adjusted his life accordingly. He told me it wasn’t much of a life, but what can you do? He could eat and he could heat.

And then everything suddenly changed. He was summoned to attend an appointment with the doctors from France and they made the astonishing discovery that he was OK to work after all. They duly passed on the great news to the wallahs of the Welfare State and recalculations were carried out.


Ever so sorry old chap, but we’ve cocked things up a bit. We’ve been over paying you I’m afraid. It was supposed to be a safety net but it rather looks like we gave you a hammock instead. There will have to be a reckoning up.


They gave him the news without any honey to sweeten it. Once all the adjustments had been made his weekly stipend from the Welfare State was reduced to £39 a week. But don’t worry yourself too much sir. Things will get better in time. As soon as you turn 65 you are entitled to a full state pension. Just imaging what a smashing birthday that will be! Just completely super!

So that was that. £39 a week for 5 years. Can you heat and eat for £39 a week? Doubtful. Which of course explained why the frightened little voice on the phone had hinted that the referral might need more than one food parcel. In fact it would probably need food parcels every week for the next five years.

As the one eyed man walked out into the bone freezing January cold, I couldn’t help but wonder if Mr Osborne is being entirely honest when he promises that the Beveridge safety net is still as safe as ever was.

I don’t think so George.

For a dose of truth, we could do worse than to take a trip to Berlin and listen in on what Angela Merkel is saying.

Check this out. She produced this sobering fact last week.

The European Union makes up 7% of the world’s population.

And that 7% of global population produces 25% of the world’s GDP. Which is actually pretty impressive when you think about it. But here’s the thing. That same 7% of the world’s people accounts for 50% of all ‘Social’ spending.


It kind of looks like a sum that not only doesn’t add up, but a sum that will never add up. Frau Merkel suggested that something’s going to have to give and I reckon George Osborne agrees. And my, oh my, is something ever giving. He’s just not telling us about it.

For we are all residents of the Kingdom of the Blind where the one eyed man is screwed.

Just for the hell of it, here's another dose of Johnny Clarke

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