Last week I had a day out on the road undertaking some book research. I’ll start off with some background. As regular readers of this blog will already know, over recent months I have become something of an accidental tourist in the Scottish Independence campaign. A few of my blogs on the issue have had many thousands of hits, especially when they have been republished on the ‘Wings Over Scotland’ site. The fact that over 5000 people have so far tune in to watch my efforts at a ‘Yes’ rally in Lockerbie is still a thing I find quite impossible to get my head around.
I still don’t quite know why and how all of this has come to pass. I merely wrote a blog saying that this particular lad from
will be voting ‘Yes’ on September 18th and things have just
gone on from there.
Once you lift the lid on what is happening at the moment, it doesn’t take very long to discover a brilliant grass roots campaign which is picking up speed with every passing week. It reminds me a lot of the Obama campaign which eventually saw Barack handed the keys to the White House. The powers that be said ‘no chance.’ The people on the street agreed with Barack. ‘Yes we can’.
And yes they did.
And all of a sudden it looks more and more likely that the people of
are about to say much the same in September. Scotland
Back in 2008, the only thing I could do to help the guy who was as mixed raced as my two lads into the Presidency was to pass a tenner on to an American friend who duly handed it to the Barack campaign. As a non-
wasn’t allowed to make a contribution directly. US
Seldom have I ever enjoyed spending a tenner so much.
It is a whole lot easier to get stuck into the ‘Yes’ campaign. Fair enough, I wasn’t born in
and neither were any of my
family. Happily this matters not a jot. I live here. I’ve lived here for 18 years and
I have no intention of living anywhere else. My lads went to school here. As
far as having a voice, residency is considered to be a valid ticket to the ball
So I have written my blogs.
And I have had a go at speaking at one rally and I now have a bunch of bookings in the diary to do more in the coming weeks.
Oh yeah, nearly forgot. I have also done my research and fact checking to make sure that I am not about to be a cheerleader for something plain stupid.
If any Scot takes some time out to check a few facts, the decision on which way to vote is a complete no brainer.
If you want to find out these facts in an easy to understand format, get yourself onto ITunes and type ‘Scottish Independence’ into the searchbox. This will take you to the fantastic ‘Scottish Independence Podcast’. When you get there, pick out the podcast from 21 February – ‘The economic case for Indy’. It is clear, concise, and when you absorb the plain and simple facts, I can guarantee you will only cast your vote one way.
What amazes me, though it really shouldn’t, is the sheer audacity of the propaganda which is being thrown at us with such increasing desperation by the ‘Better Together’ people. If you check out the podcast, you will start to get a handle on why this is. 'Better Together' are like the debt ridden family members of a rich, dying aunt who is making noises about leaving all her wealth to a cats home.
The other region is
chooses to up sticks to become the next Finland,
then those nice people in
and the South East will be left to pick up all the bills all on their own. London
No wonder Boris and his boys are getting their knickers in such a twist.
will hit the government in
where it hurts most: in the pocket. Westminster
So no wonder they are throwing the kitchen sink at 'Project Fear'.
Is it working? Well the answer to that one can be seen pretty clearly in the opinion polls which are narrowing by the week.
However, my digging got me to wondering if the desperation of the London Establishment to hang onto its Northern colony was entirely down to cold hard cash. Might there be other reasons? Darker reasons?
And then an idea jumped into my head. How’s about coming up with a story for a new book? The premis? The premis is that there is some darker than dark secret hidden away which will be in danger of being uncovered should there be a ‘Yes’ vote in September. It is classic conspiracy thriller stuff, I know. Hell guys, I AM a writer of pulp fiction when all is said and done!
Once I had that idea, another idea jumped into my tired old brain with a two footed tackle. Why not dust down a way of doing things which used to play big in Victorian times? Why not make like Charles Dickens? This does not involve Mark Frankland suddenly aspiring to literary greatness. God forbid. Such an option will never be on the table for a dyslexic old Lancastrian who was the bane of his English teacher’s life. Nope. Not that. Where I can make like Dickens is to release the new book in chapters. Two chapters a week, via this blog page. No charge. Free at the point of delivery. Tell the tale in real time as
September date with destiny draws ever closer. Scotland
And as the story gathers speed and starts to close in on a last chapter climax, the referendum campaign in the background will do exactly the same. The unfolding events in my fictional world will play out in front of the backdrop of the real world.
Well. That’s the theory, and by hook or by crook I going to do it. My mind is made up on that one. The first Chapter will appear right here on Monday 19th May and then there will be two chapters a week from there on in.
The title is ‘Toxic’ by the way.
Where to find a starting point?
Where do you find a place which might harbour the kind of toxic secret that people might go to just about any lengths to keep hidden?
The place lies just under a hundred miles north of
Dumfries and last week I took a drive up there. Up through the old coal
towns of the Nith valley. Past Kilmarnock and up the hill until
the sprawl of
is spread out below. Down the M77 and then left at Junction 1. Traffic lights
and the high red walls and bevelled glass of Ibrox park. Onto the M8 and
westwards past the riverbank where the ships of Empire were once upon a time
bolted together. Glasgow
A view to make you mutter ‘wow’ under your breath.
Big, fine, square stone buildings. A hundred and fifty years ago they must have been quite something. Back in the day. When ship after ship brought the spoils of Empire up the
Now everything is faded. Lots of shops are boarded up and graffiti covered. Now there are pound shops and bookies and pawnbrokers. A Wonga Britain town. A Tesco town.
A red light.
A stick thin woman hobbling across the road. A snap view into hollowed eyes craving the next tenner bag of heroin.
An utterly ghastly oblong box of a building from the 1970’s. A government building looking ready to be bulldozed. Its windows are home to a gallery of gaudy yellow posters.
BE A FOSTER CARER! TXT FOSTER TO 83010
Helensbugh next and more memories of better times. A long esplanade bathed in the sun. Dog walkers and cyclists. A sensational view over the water to
Greenock. Struggling tourist shops. A woman sitting in a bus shelter with opiate glazed eyes.
Now the road narrows down and winds around rocky outcrops which are home to busy oystercatchers.
Pleasure boats bobbing on a gentle swell. Small farms with small fields. A manicured golf course greening up with the coming Spring.
And then with no word of a warning, the road is very straight. And very wide. And spectacularly well maintained. No potholes here.
One on side of the road there is a cluster of gaudily painted caravans that look ready to fall to bits.
‘FASLANE PEACE CAMP. VISITORS WELCOME.’
On the other side of the road is a fifteen foot high fence topped with razor wire. And through the fence there are two banks of coiled up razor wire. Cameras. Warning signs. Glimpses of buildings.
Three police Range Rovers in half a mile.
A set of main gates. Cops cradling sub-machine guns looking bored. A small queue of vehicles waiting to be checked through.
Next comes Garelochhead. Postcard pretty with its white houses and its pubs and its long views. The road is small again now. It loops around the head of the loch and down the other side.
A lay-by. A fine clear view of Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde across 300 years of water.
Home to 7000 human beings and a fleet of submarines which live in a giant box of a building.
The comfortable silence is broken up up the sound of an outboard motor. A dingy buzzing like an angry bee with ‘POLICE’ written in black on a yellow background. Two cops. One at the tiller. One standing up with a semi-automatic hung from his neck.
They slow down.
They check me out from 50 yards.
They neither nod nor smile.
They just speed away down the loch.
A sign to the right says ‘Coulport’.
Indicate and make the turn. Up and up to the top of the hill and behind me the huge, jaw dropping vista of the
opens up. Clyde Basin
Over the hill and down the other side to the waters of Loch Long. A 'T' junction. Turn right for Coulport. Turn right toward the heart of the nation’s darkness. Coulport. Our very own Hall of the Mountain King. Coulport. Weighing in at £2 billion, it represents the second greatest capital spend in the history of
after the Channel Tunnel. Huge caverns hacked from the stone belly of the
mountain. And these vast Lord of the Rings caves are home to neither dwarves nor
trolls. Instead they provide a subterranean lair for our treasured trove of 100 Trident missiles. Britain
Plenty enough to vaporise 100 million Russians.
Coulport: the very last vestige of what was once the greatest Empire the world had ever seen. Our last ticket to the big boys club of the UN Security Council. Our last cherished memory of what we used to be.
The signs are very clear about the issue of stopping your car anywhere near Coulport. It is absolutely not an option. Sign after sign after sign. You are now on MOD land. This is our place. And these are our rules. And you will abide by those rules. This is what a militarised zone looks like.
Forget the postcard scenery.
Forget the pretty little villages by the water.
This is another world. And once again the road is ridiculously out of place as it heads back up the hill. It is wide enough for four thirty eight tonners to drive side by side. There’s a weird looking green giant of a truck headed down the hill with a Police Range Rover riding shot gun.
More nuclear trolls for the Hall of the Mountain King.
Mass death on an artic truck.
There is a an area of gravel at the top of the hill. It offers a bird’s eye view into the submarine base a thousand feet below. It offers a vast panorama of lochs and mountains.
I pull up. I get out. I light a fag. I feel the gentle breeze on my face.
Of course I know they will come. But 40 seconds! Boy oh boy, these lads are jumpy.
One Range Rover. Two cops. Faces as serious as cancer. Automatic weapons cradled.
“What do you think you are doing?”
“I’m looking at the view.”
“There is no stopping here sir. Didn’t you see the signs?”
“Signs? What signs?” I can play dumb with the best of them.
“This is an MOD road. A military road. No stopping. It is an Urban Clearway.”
I know I really shouldn’t laugh but I can’t help it.
“Urban Clearway! I have never seen anywhere less urban in my life.”
“Get back in the car sir.”
I get back in the car. I drive to the end of the military road and back onto the civilian roads. Roads where you are allowed to stop and take in the view. Roads where there are no armed men guarding the lay-bys.
Back through Garelochhead.
Back past the gates to Faslane.
Back to the place where a ragtag collection of old caravans has made a home in a small wood.
I park up in front of a rusty gate carrying yet another cheery message from
‘MOD PROPERTY. KEEP OUT’
But the sign on the fence a few yards away is rather more encouraging.
‘FASLANE PEACE CAMP. VISITORS WELCOME’
And this visitor is indeed welcome. They are an eclectic bunch of people to say the least. Two guys with
accents and wild dreadlocked hair.
Enthusiastic kids sporting the Huckleberry Finn look. A nine year old takes me
through the white board on the wall which keeps a record of what submarines are in the
base on the other side of the fence. Glasgow
Today it is one Astute and one Vanguard. She’s pretty damned on the ball for a nine year old. Maybe in a decade’s time she will be a press officer for Greenpeace. I bet she'll be the best they've ever had. There’s a young lad from Portugul who doesn’t speak a word. There’s a Belgian veteran of peace camps all over
who has been summoned home by her government to take an updated medical. There’s
a very serious young lady with a
accent who is stacking logs and viewing me with the suspicion of someone who sees MI5 in
every visitor. London
They give me coffee and they answer all my questions with the vivacity of true believers. They are very good people.
They offer a vision of peace and a future for mankind.
They are the chalk to Coulport’s cheese.
Coulport, whose caves are home to visions of the very worst kind of radioactive hell. Of decade after decade of famine and cancers the likes of which we have never seen before.
The dark heart of the Realm with a £2 billion price tag.
The £2 billion was spent as recently as the 1990’s.
considered Coulport to be a
long term investment. The caverns of Coulport are to offer a secure home for
our country’s nukes for ever and ever amen. Whitehall
But that all might be about to change on September 18th
And on September 19th the MOD in
might be about to get the eviction
notice to end all eviction notices. Whitehall
No wonder they are fighting like cornered rats. Because without Coulport, the very last vestiges of British Imperial power will finally be stripped away. Sure they might find somewhere else for the nukes, but right now it doesn’t look all that promising.
Research job done.
Where is the best place to house the kind of toxic secret which might provoke dark forces into doing dark deeds to bring in a ‘No’ vote?
The dark heart.
The Halls of the Mountain King.
The perfect place for a toxic secret.