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.

Saturday, May 30, 2015


A picture paints a thousand words. It’s an old, old saying and it's a saying that becomes more relevant with every passing year. Pictures have always been big but never as big as they are now. With billions of us hopping on and off Twitter and Facebook as we travel through the days of our life, we increasingly see the world through pictures.
It’s interesting that the saying defines the impact of a picture in terms of a thousand words. Not a hundred. Not a million.
There is something about the idea of a thousand. Maybe it is the biggest number we can really get our heads around.
So once upon a time great beauty was defined in terms of a face to launch a thousand ships. I guess that was a viable option back in days when Helen of Troy was turning heads. These days only the US Navy could come up with that kind of Armada should the President’s head be turned by a beauty queen.
Then we have the 'thousand yard stare' worn by men who have lived through the visceral horror of combat.
“How long you been in country son?” A chisel faced US general once upon a time asked a haggard young Marine fresh from a primordial killing spree, whilst all the while the hungry news cameras devoured the scene.
Cue the thousand yard stare.
Cue the response the General didn’t want to hear.
“All fucking day.”
But things have changed. Yards are out and metres are in. Does a thousand metre stare carry the same ring about it? Not really.
Then there is this thousand quote.

“If the radiance of a thousand suns
Were to burst at once into the sky
That would be like the splendour of the Mighty One...
I am become Death,
The destroyer of worlds.

These were the words of J Robert Oppenheimer when he saw the pictures of what the bomb he had created had done to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What the bomb he had created had done to human flesh and bone. He had indeed become death. No doubt his eyes were soon focused to a thousand yards.
Without the pictures, the idea of a bomb to destroy a city was an academic exercise. Let’s face it, there was no shortage of destroyed cities at that time. We Brits had pretty well mastered the art of reducing a thousand years of human endeavour to a pile of smoking bricks over the course of a few hours. It was that thousand thing again. Bomber Harris and his thousand bomber raids. The firestorms of Hamburg and Dresden. The War Crime that was never called to account.
It was the pictures that told the world that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were different. Very, very different. From the very moment that those two mushroom clouds climbed up into the sky, the world, our world, became a different place.
And for seventy years all kinds of stuff has gone down. Men have walked on the moon. A wall was built and a wall was torn down. Communism fell and Islamism rose. Grains of sand became the internet. A black man was released from prison after twenty something years. A black man painted pictures of black men and white men sitting down at the same dining table in the red hills of Georgia. A black man took his seat behind the desk in the Oval Office.
Lots of stuff.
Lots and lots of pictures painting millions upon millions of words.
Famine in Ethiopia. The skulls and bones of the Cambodian Killing Fields. The machete hacked limbs littering dusty Rwandan roads.
A father tending a bleeding out corpse on a Londonderry pavement.
A little running girl burned to a crisp by American napalm.
The wrecked buildings of Gaza and Grozny and Fallujah and Hanoi and New York City.
Hundreds of pictures. Millions of words.
Bad, bad things.
And yet nothing in the last seventy years has ever come close to matching those pictures that turned J Robert Oppenheimer’s blood to ice in his veins.
Successive generations have lived out our lives stalked by an ever present shadow. The shadow of IT happening. We have been the first generations of humankind to know that Noah’s Ark type Biblical images of the end of the world are never more than four minutes away.
All it takes is for one finger to gently caress a button and mere minutes later we all become Hiroshima. We all become Nagasaki. All kinds of things can go catastrophically wrong with our lives. War and peace. Drought and flood. Recession and depression. Dictators. Invasions. Occupations. Insurrections. Revolutions.
But nothing comes close to that moment when the radiance of a thousand suns bursts across the skies.
There is no nightmare that comes close to the nuclear nightmare.
Which brings me to the picture at the top of the blog. Right now it only seems to have represented a fairly modest number of words. But that will change. And the picture isn’t about to go away.
It is already archived. It is already bubble-wrapped and locked away in secure storage.
One of the guys working on one of the Trident submarines went AWOL. He took to the internet to write an 18 page report laying out how the so called security at HMNB Faslane was barely worth a light. He felt he simply had to let us all know that there is a real and genuine danger that something could go disastrously wrong at HMNB Faslane.
And then?
Then it will be no more Helensburgh.
No more Greenock.
No more Dumbarton.
Not much Glasgow.
Not if The radiance of a thousand suns lights up the skies over the western half of Scotland.
Does any event come bigger than that? It would make 9/11 look like a spat in a primary school playground.
When I was researching my book ‘Toxic’, I spent an afternoon with the guys at the peace camp outside Faslane. A bookish looking middle aged lady told me about an adventure she had been involved in the week before. Two of them had made it through god alone how many security checks and all the way onto the deck of one of the nuclear subs.
Two of them. Both middle aged ladies. Believe me, this was a lady who looked more like your French teacher in the fourth year than Bruce Willis in ‘Die Hard’. And yet she made it all the way to the deck.
It wasn’t the first time. It was the umpteenth time. And amazingly enough these trespasses into the darkest heart of the nuclear kingdom seldom see anyone land in court. Why? Because courts mean pesky reporters in the press gallery. Courts mean chronic embarrassment. Courts mean egg on senior faces. Let’s face it, if you can’t guard your nuclear subs from middle aged schoolteacher types, then you are pretty well not fit for purpose.
So maybe the runaway submariner has a point?
Maybe his warnings should be looked at and scrutinised and heeded. Because should the day when the radiance of a thousand suns lights up the skies of Western Scotland ever come, then it will be the very worst day we have ever had.
The 56 MP’s of the SNP called a House of Commons debate.
And the picture at the top of the blog paints a thousand words about what the debate showed. The SNP turned up. Nobody else turned up. Check out all that empty green leather.
This House will now consider how it will be if the radiance of a thousand suns should fry, boil, vaporise and generally kill a quarter of a million citizens of Helensburgh and Greenock and Dumbarton and other Scottish towns and cities that nobody seems to give much of a shit about.
And indeed nobody did give a shit.
Not the Tories. Not the Labour Party. Not the Liberal Democrats. I don’t know if Douglas Carswell showed his face. Everyone seemed to have better things to do. More important things to do.
The empty green benches sent a very clear message up the M1 and the M6 and past the big blue ‘Welcome to Scotland’ signs.
We say you people matter. But we don’t really mean it. Check out the picture guys. Oh yes. This one. The one that paints a thousand words. The one that summons up the sights and sounds of how it might be should the radiance of a thousand suns ever light up the skies over West Scotland.
And so it seems that we are expendable. It seems that the Members of Parliament representing the constituencies of England’s green and pleasant land care not a jot about a couple of hundred thousand Scots being fried and boiled and irradiated and generally killed should things ever go pear shaped at HMNB Faslane.
Of course they don’t really think that.
But in reality it doesn’t matter what they really think. The thousand words will not be made up by any of their words of explanation. The thousand words will come from the picture at the top of this blog.
The could have turned up to debate the danger of a nuclear Holocaust in Western Scotland.
But they didn’t turn up.
The picture of empty green benches doesn’t lie and picture isn’t about to go away.
Let’s face it guys. You keep offering the army of ‘Yes’ open goal after open goal. And we keep rolling the ball into the back of the net.
You stumble from one hopeless cock up to another and you still seem to seriously think that you will hang on to your Northern colony.
Aye right.     
 Helensburgh? Dumbarton? Glasgow? Anyone care...?

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1 comment:

  1. no comments:
    just about sums it up doesn't it,
    they have nothing to say.