I can’t pretend to be the most emotional of guys. Lets face it, I'm from Blackburn.
It wasn’t the done thing to be over emotional in the grey old cotton town that turned me into what I am.
But ten minutes ago that good old Northern reserve was sorely tested and if I am going to be honest here, I am writing this with the prickle of tears in my eyes.
Regulars will know that the Foodbank I manage is facing hard times at the moment. Regulars will know that in a frantic attempt to raise the required £15,000 to keep the doors open I have written and released my 24th book: ‘The Great Foodbank Siege’.
The picture is at the top of the blogpage.
Since the book has been out and about, I have been trying to rustle up support. In the real world people have been handing out leaflets for us and the local media have been brand new.
In the virtual world I have asked for virtual support and received it. Lots and lots of kind words and generous reviews.
Tris at Mungiun’s Republic was a stand out in this regard. And of course I sent a message to Stuart at 'Wings over Scotland' asking if he could give us a leg up.
As in a retweet to his 45,000 followers.
Maybe even a review of some sort on the 'Wings over Scotland' site. This was the message I sent
‘In a perfect world you will give it a read, like it and review it. Sadly the world tends to be more shit than perfect but you never know!’
Well Stuart gave me the retweet and I was chuffed to have his support. Never in a million years did I expect what happened this morning. I received an e mail from Bruce, the local BBC reporter who had interviewed me about the book.
Had I seen this?
Had I seen what?
So you can follow the link I followed.
Bloody hell, right?
I damn near fell off my chair. Stuart’s case study is horribly familiar and will be so to anyone involved in a food bank in this era of cruelty. Thankfully with every passing day the curtain is being lifted on the small print viciousness of this nasty government.
Every day we hear stories like the one Stuart has focused on. These are the stories of the little people who cannot quite believe what they have done to deserve such a miserable fate. At First Base we see twenty of these people every day.
And they come to us because they have nothing to eat.
And most of the time they have nothing to eat because the Government has chosen to strip them of every penny of their income for the crime of….
The crime of what?
Of being ten minutes late for an appointment?
Of being to anxious and too generally mentally ill to get out of the house to make an appointment?
Of having a reading age of nine and being incapable of completing 38 online efforts to apply for work in a given fortnight?
These are the spongers and the scroungers we hear so much about in the right wing press. The ones who it seems are to blame for all the problems the world has faced since Lehman Brothers crashed and burned.
And as a punishment they have nothing to eat.
Sometimes for a week.
Sometimes for a month.
Sometimes for a three months.
Sometimes for three years for Christ’s sake.
Well in our small Scottish town, we can at least make sure they do have something to eat.
So long as we keep raising enough cash to keep the doors open. Hence the book. But in promoting the book there have been one or two unintended consequences.
There always are. Because life is never, ever simple.
It goes something like this.
Nobody is going to buy the book unless they know there is a book to buy. Duh! So you need to publicise the book. How? Get the media on board.
‘First Base is in a £15,000 hole and we have just released a book to raise enough cash to fill the hole.’
Well what else could we say? So we said it.
And our message duly went out via the local papers, radio and TV.
Not surprisingly lots of people got the message.
Including every food parcel client I chatted with yesterday.
They heard the message all right. And they were scared. You’re not going to close down are you Mark……
And of course I made confident noises. Of course not. We’ve been here before. Many times before. One way or another we always find a way to keep the doors open. First Base knows how to run on fresh air.
I think I managed to ease their worries.
But I defy anyone not to feel the pressure of the situation. Because if the day comes when we cannot open our doors twenty people will have nothing to eat. Including kids.
And the safety net we have known since 1945 is barely there any more. 20% of the people who arrive at our desk have been sent to us by social workers who don’t have an emergency budget.
Not any more.
All they can do is send their client to the likes of First Base.
Because we have become the last line of defence. Oh and how politicians just love to grandstand and go on and on and on about the disgrace of foodbanks.
You want to take a moment to wonder how things would look right now if there were no foodbanks to hold the line.
Knowing there is a danger that we might have to close the doors sometime in the depths of the winter is a thing that refuses to leave the mind. It is always there. Always nagging away. Always leaving an uneasy feeling in the pit of the stomach.
When you step into the spotlight and announce that you are in a financial hole, you really, really hope that you will find you have a few friends to step up alongside.
And be shoulder to shoulder.
I cannot say how pleased I am to say that First Base has had many, many friends standing shoulder to shoulder with us over the last few days.
And I see no point in not pointing out that most of them are fellow travelers from the ‘Yes’ campaign. The '45'.
But not all. More than a few ‘No’ voters have helped out as well.
Stuart has proved himself to be a true friend.
So thanks Stuart. Profound thanks.
Oh yeah, I know exactly how much you’ll hate me going all gushing on you. Well tough. You’ll have to live with it.
In the blog I posted yesterday I waxed rather lyrical about Scotland being the new ‘shining city on the hill.’
A beacon of hope for people all over the world.
A place where it is OK to be decent and caring and sympathetic. A place where immigrants and poor people don’t get blamed for everything. That is why I chose the picture at the top of the blog. Sentimental I know, but sod it.
You know what Stuart, I think you have just rubber stamped that particular thought. And everyone who has donated to your appeal has just rubber stamped that particular thought.
And you know what? It might be tipping it down with rain outside but Scotland looks a pretty good place to be right now.
Oh and by the way. If you want to buy yourself a copy of the 'Great Foodbank Siege' you can do so by following the link below.