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, December 11, 2015


Christ these are dark times. 

It seems like all over the world rivers swollen with hate are bursting their banks. They bomb, stab and machine gun us and they bask in their brutal glory on Twitter. We respond in kind with our drones and F16’s and Hellfires and Brimstones and we bask in our brutal glory on the ten o’clock news.

Look at this.

This is a square shaped building in the Middle East.

Watch closely. Because we are talking now you see it, now you don’t.

Bang and the building is gone! It's Cillit Bang for the War on Terror.

These are heady days for the preachers of hate. Hate is very much the new black. In the blue corner we have the dead eyed guys with the long beards and their peddled pipedreams of a modern day apocalypse which will wash the world clean of all the filthy infidels. As in everyone dies but them. They have a role model to aspire to. 

He is Noah.

In the red corner is the guy with the laughable hair who aspires to the big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue. He is the ultimate expression of the barking madness of the final gasp of capitalism. In the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, 75 million Americans agree with Donald Trump. They are frightened people in frightened trailer parks all tuned into the airwaves of the barking shock jocks. Build more walls and bomb square buildings in the Middle East. 

And buy more guns. And sell more guns. 

And seriously consider giving the nuclear passcodes to a reality TV star who seems to be a whole hamper full of sandwiches short of a picnic.

The dead eyed guys with the long beards must be rubbing their dry hands in anticipation. Maybe they will get their Noah moment after all. Not a flood this time. But destruction is destruction when all is said and done. A nuclear winter is as good as a global flood for the boys rooted in the sixth century.

So they will continue to convert Raqqa into their 21st century version of an Ark whilst Donald’s itchy fingers hanker for the trigger which will release the nukes from their subterranean lairs.

Hate and lunacy and lunacy and hate.

And hate seeps like sewage laden flood water. Hate is a creeping contagion. I watched a news piece from the streets of Rotherham last week. Let’s face it, Rotherham is not a place that is often to be found in the news. A few months ago this corner of South Yorkshire hit the limelight for all of the wrong reasons. Marauding gangs of Asian men were grooming the lost white girls of Broken Britain. The offspring of heroin riddled mothers and violence fuelled fathers. Placed into the privatised care of a shrunken state and hung out to dry in dismal Rotherham streets where the walls are damp and the gutters are blocked.

Post industrial streets of festering, rotting sofas dumped in pocket size front gardens.

Post industrial girls desperately seeking the kind of life they watched on the tele. Sixth century guys emboldened to do anything they liked with the corrupted offspring of the sinning infidels.

It was all as ugly as ugly could ever get. Serial abuse that nobody noticed for the simple reason that nobody cared. And there were senior social work managers with frightened eyes fighting like cornered rats to hang onto their bloated six figure salaries and their treasure trove final salary pension schemes.

Ugliness breeds hate. And it only takes a matter of months for hate to grow and evolve. And seep.

A well shared picture did the rounds on Rotherham's social media.

“Keep Calm and Burn a Mosque.”

Oh how very droll. Rotherham has its very own Oscar Wilde.

And there was a father recounting the worst moments of his life for the camera. It had just been an ordinary day. Nothing special. A Rotherham day. A Rotherham early evening. A walk home for the pub. Or the shops. He did say from whence he came. He was simply walking home. 

A pavement blocked.

Faces all twisted in hate.

“Keep Calm and burn a Mosque.”

Not that this guy had ever been near a Mosque. He was born and bred White British Rotherham. So why on earth were the pond life blocking his path and lighting him up with their hatred?

It was all about his son. His disabled son. His disabled son who required the services of a wheel chair to make his way from Rotherham A to Rotherham B. It turned out that the pondlife had cast their online net wide. It turned out that the pond life had Googled their way all the way back to Germany in the late 1930’s. The pond life had learned all about how the Nazis had rounded up the cripples and the mentally ill and gassed them in a castle in the forests of Austria.

To maintain the purity of Aryan blood.

And it turned out that the pond life were attracted to that kind of thing. And so it was that they beat the living daylights out of the father of the disabled son. And all the while they screamed at him and told him they would do it again if he didn’t get himself sterilised. They screamed that he was polluting the purity of white Rotherham blood by siring cripples.

They were empowered. 

They were high as kites on all that Rotherham hate. And they actually thought it was OK to beat up the father of a crippled child. They actually thought they were doing a good thing. Because hate is a raving lunatic that requires no rhyme nor reason. And once people get wrapped up in hate they feel justified to do anything they please.

A couple of weeks ago I was tuned into Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions and Any Answers.’ Jonathan Dimbleby and the soothing airwaves of Middle England. A panellist from the Tory front bench. A man with the right name for the job. The right honourable James Brokenshire MP. The Minister for Immigration and Security. A corporate lawyer turned politician and as bland as instant mash potato with no salt. He was asked what possible justification he might be able to come up with for his Government dispatching a couple of Tornado bombers to Syria to atomise square buildings with Brimstone missiles available to all governments signed up to the War on Terror for £100,000 a pop.

Brokenshire adopted the very blandest of tones. He gave us his practised voice of reasom. You can trust me. You really can. I was at Exeter University you know. I wear glasses. I am one of the good guys. He told us that there were very bad people in Syria who were on their computers doing their level best to radicalise young Moslems in Britain. 

So, OK James. We have that. People are peddling hate online. I think we kind of knew that already.
And in his bland tones and without batting an eyelid he laid out this reason as his justification for letting the Brimstones bring their own particular kind of hell to the Syrian Earth. Summary execution without any kind of trial or due process. You try and radicalise some lonely teenager in his Rotherham bedroom, and we will kill you. His tone was so mind numbingly boring that nobody thought to question him. State murder delivered like a health and safety training afternoon. 

Reinhard Heydrich used to love guys like James Brokenshire back in the day. The efficient ones. The boring ones. The bland ones. The efficient ones who could make state execution run like clockwork.

It was called 'the banality of evil' once upon a time. I guess we could call it the same today.

I was 55 last week and for some reason it felt like something of a milestone. I can’t really say why. It was a day to take a moment and look back on a life. 1989 jumped out because 1989 always jumps out. The year of Hillsborough and near death. The year all the walls came tumbling down from the Baltic to the Balkans. 1989 was the year when hope gave hate a good hiding and everything seemed possible.

Fat chance.

Twenty six years later and the walls and fences are going back up all the way from the Balkans to the Baltic. And on the miserable litter strewn streets of Rotherham the pond life are using Google to trawl all the way back to Reinhard Heydrich’s twisted playbook.

The ghost voice of Sir Edward Grey can be heard whispering from a century back in time. “The lights are going out all over Europe.”

Dark days.

But out of dark times come fairy tales. Shafts of sunlight through banks of black cloud.

Last week I had a fairy tale moment in First Base. I was on my own. Everyone else was out and about flying the flag at the Tesco Neighbourhood Food collection. I was up to seventeen food parcels and counting when the door swung open and a beaming young man marched in.

His hair was wet from the rain and his smile lit up the walls.

“I am Sergei! I am in book!”

The book is for those whose lives are so utterly screwed that they need emergency food all the time.
He was indeed Sergei and he was indeed in the book. By the time I had checked, a queue had formed behind him. Which meant there was no time to talk. No time to pass the time of day. And all the while he beamed at me whilst I put together his food parcel complete with cat food.

And then he was gone leaving the memory of his luminous smile.

I asked about him. When he first came to us it was with a support worker from Headway. An accident. A damaged brain. But no bitterness. Instead his brain damage had switched on the luminous smile. And of course everyone took advantage of his sunny nature. Took a lend of him. They always do.

And Sergei’s life became all about cats. Cats, cats and more cats. And the word spread. Anyone with a cat and no money would take their cat to Sergei. Will you look after my cat Sergei? Just for a while. Just until I get some money. And Sergei always said yes. No problem. You have cat? You can leave with me. With Sergei. Sergei love cats, OK? Sure he does.

Soon there were five cats in his flat. Then ten. Then twenty. His support worker has managed to wean him back down to five. But probably not for long. Sergei love cats, OK? Sure he does.

Where is he from? No idea. Lithuania or Latvia probably. I doubt it it’s Russia. 

A smiling stranger from a frozen land far to the north. A stranger who comes to town to look after all the lost and deserted cats. A stranger with a beaming smile. A stranger people go to when they can no longer feed their furry friend.

A whispered story through the grey streets where festering old sofas quietly rot in overgrown front gardens. 

Places where cats can no longer be fed.

Sergei love cats, OK?

Sure he does.

And every time he comes to us with his beaming smile we give him a carrier bag filled with cat food.
Now if that isn’t a modern day fairy tale, I really don’t know what is. The smiling stranger from a cold northern land bringing some light to our darkening world.  


  1. Thanks Mark. Powerful stuff. Sobering.

  2. Thanks Mark. Powerful stuff. Sobering.

  3. That we can't manage open borders says something extremely sad about how far mankind has come in the 21st century, for all the sophistication we pretend to have.

    Bless Sergei and his cats. Thank heavens for good people who care about animals, and those who care about the humans who look after them.

    Happy New Year, Mark.

  4. Wow my friend. Can I call you that? Your powers of expression are stunning. All the things I've thought, but could never put down in words.
    I often compare life for the common people, with Hollywood. The Hunger Games. Not quite here yet, the killing for entertainment, but the poor areas, the Policing, the lack of food and jobs, the wealthy looking down from their ivory mansions etc. It's not too far in the future. Same too, films like Terminator, where the biggest Business Corporations own Governments, the media and the Police alike. Christ, it's already happening. Frightening eh?
    Nevertheless.... Merry Xmas all! :)

  5. Mark, you don't know me; and I don't know you. We share one thing: the need to help our fellow man.
    I would like to gift first base my Christmas present, how do I do this?
    It is the form of money, how do I get it to you?

  6. That is really kind of you. A cheque? It can be made out to The First Base Agency and sent to 6 Buccleuch st, Dumfries, DG1 2AH. Alternatively our bank details are - TSB, Sort Code 30-25-88, Account Name The First Base Agency, Account number 00533183. Thanks forthinking of us.

    1. I'll get Arlene to do a transfer, I'm a Luddite when it comes to things of that nature.