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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Our new 'Bridge project' is three months old now. It is a simple enough affair. Basically we try to do what we can to help the slowly growing number of foreign nationals who come through our doors for emergency food. Three months isn't so long. But it is long enough. Long enough to see a future filled with stories of quiet tragedy.

Quiet desperation

You see it in their eyes. A journey's end that isn't even close to living up to what the wording on the tin promised. Sam, the homeless and penniless Fijian soldier learning the hard way that giving his all in the brutality of Iraq and Afghanistan wasn't enough to warrant a British passport. No benefits. No right to work. Do not pass 'Go'...

The Tunisian father of four facing imminent eviction and the prospect of seeing his young kids out on the street.

So many people cut adrift and slowly drowning in a vast grey ocean of small print and regulation. It is impossible to paint an accurate pitcture of just how utterly dismal this world is. The world we have created at the behest of Farage and his fellow xenophobic hate mongers in the tabloid press. Nothing new in all this of course. Other times and other places have seen living breathing human beings reduced to despised numbers by the beaurcrats tasked with delivering endless nastiness.

People tell me that over the last couple of years the Home Office has added thousands on new clauses to the UK's immigration rulebook. The bar inches up higher and higher. And buried deep in the small print lies something that is becoming ever closer to true wickedness.

Deport and appeal.

Dusty old ghosts from the history books of Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Russia or Honecker's East Germany would purr with appreciation at deport and appeal. It really does what it says on the tin. It goes something like this. Johnny foreigner pitches up in the UK and asks to stay. Maybe they are fleeing torture and war. Maybe they have already been here for long enough to settle into a family life complete with kids and career. Well, the answer is no of course. The answer is always no. Unless you are a Premier League footballer or a Russian oligarch. Once they say 'no', Johnny foreigner has the right to appeal. Because the UK is a decent caring place under the rule of law. Of course it is. And to help with their appeal they have the right to seek representation from a lawyer capable of getting their head around all those thousands of pages of vindictive Home Office legislation.

But I am using the wrong tense here. The present tense is no longer fit for purpose. The Home Office didn't like the appeals process. Too many pesky judges digging far to deeply into a well of human kindness they had no right to dig into. Saying 'yes' when it should have been abundantly clear that 'no' was the only acceptable outcome. Wig wearing pinko bastards.

Well the Home Office decided enough was enough. The goalposts needed moving and it was the beloved Michael Gove took an axe to the legal aid budget. Let's see how these jumped up foreign types get along trying to work their way through the rule book on their own. Ha!! Thought not. Go on. Off you bloody well pop. Goodbye and good bloody riddance. He even came up with the front to suggest that the legal profession should represent these uppity foreign types 'Pro Bono'. He conveniently forgot the fact that there was barely a living to be had for any lawyer plying their trade in immigration law even before he took away their life blood. He conveniently forgot that the lawyers from the milk and honey areas of the legal trade have no expertise whatsoever in immigration law and therefore couldn't help on a Pro Bono basis even if they wanted to.

But even that wasn't enough. The Home Office worried there might still be thousands of foreign types hanging around like a bad smell whingeing on about not wanting to sent back to the torture room. I mean. Come on. Some even bleat on about wanting to stay with their kids who were born in Britain as British citizens. Can you believe these people. The bloody cheek. They want to stay with their children! Bastards. And the children are little better. They actually want to stay in schools with their pals and continue to speak English as their first language. Bloody wimps. The cowardly swine can't even face the modest idea of upping sticks and relocating to a place thousands of miles away to learn a new language and live on a dollar a day.

So what did they come up with? It wasn't easy for them to be honest. You see, many moons ago that pinko bastard Winston Churchill signed us all up to the European Human Rights Convention. As in the nanny bloody state times about twenty. It doesn't half tie the hands when it comes to handling uppity foreign types. It insists they have the right to appeal. Bloody outrageous. Well the lads in the Home Office were having none of it. So the bloody European Human Rights Convention insists on a right of appeal? Fine then. They can have their right of appeal. But we don't remember it saying anywhere that they had to actually be in the country to appeal. Well, does it? Ha!! Thought not. So here's how we will play it. We'll deport the bastards and let them appeal from whichever hell hole they hail from. Bloody wogs. Best of luck with it. Let's see how they get on hiring a lawyer when all they've got is Skype and a dollar a day.

Is evil too strong a word? Not in my book. It's all about finding new small print ways to treat people like cockroaches.

And David Cameron looks so smug when his cherubic features fill our TV screens. Oh how he loves to gloat about his new triumphs over the tidal wave of human cockroaches who threaten to overwhelm us. The bastards in Brussels insist than any Lithuanian, German or Pole has the right to come to our fair shores with no questions asked. And the scrounging, scheming bastards actually seem to think they have the right to claim benefits. Well not on Dave's watch. Because Dave has sorted it. Dave has been out to bat for each and every one of us and Dave has hit the ball out of the park. Now these foreign cockroaches need to prove their worth by working for at least 16 hours a week before they are entitled to a lousy brass farthing. Pow!! Zap! Take that human cockroaches! There's a new Sheriff in town and the man in the white hat is called Dave. All hail Dave the bane of Johnny Foreigner.

Because they are all the same you see. These foreigners. Bloody cockroaches. They need a firm hand. They need to know exactly who's the boss here. Bastards. Aren't they Nigel? Course they are. All or 'em.

But here's the thing. They aren't all the same. Nobody is the same. Every single one of us on the planet is different. It's called genetics and it is inescapable. Every one of us has a different story. Sure, some of us are scheming, evil bastards. Others of us are not. Most in fact. We deserve to right to be treated on our merits. We deserve not to treated like human cockroaches as a punishment for not being born under a British postcode.

But this of course is the world of John Lennon. The reality is more Josef Goebbels. There is no case by case basis. And it is all completely hateful when you see it play out first hand. When you are confronted by the blindingly obvious fact that these are people not cockroaches.

Which brings me to Katarina which as usual is not her real name. Katerina hails from Eastern Europe and needs two First Base food parcels a week to keep her body and her soul together. You want to see her CV. Impressive doesn't even begin to cut it. For thirty years she was a very senior executive with a number of large companies in her home country. Then she met a Scottish ex pat, fell in love and got married. The Scottish ex pat fell ill and wanted to come home to the NHS. So they sold up and packed up and Katerina cut all her ties with home. The NHS treatment worked but the marriage fell apart. And all of a sudden Katerina found that without the paperwork linking her to a UK citizen she was all of a sudden one of those human cockroaches. She is over sixty and draws a pension from home which is enough to pay the rent on a flat in the tough part of town. If the exchange rate is good, she has £60 or £70 a month left over to pay for everything else. If the exchange rate is bad, then that figure can drop to £20.

A few weeks ago I sat down with Katarina to see if there was anything we could do to make things better. She came up the stairs looking smart as paint in her Sunday best. She sat quiet as a mouse and told her story in a quiet voice weighing every English word with great care. Time and again she apologised for her English which to my ear was pretty damn good. Let's face it, we see plenty of home grown clients whose English is all but indecipherable. Three litres of Frosty Jacks can turn the Queen's English into something akin to double Dutch.

I digress. Katarina. Her quiet words told of a life mostly lived without power. A lonely life of make do and mend. Wear an overcoat at all times. Only light the room you are in. And heating? No. No heating. She has a list of qualifications as long as her arm. Back home she was a high flying professional. Not here though. Here she fills in application form after application form to become a cleaner. Because cleaning offers her the best chance to find the sixteen hours a week of work Dave demands. But cleaning jobs are hard to come by when you are 61 years old and you live in a country far from home.

I filled in a form to a Trust that can help those in dire need. I got word yesterday that £100 had been ear marked for Katarina. To help with the power. To allow some electric light into her life. So I called her. And when I let her know that someone out there was going to help, the other end of the line was suddenly filled with quiet sobbing. And with every sob the sheer bottomless loneliness of her life ate into me. Once I was done, I called up Neil who is the minister at her local church. Neil is one of the good guys. Would you go see her? Sure he would. But only if she wanted him to. So I called her back up and once again there was sobbing. She said I was too kind. I said I wasn't. It made no difference.

Christ. You just feel so utterly and completely useless. Well I do. And every time I hear the likes of Farage spitting his poison I think of this lovely lady in her Sunday best. I see the loneliness in her eyes. I hear the quiet sobs on the other end of the line. And it really shouldn't be like this, but it is. And I can hear a million angry voices shouting why the bloody hell doesn't she go back home then? If it's all so bad here? Well.... why!! Because she has burnt her bridges and cut her ties. Because she put all her faith in a marriage that didn't work out. Because home is a place where the fascists are getting ever closer to enjoying a re-run of the good old days of the 1930's. Because of a whole host of reasons.

Her reasons. And I have no doubt that she will get a job at some stage. So long as she keeps body and soul together and doesn't allow the cold loneliness of her life to eat away at her soul so badly that it becomes incapable of repairing itself.


Here's a request for any of you reading this are from in and around Dumfries. Anyone need a cleaner? An hour a week? Two hours a week? If you do this lovely lady really could do with a leg up if she is to abide by Dave's new rules. If anyone out there feels they might be able to help Katarina in any way please get in touch. or 07770 443 483.      


  1. Never mind a cleaner, maybe there's someone out there could use her real skills? Or are we such a sick society that we can only offer menial jobs to professional people if they are migrants? Does the fight for equality of women in the boardroom and removing the glass ceiling only apply to scots? Or am I hopelessly out of touch and in fact we will make it impossible for skilled people to get jobs if they are in appeal, in the same way as you need a home address to get a job and you need a job to afford a home?

  2. Hi Cally. Rest assured I am trying my best to help her get a start in her designated profession - I decided it would be best not to mention the exact profession in order to do my best maintain anonymity. You know how it is.

    1. Good on you Mark, some peoples faux outrage clouds the pertinent issue; Katerina needs to find any employment, to satisfy the hurdles put in front of her. As would be the case regardless of the education, sex or orientation of the person involved.
      I really hope someone can help.

  3. Mark have you considered talking to any colleges and universities within Katerina's travel distance? I would think her years of practical experience in the field on the continent would be invaluable as a guest lecturer in any business course for a few hours a week. Even if for whatever reason it doesn't count towards the 16 hours it might help with her self-confidence and self-esteem which have clearly been worn down by this bureaucratic hell as well as building some contacts and getting more human contact.