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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


The hideous ISIS attack on a Berlin Christmas market in many ways seems like an almost perfectly awful bookend to what has been a particularly awfully year. We will look back on 2016 as being the year when hate won hands down. It has been a dark year which opens up a dark and frightening future. We are entering a time of fingers crossed and hope for the best.

The crime ISIS committed in the capital of Germany is as bad as any crime can get. We shudder at the cold brutality. The complete and absolute lack of any kind of humanity. What they did was a long way beyond disgusting. It was plain evil.

And of course the crime has dominated the news. How could it not? And of course we have recoiled in instinctive horror. How could we not?
But is probably important to take a step back. To take a couple of breaths. To look at the horror with a measured eye. And once we do so, things get a little uncomfortable.

We don’t question such an event filling every corner of the news. It is huge. Of course it is. But we need to be clear about why it is so huge. The reason isn’t all that hard to find. Twelve completely innocent people were murdered in the coldest of cold blood. Why? For being white and Christian and European and Western. For being in the most liberal and tolerant city in the world. For being unwitting pawns in a ghastly game. These are all compelling reasons. But of course the biggest reason is easy to nail down. For these are people who are just like us. We go to Christmas markets. We are innocent Europeans who do no more than go about our daily business. We don’t deserve to be executed in the name of Jihad.

Had exactly the same atrocity been committed in the midst of the rubble of Aleppo, it wouldn’t have dominated the news. Had it happened in a market in a town in Northern Nigeria none of us have ever heard of, well, I guess it might not have made the news at all.

Some victims are just more newsworthy than other victims. White Christian Europeans are at the top of the newsworthy league table whilst Black African Muslims are way down at the bottom. Should we beat ourselves up about this? Not really. Human nature is human nature. It won’t change. We are the creatures of evolution and cannot be blamed for being so.

Next I guess we have to take a look at the 'Why?'. Obviously every politician who finds themselves in front of the cameras will spout the well worn party line. This is a wicked, senseless, cowardly attack on our way of life. This is an act of mindless cruelty.
But it isn’t of course and it is a shame our politicians are so incapable of being honest about the motives of ISIS. They are not so very hard to find. Germany is a problem for ISIS. The Jihadis rely on painting a very particular picture of us to their potential recruits. We are the wicked unbelievers who cheer the TV when American bombs rain down on Muslim civilians. We are the 'Kuffar' who want to see Muslims exterminated like cockroaches. So when Germany stepped up to the plate and showed such compassion and love to the victims of Assad’s war, it made things kind of hard for the bad lads with the long beards. Facebook was full of images of welcoming, smiling Germans handing out teddy bears to traumatised Syrian kids. This was a narrative they needed to change and to change quickly. They needed to make the German people be more like the British people and the American people. Angry and fearful and xenophobic and ready to vote for people promising drone strikes and carpet bombing and no Burkhas. The German people have been far too in touch with the better angels of their nature. ISIS need to bring out the worst in us. They need us to strike back with our cluster bombs. They need us to flatten Muslim schools and to disrespect Muslim women. In order for their people to learn to love ISIS, they need to be taught to hate us. They need to provoke us into doing things to make us hated. Nice, kind German people holding up ‘Refugees Welcome’ signs are the worst kind of nightmare for ISIS. Angry looking Germans marching to old Nazi tunes are absolutely perfect.

And the worst of it is the way our leaders dutifully dance to their tune. We never learn and we never will. The tabloids will bay for blood and the politicians will duly deliver it. We are so miserably predictable.

But we can take another step back and here is where it becomes very uncomfortable indeed. What exactly did ISIS say when they claimed responsibility for the attack? They said it was the work of one of their 'soldiers'. Yes. A 'soldier'. ISIS see this as a military operation with a clear goal. The mission was to brutally kill civilians in the heart of a German city? Why? To break the will and morale of the German people. To make the German people stop showing love and start demanding revenge. ISIS need us to be as bad as they say we are. They have a clear strategy. They are quite deliberately using maximum horror to make the German population change the way they are behaving. To break the policy of the German government.

Is this the first time such a strategy has been used? Of course it isn’t. And now an awfully uncomfortable truth edges out from the very deepest of shadows. It is a truth about as welcome as a despised uncle at a wedding.
Between 13 and 15 February 1945 the British Government ordered ‘Operation Thunderclap’. Hundreds of British bombers dropped 2500 tonnes of high explosive and 1500 tonnes of incendiary bombs on the German city of Dresden. We killed between 25,000 and 35,000 people. We will never know the exact number as many of the dead were quite literally melted in the firestorm we unleashed. It is worth noting that the death toll on day one of Hiroshima was 40,000. More, but not so very much more.
We knew full well there were barely any soldiers to be found in Dresden. We knew full well the streets were packed with desperate refugees running from the wholesale murder and rape being committed by the Red Army. We knew full well there was no strategic gain to be made by setting Dresden alight.

So why did we commit such an act of utter horror? Simple. It was a calculated act of brutality disegned to break the will of the German people. Here is what the Commander in Chief of Bomber Command had to say.

“I mention this because, for a long time, the Government, for excellent reasons, has preferred the world to think that we still held some scruples and attacked only what the humanitarians are pleased to call Military Targets. I can assure you, gentlemen, that we tolerate no scruples.”   

And my word, were we ever true to his words. We proved we could keep up with the Jones’s when it came to cold murderous brutality. And we did indeed break the will of the German people. Three months later we won and Trafalgar Square was one big party. No wonder ISIS are using our playbook. Thank goodness they cannot begin to really imitate what we did to Hamburg and Dresden. On Monday night they killed 12. On that shameful night in 1945 we killed more than 30,000. We burned them alive. We melted them.

Of course we don’t want to look at this. And of course we don’t want to dwell on the crimes we have committed in the past. But we cannot escape the fact that the mass civilian killing we once indulged in paved the way to our greatest victory. ISIS are obviously happy enough to study the history we choose to sweep under the carpet. They are using our playbook. Let’s hope they never get the same result.
Way back then we had a popular saying. We said 'The only good German is a dead German.' And it was deemed perfectly OK to say this. It was very politically correct indeed. And in February 1945 we made the words come true. Big time. I guess ISIS are saying much the same thing now. And on Monday night they also made their words come true. Just not on the same scale.

Saturday, December 10, 2016


More or less exactly a week ago I bashed away at these very same keys and asked the online world for some help to give a client of ours some heat and light. I awarded him the made up name of Donald and laid out his story for the world to see. He is one of the millions of unnoticed people who have fallen victim of an increasingly vindictive and ruthless state. Donald's learning difficulties mean he finds it almost impossible to do what the Job Centre tells him to do. Hell, someone can tell me I am required to beat Usain Bolt in the hundred metres but let's face it, it ain't about to happen.

So he is guilty as charged of the crime of not being able do what they demand. Bang to rights. Deprived of all his disposable income for the next three months. Last week Donald was living in the cold and dark and he was sentenced to stay that way until February. So we asked if you guys out there could come up with £160 to get the lights back on.

Well, nearly 400 of you said OK, count me in. And not just for £160. Let's make it £7000. It's OK. Your eyes aren't playing any tricks. You read it right.


So. We got our act together pretty quickly and by Wednesday we unveiled the new First Base 'Donald Fund'. It is there for anyone in our neck of the woods who is living in the cold and dark as a result of the cruelty or ineptitude of the British State. Our local paper splashed the news on the front page complete with a somewhat bizarre picture of me looking like a complete eejit. Tomorrow morning Donald's story and your response to it is the subject of a debate on radio Clyde. 

By Thursday, the three local Citizen's Advice offices had a referral process in place and all staff duly informed.

Well, yesterday the Donald Fund sprang to life. First up was Donald himself. Lesley walked up the road with him to stick £200 on his gas and electric and all the way he kept promising faithfully he would make sure he didn't waste any. Not a light would be left on unless it was absolutely required. And all the way Lesley tried to encourage him not to be too mean with the heating. It's winter Donald. It's cold Donald. So make sure you stay warm, OK. Aye. Well. But I'm definitely going to keep it switched down as low as....

Maybe she persuaded him to get his living room up to seventy degrees. Maybe not quite. We'll keep working at it as he comes in for his bi-weekly food parcels. And how was he when we told him we had come into some funds which meant we could get his lights back on? Bowled over, stunned, cautiously over the moon, wondering if there was a catch, not quite able to process the fact that some good news had come his way. The likes of Donald are used to getting kicked in the teeth all the time. They find it hard to get their heads around something going their way for once.

Next up was Ruby, another real person with a made up name. Ruby is from West Africa. Back home she was a successful professional woman but things were going bad. Gangsters were taking over the neighbourhood and every week somebody got very dead. The bad guys were up to their eyeballs in drugs and guns and all of a sudden life was as cheap as chips. The police were nowhere to be seen. She was a mum with two kids. Here son was two and her daughter was eleven. She was terrified they would become collateral damage in the growing mayhem. So she did like mums have done since the dawn of time. She protected her kids. She cashed in all her chips and flew north to the land which had once upon a time planted its flag on the soil of her land. The old Imperial Master.

London was tough. There was no point in asking for asylum because her country wasn't an official war zone. Drug crazed murdering gangsters with booming rap music and AK 47's don't count as a war zone. Nothing there to justify asylum. I mean, come on.... So instead she was deemed an economic migrant on a work visa. One of the ones everyone seems to want rid off.

Work in her given profession was not an option. So Ruby spent every spare penny on re-training for the kind of work she could find. The kind of work we don't seem able to persuade our own people to do. You know, the caring for the vulnerable thing. She collected up all the 'Social Care' certificates she needed and worked away and paid her taxes. Her son settled in primary school with English as a first language and West Africa as a fading memory. Her daughter got straight A's in all the sciences and got a place at university.

The time came to renew the work visa and this time the Home Office said thanks but no thanks. Oh of course we realise you are doing a job that absolutely needs doing. And of course we realise you are paying all your taxes. But I'm afraid all of that really doesn't come close to cutting the mustard. Not any more. We have a mandate you see. We promised to reduce the likes of you to the tens of thousands. Yeah? Watch the news do you? Ever heard of a thing called Brexit? Duh?

Can't you get it into your head, we don't want you here. Time to go home. To get lost. To bugger off. And if that means there will be nobody to wipe our old people's bottoms then our old people's bottoms will have to be left unwiped. Settled will of the people, right? We're all bigots now.

Ruby heard whispers about a place called Scotland where there was still some hope instead of hate. She cashed in all her chips and came north. Everything she owned was just enough to cover four months of rent. She was left to hope and pray four months would be long enough for the Home Office to say yes, we grant you leave to remain to continue wiping the bottoms of our old people and to pay our taxes.

But there has been no word. Not so much as a whisper. Which means Ruby and her kids are in the worst kind of limbo. She isn't eligible for any State support whatsoever and if she even thinks of applying for any it will be deemed a blot on her copy book. Worse still, she isn't allowed to do so much as an hour's worth of paid work and if she does and gets caught it will be an even bigger blot on her copy book. The offer of university has been withdrawn from her daughter, though thankfully her son is allowed to go to school.

Ruby came to us in November without a penny to her name with less than fortnight left on the rent she had paid. We told her we could guarantee to feed her and her kids come what may. For as long as was necessary. I gave the wonderful Moxy from DG Refugee Action a call and the wonderful Moxy whistled up a month's worth of rent. Enough to keep a roof over the family's head for Christmas. Enough to put off the moment of truth.

So food. Tick. Shelter. Tick. Heat and light …... Nothing doing. Christmas looked like being all about candles and cold. And then 400 people gave £7000 and the Donald Fund was able to do it's stuff. This is the text Ruby sent me yesterday. I am pretty sure it is also to every person who gave us the money to make the Donald Fund a reality.

'Good afternoon, sir. Thank you very much for your support and assistance. God will reward you richly and have a nice weekend. Best regards. Ruby.'

Will there be a happy ending or will the Home Office goon squad crash through Ruby's front door at four o'clock in the morning? I don't like to think about it much. The new hard line of immigration is way above our pay scale. All we can do is keep the family fed and warm and to pray for the day when an Independent Scotland has the right to offer a home to people like Ruby who will give us the care we hope for in our twilight years.

Yesterday we had our first referral from Citizen's Advice. This time it was all about cock up rather than deliberate nastiness. What shall we call the client? Why not Bernie. Bernie is disabled. He is disabled enough to make work a thing that is out of the question. For years he has been on DLA – Disability Allowance. Now he is required to 'migrate' to the new PIP – Personal Independence Payments. Seriously, that is how they call it. 'Migrate'! Like a Canada Goose. Like Ruby.

There is no argument about Bernie's PIP. They just haven't got their act together to make the payments continue seamlessly. The computer has buggered it up and Bernie has no money for a week and less than a couple of quid on the meter.

Well he has power now. £20's worth. Enough to see him through to the payment the DWP has promised to make next Thursday. And if the payment fails to materialise and the cock up continues, then we will will keep topping him up until the DWP eventually come through.

So there you are. Our first three Donald Fund clients. Different lives, different stories, very different people. But they were all living in the cold and dark. And now they are living in the warm and light because 400 good people gave a damn.

Yesterday Lesley smiled and said Christmas at First Base will be better this year. Because this year there is more we can do. Last Christmas all we could offer was food. This Christmas we can offer food and heat and light.

Progress, right? Oh, nearly forgot! If you fancy topping up the Donald Fund you can do so by following the link below.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


On Saturday morning I poured a coffee, lit up a smoke and looked for the right words to raise enough cash to put the lights back on for a client of ours who I awarded the fictional name of Donald. Maybe you have read all about him in the blog below this one. In a nutshell he is a nice middle aged guy with some learning difficulties. He came to us with 86 days of a benefit sanction to serve out and a house lacking all heat and light. There was only cold and darkness.

86 days worth.

80 still to go.

£160 was needed to make it go away. So I asked anyone reading the blog if they might consider stumping up £2. And I did some maths. We needed 80 readers to donate £2 each and the finish line would be reached. So I did all the usual. Choose a photo. Come up with a title. Check for typos. And to be honest I put off the moment of truth. You see, the thing with the social media is that you never, ever know. Having loads of folk looking at something is a whole lot different from people actually shelling out some cash.

Eventually I told myself not to be so bloody soft and hit the publish button. In for a penny in for a hundred and sixty pounds. I anonymously stuck £2 on the page to get the ball rolling and made the conscious decision not to sit around watching the screen. So I went outside, cranked up the chainsaw and attacked the log pile whilst a buzzard carved a few lazy circles in the blue sky above.

I gave it a couple of hours and then followed the same coffee/smoke routine. I told myself if we could by some chance get anywhere close to the £160 figure I would be well and truly made up. £60 would be enough to get the lights on for Christmas and New Year. Yeah. £60 would do. £60 would be fine and dandy.

And I all but fell off my chair. And I have been falling off my chair ever since. As I write this, the JustGiving page is over £6000 and it is still going up. Check it out via the link below and don't forget to add in the Gift Aid.

What can I say? Well as a person who has written 23 novels over the last decade and a half I really should be able to say something. Bloody hell. Not exactly Leo Tolstoy but yeah, bloody hell. Bloody amazing. Bloody fantastic.

If you are one of the three hundred plus people who has made this happen then, thank you. Your collective generosity is quite extra-ordinary. Humbling. Heart warming. And yes, it really does restore the faith in human nature.

So what happens next now we have collected £6000 more than we asked for? What happens next as far as this blog is concerned is an unashamed advert for small charities and how we go about our business. Being small means you can be quick on your feet. You can react to things. And that is exactly what First Base has done. Three days ago we asked for £160 to put Donald's lights on. Well things have moved on in a big way. 72 hours after asking the question we unveiled our brand new 'Donald Fund' which did its first bit of business yesterday.

Nuts and bolts.

The Donald Fund is available to help anyone in our area of work who has been royally screwed over by our beloved Department of Work and Pensions and left completely penniless. Maybe like Donald they might have had all of their benefits sanctioned. Or maybe there has been some kind of epic cock up meaning no money for quite a while. The criteria for asking for the help of the Donald Fund are clear and simple. Bring in your DWP paperwork showing how they have screwed you over and the Fund will get your heat and light back on for the duration. The fund will cover £3 a day of power costs from October to March and £2 a day April to September. We won't be handing out any cash. Lesley will go along with the client to a Paypoint to get the money loaded up. There will be one or two who have a go at scamming us of course. There always are. Well, best of luck with that one guys! First Base has two poachers turned gamekeepers at the front desk going by the names of Iain and Lesley. They are in all respects been there, done that people. Remember what they say about trying to kid a kidder?

We are not experts in the dark labyrinthine world of the DWP so all applicants will have to come along armed with a referral from the Citizens Advice Service.

How many people will we help? Hard to tell. We will find out soon enough. My gut feeling suggests the money will be enough to see people right for a year to eighteen months. But hopefully this will only be the start of the story. The more eagle eyed among you might have noticed I have raised the target on the JustGiving page from £160 to £10,000 to reflect the new reality. As we help people case by case, we will start to build up a clear body of evidence which will prove how much the help is needed and how many people need it. Once we have this under our belt, we will have what we need to start applying to other sources for top up funds. The good news is that we will not have the begging bowl out for great fortunes. If we can twist the arms of the the Councillors on the three Area Committees where our clients live for £1000 a piece, we will be well on the way.

If my optimism is proved not to be misplaced, the Donald Fund will soon enough start to make a difference. The first difference will be felt by the poor buggers made to love in the cold and dark by the cruelty and ineptitude of the DWP. We will then be able to tell their stories through these pages and the local media. We will also be able to hand over case studies to our excellent local MSP's and MP to help them kick up a fuss in Holyrood and Westminster. We will be able to do a lot.

The way so many people have been treated since 2010 stinks like a train load of rotten fish. Shining a light on this cruelty has been hard. How are two bit charities like First Base supposed to compete with the likes of the Daily Mail and Channel 5 and the others who have used their power to make people hate and blame the poor. This wall to wall anti poor people propaganda has seemed overwhelming at times. Maybe we are slowly starting to see the tide turn. Finally there are a few in the Westminster Tory party who are stepping forward to say enough is enough. Ken Loach has once again shot the lights out with his movie 'I Daniel Blake'. His achievements really do beggar belief. Fifty years ago he gave the public a no holds barred, close up look at the misery of homelessness with 'Cathy Come Home'. Now he's done it again with 'I Daniel Blake.' In our X Factor world, 15 minutes of fame is the daily bread of the tabloid press. Ken Loach has been doing what he does for half a century. Some man.

The impact of our Donald Fund won't reach anywhere near as far as the impact of 'I Daniel Blake.' But we will punch above our weight, I can promise you that. For me, what has happened over the last three days shows how much can be done when we all start thinking of what can happen when change comes from the bottom. 350 people chose not to ignore the outrageous way a single individual was being treated by an increasingly vicious State. 350 people put a small charity called First Base in a position to start to make a difference. To punch above our weight. None of this required any permission from any kind of government. This is the great beauty of trying to make change happen from the level of the street. It can happen quickly and it can happen without rooms filled with highly paid civil servants. At a time when distant governments and faceless corporations seem to be squeezing the life out of us all, maybe the birth of our Donald Fund offers a small sliver of hope. Maybe we are not so helpless after all.

I like to think so. Don't you just love people power.

Saturday, December 3, 2016


At First Base we are all well enough accustomed to spending time with people whose lives are in a pretty bad place. Of course we are. After all, it's what we do. When your life is tip top, you don't tend to need emergency food. Instead you go to a shop and buy what you need. What takes your fancy. And this of course is the world most of us live in breathe in. In the UK, we are the 59 million. We are the ones with the wherewithal to fill up a Tesco basket and pay for it. The other million? Well they come to likes of First Base for their daily bread and each and every one of them brings along their very own a back story. Their reason. Their set of circumstances.

Are these sob stories or stories to make you sob? I guess that tends to be down to which newspaper you choose to read with the morning coffee. If you read the Daily Mail, you'll no doubt reckon these pathetic excuses for humanity need a good old boot up their over large backsides. A short sharp shock. A wake up call. Get a job. Get a life. Get over it. Grow up. Man up. 

Realistically, if you feel that way about the undeserving poor I guess it is pretty unlikely you'll be taking time out of your busy schedule to read this blog. Most of the people who land up on this page of mine tend to share the view that the way so many people have been treated since the Great Crash pretty well sucks.

Whatever. Thankfully I'm not a guy who is chasing votes. What I write here can be taken of left, and if the Daily Mail brigade choose to leave it then it's no skin of my nose.

So we see tough cases. And we see really tough cases. And then from time to time, we see cases which completely kick us in the teeth.

Like Donald.

Is Donald really called Donald? Of course he isn't. So why Donald? No prizes for guessing the answer!

So what's the thing about Donald? What sets him apart? What compels me to spend some time laying out his story for the online world to take a look at?

I guess it is the fact that everything about the way Donald is being treated is just so plain wrong. So unnecessary. So vicious.

I first met Donald the other day. The bell over the door announced his arrival and when I reached counter in reception I saw regular looking guy in his mid forties. He was dressed for a job interview. Smart clothes, brushed hair and fearful eyes. When he said “Hello”, his voice was small. Nervous. Worried about getting stuff wrong. 

I gave him my 'Don't worry mate, you're alright here' smile and in return he smiled back. A small smile. But a smile.

He handed over his piece of A4 paper which I duly scrutinised. It was from Citizen's Advice and whoever had written it had taken the time to make the story as full as possible. They were worried about this one. Determined to see him right.

Name. Address. Need for a 'Non Cooking' parcel. Background. Donald has been sanctioned. He doesn't know why. Neither do we. They haven't told him yet. All the paperwork says it that it will be 86 days before he sees any money.

86 days.

As in all the way through to the end of February. All the way through the coldest months of what the experts are predicting will be the coldest winter we have known in a while. All the way through Christmas and New Year and the sales and the post festive period gloom.

"You don't know why they sanctioned you mate?”

A frown. A shake of the head. A look of confusion. Regret. The small voice again.

No. They said they would send me a letter.”

It says you need a non-cooking parcel. Have you no power?”


We talked but I did most of the talking. Donald was more focused on being polite. I explained what the piece of paper he had brought to us actually meant. I explained there was no need for him to keep going into Citizen's Advice for a food parcel referral. Why? Because the piece of paper he had handed me covered him for 86 days. OK? You can come in twice a week for the next 86 days. OK?

But it wasn't OK. It took me ten minutes to explain something which was actually fairly simple. All the while Donald's face was creased in concentration as he tried to absorb what I was telling him. And by the time I went through it for the third time I knew Donald was a guy with reasonably severe learning difficulties. And the penny dropped.

What an easy mark he must have been for the person on the other side of the desk. Now Donald we need you to spend a minimum of 35 hours a week online and we need you to complete at least eight application forms and even if the job is shelf stacking in Aidrie you still need to complete the form because Aidrie is within 90 minutes commuting time.....

They might as well have talked to him in Mandarin. They had seen through the smart attire and polite face and they had set the bar a mile higher than Donald could even have dreamed of reaching. Donald had been correctly identified as low hanging fruit and they had duly picked him. Picked him off.

'Like flies to wanton boys, they kill us for their sport.' 

So sayeth Mr Shakespeare. And you know what Will? They're still doing it. After all these years. Every single lousy day.

It doesn't have to be like this of course. A Job Centre is allowed to see the likes of Donald for what they are. They are allowed to identify their weaknesses and to work around them. I am stone cold certain Donald would absolutely love a job. He would turn up on time every day looking as smart as paint and he would be polite to absolutely everyone he met. But it would have to be the right kind of job. A job where the bar was low enough enough for him. And fair enough there aren't so many of those jobs to be found. But there are a few. And the Job Centre could have done their level best to help the lad out. They could have made sure he had enough to get by on whilst they helped him to look.

But they didn't. Instead they chose to see him as easy meat. A soft touch. A way to hit their 'three a week' target. Yeah, the one they deny exists even though endless whistleblowers have leaked endless documents proving its godforsaken reality.

When the penny finally dropped, Donald's small smile grew a little. He nodded with appreciation. He told me he was pleased he didn't need to go into Citizen's Advice twice a week. The last time he had been in he had waited for three hours even though he had arrived dead on nine o'clock.

When he had gone I asked Lesley and Iain if they had seen Donald before. They had. Lots. This was his third sanction in the last two years. And yes, they agreed that he was a bit slow. An easy mark. A soft target. They told me how he is trying really hard to find a place to volunteer because it means a chance to get warm. A chance to spend some time in a heated room with the lights on. Because it is hard to get through twenty four hours when there is no light and no heat. Especially in December. And especially when you need to get through the same cold, dark 24 hours 86 times.

Well the world isn't great right now. Watching the news just makes you want to find a cave to hide in. And of course most of what is going down is completely overwhelming. It's all too big to get the head around. But I figure here is a relatively small problem which can actually be solved. At least I hope it can. For here we have one regular guy who is being treated appallingly. Unacceptably. Donald doesn't deserve this. He is a nice guy who just isn't wired right for the brutality of 2016. He is the victim of the vicious hatred we see peddled every day on the front pages of the tabloid press and the pathetic politicians who pander to those same pages. He has become the perfect victim and it is just plain wrong.

So what can be done? What can you do?

You can do this if you like. You can hover you mouse over the link below and then you can click. The click will take you to a JustGiving page I have just set up. Donald has 80 days of sanction to serve out. Donald has found a way to get by on £2 a day's worth of electricity. So Donald needs £160 to get the lights and the heaters back on and to keep them on until the end of February. And so we arrive at the doors of some basic maths. If 80 readers of this blog chip in two quid each, then Donald can sit in the light and cook his food and watch a bit of TV.

We are all just little people. We can't fix the big problems of the world. We can't make Aleppo whole again. We can't un-elect Trump. We can't re-freeze the Arctic.

But we can put Donald's lights back on until the end of February. We can warm his bones. We can give him the wherewithal to heat a pan of soup. We can make his life just that little bit more liveable.

So I have set the bar at £160. It doesn't seem like much and I guess it isn't much. Maybe this will work, maybe it won't. All you can do is ask the question and hope for the best.

So just in case you missed it the first time around, the link is here.