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, July 28, 2018


Well, I guess it was always going to happen. Two years on from the old people of Britain voting us out of the EU and we are finally here. Our great leaders are out on the airwaves summoning up the spirit of the Blitz.

Of course they are. It has become the default reaction. If anything goes well, you fly Spitfires and Lancasters over Buckingham Palace. If things go to shit, you summon up the spirit of the Blitz.

So take that Johnny Foreigner and see how you like it. Bomb us all you like, but it won't get you anywhere. Our British stiff upper lip can survive anything.

This week we dispatched our latest grinning idiot to Brussels in the shape of Dominic Raab and he has frightened all of those jumped up foreign types right to their garlic soaked collective cores.

Think you can threaten England do you? Well, do you? Well take this you utter bounders. If you dare try to push us around, well we will hit you right where it hurts. Oh yes. Try it and all sixty million of us will live on Spam. How do you like that!

I suppose we should be grateful in a way. Threatening the pesky French with a cross Channel frenzy of Spam eating and invoking memories of the Luffwaffe setting London ablaze is probably better than invoking the spirit of Hamburg and Dresden. Get my drift? Threaten us, and we will once again rain death from the skies and set the very air alight. Last time you tried it on, we killed three million of your civilians. This time..... oh yes this time. Have you counted your arsenal of nukes recently Frau Merkel? No? And why would that be? Well we all know the answer to the question don't we, Frau Merkel.

You don't have any nukes, do you Frau Merkel? Oh deary, deary me. And we have nearly 150. Quite enough to make the firestorms of Hamburg and Dresden look like a historical footnote.

Maybe not the best way to make friends across the water.

Anyway. What is possibly the most inept Government in the history of these islands has spoken. And we are expected to doff our caps and listen up, especially those of us in the colonies. Pay attention and do as you are told. 

A Hard Brexit is a coming and we must all brace ourselves and prepare. This time we are determined not to be taken by surprise. Once bitten, twice shy, right? 

Last time was a bit of a nightmare to be frank. I mean, it was understandable in a way. You see we Brits and Frenchies seemed to hold all the cards. We had three times as many planes. Twice as many tanks. Twice as many men. And military wisdom was crystal clear. An attacker had to outnumber a defender by at least three to one to stand any kind of chance. And let's be honest here, everything would have been fine if the bounders hadn't cheated and sneaked their way through the Ardennes. And of course it wasn't a very good look when a third of a million of our chaps had to skedaddle out of Dunkirk on a fleet of pedelos. 

Well, we certainly can't be doing that again. So we mast be ready. And being ready means lots and lots of Spam!

For a while these stories seemed mainly amusing. Yet more evidence of what happens when you hand the reigns of power to a bunch of over promoted public schoolboys.

Then I started listening to what the guys at the sharp end had to say. Like the boss at Immingham docks. Even if they can get a wagon customs checked in 2 minutes, in less than an hour there will be a one mile queue. 10 miles in 10 hours. 24 miles in a day. 48 miles in two days....


And suddenly a whole bunch of nightmare facts came rolling in. Over 80% of the food on the shelves of Aldi and Lidl comes in through Immingham. With no UK Air Safety Agency, no insurance company will be willing to insure any flight which means no more food coming to the UK on planes. 

And slowly but surely my brain started to make some sense of it. In fact it was all pretty familiar. Once up a time our family business trucked 120,000 tonnes of cattle and sheep feed to all corners of Britain. From the Isle of Mull to South Wales and all points in between. At any given time, our mill in Lancaster carried one day's worth of stock. Another day's worth would be on board delivery wagons. To store any more would have meant another couple of hundred thousand quid onto our overdraft and there was no way in a million years our bank manager would have agreed that.

Once upon a time we had food mountains in Britain. Those were the days when memories of Hitler's U Boats were still fresh. Blitz spirit or no Blitz spirit, we were half starved to death by 1942. The fall of the Berlin Wall ended such concerns.

Now we about three days stock of food at any given time. One day's worth is on the shelves of the supermarkets. Another day's worth is in the storerooms at the back of the supermarkets. Another day's worth is onboard tens of thousands of wagons en route to the supermarkets. And after that? After that the grub is either in Europe ready to be loaded onto trucks or elsewhere in the world ready to be put on a plane or a boat.

Three days. Three days and the shelves are empty. 

And now the grinning face of Dominic Raab is handing out the bad news like some nightmare straight out of 1984. Oh we might have to starve a bit, but it will all be find in the end. We will call up the Blitz spirit and in sixty three years time we will sign a new trade deal with Paraguay.

And still I was a mere spectator. A rubber necker. Fascinated by the growing chaos and delighted by the growing certainty of an Independent Scotland.

And then it hit me. I don't have the luxury of rubber necking. I am one of the ones grinning Dominic is speaking to. I am a part of the food chain. First Base is in the Jesus business of feeding the 5000. Fair enough, it takes us a year to feed that many rather than a day. And fair enough, we've never learned how to do the bread and fishes thing. But even so. Every year we feed 5000 folk. Which makes us a player.

Dominic says it is our job to stock up. Go forth and buy Spam. He is saying the same thing to the supermarkets and the food processors. Stock up and invoke the spirit of the Blitz. And they are saying, OK Dominic, you grinning idiot, maybe you could come up with some more suggestions. Like where the hell are we supposed to put all these stocks? In our fantasy warehouses which don't actually exist? And how are we expected to pay for these stocks when our bankers have capped off all of our credit lines? 

It's what you get when a think tank lawyer tries to get involved in the food chain.

Anyway. I got real. I ran the scenario. 29 March 2019. Hard Brexit arrives and Immingham grinds to a halt. How long to empty shelves? Maybe a week? 5 April 2019. The corner shops have trebled all of their prices. The big supermarkets have all kinds of ex squaddie security on the doors. Dominic Raab is still grinning but he won't be walking the street any time soon. And nobody is laughing at the boss of Amazon UK any more as riots spread from Portsmouth to Inverness.

Project Fear has become Project Here.

And on 5 April 2019 there will be a whole bunch of hungry people, mainly those who are too hard up to afford to buy baked beans when they cost £2 tin.

And where do hungry people go in times of need in the early years of the twenty first century? To the local food bank. 

To us.

So Frankland. You call yourself a manger. You keep yapping on about what a brilliant coverage First Base now has with 25 collection points spread all the way from Castle Douglas to Langholm.

When we ask the public for donations of food and money, we bang on about how good we are when it comes to doing the whole emergency food thing. Well. That's all well and good when we're handing out a hundred parcels a week. Not so good on 5 April 2019 when there is a half mile queue waiting for our door to open.


A plan? Our 25 collection points are dotted across an area which is home to 100,000 people. How many might be feeling the first pangs of hunger on 5 April 2019. A fifth? A quarter? And how long will the crisis last? How long before the PM hops it over to Brussels to grovel face down on the floor and beg to be let back into the fold? Two weeks? A month?

Well there is no point worrying about what to do if it lasts a month. If it lasts a month, we will all be living out our very own Mad Max movie.

Two weeks? 25,000 people? Well we can't do it. We don't have the money or the space. Just like everyone else. But we could play a part. A big part. We could supercharge our network. And maybe we might just manage.

So I called up Emma Harper MSP and laid it out. If emergency planning was a thing the Council are willing to do, they will have to come up with a warehouse and a serious stock of emergency food. What percentage chance is there of the unfolding Hard Brexit nightmare? Maybe 10%? 20%?

And if some kind of deal is shaken on and the Hard Brexit bullet is dodged, we will need to use up all of the food over the next year or so. So we'll need stuff we already use. Like tins of corned beef. Like packs of pasta. Like packets of biscuits.

And the more I think it through, the harder it gets. We will need the cops involved. Without some kind of police guard our back door will be put through in no time. Same with the doors to all our collection points. And how are we going to make sure the most vulnerable get priority? And who will deliver to those unable to leave their homes?

Believe me, it's a complete and utter nightmare. Emma says she will set up some kind of a meeting. Is this a bullet our cash strapped local Council will be willing to bite? I have no idea. The maths will be pretty scary. Bloody terrifying in fact.

Let's say we find a way to feed the most vulnerable of the people on our patch. How many is that? I'll be ultra, hyper conservative. Let's say 5000. 

5000 people for two weeks.

Two food parcels per week each. 20,000 food parcels. 

What items do we put in to make the parcel last for half of a week? 

I dunno. Maybe two packs of pasta - 60p, a tin of corned beef - £1.50, a pack of Rich Tea - 30p, and a bag of porridge - 70p.

Let's say £3

And will it even be physically possible to actually buy 20,000 tins of corned beef at a time when the whole country is quietly filling cupboards with emergency provisions?

£60,000 to keep 5000 people going for two weeks. 

Is the Council really going to stump for that? Maybe. I'm not holding my breath. We'll see I guess.

If nothing can be done, then our shelves will be bare before we even reach 5 April 2019. We will have to lock our doors and get out of the emergency food game for the duration. And then the doors will be stoved in and the hungry looters will be disappointed.

And then we will all get the chance to invoke the Blitz spirit.

For Christ's sake.

Come on Nicola. You need to get your skates on and give us a chance to get the hell off this sinking ship.         

1 comment:

  1. Mark I don't envy you your concience and sense of social responsibility , what enrages me is the avid brexshiteers whose only response is you're scaremongering , they are so devoid of brains or commonsense that they can't interpret the wholesale lies and pish being spouted by a shower of dangerous incompetent imbecilic greed driven liars .

    The very fact that they are being aided and supported by a compliant media especially the BBC and non domiciled newspaper owners exposes the rank corruption pervading throughout the establishment

    I am truly sickened and disgusted that my fellow Scots cannot see the rancid disease rampant throughout this union and know that there is another way , a better way to save Scotland , dissolve this corrupt putrid and rotten carcass of a union and choose independence