MARK FRANKLAND

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.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

OCTOBER 6 2021 WILL GO DOWN AS A DAY OF SHAME. THE DAY THE TORY PARTY QUAFFED CHAMPAGNE IN MANCHESTER WHILST KICKING THE POOR IN THE TEETH.

 

Over the last few months I have been asked time and again about the impending £1000 per annum cut to Universal Credit. And my thoughts on the subject have been totally consistant.

They ain't going to do it. Not a chance. Not in a million years. Even this lot couldn't possibly be so cruel. Even this lot couldn't be so utterly stupid.

Well that prediction went well.

Here we are. October 6th . The date has loomed for long enough and now it is right here, right now. The clock has run out. The time for Tory rebels to call an emergency debate in Parliament has come and gone.

As of today, the threat has become a brutal reality. And the brutality all but beggars belief. Our world suddenly resembles a work of dystopian fiction. Reports from Manchester say the champagne is being quaffed like never before. There is an air of triumphalism. They are queuing up to bow and scrape at the feet of their moronic Sun King.

I listened to a journalist talking last week. He is just back from Afghanistan. He had been on the phone to an Afghani colleague. How are petrol stocks in Kabul? The Afghani reporter was surprised by the question. Stocks are fine. All the petrol stations are working normally. Why do you ask?

The rest of the world is watching the empty shelves and fighting at the petrol pumps with open mouthed amazement. What the hell is going on with Britain? And let's face it, they're having a right laugh. Can you blame them? I can't.

Feel familiar? It should. It's the way we all felt when watching America descend into chaos in the dog days of Trump. Now the joke is on us.

In 2008, a bunch of casino bankers in London and New York damn near crashed everything. And of course we were all expected to put on a brave face when they needed £50 billion's worth of bailing out. £1000 each to those of us who pay tax. £1000 each for the privilege of being able to use a cash machine.

And then Cameron and Osborne decided it was all the fault of the poor. All of a sudden the reason Lehman Brothers and Northern Rock had crashed and burned was all down to people living off benefits.

And my oh my, how they squeezed the pips. The famous Welfare Reforms. The Bedroom Tax. A cap on benefits. A cap on kids. The sick were deemed to be healed. The mentally ill were deemed to be potential rocket scientists. Benefits were frozen like mammoths in the Siberian permafrost.

Brutal.

And First Base went from handing out 80 emergency food parcels per month to handing out 600 emergency food parcels per month. Just like that. In the blink of an Etonian eye.

And all the while, we heard talk of workers and shirkers. Right from the top. A cartoon view of the the world as seen by men who had been educated to the tune of £40,000 a year. You can see lots of shirkers when you gaze down from your Ivory Tower. They are much harder to spot from behind the counter of a foodbank. From our counter, we see very different people from those whose lives are so vividly described in the pages of the Daily Mail.

Sick people. People with mental health problems. Drug addicted people, Alcohol addicted people. Single mums with no family to look after the kids. Carers looking after slowly dying partners. 

Disabled. Depressed. Disorientated.

Fit for work? Only in fevered dreams of the Department of Work and Pensions.

Inconvenient statistics. Inconvenient people. But people all the same. People who still need a place to live and some warmth and something to eat.

And then came Covid and a panicking government saw millions of people flooding onto Universal Credit. People who had bought what the Government and the Daily Mail had been selling for a decade. Tales of a cosy, dream of a life to be had on benefits. A life of constant takeaways and as much booze as you can drink. Holidays in Ibiza and a new 60 inch tele every six weeks.

For millions it was a hard landing. There ain't many holidays in Ibiza to be had on £73 a week. In fact £73 a week isn't even close to being enough to pay for the basics of life.

So they panicked and bumped the basic Universal Credit up to £93 a week. Hardly a fortune. But slightly better.

That was March 2020, when First Base paid 13p for a tin of own brand spaghetti and 14p for a Kilowatt Hour of electricity. A litre of diesel was 99p.

A lot has changed in the last eighteen months. Now if First Base is lucky enough to find anyone willing to sell us tins of spaghetti, they tend to cost 40p and the new price for a Kilowatt Hour of electricity is 24p. A litre of diesel is £1.40.

Food and power inflation are both running at 12%. Or so they say. The inflation we are seeing is way higher than that. But what do we know?

So £73 now buys at least 12% less than it bought in March 2020. £73 now is the equivalent to £64 then.

We haven't seen food and power inflation like this since Egyptian Army rolled their tanks into the Sinai back in 1973.

And the Government has chosen this exact moment to kick the very poorest people among us in the teeth. Mind boggling. And they are right now swaggering around Manchester waving bottles of champagne. No wonder the French media can't understand why we're not out on the streets setting the world on fire.

A smug faced Sunak told the gathered disciples about half a billion quid's worth of sticking plasters being made available to cover a £6 billion gaping wound. 

Nobody bothered to raise the fact that the £6 billion would have helped to  keep all kinds of businesses afloat in the very small struggling towns the Government pretends to care about. The people who were getting the extra £20 per week aren't the kind of folk to salt it away in shell companies registered in the British Virgin Isles. Hardly. Instead they spend every last penny in local shops or on heat and light. A good half of the cash finds its way straight back into Government coffers in the form of tax, VAT and customs duty.

The malicious idiocy is genuinely hard to comprehend.

And there were a few sentences which were missing from Sunak's speech. He might have said something along these lines. In an alternative universe.

This Government is very much aware of the contribution foodbanks have made over the last eighteen months. Even when the Covid 19 virus was at its most terrifying, Britain's foodbanks made sure nobody starved.

'And now, as a result of my decision to take £20 a week away from the very poorest people in the land, I know foodbanks will once again have to find a way to feed hundreds of thousands of extra mouths. The sick. The mentally ill. The carers. The over borrowed. The inconvenient.

'So to all of the foodbanks out there, I have clear message. We appreciate what you do. We would hate to have to attend the G7 or the G20 and have to explain why people in Britain are starving in conditions of dire poverty. So know this, all of you foodbank wallahs. You have our respect. And we know you're going to need lots of help if you are going to feed all of the people who are going to need feeding through the cold months of the coming winter. I am therefore delighted to announce a new fund to help the foodbanks of Britain …...”

Aye right.

No flying pigs. There never are.

Yet again foodbanks will have to find a way. We're remarkably good at managing what at first looks impossible.

In March 2020 First Base issued 600 emergency food parcels.

In August 2020 First Base issued 2600 emergency food parcels as the Covid crisis peaked.

We did it. I have no idea how, but we did.

February 2022? God only knows what the world will look like then. It is very clear that no help will be headed our way from this vicious Government in London who swig champagne whilst throwing millions headlong into a winter of hunger and cold.

And fear.

And utter misery.

Like every foodbank in the land, we are going to need all the help we can get over the coming months. If you are maybe willing to provide us with some support, you can find our online funding page via the link below.

THE FIRST BASE AGENCY ONLINE FUNDRAISING PAGE


Monday, September 6, 2021

COME ON NICOLA, IT'S TIME TO GET YOURSELF ONTO THE FRONT FOOT.

 


Last year a vast crisis was headed our way and the Government in London chose to more or less completely ignore it.

Night after night we tuned into scenes of horror being played out in the hospitals of northern Italy.

Horrified. Fascinated. Aghast.

But of course it couldn't happen to us.

Because we are British when all is said and done. We used to rule the world. We wheel out the Spitfires and Lancaster Bombers for special occasions.

And so it was I and 53,000 others were told it was absolutely OK to turn up at Anfield to watch Liverpool play Athletico Madrid in the Champions League Quarter Final whilst almost every other game in Europe was played behind closed doors.

And more of us died than died at Hillsborough.

We will never know how many.

In Liverpool. In Madrid. In a hundred other villages and towns.

But hey Ho.

I guess it's all part and parcel of being a Liverpool fan. You get killed by the actions and decisions of Tory Governments and then everyone pretends there's nothing to see here.

Except this time the price wasn't paid by 96 Liverpool fans.

This time the price has been paid by over 130,000 and the number rises every day.

Everyone saw the crisis headed our way.

And Johnson and Co chose to bury their heads in the sand.

Old news.

Catastrophically familiar.

Well it seems we now have another crisis headed our way and once again we can all see it. Once again it is very much a crisis in plain sight.

Crystal clear. HD.

It's on the tele every night.

It's in the press every morning.

It's talked about on talk shows.

And in pubs and corner shops.

Empty shelves.

Day to day items no longer on sale.

Yesterday I entered Tesco with the aspiration to buy a packet of frozen garden peas.

No chance.

There wasn't much chance of buying frozen anything.

With every passing week the gaps on the shelves are growing and spreading and getting harder to disguise.

It isn't so very hard to find the reasons behind our shops suddenly looking like shops in the old East Germany.

Every day the people who know about this stuff explain exactly why this is happening.

Every answer is right there in plain sight. Just like the people gasping their last on trolleys in the corridors of the hospitals of Lombardy.

We hear the reasons from the people in charge of haulage firms and farms and abattoirs and food processors and warehousing and retailing.

No drivers. No packers. No stackers.

No people.

When two million young and skilled workers leave a workforce of thirty million, it leaves a gaping hole.

Especially when those two million people do all the jobs the rest of us don't want to do.

And of course Johnson and Co will frantically try to blame it on the pandemic.

And of course The Daily Mail and the Daily Express and the Daily Telegraph and GB news will frantically try to blame it all on the pandemic.

And of course a large number of the people who voted for Brexit with such deluded zeal will frantically try to blame it on the pandemic.

And you know what? In Stoke and Burnley and Hartlepool and Basildon they might even get away with.

But not here.

Not in Scotland.

Because we didn't vote for any of this shit.

We had none of it.

And we couldn't have been any clearer.

We were 62% to 38% clear.

As in crystal. HD.

Surely it is high time to find away to shout about this from the rooftops. Because even though we never voted for this shit, we are still going to have to live with it.

So surely the time has arrived for our rooftop shouter in chief to get out there onto the rooftop and shout.

Loudly.

And yes I'm talking about you here Nicola.

It's time to get onto the front foot and stop making nice.

It's time to get right into their faces.

How? How do do get their attention? Get right up their noses? Drive them half insane with rage? Make them squirm?

Well, here's an idea.

From what I can gather, the one part of the UK where the supermarket shelves are pretty much as normal is Northern Ireland. The supply chain has re-jigged itself and now the shelves of Ulster are stocked from The Irish Republic and the Irish Republic's warehouses are stocked from the countries of the Single Market.

From where I sit, this looks pretty much right. There are certainly many less wagons headed west along the A75 to Stranraer. Britain doesn't supply Northern Ireland any more. Europe does. The Single Market does.

Northern Ireland is in exactly the place Scotland asked to be.

We pointed out the fact we voted 62 to 38 to stay in Europe.

Surely this should have given us the right to stay in the Single Market?

Just like Northern Ireland?

And they said no.

Of course they said no.

And now our supermarket shelves are emptying out whilst the supermarket shelves of Northern Ireland are filling up.

This could have been our story.

This should have been our story.

Except London said no.

So Nicola.

Here's a thought.

Catch yourself a ferry over to Belfast and call a Press Conference in a Northern Irish supermarket.

Stand in front of one of those full shelves.

Point to all of those full shelves.

Adopt a look of pure rage.

And make the point.

This could have been us.

This should have been us.

But they said no.

Even though we voted 62 to 38.

They still said no.

Just imagine how much Johnson and Co would hate it. Rage at it.

But what are they going to say?

Because we DID vote 62 to 38 and they DID say no.

And of course the Mail and the Express and GB News will call you every name under the sun but who gives a damn really.

The message will hardly be subtle. Why should it be?

The message will ensure when Scots walk around all those empty shelves they will know where the blame lies.

They will know it could have been different had London said yes instead of no.

And they will be angry.

And more and more will come to the conclusion enough is enough.

300 hundred years is long enough.

Stop the world.

Scotland wants to get on.

The time for making nice has passed.

Front foot Nicola.

Front foot.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

THERE'S A GREAT BIG ELEPHANT IN THE INDYREF 2 ROOM. WHY OH WHY ARE WE SO INCAPABLE OF POINTING IT OUT?

 


Even though I have never shared a room with an elephant, I don't find it so very hard to imagine how it would feel. Yeah. Bloody terrifying. There are certain provisos I suppose. Like how big is the room? If the room was genuinely cavernous and I was at one end and the elephant was at the other end, then I guess it might be relatively OK. But sharing a regular sized room with an elephant?

No thanks.

So Frankland, what's with all the elephant talk on this grey Sunday morning?

Well it goes something like this.

Obviously the prospect of how an independent Scotland would manage to pay its bills continues to be a regularly aired favourite for the media.

Things don't tend to vary much.

The Scottish Government panelist will say everything is going to be be great: fairness and freedom and ice lollies for everyone.

The British Government panelist will paint pictures of a Scotland looking a lot like South Sudan with emaciated citizens fighting over who gets to eat the dead rat.

The usual back and forth will carry on for a while. Yes, I'm afraid you will be too poor to manage on your own. No we won't. Yes you will.

Until eventually it's time to wrap the thing up and the presenter will dutifully give a nod and a wink to the panelist from the British Government and dream of promotion.

And all the while the big fat elephant in the room munches quietly on a bunch of Acacia leaves and nobody notices it is even there.

Why on earth is the Scottish Government so utterly incapable of getting itself onto the front foot when it comes to explaining why Scotland will be absolutely fine and dandy as a small independent nation in the wild west world of the twenty first century?

Big talk Frankland. Is that all it is, or can it be backed up? Can flesh be retro-fitted onto the bones?

I reckon it can.

A good rule of thumb in almost anything is when in doubt, follow the money.

So let's follow.

Where is all the big money? The so called clever money. The money of the two thousand supposedly super smart multi billionaires who more or less own the planet? Who do they trust to look after their ill gotten gains?

Well that is easy enough to answer. It's not exactly a secret.

We're talking the likes of BlackRock and Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

The masters of the universe. The gleaming towers in Manhattan and the City of London where all the trillions of pounds and dollars are stashed. The best and brightest Oxford and Harvard have to offer are recruited to find the very best home for the treasure of the super rich. Their Cray computer sized brains are tasked with spotting the next big thing. The Shangri La where the greatest return on capital will be found over the coming decades.

Surely such a place is as hidden and mysterious as the lost city of Atlantis. Is it the bones of an idea inside the head of some obscure Silicon Valley wizz kid which in time will become the next Facebook?

Actually, it isn't.

Instead the answer the big brains have collectively found is completely old school. Right out in the open. Blindingly obvious.

The greatest of all elephants in the room.

They call it the next oil.

And it comes out of your tap when you clean your teeth in the morning.

Oh yes ladies and gentlemen, we're talking water.

As in the second most important thing in the world.

We humans can only manage without oxygen for three or four minutes, so air has to be our number one commodity and my how the high fliers at Goldman Sachs must yearn to find a way to corner the the 'air we all breathe' market.

Imagine it? Privatised air. A dollar a day for the privilege of breathing in and breathing out. A income stream of eight billion a day. The dream ticket.

Thankfully, this particular corporate wet dream is out of reach for the moment.

The second most important thing on the other hand is very much within their grasp.

We can only get by without water for three or four days and then it is very much goodnight Sooty.

And unlike the air we breathe, water is very much buyable. And right now the big money is pouring into water.

It is the ultimate commodity. Oil was pretty good. Almost impossible to manage without. But never completely impossible. There was always coal or gas or horses or slaves to be used as a fall back if the oil ran short.

There were always other sources of power.

But there is nothing to replace water and our planet is slowly but surely running out.

Or to be more accurate, we are running out of the water we can actually do something with. As in the fresh stuff. If only we could get along with the salty stuff, we would be right as rain. To coin a phrase.

And no doubt one day we will find a practical, affordable way to yank the salt out of seawater and thereby make it usable.

So long as we don't all die of thirst before getting there.

Well the big brains at Goldman Sachs obviously don't see that day arriving any time soon which is why they are buying water companies from Chile to Outer Mongolia.

As actual human beings, we don't actually need all that much water to meet our daily needs. Drinking, washing and toilet flushing can be covered by a couple of hundred litres a day. However, even such modest demands are becoming hard to meet in more and more places. A couple of years ago Cape Town took its four million citizens all the way down to sixty litres a day each. For a while it looked like they were about to run out altogether.

This is the story of the next hundred years for city after city. Country after country.

Even the worst of governments will have no choice other than to prioritise their citizenry when it comes to sharing out whatever water is available. To try to do otherwise would mean a mass uprising within weeks.

If there is only sixty litres a day of water available for the people, what are you going to say to the brewery which uses hundreds of litres to make a single pint of ale?

You're going to have to say sorry but no.

2000 litres of water = one quarter pounder

15000 litres of water = a pair of jeans.

This will become an increasingly common story which will play out over the decades to come as all kinds of industries roam the earth looking for a place to call home. A place where water is in abundant supply. A place where they can minimise the risk of laying out millions on a new plant only to have to shut it down a few years later due to there being no water.

This will be story for ninety percent of the nations which make up planet earth.

Only ten percent will be able to say yes. Nae bother. In you come pal. We've plenty of sites for you to choose from. Water? Of course we can give you water. We've got plenty. And renewable energy? Sure. Fill your boots, pal.

And guess what? Getting warm?

Of course you are.

Scotland is absolutely in that magical ten percent.

And being a part of the magical ten percent of places where water and renewable energy are in huge surplus with have any number of benefits.

Like being able to tell the corporations desperate to find a water rich home that a forty percent corporation tax is non negotiable. As is a generous employee pension fund. As is providing all employees with the best working conditions in the world. And maternity care. And sick pay.

And of course the companies would much rather be in Bangladesh paying a dollar for a twelve hour day, but Bangladesh is all out of water.

All the dollar a day goldmines are running dry.

In the years to come, there will be a price to pay for locating factories in the places where water is to be had.

Places like Scotland.

I mean, just take a look at a map. If Carlsberg were to create the perfect water collection system....

Here are a few cold, hard facts which London is no doubt more than aware of. Facts to keep them up at night.

Scotland has 31,000 fresh water lochs.

Scotland is home to 90% of the UK's fresh water.

England is on track to start running out of water in 25 years.

Scotland only uses 1% of the fresh water we have available.

I'm going to say that again.

1%

99% percent is available to take us into the brightest future of just about any country on earth.

So long as we wake up and claim the right to own our own future and not allow it to be stolen.

It's the elephant in the IndyRef 2 room.

And you can bet your bottom dollar the smug faced bastard from the British Government knows it only too well.

It's what our lords and masters in London have been on with for four hundred years and more.

They are the leaders in their field when it comes to stripping a colony right down to the bone.

When the Brits arrived in West Bengal in the seventeenth century it was the richest place on earth.

When we left in 1947, it was the poorest place in the world.

Now what happened there I wonder? What indeed?

Well this is something we should all be all too familiar with here in Scotland. It's yet another elephant right there in the room. All that North Sea Oil money which was piped straight down to London to pay for the M25 and Crossrail.

Do we seriously thing anything has changed? Do we seriously think they don't have their plans in place to go to their colony stripping playbook which has been four hundred years in the making?

And yet the panelists from the Scottish Government refuse to paint the big picture.

It's all about water, stupid.

The new oil.

And we are Klondike.

Can anyone seriously suggest with a straight face that the Government of a newly independent Scotland will struggle to sell treasury bonds?

Seriously?

Try selling the fairy tale of endemic Scottish poverty to a Goldman Sachs bond trader tasked with finding a safe ten year home for a whole bunch of big money.

We own the box seat and right now we are allowing a public school boy from London to sit in it rent free and it seems we are too shy and embarrassed to acknowledge the fact that the said box seat is actually in our name.

Now if that ain't an elephant in the room I really don't know what is!

Friday, July 9, 2021

SCOTTISH FRIENDS HAVE BEEN ACCUSING ME OF BEING OVERLY ANTI ENGLISH IN MY DESIRE TO SEE ITALY WIN ON SUNDAY. AM I? HERE IS MY EFFORT TO EXPLAIN MYSELF!

 



I've been on the receiving end of all kinds of funny looks over the last couple of weeks. How come? Well, it's all down to the football. Most people I meet are more than aware that I am a full on English born advocate for an Independent Scotland. Back in 2014, this was something of a novelty. Not any more. Now there are thousands of us – those who packed our bags and headed north out of Dodge. We sensed what was coming. We sensed it and we ran.

Well, we have a name now. We are the 'New Scots'. I have mentioned many times before in these digital pages how weird it feels to experience the sensation of being proud of my country. It is something I never thought would happen.

But it has.

And people get that – thankfully.

And people also pretty much get the fact I was  100% behind the Scotland team in our group stage clash with the neighbours from the south.

What people are more surprised at is my fervent desire to see firstly the Ukrainians and then the Danes turf the English from the tournament.

'Really?' they ask. Don't you think that is anti-English? Racist, even?

For the sake of clarity, I should point out each and every one of the people who have asked me this are Scots. Original Scots.

'Yes' supporting Scots. 

And of course they are all fully signed on to the 'live and let live' ethos of modern day Scotland.

So am I anti-English?

Of course I'm not anti-English.

So what am I? What fuels my very real desire to see the majestic Giorgio Chiellini lift the trophy on Sunday?

It is a deep gut feeling of anti-England.

Not England, the geographical entity.

Not England the place that happens to lie beyond the Cross of St George and the 'Welcome to Cumbria' sign on the M74 at Gretna.

No.

It is the kind of England which has been slowly emerging from a dark cave for forty years and more.

It is the kind of England I used to see on the streets of Blackburn in the late Seventies. Skinheads in Doc Martins and braces, brandishing their cans of Special Brew. Brick red faces all twisted in hatred.

"We're going Paki bashing, We're going Paki bashing ... Na, na, na ..."

It is the England that spawned the pond life who used to strut into the little corner shop across the road from us to rob cigarettes under the the threat of snarling Dobermans.

It is the England which set my car on fire at three in the morning for my crime of being part of a mixed race couple.

Back in those days, this England was fringe. A dark thing which from time would emerge from the sewers to stink the place out.

The NF. The BNP. The Chelsea Headhunters. Millwall's F Troop. Combat 18.

Like a few random nutters trying to stage a coup d'etat outside a beer hall in Munich back in 1923. Bunch of clowns, right? All piss and wind. No real threat. Nothing to see here guys.

Until there is something to see.

Until they become the Government of the day.

Until they send five million souls up their chimneys.

Until the joke turns sour.

The modern day descendants of the NF thugs who stomped through the streets of 1970's Blackburn are the DFLA.

Oh how the pond life always loves a set of initials? Are you familiar which this particular line up of letters?

Well, wait for it.

The Democratic Football Lads Alliance.

Seriously. It's true.

We saw them on the tele last summer when they descended on London to protect the statue of Winston Churchill.

Mob handed and collectively pissed. Red faced and bald. And off the scales angry.

We see them at England away games staggering about waving their inflatable Spitfires.

"Two World Wars and one World Cup, do -dah, do – dah day!"

Before England were turfed so unceremoniously out of Euro 16, they sang out their clever new ditty on an endless loop.

"We're all voting out!

We're all voting out!

Fuck off Europe!

We're all voting out!"

Eat your heart out Oscar Wilde.

And yes, they can be amusing in their shambling, vomiting idiocy.

Until they are no longer so amusing.

Until their spitting rage is corralled and harnessed.

Until they are dressed up in nice, crisp brown uniforms and issued with their orders.

Until a gang of chancers and con men bottle up the hate and turn it into an election winner.

Then they don't seem so funny any more.

And before you know it, you have a bunch of laws called the 'Enabling Act'. 

And then as surely as night follows day, you duly arrive at Kristallnacht.

Then they deploy Polish Workers of the slave labour variety and build the chimneys of Birkenau.

And it really, really doesn't seem so funny any more.

The road to Birkenau started with winning an election.

Have you seen what Priti Patel has in mind for Asylum Seekers? It basically means plasti-cuffs and a plane ride to Ascension Island. And 360 Tory MP's will bay and wave their ballot papers in triumph whilst the Labour Party opposite pretend to play with their phones because they don't want to do anything to upset the good folk of Hartlepool.

Or Rotherham.

Or Dewsbury.

Or Dudley.

Or Basildon.

And yes.

Blackburn.

It is why we ran.

Escaped.

Fled.

Found a sanctuary.

Because what was fringe on the streets of Blackburn in the late 1970's has finally become mainstream.

The monsters have emerged from their caves and donned suits and ties and now they are gloating about having the power to put those fleeing war and torture onto a plane to Ascension Island.

And OK, this is a rant. I know it is a rant.

I feel like ranting.

Let's go back to the inflatable Spitfires.

The Battle of Britain was fought out seventy one years ago. 

And we won.

Thank Christ.

Our pilots were a bit like the good guys in Star Wars. They came from all corners of the earth to stand up to the Nazis – Canadians, Indians, Kiwis, South Africans, West Indians, Czechs, Americans.

The pin up boys all the girls wanted to marry were the Poles who had learned the ropes in 1939 when Hitler first introduced Blitzkrieg to the world.

Oh, I almost forgot!

Many Spitfires were piloted by young Scots.

The Battle of Britain wasn't actually an England Germany thing.

So.

If Scotland had been lined up to play Germany in Euro 20, can you picture the Tartan Army brandishing inflatable Spitfires and belting out "Two World wars and one World Cup!!!!"

Of course you can't.

Obviously.

It isn't what we are. Scotland has left such nonsense far behind.

Do I have anything against the players who will pull on their white shirts to take on Italy on Sunday?

Of course not. In fact I think they are absolutely commendable, each and every one of them. They are a shining light. The fact they have completely ignored the pond life booing and the poisonous words coming out of Downing St and continued to take the knee speaks the kind of volumes Priti Patel would love to burn.

Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Tyrone Mings....

These guys are absolute role models and they have my total respect.

As does Gareth Southgate.

And yes I appreciate they are offering a more effective opposition to the Tory Government than the Labour party could ever dream of mustering.

They have my absolute support in all things other than the game against Italy.

I will be honest now. I have asked myself a few questions about all this stuff. Am I actually behaving like a racist as several people have suggested?

Most of these self doubting thoughts were cleared away yesterday when I listened to the Anfield Wrap podcast. This is the 'go to' podcast for all followers of Liverpool FC.

Lo and behold, the main topic of discussion was why most Liverpool based Liverpool fans are openly rooting for Italy in the final. You see there has always been this catch phrase.

"Scouse, not English"

It's why we always boo the National Anthem at Cup Finals.

We remember what Thatcher did to the city in the 80's.

We remember Hillsborough.

And we will never forget.

A couple of years ago, some bright spark at the top of the EDL – The English Defence League – thought it would be a good idea to stage a march in Liverpool. They never made it beyond the steps of Lime St station.

They got the absolute kicking of their lives.

They were sent home tae think again.

Scouse, not English.

Listening to the familiar Scouse accents work their way through why they would be rooting for Italy did me a power of good.

Of course I am not a racist.

And I am not anti – England.

I am anti a certain version of England. It is a version which has taken fifty years to climb up out of the sewers and get its hands on the reins of power.

Inflatable Spitfire England.

Or should I say En – Ger – Land.

I am the Berlin Jew who saw the writing on the wall in 1932 and got the hell out.

I might even have chosen Scotland as a sanctuary from the Brown Shirts of my home turf.

And now I am planning to tune into the radio to listen to the 100 metres final at the Berlin Olympics.

Do I have anything against the runners representing Germany?

No, not a thing.

So surely I should be supporting them, I am a born and raised German when all is said and done.

Well actually, no.

No, I'm not.

So who do you want to win then?

Well, there's this American runner.....

His name is Jesse Owens.




Monday, July 5, 2021

SUPERMARKETS - BREXIT SCOTLAND'S CANARIES IN THE COAL MINE

 


Once upon a time things happened and the news reported them happening. It's a straight forward sort of concept.

And now? Now such a sequence of events seems like the so called 'Old Normal'.

Now we see stuff happening and it seems to take forever for any kind of explanation to arrive via the mainstream media.

In 1948 George Orwell promised this new world would arrive in 1984. His vision was right enough, he was just thirty years premature. Not bad, all things considered.

As the world around us changes, I tend to look to the supermarkets for clues.

They are the new canaries in the coal mine in Brexit/Pandemic Scotland.

Their very shelves became newsworthy in the early weeks of lockdown when the Dunkirk spirit morphed into a stampede to bulk buy toilet rolls.

The slow thinning out of the shelves in the wake of Johnson's woeful Brexit deal has taken longer to reach the pages of the press.

The mean reason of course is the dogged determination of the majority of our newspapers to maintain the Brexit fantasy Island story they peddled in 2016. And the BBC is a cowering dog trying to protect itself from the Tories yanking away its licence fee.

But they can only hide something for so long.

If you take 60,000 EU truck drivers out of the road haulage equation, well it's going to get a whole lot harder to deliver all the stuff you want to deliver. It ain't exactly rocket science.

Of course our gallant leaders in Westminster will spout all kinds of guff about training up an army of great British drivers, but I doubt any of them has ever had anything to do with a 38 tonne truck in their lives. To produce a new Class One HGV driver requires many things. A clean driver's licence, at least 4 years old. A few thousand quid. No problematic medications. And even when you've passed the test, there will be relatively few hauliers willing to put you in sole charge of sixty grand's worth of kit.

I was delivering to the people we work with in Kelloholm last week. Most of the food they distribute comes in through Fareshare. Every week they head up to Glasgow to fill up their long wheelbase van. Last week they drove home about 15% full.

Why? Did the supermarkets have no short date stuff for them to collect? No. Instead the supermarkets had no spare wagons to deliver the short date food to Fareshare. The only show in town was to fill up the skips round the back of the store.

Next up.

Supermarkets set great stall on what image they present to the customer. Which products are put at eye level on the shelves? What sits immediately outside the front door? What promotion is awarded the gold plated space at the beginning of the customer's journey through the store?

A couple of things hit me last week.

I expect Tesco are accustomed to doing deals to selling the first stop through the front door space for pretty big bucks. You wanna punt your new line of pot noodle? No problem. Cut us a nice fat cheque and the space is all yours for a week. Buy one get one free. Half price it. Whatever. Your call.

But not last week. Instead this most precious of retail space was given over to a large poster extolling the virtues of becoming a Tesco delivery driver.

As in no income whatsoever for Tesco.

A rather frantic job advert. Only a couple of years ago, one call to a local employment agency would have been more than enough to guarantee a queue at the door the next morning. Not any more it seems. Now they are having to use their best retail space in a frantic bid to attract staff.

How can this be? Unemployment is supposed to be rocketing? Why is there no queue at the Tesco door?

Once again, it is hardly rocket science. The British workforce is thirty million or so. The other thirty million of us are either too old, too young or too sick to deliver for Tesco.

The last eighteen months has seen the thirty million figure shrink by two million – all those EU Nationals who have departed these fair shores and don't seem overly keen to come back.

7.5%

One in fifteen.

Who are these people? Basically they are young, well trained, hard working and not sick.

As in not easy to replace. This kind of exodus would normally attract all kinds of news stories. We need a solution and we need it now! Let's get these people back!

Ahhh. Are the vote Leave Team about to throw the doors open to well trained and motivated young Europeans to come across the Channel to get us out of jail?

Hardly.

Instead the immigration goons are throwing Italian teenagers into Yarlswood and deporting them. It seems the Tories think this is what the good folk of Hartlepool demand. Maybe they do. Who needs fresh fruit and veg anyway?

Our press seems reluctant to report this kind of stuff. The press over in Europe have no such reservations. European papers are filled with all kinds of horror stories about how their young people are being treated at the UK border. They wonder if Britain is becoming the next Hungary?Maybe we are. It is hardly the best way to behave if we want the two million missing workers come back to fill in all the holes.

But what the hell. We have our treasured sovereignty, right? Who needs fresh fruit and veg?

Flags next. All of a sudden flags are everywhere. A few weeks ago Johnson said he wouldn't take the knee as he abhors such blatant gesture politics. Of course he does. Then England bury a few demons and beat Germany 2 – 0 and all of a sudden he is posing for the cameras standing on a Cross of St George flag, tailor made to fill Downing Street from gutter to gutter.

What a twat.

However, I best not be too hypocritical here. When the 'Yes' Campaign does it's stuff and fills whole cities with a sea of Saltires, I'm all in.

Flags are becoming an increasingly big deal in Supermarkets as they try to pander to their customers.

Morrisons put their true Yorkshire leanings on show for all to see. They use the area outside the front door to sell plants and every pot is wrapped in the Union Jack. No doubt this plays well in the retail parks of Dewsbury. Up here in Scotland? Maybe not so much.

Tesco are more pragmatic and they are canny enough to offer up a blend of Saltires and Union Flags. It is a rather fine demonstration of a corporation trying to keep the balls in the air and attempting to keep Scottish customers and the Tory Government happy at the same time.

Best of luck with that one guys.

Probably Aldi and Lidl are the most interesting on this front. These are stores where the decisions about flags are all made in Germany and they don't appear to be remotely conflicted.

They are wall to wall Saltires.

These are retailers who have been correctly guessing which way the wind is blowing for years. Right now, their car parks are always full whilst the car parks of the old giants empty out with every passing day. By choosing the Saltire over the Union Flag, it seems like they have taken a read on Scotland's future and made up their minds.

Let's hope they are as right about this as they have been right about everything else.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and it is probably fair to say most of the shows I listen to don't tend to spend much time on extolling the virtues of the Clown King in Number 10. But they have adverts which sometimes play a rather different tune.

Right now there is a Sainsburys ad which is popping up all the time. It's all about how they are the 'go to' place for Brits planning an all singing, all dancing barbecue. Fair enough.

Here's their catch phrase.

'Level up your barbecue with Sainsbuys!'

Seriously! Their focus groups must have promised them massive sausage sales as a result of piggy backing onto this particular piece of Johnsonian drivel.

Time for a few conclusions. A few bullet points.

Our supermarkets don't have enough people to drive the trucks to fill up their shelves.

They don't have enough people to drive the trucks to get rid of their waste food to Fareshare.

They are struggling to employ people to drive the vans to deliver their stuff.

Their food is 20% dearer and rising.

And their brains are well and truly fried when it comes to what flag they should fly in their Scottish stores.

And every day their vast car parks are home to fewer and fewer cars.

With the exception of the two German supermarkets.

Their car parks are full.

Their prices have stayed low.

And they are all Saltires.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

THE VIEW FROM THE FOODBANK - A HARD, HARD AUTUMN IS COMING.

 


Over recent years the nation's foodbanks have become something of a bell weather. The number of emergency food parcels we hand out is deemed to be a measure of how the country is doing. Lots of parcels means things ain't great. An easing in numbers indicates a degree of hope for better times ahead.

In a way, I guess this makes us kind of useful.

In England, the cost of getting yourself selected to be a candidate in a General Election runs to thousands. Wannabe Tory MPs in particular need very deep pockets indeed to have their name put in front of the electorate. The last time I looked, the average hit was north of £30,000.

This has pretty severe real life implications for the rest of us. It means the House of Commons is more and more a home people with little or no understanding of the lives most of their fellow citizens are leading. It is why they pursue so may idiotic policies. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Bedroom Tax.

So in a perfect world things could go something like this. Government enacts a new policy. Within weeks it leads to a ten percent spike in food bank demand. Government consigns aforesaid policy to the bin.

That would make sense, right? Chances of it ever happening? Aye right.

So. The last eighteen months of First Base figures give a predictably clear snap shot of what we have all just been through.

February 2020 - One month before the first lockdown - 500 parcels.

August 2020 - Six months into the pandemic – 2600 parcels.

May 2021 - Fourteen months into the pandemic - 1400 parcels.

Which of course begs the question 'Where next?' 

What will First Base's new normal look like as the warmth of the summer bleeds away and the cold winds of the coming autumn start to blow?

Well it is pretty hard to find much in the way of sunny optimism. The media is filled with tales of people whose lives have taken on a brighter sheen as they work from home and save a living fortune on commuting costs. And all the while the value of their bricks and mortar goes up by three percent a month. I was listening to the Guardian's Politics Weekly podcast a couple of months ago. I cannot remember the context of this quote, but one of the panel journalists said '... and there are some people who have to manage on less than £50,000 a year'

Some? Talk about the Westminster Bubble? You could hear the shudder in her voice as she tried to picture living a life on less than fifty grand a year.

Here in Dumfries and Galloway, there seem to be many reasons to see signs of promise in the post pandemic future. Every rural property to hit the market attracts a ferocious bidding war. It isn't hard to see why. Picture a London lawyer in his fifties suddenly able to imagine a working life needing only one day a week in his London office. He can sell his £2 million home in Putney in ten minutes flat and shop around for a country estate here in Dumfries and Galloway: a picture perfect working from home Shangri La. No university fees for the kids. No slow death from air pollution. No daily sardine experience on the tube. What's not to like?

And then where are all of those decent folk with sought after skills who are growing steadily more disgusted at what England is turning into. It seems many of the good folk of Hartlepool are more than happy to live in a land yearning to become the new Hungary under their beloved Donald Trump wannabe.

Many don't. Many crave the chance to live in a country where the Education Department is not run by an ex fireplace salesman who is now ordering all English school kids to stand and sing the kind of song Josef Goebbels might have written. There is a chorus line to be repeated time and again.

"Strong Britain, Great Nation......

Strong Britain, Great Nation......

Strong Britain, Great Nation......"

For Christ's sake! Hartlepool 2021 becomes Magdeburg 1937. 

So it comes as no surprise to see an increasing number of people choosing to flee Johnson's England in favour of a better life up here in Scotland.

Every plumber and joiner and sparky is booked up for months and months. I spoke to a builder a couple of weeks ago who told me he had to drive all the way to Edinburgh to buy five bags of cement.

And all of a sudden factories and farms can't find staff.

Good signs? Sure. No argument from me. So does this all mean First Base might not be too stretched this winter....?

I doubt it. Sadly there are far too many warning signs for any such optimism.

There is a lot of talk about the end of the Furlough Scheme, but I don't see that as a particularly big deal in our neck of the woods. There are lots of vacancies and finding work isn't going to prove to be so very difficult.

Everyone goes on about the unemployment figures. At any given time there are about 2000 people on Universal Credit in Dumfries and Galloway. Warm bodies actively seeking work. In theory. In reality? Not a chance. We see the people on this list on a daily basis. There is another list. Citizens of Dumfries and Galloway on the methadone programme. At any given time this runs at about 1500. See the crossover?

These are people whose lives have been wrapped up in the world of Class A drugs for twenty years and more. Their brains and bodies bear all the scars. As far as the Job Centre are concerned, they are tip top: all primed and ready to milk 500 cows or do a 12 hour shift in a fish factory or to drive an HGV to Portsmouth and back. Back in the real world? Not a chance.

As I write this, Rishi Sunak is still hell bent on taking away the £20 a week he added to Universal Credit in the early days of the pandemic. In the Autumn. Just as the wind turns cold.

Three big things have happened over the months of the crisis. All three go under the banner of 'inflation'. It seems yet another 1970's favourite is about to rear its ugly head again and kick us in the teeth.

Jummy Savile, Gary Glitter, rampant racism, Israeli jets killing Palestinian kids, .... inflation.

Nuts and bolts. Imagine your disposable income is £93 a week. 'The Brew'. Universal Credit for an individual adult.

It is cash to be spent on life's basics. Food, heat and light, rent.

Well at least Housing Benefit will continue to cover most of the rent. Except it seems like many have used the pandemic as an excuse not to pay any rent at all as the threat of eviction has been null and void for a while. Why pay the rent when you can spend £300 a month on dodgy street valium?

Well these salad days are about to end. The piper will demand payment in full and evictions will sky rocket. No wonder the good folk in the Homeless Department are dreading the coming months.

Food. In February 2020 I used to log on to the websites of the Supermarkets to order in deliveries of tinned spaghetti for the princely sum of 13p per can.

Now the best price I can find is 35p per tin. Now I was never the best at maths, but even I can see a 300% price hike here. So where is the 2.5% inflation we read about in the papers? I guess the prices in Waitrose must have stayed relatively stable.

First Base shops from the value range, so we notice what most pundits miss. The supermarkets have used to pandemic to thin out their value ranges and to jack up the prices. A trolley's worth of shopping which cost £30 a year ago will now cost at least £50.

Power costs are headed the same way. Yesterday Ofgen authorised the power companies to hammer home a record breaking price hike in the autumn. Every day the Johnson government chooses to print money in order to avoid the ultimate nightmare of taxing the super rich sees the value of the pound diluted. To buy in power on the world market, you need to first buy dollars. Then you use the dollars to buy the power. And as our currency continues along the road to becoming toilet paper, we will all see the consequences of what they like to call Quantitive Easing when we pay our electricity bills.

Will people be able to stump up for an extra £30 a week for food and power when their benefits are cut from £93 to £73? Seems unlikely.

Then there is the plight of those on minimum wages. Millions of families were barely able to make their incomings stretch far enough to cover their outgoings before the pandemic. The new normal will mean they will have to find £40 or £50 a week extra for food and power. And rent? With property prices shooting up so fast, rent increases will not be far behind. Will wages rise quickly enough to keep up? Will employers be able to pay out 10% more?

Maybe they can and maybe they will. And maybe Rishi Sunak will back off on his threat to take away £20 a week from those on Universal Credit.

I guess we will all find out soon enough.

I am pretty sure First Base is going to need all the help we can get in the months and years to come. If you are minded to help us out, you can find our online fundraising page via the link below.

THE FIRST BASE ONLINE FUNDRAISING PAGE



Sunday, May 16, 2021

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL... ONE ...TWO ..THREE...

 



This blog of mine can be a gloomy affair at times. Guilty as charged! There's no point trying to argue otherwise.

Well. Not today. Today it is all sunshine and light for a change.

As the late Ian Dury said back in the day, 'reasons to be cheerful...one...two...three...'

I started out on yesterday feeling upbeat, still basking in the glow of Man Utd 2 – Liverpool 4. This is a very special kind of glow and one which lasts for a while.

A headline in the Guardian took me to a story from Glasgow which set me up for the day.

In a nutshell, a Home Office 'Immigration Enforcement' van pitched up on a street in Pollocksheilds to detain two Indian guys. Both were entirely harmless individuals who have been living and working in Scotland for over ten years. No criminal records. No terrorist links. Both had very much become a part of their local community and they well liked.

As opposed to Priti Patel's Home Office.

The immigration goons did their thing. They crashed into the flat and cuffed and 'perpwalked' their prey out to the van. Priti Patel is obviously keen the British public should be in no doubt about her determination to spend tens of thousands of pounds from the public purse on putting blameless people on eye wateringly expensive deportation flights. This must be why these guys like to drive around in vans proudly branded with the words 'Immigration Enforcement'. 

Big and bold and brash

I guess this kind of thing goes down a treat in Hartlepool and Basildon.

Pollocksheilds?

Aye right. Not so much.

One local lad clocked onto what was going down and immediately got himself under the van and onto his phone. Social Media did it's thing and within a matter of a couple of hours the street was filled to overflowing with thousands of Glaswegians who were not about to let the van move so much as an inch.

Stand off time.

The hours rolled by and every party bar the Tories slagged off the Home Office in the Scottish Parliament.

The message was clear as clear can get.

This isn't Little England.

This is Scotland.

This is Glasgow.

An it ain't happening. Not on our streets. Not on our watch.

So Home Secretary. Why don't you go and stick your 'Immigration Enforcement' van where the sun doesn't shine?

Oh how she must have hated it. I mean, just picture her. Sitting in her Home Office lair watching the pictures. Desperate to get somebody to order the cops to don their riot gear and break a few heads. Except she couldn't because these were not her police. These were our police. Scottish Police. Scottish Police who can only be issued their orders by the Scottish Government.

So all Priti Patel could do was watch. And fume. And dream of sending a company of 1 Para up to Glasgow do shoot a few of the uppity natives who so clearly did not know their place.

Instead she had to fold.

The back doors of the van were opened up and the two lads were let back out into the light.

Forces of good 1 – Forces of evil 0

Scottish Parliament 1 – Home Office 0

Scotland 1 – Little England 0

People Power 1 – Arrogant, nasty, hateful Home Secretary 0

Was Priti Patel's smug face anywhere to be seen? Not a chance. No doubt she took the time to lay into some trembling intern who just happened to be in the corridor as made her way to the Ladies to cream 'I HATE FUCKING SCOTLAND!!!!!' at the top of her voice.

Except she would never say 'I hate fucking Scotland' because her Essex upbringing renders her incapable of speaking the letter 'g'.

So it would be 'I hate fuckin' Scotland.'

Just to be accurate.

Check out the video. It's a pure belter.

PRITI'S SCOTTISH NIGHTMARE

A podcast took me to my reason to be cheerful part two.

Tales from America and the sulking orange monstrosity who is no doubt a source of great inspiration to our Home Secretary.

Poor old Donald.

Banned from Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and every social media platform any of us has ever heard of.

So Donald. What can a sulking seventy something year old man-child do?

Well. The Donald has made his great entrance into my world. The Blogosphere.

I could say welcome Donny, but I don't think so.

He's been quite busy with his spleen venting.

Surely the world of blogging is about to be taken to a whole new level. I mean this new entrant is a man with more reach that anyone on God's green earth. An ex President of America. A reality TV star. Ninety three million followers on Twitter......

Surely....

Well. Apparently not. The Donald's first few efforts at blogging have attracted 200,000 page views each.

Hang on a minute here. Have I got this right?

In the blue corner we have the orange one. An ex President beaming out his bile to a nation of 330 million, 70 million of whom voted for him a mere matter of months ago.

In the blue corner we have the food bank manager from Dumfries punting out blogs to a nation of 5 million Scots.

No contest, surely?

Numbers

The Orange One – Highest number of page views for a blog – 200,000

The Food Bank Guy – Highest number of page views for a blog – 120,00

So fair enough Donny, you're winning. But it ain't exactly by a county mile, is it? It seems like the food bank guy might just be breathing down your neck. In fact, it seems like you are every bit as much of a busted flush as those poor saps driving the 'Immigration Enforcement Van' in Glasgow.

And just in case you don't believe me, here's a snap shot of my Stats page.



Reasons to be cheerful, part three.

Peace, our chief volunteer down in Uganda sent me a bunch of photos. Last week the Kupata Project distributed sanitary pads to 2000 school girls. Enough to make sure they will not have to take days off from their education for the next year.

Smiling faces on a sunny day under the green hills of Africa.

Check it out.

How can I be anything other than cheerful?

Oh, and by the way. Just in case you hadn't heard. Liverpool beat Man Utd 4 – 2 last week.......