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, June 7, 2023


I don't expect to feel any pleasure penning these words. In fact I'm not entirely sure why I feel the need to commit them to the ether. I guess it's just basic human emotion. Which of course always completely beyond explanation. Always illogical. Always human.

It's how we roll.

On Monday evening our grandson stayed over. Noah. He's just turned six months. It was a huge night for Noah. It was his very first night away from his home. Away from his Mum and Dad.  For the record, he took the whole thing in his stride just like he seems to take pretty much everything in his stride. A pretty cool cat is our Noah.

When I got home from work, he was sitting on the floor surrounded by a collection of toys, all of which were being ignored. Instead all of his attention was focused on a huge teddy bear who goes by the name of Jeremiah.

Baby and teddy bear were face to face and a matter of inches apart. The bear towered over the baby, but not in any kind of threatening way. Noah was doing all the talking. His own version of talking which is a collection of sounds which as yet have no translation book to guide the listener. Jeremiah gave the impression of a bear who was taking on board every word.

The two of them were clearly putting the world to rights. The baby and the teddy bear were locked into one of the great philosophical conversations. Or so it seemed

All of which is utter nonsense of course. Sentimental tosh. Maybe some a similar sight once upon a time prompted A A Milne to pick up his pen and start out on penning the Winnie the Pooh books.

Maybe. Was this moment to be the moment to send me off on a similar quest? Would my 28th novel be a children's book charting the adventures of a bear called Jeremiah and a boy called Noah?

I wish it had. Instead a few hours later I opened up Chatgpt and provided a few basic facts. A six month old Scottish baby called Noah with Tin Tin hair. A giant brown teddy bear called Jeremiah. A long and deep conversation. 

Please write me a poem Chatgpt. About the moment. About the baby and the teddy bear. About the utterly illogical sentiment. A fairy tale seen through the eyes of a grandfather.

And Chatgpt did indeed write me a poem. In less than a second. It isn't exactly WB Yeats. But somehow it managed tapped into the emotion I felt when I stepped into the house to find the baby and the teddy bear locked in their moment.

In less than a second. Not from a brain and the experiences of a life lived. Instead, though numbers and code and Christ knows what else. Awesome, right? And yet so utterly, utterly sad. After all these hundreds of thousands of years of humanity we have suddenly lost a certainty. We have always looked to art to mirror our own emotions and dreams and passions and beliefs and dreams. In books and poems and paintings and songs and films. From the Bible and the Koran to 'War and Peace' and 'Winnie the Pooh' and 'Macbeth'.

Not any more. From here on in we will never know. Is this a human or a non human? Is this genuine emotion or an an approximation? 

It seems after all these years our manic greed has finally persuaded us to find a way to sub-contract our souls.

'Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon can no longer hear the falconer'  

That is indeed WB Yeats by the way. Not Chatgpt.

Man not machine.

So here is the poem. It took a second to write. Less probably.

Maybe I will take the liberty of changing Yeats's next lines.

'Things fall apart

The centre cannot hold

A terrible sadness is loosed upon the world'


In the land of Scotland, where the heather blooms, Lived a baby named Noah, amidst joyful rooms. With hair like Tin Tin's, a golden cascade, A cherub so pure, in innocence he played.

By his side, a teddy bear named Jeremiah, With fur of deep brown, a companion extraordinary. Twice the size of Noah, this faithful friend, Their hearts intertwined, a bond that would transcend.

On this wondrous day, they embarked on a quest, To share secrets profound, a conversation at its best. No words were spoken, but their hearts understood, A language of love, between baby and bear, it stood.

Noah giggled and cooed, his eyes full of delight, Jeremiah listened, his presence shining bright. In their playful exchange, wisdom did unfurl, A tale of wonder and friendship, to enrapture the world.

They spoke of dreams, and of faraway lands, Of castles and dragons, where adventure expands. Noah babbled tales, with his innocence untamed, While Jeremiah nodded, his love never restrained.

Together they laughed, their spirits entwined, A symphony of joy, a melody so kind. Noah's tiny hands reached out, to touch Jeremiah's fur, Feeling warmth and comfort, an embrace to endure.

As the day drew to a close, the sun bidding adieu, Noah and Jeremiah knew their bond was true. For in their encounter, something precious was found, A friendship eternal, forever tightly bound.

So, let the story of Noah and Jeremiah be told, A tale of love and connection, more precious than gold. In the depths of their hearts, their voices did resound, A six-month-old baby and a teddy bear profound.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023



It turned up a couple of weeks ago. The picture. I didn't notice it. And I probably never would have noticed it. I have never been remotely observant and old age has rendered me pretty much blind to everything barring the blindingly obvious.

So it was left to Sean to notice.

I suppose it was kind of meant to be Sean. He floats his way through life, always wide open to the strange. The out of step.

So it was he walked through the front door with an unusual gleam in his eyes.

"Have you seen it?"

"Seen what?" And I can't say I was giving his question my full attention. I am used to Sean asking me questions to which I have no answer. He once asked if I thought Yetis were an actual thing.

His explanation at first glance seemed very Sean. There's a picture wedged behind a drain pipe by the front door. A portrait. A mystery.

I just said I hadn't seen it and cracked on with the day to day stuff a food bank manager cracks on with.

When the time came for me to step through our front door a couple of hours later, Sean's question hopped back into my head.

"Have you seen it?"

So I stopped in my tracks and took a look. At first I didn't see it. Like I said, I'm unobservant.

Then I saw it.

And it was just like Sean had said. A white canvas, about 12 inches by 12 inches. A line drawing of what looked like a young woman but it could just as easily have been a young man.

A few words written at neck level. In scratchy capitals.


The words were not on the level. They were tilted, starting low and climbing high.

I took a photo which my phone won't allow me to download. So you'll have to take my word for how it was. A line drawn face. Not exactly Picasso, but not bad.

And in a way, it raised a whole bunch of questions. Were they life and death questions? Not even close. They were quiet questions on a quiet April day of watery sunshine. High white clouds. People still needing a coat to stave off the chill.

Not really such a bright spring day after all. So the picture must have been penned on another day. And we haven't had many bright spring days this year. Not yet.

So maybe this was from last year. Or the year before.

So why now? And why our drain pipe?

Was it the drain pipe itself? Did our particular downspout offer the perfect space for wedging a picture? And was the relative quiet of Buccleuch St somehow preferable to the heavier foot traffic of the High St?

Or was it important to the artist to site the picture at the entrance to a foodbank. Was it a message to those who made their way inside? Street art for the victims of the world we live in?

At a time when the price of everything is going up and up, the cost of a bright spring day remains stable. Unchanged. Free at the point of use. A hint at the summer to come when the heating can be switched all the way off and the incomings have a fighting chance of matching up with the outgoings.

Was our artist an aspiring Banksy? Was the location a part of the art? Was our front door every bit as much a part of the picture as the picture itself?

Or was the foodbank connection a pure red herring?

How much had our artist paid for the canvas itself? Amazon suggests about three quid for 10 x 8. Not a fortune, but not nothing either.

Assuming our drain pipe was indeed the gallery of choice, then maybe our clients are the preferred viewers. A drain pipe outside M&S would have meant more eye balls. But different eye balls. The Big Issue sellers choose the pavement outside M&S to maximise their remuneration. Our guy was clearly uninterested in financial reward. Instead they had invested £3 for the pleasure of going public.

So who is the face by the drain pipe? Our very own foodbank Mona Lisa? Subject unknown. Artist unknown. Do they even know their face is on our wall? Do they walk by every day on the way to work with a small, knowing smile. That's me. Right there. Wedged by a drain pipe. Bringing news of a bright spring day. Not taken down yet. Not shipped away to land fill.

Left in peace. Respected? Yeah. Respected. How many passing pedestrians have noticed? Stopped in their tracks? And have they smiled or frowned? Have they approved or sneered?

Have they judged?

Have they felt anything?

Has a contribution been made?

Is the world a better place?

Is it really a food bank Mona Lisa?

Or is it merely the right drain pipe at the right time?

I have absolutely no idea and that of course is the whole point.

And now, on the very day I have penned these words, our food bank Mona Lisa is no longer with us. Gone without any trace other than the undownloadable photo in my tired old phone.

Our drain pipe stands alone and unadorned..

Saturday, May 6, 2023



There will be two events in the UK today which will be watched by an audience of hundreds millions of people all around the world. And fair enough, the Coronation of the new king in the morning will win the ratings war. Liverpool v Brentford at 5.30 doesn't quite have the same pomp, ceremony and forelock tugging appeal. However, the game will still be watched by well over a hundred million fans from Sydney to Singapore to Seattle to Sinaloa and stations between.

Because it's Liverpool. Because we have a global following measured in the hundreds of millions. When either Liverpool or United play, the world tunes in to watch. We are the behemoths. We are the giants. We suck the oxygen from the room. And at 5.25 this afternoon our lords and masters in Westminster will learn the hard way they have scored an absolute dog of an own goal.

Let's rewind a bit. 

For years we have been subjected to the sight of the worst of the worst preening in front of the Union flag. Johnson, Truss, Sunak, Starmer. They all know the price of everything and the value of nothing. The dream of cracking the whip. They brand anyone with a shred of decency as woke. They seriously think they can ram patriotism down our throats: like force feeding hunger strikers.

So obviously the whole Coronation thing is a huge deal. A chance to paint the world a picture of global Britain. A chance to showcase our pitiful subservience to a dysfunctional family living off the proceeds of hundreds of years worth of crimes. And the powers that be are taking no chances. The Realm must be defended and how. A few days ago the Government fast tracked the Public Order Bill to make sure the watching world wouldn't get so much as  a sniff of any dissent. Did they fast track the powers by a democratic vote in the mother of all Parliaments? Well. Not quite. No time for any of that tiresome procedure and protocol. Instead they dipped into those good old Henry the Eighth powers and pitched up at Buckingham Palace to ask for Royal Consent. And guess what? Our new King granted it. Good for him.

On the back of these beefed up powers, they wrote to all the Republican groups in the MI5 database to threaten all kinds of prison time to anyone bold enough to demonstrate any kind of noisy dissent on the big day.   

It's funny when you think about it. When the Russians pass the same kind of laws, we are utterly appalled. How dare they lock people up for daring to publicly question their lords and masters? 

And so the stage is set. The BBC will gush on endlessly about how great we are at this kind of thing and do interviews with the pavement dwellers who have camped out for the chance to tug their forelocks in awe when the gilded carriages trundle by.

By mid afternoon the glasses of sherry will be clinked in celebration of a job well down.

And then at about 5.25 the wheels will come off. 

Right off.

So. Why is this a day to feel good about being Scottish and Scouse. The King Kenny Dalglish cocktail if you like.

I'll do the Scottish bit first. As regular readers will be only too aware, I am very much a a white van man. I pick up food. I deliver food. I do the logistical nuts and bolts of a 20,000 parcels a year food bank. Every week I criss-cross Dumfries and Galloway. 

So what? So this. Sadly, Dumfries and Galloway is an area where 'Better Together' won big in Indyref back in 2014. Sadly we are an area that sends Tories to Holyrood and Westminster. And yet as I have driven the highways and the by ways this week, I have seen not a single Union Flag. Not a single string of bunting. Not a single Charlie picture in a single front window.

I have no doubt there will be plenty among us who are itching to get some bunting into the front garden. Just like there will be plenty who wish the good old days could come back when it was OK to call black people ni**ers. And bring back the birch and capital punishment and all that good stuff.

But here's the thing. It is no longer socially acceptable to call a black person a ni**er. In fact it is just plain illegal. Well, it ain't illegal to stick some bunting up and fly the Union Jack. It just seems to have become socially unacceptable even in this neck of the woods.

The only places where the Coronation is playing big are the supermarkets who are fighting like starving dogs to win the battle for who can sell the highest volume of royal tat. There's a whole bunch of Union Flags on sale, every last one of them made in China no doubt. Thankfully nobody seems to be buying them. No doubt bright young things in head office will stare at the figures next week and scratch their heads in confusion. How come Carlisle sold flags by the truckload and Dumfries hardly sold one? 

It's called Scotland pal. You just don't get it. You never do.

And so on to why it's such a great day to be Scouse.

We have been booing the National Anthem for years. The first time I was a part of it was Wembley 1977 when we played United. The less said about the result the better by the way.

For years nobody really noticed. Or maybe they didn't choose to notice. And if they had chosen to notice, they would have resorted to a familiar playbook. Liverpool, right? The Enemy Within. What do you call a Scouser in a suit?

Until recently nobody could be bothered to ask why? Why is there a 'Scouse, not English' banner on the Kop? Why does a city hate the Establishment so much they boo the national anthem at every chance they get?

Well, last year the boos hit a new level when Prince William pitched up at the cup final. And for the first time, it made other fans angry. So now they pitch up at Anfield and think they will get under our collective skin by belting out the National Anthem from the away end. And then they move on to a disgusting playlist of Hillsborough chants. Of course they do. Doff your cap and then revel in 97 Scousers being crushed to death care of South Yorkshire's finest.


Well the boos have been a long time in the making. A whole city doesn't come to hate the establishment for nothing. Far from it.

So here are a few edited highlights. before 1840, Liverpool was a smallish sort of place. Big port, not that many people. Then the Irish famine struck and tens of thousands of desperate families came across the water to make a new start in Liverpool. And they came with a burning hatred for the London government who had refused to lift a finger to aleiviate the catastrophe of the potato famine.

The anger and resentment never went away. It simmered and from time to time it boiled over. In 1911 the Merchant Seamen went out on strike. At first London was pretty comfortable about the situation. But not for long. Union after union came out in solidarity and suddenly there was a one city General Strike and many other cities were watching. Thinking about it.

It was the first ever General Strike. 

There was more than a whiff of revolution in the air and Home Secretary Winston Churchill knew if the Realm was to be defended, then the whip would have to be cracked and cracked hard. The Scousers had to be broken. First it was tens of thousands of extra police. Then it was thousands of soldiers and the threat of live firing. An Amritsar preview show played out in L1. But these dire threats had no impact. The strike held. 

So Churchill took the 1911 version of the nuclear option and sailed a warship into the Mersey and promised to open fire if the crowds refused to be dispersed. The organisers knew only too well this was anything but an idle threat and they backed down and thereby avoided the fate the citizens of Dresden suffered 34 years later.

And the Churchill threat was never forgotten.

In the years following the Toxteth riots, Tory policy was to deliberately starve the city of resources to drive the population out to pastures new. It was a version of the starve them out approach. They called it 'Managed Decline'. Thatcher never missed a chance to brand the city as a founding member of the Enemy Within club.

The 80's were a time of abject desperation forever archived in the form of 'Boys from the Black Stuff.'

Those years of so called 'Managed Decline' were never forgotten.

And then came Hillsborough.

Again. Never forgotten.

So as the likes of Johnson and Truss and Starmer fetishise the Union Flag and their nauseous brand of plastic patriotism, we just boo louder.

Which all brings me to 5.25pm today. The London Government got heavy handed this week and leaned hard on the Premier League. They demanded the National Anthem must be played before every game on Coronation day. The Premier League duly folded, doffed the cap and passed the instruction on.

You have to feel sorry for those in charge at Anfield. I mean talk about a lose, lose situation. Don't play the bloody thing and the Daily Mail will pop a blood vessel and accuse you of being every kind of woke traitors. Or play the thing and.....

Oh yeah.

Play the thing and the boos will take the roof off. And tens of millions of people all over the world will hear those boos. And they will ask why? What's that all about? We thought the English bow and scrape to their monarchy.

Scouse, not English, guys. Scouse, not English. 

Scottish, not English.

And the funny part? No matter what powers they receive Royal Consent for in their beefed up Public Order Act won't be of any use whatsoever at 5.25 pm this afternoon.

Of course Suella Braveman might choose to take a leaf out of the Churchill playbook and send a frigate up the Mersey to threaten us. If you dare to boo we will open fire.......!

I think not. The funny part is that it didn't have to be this way. If they hadn't thrown their weight around and forced the club to play the anthem, then we would have had the chance to let the world know exactly what we think of them.

Like I said. It's an own goal for the ages.

A good day to be Scottish.

And a good day to be Scouse. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2023



Dear Chief Constable Kennedy,

I am writing to you as a result of something I saw at the Liverpool v Arsenal match I attended on Sunday. This is my fiftieth year as an Anfield season ticket holder. Over the course of half a century I have attended well over a thousand games and never once have I witnessed what I witnessed on Sunday afternoon.

One of the games I attended was an FA Cup semi final where Liverpool played Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989. I am a Hillsborough survivor. I am one of the lucky ones to emerge from the Leppings Lane End terrace in one piece.

On that afternoon, along with thousands of others, I witnessed the tragic results of the way the police treated football supporters at the time. We were deemed to be a threat, a problem, the 'enemy within'. Many claimed we were treated like cattle. This was not true. I was involved in the agricultural sector at the time and any farmer who treated their cows the way we were treated in the 1980's would have been prosecuted. A dairy farm with a cattle pen resembling the Leppings Lane Terrace would have very quickly found themselves in court.

I suffered the inept and brutal behaviour of the South Yorkshire police on that dreadful afternoon and I witnessed the fate of 97 of my fellow supporters who paid the price. I spoke out at the time and many years later I was subjected to a prolonged and very hostile cross examination by QC Beggs at the Coronor's Enquiry as he fought the corner of the South Yorkshire police who paid him £800 an hour for the privilege. Before attending court all witnesses were assured their questioning would be 'non confrontational'. As we say up here in Scotland , 'aye right'. Mr Beggs accused me of being a 'liar' and a 'fantasist' when I described how the police had behaved on the day.

Before kick off on Sunday, the ground fell to pin drop silence to remember the 97. It is always a tough moment for Hillsborough survivors. Unwelcome memories come flooding back. I very much doubt if many of us recall the way the South Yorkshire police behaved with any degree of fondness.

In this regard, multiple enquiries have proved us to be entirely justified.

All of which brings me to the reason for this letter. When I and my son left the ground and walked down Anfield Rd toward the Arkles pub, we were confronted by a sight I have never seen before at the football match in the UK. In full public view in front of a line of police vans, one of your officers stood facing a street full of exiting supporters clutching a very visibly brandished machine gun.


What possible threat could possibly demand the availability of such deadly force. There is no history of trouble between Liverpool and Arsenal fans, but this is barely relevant. In the unlikely event of fighting breaking out, what was your man going to do? Open fire?

I struggle to think of any situation which could have been resolved acceptably by a barrage of fire from an automatic weapon.

Instead, it seemed pretty clear your officer was posted so very visibly to send us all a message. We are a threat. We are a potential problem. Making such a show on any match day is questionable. Making such a show on the day Anfield fell silent in the memory of the 97 is inexcusable.

I look forward to your explanation of why such deadly force was required to oversee Liverpool and Arsenal supporters leaving Anfield after watching a football match.

Best regards,

Mark Frankland

Saturday, January 28, 2023



This is going to be something of a nuts and bolts blog. A logistics blog.

So I guess the best plan of attack is to keep things short and snappy. Honed down. To the point.

So Frankland, you have your remit. Crack on.

The problems of January 2023 are well enough documented. In a nutshell, millions of us turn ashen faced when our smart meter breaks the news of how much it has just cost us to boil a kettle. Tick Tock are running an advert suggesting we stash away any boiling water we don't need for the cup in a waiting flask. All boiled and ready for next time. Watch the pennies....

Like a bunch of nostalgic lemmings, it seems we are creating our very own 2023 version of 1942 without the air raids and genocide.


So. Some nuts and some bolts. Some problems to solve.

Up until a week ago, I would deliver 20 food parcels to Gretna library every three weeks or so. Suddenly they now need 20 a week. Every week. Maybe it will be 30 in a couple of months time.

Problem 1.

Demand for emergency food parcels seems to have more or less doubled over night.

Problem 2.

Dumfries got hit by the worst flooding in fifty years a couple of weeks ago and our basement was turned into a swimming pool. We lost a lot of food but it wasn't a complete disaster.

The bigger problem is climate change. It ain't going to be fifty years until it happens again. It might not even be fifty days.

Finding a solution to Problem 1 and Problem 2 at the same time was taxing to say the least.

Especially when we had no choice other than to factor in a bunch of supplementary problems.

Problem 3.

If we need to double the number of food parcels we are handing out, then we are going to have to double the amount of food we are buying in. Well, duh!

Can we afford this? Thanks to the unbelievable support we received from the community in the run up to Christmas, the answer is yes, For a while at least.

Problem 4.

Can we find someone willing to actually sell us what we need at a price we can afford?

This is a pretty big question believe it or not.

The major supermarkets are now all in full 1942 mode and rationing the hell out of their 'Value' lines. Asda won't let us buy more than 3 items from the value range. This makes Tesco's 16 seem positively generous.

Three tins of baked beans per delivery doesn't get us very far when we need to come up with 500 parcels per week.

Thankfully two retailers who were both very much on the other side of things in 1942 have stepped forward to play the role of our saviors.

Aldi and Lidl.

The managers at both Dumfries stores have promised me they are not rationing. If First Base wants to buy 500 tins of spaghetti at 16p a tin, then they will order it in for us.

Both of these businesses won the hearts of the German people in the desperate years following the war. In a decade known as 'The Hungry Fifties', Aldi in particular stepped up to the plate to sell basic food at a price the starving population could afford.

This has never been forgotten and lo and behold here they are bailing out a foodbank in Dumfries seventy years later.

However, solving Problems 3 and 4 doesn't help us to get to grips with Problem 2.

There is little point in successfully managing to buy and store 500 packets of savoury rice only to see them all ruined in the next flood.

For twenty years we have run our food parcel operation on a pretty simple basis.

We store as much as we can in the basement and fill up parcels as and when they are required.

Climate change and the threat of the floods to come mean we now need to find a way to change this.

Now we need to find a way to fill up lots and lots of parcels as soon as we purchase the required items and then find a way to make sure these parcels are safe from future flooding.


We certainly don't have the room in our upstairs areas which are all filled with freezers.

Well here's how.

Kerr at The Little Bakery in Dumfries has been one of our greatest supporters for years now. He has expanded his site and he generously offered us storage should we need it. We took him up on the offer in the autumn when we bought in three tonnes of baked beans as a hedge for the looming winter.

So I asked if we could have space for a stock of 400 food parcels and he said yes.

He's that kind of guy. To edit the words of Colonel Kurtz in 'Apocalypse Now' - 'If we had ten thousand men like Kerr, the problems of the Cost of Living Crisis would be over very quickly.'

It wasn't feasable to store 400 parcels in one big pile, so we ordered 10 three sided cages on wheels. Like the ones you see in supermarkets. We found them on Ebay. £90 a pop. Thanks to the December donations, £900 was a bill we could afford to pay.

So. We had a solution to part of Problem 2. But not a perfect solution. We would still have to carry big stocks in the basement for at least two days a week and sod's law would most certainly make sure the next floods would always hit us on one of these days.

Was there a way to keep 75% of the items needed to fill and store 400 parcels out of the basement altogether?

There was.

For some years we have worked with the local Community Payback team. Quite a few of their clients have completed their community service hours with us and, touch wood, a majority have gone on to live non-re-offending lives.

They have a depot in Dumfries where community services hours are used up on a variety of worthy projects.

We made our pitch. Could we deliver all the items we buy from Lidl and Aldi to their depot where their guys would fill up the food parcels? And once all the parcels were ready, could they deliver them all to our storage area out at the Little Bakery?

The answer was yes and yes.

And all of a sudden Problems 1, 2, 3 and 4 had all taken a kicking.

We can now pick up items and keep them above the coming floods every step of the way.

And the cost apart from £900 we invested in storage cages?

Zip. Zero. Nowt. Nada.

And this where the way we managed to solve problems 1, 2, 3 and 4 is suddenly highly relevant to the times we are living in.

Think about it.

We all know there is a chronic cost of living crisis which is probably going to a permanent feature in our lives in the years to come. Politicians will never own up to the cold hard fact of how far the UK has fallen, but the cold hard fact is there all the same.

It's staring us all in the face. Our currency is weak and we are all a whole lot poorer than we were twenty years ago.

People are broke.

Councils are broke.

National Governments are broke.

The global money markets have called time on us getting away with printing any more money.

All of which means we need to find smarter ways of getting things done. The Pandemic was a great trial run for this.

Think about it.

We have been able to find solutions to some pretty daunting problems by setting up a straight forward partnership.

It's a four way thing.

We have the community who made enough donations to enable us to be in a position to buy the food and the storage cages.

We have the private sector – The Little Bakery, Aldi and Lidl – who have provided basic assistance to make things possible.

We have the public sector – The Community Payback Team – who have made people and resources available.

And we have the voluntary sector – First Base. 


Our job is to put the partnership together.

This new partnership of ours has the capacity to pack and store north of 20,000 emergency parcels per annum. Just imagine what this kind of operation would cost in the government tried to do it? With premises, staff, equipment, power, IT, human resources, line management, oversight.....

My guess would be an overhead cost of £200,000 minimum. Then there would be the cost of food on top.

Well our new partnership is costing a twentieth of that.

This kind of partnership is capable of solving many of the problems we will all face in the coming years.

The community.

The voluntary sector

The private sector

Local and National Government.

If we can find imaginative ways to put all four together, all kinds of solutions can be found.

If you want to help us to keep on doing what we do, you can find our online fundraising page via the link below


Monday, January 16, 2023



I'm a relatively easy going sort of guy. It takes a lot to get me hot under the collar about things. If a Man Utd defender hacks down Mo Salah if front of where I sit at Anfield, well fair enough: foul language will probably pour from my mouth in pretty copious quantities.

Otherwise? No. Not really.

But there is one thing which is winding me up more and more these days – the utter inability of either the Scottish Government or the Scottish media to ever point out all the areas where we do so much better than the complete shitshow playing out south of the border.

Why? I haven't a clue why.

We are acting like archetypal meek and cowed colonial subjects, scared to say anything which might in any way upset our rulers.

Sorry Baas. We didn't mean nuttin' bad, Baas. Nuttin' bad, Baas.

As a manager of a foodbank, I tend to watch lots of  foodbank stories on YouTube. Of course I do. And every time I watch a video from Stoke or Barnsley or Swindon or Sunderland, the story is always the same. And these stories get a little more biblical with every passing week.

I see queues at Foodbank doors stretching for hundreds of yards. Anxious, pinched faces peering over the shoulders of those in front.

Did I get here early enough? Will there be anything left?

It's a first come, first served world. A dog eat dog world.

Demand up, donations down, walls closing in.

If you turn up too late for a decent spot in the queue you'll be walking home with empty carrier bags in your pockets

Well our foodbank is busy.

Really busy. We're as busy as we have ever been outside of the early months of the pandemic.

But we're able to keep up. We can deal with the high demand. We're not yet getting uncomfortably close to capacity. It's not biblical.


Well I can't pretend to have anything close to a definitive answer. I just know in my bones if First Base was in Carlisle we'd be close to being completely buried right now.

The only reason I can find is what I would describe as all the small differences around the edges of the crisis which are managing to keep Scotland out of the abyss.

No Bedroom Tax

No brutal rent hikes.

No evictions

No prescription charges.

Extra cash every week for struggling families with kids.

A baby box for the newest of New Scots.

None of which are game changers on their own, but when you add them all up together they seem to be making a hell of a difference.

And because none these differences are big enough on their own, they just get ignored.

Sometimes I wonder if it is just Dumfries and Galloway where things are so much better than Lancashire, where my family still lives.

If I want to see my GP, I pick up the phone and I get to see him in a couple of days.

My English family have about as much chance of picking up the phone and asking to win the lottery as they have of getting an appointment with a GP.

Maybe this is a feeling many Scots share. Everything seems OK where I live, but it must be awful everywhere else. I mean it has to be, doesn't it? After all The Daily Mail and the Telegraph and the Sun and the Daily Mail say it is.

Every single day.

I get the feeling if an editor from any of these Unionist rags was ever caught in the act of writing a positive story about Scotland they would be stood up in front of a wall and shot as a traitor.

Last summer, the 'human sewage in the sea' story was huge for a couple of weeks. The nation's privatised water companies ran ISIS a close second in the 'Organisations We Are Told To Hate' league table. And every night on the six o'clock news, we were all treated to maps. Red dots showed where human sewage was being pumped into the sea and therefore making any kind of swimming as dodgy as sharing a lollipop with someone with leprosy.

The red dots on the maps screamed out a story so blindingly obvious it seemed even the Daily Mail couldn't ignore it.

The red dots started just north of Newcastle and they ran all the way down the east coast to Dover. Then they ran all the way to Lands End. Then they ran north around Wales and they didn't stop until they reached Carlisle.

And then they stopped.


And all around the vastness of the Scottish coastline there wasn't so much as a single red dot.

Because Scottish Water isn't privatised.

Because Scottish Water doesn't operate in the regulation free Wild West which starts the moment you pass the 'England' sign at Gretna.

England, the regulation free Wild West where it is absolutely fine and dandy to strip every last penny out of the water game and send the proceeds back to Bahrain or Malaysia our some private equity outfit in Texas.

And shit in the sea? Do any of the privatised English water companies give a shit? Of course they don't give a shit.

And neither do the politicians in Westminster who sign it all off in return for a nice two week a year Non Exec place on a corporate board once the time comes to strep off the gravy train.

Isn't this a difference so completely stark we should be able to shout it from the rooftops?

Well it seems not.

Well here's another stark difference which has got my fingers hitting the keys this morning.

Now these are cold, hard facts and figures.

As in figures which are facts.

Inescapable. Inarguable.

So here goes.


It is one of the richest cities in the world with a population of just shy of nine million. It is certainly the richest area of Britain with a GDP per Capita rate of £55,000 per person per annum.

Scotland is smaller than London.

Our population is 5.5 million.

Basically we are 60% the size London.

Our GDP per capita is £30,000 per person per annum. It's the second highest in the UK, but it is still only 55% of what the good folks of London enjoy.

So let's see how this pans out in practice.

In Scotland we have 8800 homeless kids in temporary accommodation.

How should this compare with London?

Well, London has 40% more people than Scotland so I guess they should have 40% more homeless kids.

An extra 3200.

So maybe we should expect there to be 12,000 homeless kids in London.

But hang on a minute.

They are 45% richer than we are, so surely they really should have 45% less homeless kids on a like for like basis? Well, shouldn't they?

More money means less homeless, kids right?

So let's knock off 3600 kids.

Leaving 8400 homeless kids in London as compared to 8800 homeless kids in Scotland.

Has to be.

Hasn't it?


Not even close.

The number of homeless kids in temporary accommodation in London, one of the richest cities in the world is.........



You read it right.


On a like for like population basis, six times worse than Scotland.

On a like for like money basis, nine times worse than Scotland.

And the why?

Well there really only can be one why.

In England they have a lousy, heartless, corrupt, right wing Government.

In Scotland we have an often flawed but essentially decent Government.

Our Government gives a damn about homeless children.

The Westminster Government?

The answer is in the figures.

Which are also the facts.

It seems about 55% of Scots now want away from these despicable shysters. I seriously wonder what on earth the 45% who want to stay with them are smoking.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022



So we call them library bags. Hardly the most imaginative of names! Library bags are the food parcels we make up for libraries and various other locations – Social work offices, NHS, homeless accommodation. I'm sure you get the picture.

Each library bag contains basics enough for three meals a day for three days. For one person.

A hungry person of zero means.

A citizen of the winter of 2022.

Ten basic items. No frills. Calories with a long shelf life.

Only a couple of months ago, I would distribute 50 or 60 library bags in a busy week.

But of course things have changed now.

Changed utterly as WB Yeats once upon a time said.

There was a sheen of frost in the fields yesterday and darkness closed in at five o'clock.

Anyone associated with a foodbank has been dreading this week for many months.

The week of the first frost. The week when the reality of the coming winter starts to bite. The week when the rubber meets the road.


So did I distribute 50 of our library bags last week when a sheen of frost glittered in the morning light?


Last week I distributed 200 of our library bags. A new record for First Base: a record which will probably stand for as long as the Truss lettuce.

Winter's not coming any more.

It's here.

When 'The Hunger Games' become a bleak and grinding reality.

Signs and signals.

A referral to a family of four in a small village which sees its fair share of tourists in the lazy days of summer.

Not a familiar location for a food parcel delivery. A leafy sort of street. Tidy front gardens with not a rotting old sofa in sight. Clean cars in the driveways. A backdrop of steep, forested hills.

For millions, a dream place to live. Not quite Cotswolds enough to be labelled a rural idyll. But pretty dammed close.

I open up the back of the van and unload food enough for four.

And a dog.

Are the curtains twitching?


The door opens and the eyes upon me are a mixture of embarrassment and panic. For I am the visitor she hoped would never, ever call. The foodbank guy.

Right here right now. Not on the news.

Here. In person.

In 2022.

We didn't do much small talk. We didn't do any. I tried on a smile to try and make the whole thing normal. She smiled back and looked bereft.

And did the neighbours see? Did they work it out? Will they be next?

Back in the van.

Back along the highways and the by-ways.

A foodbank guy. A white van guy. A part of the coming winter of 2022.

James from Moffat calls.

We do pleasantries.

He says the local school has been on. Ten families are failing to cope. Could we bring an extra 25 of our library bags? Not just for this week. For every week? If that's OK?

Of course it's OK.

It's what we're here for when all is said and done.

It's the role we are deemed to play in the hunger games of 2022.

I end the call. Light up a smoke. I drive the highways and the by-ways as a renewed curtain of rain lashes the windscreen.

I do the maths.

25 library bags a week.

100 a month,

1200 a year.

1200 x £5 = £6000

Add it to your budget, foodbank guy.

A scene from 'Apocalypse Now' jumps into my head. Kurtz and Willard. Brando and Sheen.

“Are you an assassin, Captain Willard?”

“I'm a soldier. Sir”

“You're neither. Your an errand boy sent by grocery clerks …... to collect the bill.”

The bill.

Another £6000 worth of bill.

And as I drive, I hope to hell Aldi continue to come through for us.

Because right now Aldi are the only show in town. They are the only place who are willing to sell us the tins and packets we need in sufficient quantities to stand a chance.

A delivery to a couple I have been delivering to for months now. They're of an age. They're waiting on decision for PIP. Personal Independence Payments. A chance to be independent of feeling hungry. It's another nice house with another nice car in the drive. Appearances don't deceive any more. Not in 2022. In 2022 they appear at the door looking for all the world like Michelin people. Layers and layers and not a light switched on.

It's all a long way away from the miserable strutting and fretting of Westminster where they are hell bent on blaming all of it on dinghy riding Albanians. Or the French. Or Vladimir Putin. Or people who eat tofu. Which at least leaves me in the clear. I've never eaten tofu in my life. Maybe I should try some?

A zoom meeting.

Like being back in 2020 again. Peak pandemic

The emergency food providers of Dumfries virtually gather to share their news and thoughts.

A food provider from a less favourable area of town lays a problem down on the table and asks for ideas. Her project collects 'end of day' items from shops, bakeries and supermarkets. Pies and sausage rolls and hot cross buns. She lays the collected food out on a trestle table outside a community centre, takes a picture and announces it via Facebook. In the Covid days, people would carefully keep their social distance and go out of their way to share and share alike. Back in the days of disease. Back in the days when we all figured it was nice to be nice.

Not so much any more.

Now a crowd is gathered and waiting before she puts the table out of the door. No need for Facebook. And once she starts to lay out the day's offering, it becomes a case of grab what you can grab and grab it fast. One or two families with something of a local reputation fill their carrier bags whilst the more timid stand back, too feart to argue the toss.

The days of making nice seem to have faded away.

In 2022 things are different. In 2022 is hard to see an end in sight. There's no vaccine roll out for ingrained poverty.

A long dark winter awaits.

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