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.

Friday, June 29, 2012


I am the white half of a mixed race couple and I have been so for almost a quarter of a century now. How nice it would be to say that all was well on the racism front. In a way, I can say exactly that. There isn’t all that much that makes me feel particularly proud about being British. I am ambivalent about the Queen, I despise the Beckhams, I don’t watch soaps and I hardly ever recognise any of the revered halfwitted celebs of the red tops. However I have spend enough time in some of the darker corners of the world to appreciate what free speech is worth and how lucky we all are to live in a land where leather coated cops don’t tend to come a calling at four in the morning to cart you away and lop off your toes with bolt cutters. More to the point, I am dead proud of the way that we Brits have learned how to get along with each other regardless of the colour of our skins. Of course things aren’t perfect and they probably never will be but they are a hell of a sight better than they were. After all, we are the outfit who plundered Africa of 16 million souls and worked them to death in the Caribbean sun to make a few landed toffs richer than kings. We’re the ones who robbed half the planet down to the last farthing in the name of God, Queen and Empire. So the fact that we now rub along with each other pretty well is not a thing to be sniffed at. Bin Laden promised his funders that if he did something bad enough in the name of Islam then we would retaliate by lynching Pakistanis on the streets of Blackburn. Well, we didn’t and Osama was soon yesterday’s man everywhere but the White House.

Sadly, the minute we cross the Channel things are a whole lot different. In 1990, Carol and I spent four magical winter days in what was then Leningrad. The people had to queue up for hours on end for a rotten cabbage but they could not have been friendlier. Now the neon signs of Coke and Nike shine out across the city and we wouldn’t go near the place. If you are an aspiring young fascist in St Petersberg 2012 there is a new right of passage to negotiate before you can be considered a bone fide Nazi nutjob. You need to hop on board a bus or the tube and seek out a random black person. Once they are spotted you then proceed to kick ten bells of shit out of them whilst you mates film the heroic deed for later posting on the web. A few years ago we got lost in Vilnius (Lithuania) and wound up going round in circles in a godforsaken forest of Stalin era tower blocks were every spare inch of crumbling concrete seemed to be adorned with a swastika. Thankfully we didn’t get a puncture. If he had got a puncture I very much doubt if I would be writing this now. A nice weekend in Athens whilst the masked up maniacs of Golden Dawn attack the immigrants sleeping rough in the parks with crow bars and baseball bats? I don’t think so. Spain. Portugal. Italy. France. Christ, even Denmark has now passed a law banning home grown Aryan Danes from marrying foreigners. I guess the nearest Carol and I will get to Copenhagen is watching ‘The Killing.’ Oddly enough the nearest place to Britain in terms of cosmopolitan harmony is Germany in general and Berlin in particular. I seems like our old adversaries have come a long way as well.

I grew up watching grainy pictures of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where a very black Jesse Owens utterly pissed off a very white faced Hitler by winning the 100m gold. What a completely perfect way to shove all Der Fuhrer’s Aryan superman crap right back down his throat. By 36, the poison was already coursing through Germany and by the time it ran out of steam, the nightmare of nightmares had been and gone. All over Europe small events are beginning to have the feel of mid thirties Germany. And every year we have to strike off yet another country from the Ryan Air cheap weekend list.

And so to Italy. To Mario.

What a childhood the lad must have had growing up among the racists of the Lombardy Plain. Every step of the way he was told in no uncertain terms that no black man would every play for Italy. Not ever. At the Stadio Della Alpi the Juventus fans would organise their very own version of a Nuremberg rally to greet him. And he just kept on going. Mad as a brush at times, fair enough, but we all need a bit of mad as a brush in these dismal times. And then it was time to step up to take his penalty against pal and team mate Joe Hart. All I can say is not since Cantona…… Surely even the racists back at home must have been forced to show a grudging appreciation over their bowls of steaming spaghetti. I suppose in a way they did. Gazzetta della Sport came up with the cartoon at the top of this blog. So. Black lad does good against the English. Let’s make him out to be a comic gorilla. They have apologised since. Well. Sort of.

And so to the semi finals against the invincible machine called Germany in Kiev where 20,000 Jews were once upon a time machine gunned into a trench at Baba Yar. And so to Mario’s Jesse Owens moment. Don’t you just love it when fact out does fiction? Don’t you just love picturing the faces of the racist ‘Ultras’ of Milan and Turin? What did you do boys? Did you cheer? Or did you skulk off to sulk in your caves.

Get in there Mario!           

Monday, June 25, 2012

Has the bugger read Mere Anarchy?

Two years ago I wrote a book called Mere Anarchy. Britain in 2016 when the bailiffs really have well and truly arrived at the door. How does a Government make an immediate 20% cut in spending without making themselves unelectable for ever and ever amen. The research soon made the options such a hypothetical Government might have at its disposal. There is a big four. Welfare. Pensions. Health and Education. Anyone chopping lumps out of the NHS or schools or old age pensions would indeed be unelectable for ever and ever amen. But Welfare? Maybe not so. Maybe a full on attack on the spongers and wasters of tabloidland might actually play pretty well, particularly with a bunch of revved up red tops acting as cheerleaders. So that was the tale to tell. The Government ends all benefits with immediate effect. No more dole or sick pay of housing benefit. No more magic money to appear from the cash machine every fortnight. Instead there is a network of dormitories and soup kitchens. The book is my effort of wargaming the thing through. Would they keep the lid on? Could they keep the lid on?

For the last two years the thing keeps coming true piece by piece. And now all of a sudden our gallant Old Etonian leader is punting out the idea of no more housing benefit for the under 25s. Well, as any self respecting football commentator would say …. Woof!

Dave is working on the assumption that any under 25 claiming housing benefit on their flat will have the option of heading back home to mummy and daddy once the rug is pulled from under their Nike shod feet. Most probably have. But what of the others? Is this the moment that the government makes the big move to dorms and soup kitchens? Maybe. The big problem is that many can see where he is coming from. Let’s check out two 24 year olds. Bill is doing OK. He works as a joiner and has been going steady with Tina, his long term girl friend, for five years. They want to get a place of their own and get married and have kids and live happily ever after. The trouble is that even when they pool their earnings they can only just scrape a mortgage by the skin of their teeth and even if they pull it off there isn’t a chance in hell that one of them could give up work to start a family. Not ever in all probability. The same maths will apply if they want to rent a place. So the only realistic option is to carry on living with mum and dad.  Bob on the other hand doesn’t work and has never worked. Neither has his long term girlfriend Nina. They are both hacked off with living at home with their parents and so they assess their options. It isn’t hard for them to find the right road to follow. Nina needs to get herself pregnant a.s.a.p. A baby will mean lots of lovely housing points and a fast track up the list to a tenancy of her own where all rent and rates are covered by the ever generous tax payer. The message is pretty clear when it comes to income maximisation. One, there is no way in a million years that Bob and Nina want to let on that they are a couple. That would be a disaster. Similarly the whole plan would be pretty well scuppered in either of them got a job. So long as she plays the single card and is with child, then the gravy train is all ready to roll. From there on in the message is crystal clear. Stay single and keep knocking out the kids and the cash will flow.

To get anything like the same standard of living, Bob and Nina would both have to find themselves jobs paying at least £30,000 a year each. Aye right. So can we really blame the Bob and Ninas out there for making the smart choice? They get the message we all give them clearly enough. Stay single, don’t work, have lots of kids = loads of different benefits and a free house. Get married and work all hours god sends = being stretched to breaking point by a mortgage and no chance of starting a family any time soon.

Sadly it is hard not to conclude that the baby faced man from Eton might just have a point and my god won’t his pals from the redtops just love help him to make it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Time to get back on the horse

It is all but three years since I managed to add words to this page so I guess it is time to get back on the horse.

Yesterday was a conference day. A hotel in the depths of the Dumfries and Galloway countryside which was hardly at its most poscardish. One of those horizontal rain lashing dismal clusters of cows days. A room filled with fifty plusses trying to get our collective heads around the idea that blogging, Twitter and e publishing offer us all a brave new dawn. As a person who has never tweeted or read a tweet in my life the morning session was uncomfortably akin to the physics lessons I endured in 1970's Blackburn. No point in being daunted though. Spirit of Dunkirk and all that. Thanks to a daily dose of uber strength cod liver oil pills there are still on or two functioning brain cells showing signs of life so I suppose Twitter should not present a lasting peace in the Middle East type challenge.

I have to admit that the idea that anyone on this earth of ours might want to voluntarily sign on to receive 45 characters of wisdom from yours truly seems somewhat inconceivable, but people at the event seemed to believe it was indeed possible. We'll see. I am hugely sceptical. I suppose the Twitter thing promises to be one of the more interesting learning curves. Some guy on a radio show I podcasted wondered about corporations and Twitter and how on earth that all worked. Apparently the likes of Andrex adorn their packaging with bubbly messages to their customers encouraging us to all 'follow' on Twitter. Follow Andrex. The mind boggles. No place to go on a Sunday morning. It kind of begs the big philosophical question of does toilet roll used by a celebrity become celebrity toilet roll as it heads into the sewers? How can a sheet tweet? Probably the fact that my mind is filled with such shoddy images of a tweeting sheet of Andrex merely rubber stamps the steepness of the Twitter learning curve that lies ahead. Maybe once I work out how to open up a Twitter account and enter their brave new social networking world with the cold determination of a man hell bent on creating myself an 'author's platform' I should follow Andrex before anyone else. And all will be revealed. God forbid.