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.

Monday, March 31, 2014


Our volunteer who does the Monday morning food run up the Nith valley is away in Asia and Australia for a month, so my week now starts with a ride up the A76. The countryside is drop dead gorgeous, particularly in the early morning when the newly risen sun paints the peaks of the hills all kind of glowing colours. But the beaten up towns of the valley are like refugees. Only a few decades ago towns like Sanquhar and Kirkconnel had a genuine reason to exist. They mined coal. They helped keep everyone’s lights on. They had war memorials which gave written proof that they had offered up more young men than most to the meat grinders Britain's World Wars.

Then of course everything changed as Maggie Thatcher and Arthur Scargill played out their poker game which eventually consigned places like Sanquhar and Kirconnel to the scrap heap of history.

A few months ago my blog describing the dismal plight of those who have been left behind in these ‘post industrial’ places received many, many more hits than I would  ever have thought. Which was pleasing I suppose. That was back in the autumn when we had just established a new food parcel collection point at Action for Children. Ever since John has taken 15 food parcels up the A76 every week: come wind, rain or shine.

Some basic, permafrost cold statistics? Why not

Number of emergency food parcels per year. 52 x 15 = 780

Population of the village – 2074

Enough said I guess. If we gave out the same proportion of food parcels across the whole of Dumfries and Galloway we would be on target to dish out 56,000 parcels in the next 12 months. In fact the figure will be about 7000.

So we are left with a conclusion which isn’t exactly hard to come to: Kirkconnel is a poverty hotspot. There are two over-riding reasons for this. Number one, the Government once upon a time shut the coal mine. Number two, the Government is now in the process of shutting down the benefit system.

Fair enough. But there is more to the story here. Let’s assume that you live and breathe in Kirconnel and right now you lack gainful employment. You are in fact on the dole or the ‘Brew’ as it tends to be called in these parts. This means that you are given £60 a week to live on thanks to a caring state. So long as you head down the A76 to Dumfries twice a month to sign on the dotted line and you make sure you don't arrive more than a second late for your appointment, then you can look to receiving your ‘Brew’ money for the foreseeable future.

Housing is no great problem. There are plenty of empty houses in Kirkconnel. However they are not like all of those empty houses in Kensington. The houses of Kirkconnel tend not to sit in the investment portfolios of Russian gangsters. They are empty because nobody wants to live in them.

Heating and lighting your house is a problem. The wind lances through the valley in the cold months of the long Scottish winter. The surrounding countryside would be ideal for filming a movie of Macbeth.

‘Light thickens and the crow makes wing to the rooky wood.’

Oh yeah. The hard ridged moors that stare down on the village are pretty ideal from planning dark deeds.

But I digress. It’s a cold place. It will take half of your Brew money to keep your house anything approaching warm, especially if you have reached an age where the doctor tells you to swallow an aspirin every morning to avoid taking a coronary.

So you’re left will £30 a week to clothe and feed yourself.

As in not a lot, though it always seems that politicians are more than confident that they would be absolutely fine and dandy if they were ever required to get by on such a sum.

This is where life gets particularly hard for anyone unlucky enough to find themselves stranded in a post industrial place which has become out of sight and out of mind. This is where we can see Capitalism at it most savage. When I say or write such a sentence, people immediately call me a Marxist. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why. The fact is that I have never read so much as a page of 'Das Kapital' and I have no political affiliations whatsoever. As far as I am concerned such a sentence represents no more than a cold, hard fact.

Look at it this way.

Where on planet earth is the urban area where people are most desperate for food? I expect it will be those besieged suburbs of Damascus where the Syrian Army seems hell bent of starving to death people who don’t much like the Assad family.     

Where on planet earth is the place where you pay the highest price for a pound of rice? I expect it will be those very same besieged suburbs of Damascus where the Syrian Army seems hell bent of starving to death people who don’t much like the Assad family.    

These two facts are forever locked together. The more desperate people are for a particular product, the more that particular product will cost. It is the religion of the market. Supply and demand. And there is nothing that Capitalism loves more than a controlled market. A monopoly. Because of course if there is only one supplier, and people absolutely need what he is selling, then he can more or less charge what he likes.

If there is more than one supplier, things are somewhat different. These suppliers have to complete with each other and they will strive to be able to sell their goods and services at the cheapest price whilst still turning a profit.

So if you live in a place where there are lots of suppliers fighting each other tooth and nail, then you are a lucky punter.

But if you live in the place where there is only one seller, then you are going to get well and truly ripped off.

This of course is why drug dealers are so fond of shooting each other. Those boys just love a nice monopoly.

Way back in 1844 this particular iron clad rule of capitalism got a bunch of people very wound up in indeed. They were the good folk of Rochdale, a town in the next valley but one from where I cut my Lancastrian teeth in Blackburn. These were cotton mill workers who were grafting sixteen hours a day and they were still more or less starving to death. Not a good look. What really got their goat was the fact that their local shop was charging three times the price for a stale loaf of bread than the bakers of Manchester were charging for something fresh out of the oven. Why? Simple. A good old fashioned monopoly was well and truly in place. They were expected to work all the hours sent by their God and then spend every penny in the local store whilst continuing to doff their caps. Their average lifespan was 37.

But they didn’t doff their caps. Instead they pushed a wheelbarrow to Manchester and back and started up their own shop. It was a twenty mile wheelbarrow commute that changed the game. They co-operated. They became a Co-Operative. They became THE Co-operative.

In theory, the mothers in those shell scarred suburbs of Damascus could do the same. In theory they could set out on a wheelbarrow convoy and clear the shelves of rice in a supermarket in one of the Assad parts of town. And the price of rice would fall by hundreds of percentage points.

The problem with that idea of course is that Assad’s soldiers would hose them down with Putin’s machine guns.

Thankfully the disgruntled storekeeper in Rochdale all those years ago wasn’t able to whistle up a company of dragoons to chop the uppity cotton workers into bite sized pieces and the rest became history.

The Co-op was born.

Cue uplifting music and a cosy montage of images showing ho much better everything is now when compared to those dark, dark days when the mills and mines were truly satanic.

So our man in Kirkconnel is a lucky man indeed. Why? Because the one and only food shop in the village is a Co-operative and there is no way that the Co-Operative movement would ever abuse a monopoly to rip people blind. Of course it wouldn’t. That would be against everything the Co-Op stands for. It would be against the very spirit of those gallant men and women of Lancashire who pushed their wheelbarrows ten miles there and ten miles back again. It would be against 170 of history and progress….

But things change with time.

Once upon a time it would have been hard to imagine Labour Prime Minister hooking up with a far right American President to invade every country they could find. Well that all changed, didn’t it?

And sadly it seems like the Co-Op has changed too.

Yesterday I did a bit of research. I parked up and did some shopping. The Co-Op in Kirkconnel has a nice electric door and inside music from the in-house Co-Op readio station gave a cosy sort of ambiance. The shop was bright and clean and the bloke behind the counter couldn’t have been more friendly. I bought 17 items. Enough to put together a four day food parcel. In each case, I chose the very cheapest option. And when I got the final total I was gobsmacked.

Check it out.

Here are the cold, hard facts. This is the price you pay for living 26 miles away from competition. This is what it looks like when capitalism achieves a yearned for monopoly   

PRODUCT                   KELLOHOLM         DUMFRIES
CUP SOUP                    £1.42                           £0.22
JAM                               £0.95                           £0.29
TINNED HAM             £1.69                           £1.00
RICE PUDDING          £1.09                           £0.15
UHT MILK                   £1.04                           £0.53
INSTANT WHIP          £0.67                           £0.17
SAVOURY RICE         £0.92                           £0.26
NOODLES                    £0.92                           £0.20
MARGARINE              £1.42                           £0.75
MEATBALLS               £0.99                           £0.40
TIN SPAGHETTI         £0.75                           £0.15
TIN SOUP                     £0.72                           £0.15
TIN BEANS                  £0.52                           £0.26
CORNFLAKES            £2.05                           £0.31
LOAF OF BREAD       £1.53                           £0.47
TIN CUSTARD            £1.09                           £0.15
BISCUITS                     £0.69                           £0.23
TOTAL                         £18.46                         £5.69

This is exactly how things looked 170 years ago in Rochdale. When we were industrial. When those ten miles that separated Rochdale from Manachester made all the difference.

Well we are post industrial now and things look pretty well exactly the same. It is 26 miles down the valley from Kirkconnel to Dumfries. Too far for a wheelbarrow. 

And the Co-Op really should be ashamed of itself.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Ten days ago I stepped over a line and did something I have never done before: something I never thought I would ever do. I made a political speech. I entered the political arena.

The occasion? A ‘Yes’ for Scottish Independence rally in Lockerbie Town hall. Even having made the speech, I still find it hard to figure out how on earth I found myself doing such a thing.

Unsurprisingly the back story is to be found in the online world. It is strange how the Mark who exists in the virtual world is beginning to have an ever increasing influence on the Mark who lives and breathes in the real one. A few months ago I penned a blog laying out my reasons for enthusiastically voting ‘Yes’ in next September’s referendum. The thing got tweeted and re-tweeted and linked and Googled and much to my surprise many thousands of people found their way to what I had written.

A tweet landed from Stuart in Lockerbie asking how if I might be willing to talk about my reasons for voting ‘Yes’ at a meeting in Lockerbie and I thought why the hell not.

And so it was that I stepped up to the lectern feeling nervous as hell. How did it go? That isn’t really for me to say. Thankfully nobody chucked any rotten fruit, though the banks of ‘Better Together’ supporters certainly looked like they would like nothing better. In fact they looked like they would gladly have exiled me off to some godforsaken island to break rocks in the tropical sun.

Thankfully at the send of the speech most people seemed to clap. Which was a pretty major relief.

As soon as the meeting was wound up I hit the pavement outside and more or less ate a cigarette!

Well, that was the real world part of proceedings taken care of. A twenty minute speech on a cold and misty night. The audience was about a hundred strong and the average age of the audience was older than I am. Interestingly the only young people in the room were wearing’Yes’ T shirts and badges.

But as we all know the real world only represents one side of things. We now live in a time where the virtual world kicks in almost as soon as real world proceedings have played out. The event was filmed by come people called ClanDestiny who have set out their stall to film the grass roots war for votes on September 18th.

A day or so later Stuart, told me via Facebook that the film of my speech was now live on YouTube.

Time for another first. I have done talks here, there and everywhere over the years but very seldom have I had the chance to review my efforts. So, with considerable trepidation, I fixed a coffee, lit up a tab, donned my headphones and watched it through. First thoughts? The obvious ones. Jesus, when did I get so old! And I really, really need to learn how to stand still and not jump about the place like some agitated bloke with a bunch of soldier ants climbing up my trouser leg. Too fast sometimes. Probably too much on a level. More pauses required. Further up with the ups and further down with the downs.


You can make up your own mind if you like. Click here and in the blink of a digital eye you can have a watch.

As you can see the link is not YouTube. It is a site called Wings Over Scotland which has become one of the more effective frontline units fighting the increasingly ferocious battle for votes in September.

A few months ago Wings Over Scotland carried my blog laying out my reasons for voting 'Yes', and I was bowled over by the number of times the thing was read. Now it seems that a whole lot of people are tuning in to watch my debut speech. When I started to write this the number had reached 1684: a number that is already nearly 20 times more than the audience who were there in person. How far will this number rise? I have no clue. But when you sit back and think about it, it really is hugely encouraging.

When all is said and done, I am more or less a complete nobody. Fair enough, I have written a few books and a few people have bought them. In and around Dumfries, people tend to recognise me because the local press have always covered the work of First Base. But I am in no way, shape or form famous. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion. A voice. Maybe I am right about some things and maybe I am completely wrong about some things. That all depends on your point of view. But thanks, to Winston Churchill’s stubbornness and the unrelenting guts of hundreds of thousands of the guys who stood up to Hitler, I still have the absolute right to air my thoughts and views.

Free speech of course is a thing we have enjoyed in Britain for many, many years and it is only when you visit places where such a luxury does not exist that you can really appreciate what a blessing it is.

But that is not the whole story of course. For years now free speech has been censored without us really realising it. The hellish advent of the soundbite has stamped down on the power and reach of free speech.

Let’s roll back the years a bit. Way back in 1879 the Turks embarked on a truly brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing. They butchered over 30,000 Bulgarians with the kind of primordial cruelty that is always associated with bouts of ethnic cleansing. The Westminster Government of Benjamin Disraeli decided to let it pass. They deemed that picking a fight with the Turks didn’t chime with the needs of the Empire and the City of London at the time. Funny, but that sounds familiar somehow. Isn’t the area where the Turkish atrocities went down kind of close to the Crimea? Very close. And is the current Tory led government busting a gut to put Putin back in his box? Ah. Not really. Not at all in fact. Why? Well, we found that out when a careless foreign office mandarin got his papers photographed as he made his way down the pavement to Number 10. The message was the same as the message given to Disraeli back in 1879. Having a go at Putin and his oligarch buddies would be bad for business. Bad for the City of London. The only difference is that we don’t have an empire any more.


As per usual, I digress. Turning a blind eye to butchery and slaughter didn’t sit well with Disraeli’s arch rival, William Ewart Gladstone. The 'Grand Old Man' decided that British indifference should not be allowed to stand and he embarked on what history came to know as his ‘Midlothian Campaign’. He rattled up and down the land and gave impassioned speeches to packed halls. The word spread and within months Disraeli’s government had been toppled. There was no TV back then of course and no radio either. To hear the words of Gladstone you had to turn up in person and then you got the whole speech – not just a twenty second sound bite on the evening news.

Hundreds of thousands heard every word he had to say and as a result a government crashed.

The advent of radio and TV should have increased the reach of free speech and taken messages like the one Gladstone delivered into the living rooms of everyone. But it didn’t work out that way. Instead of the whole speech, we only ever got a smattering of words. The soundbite. The message we heard was governed by the decision of the producer who would basically play God. Not surprisingly the politicians soon got wise to this and started to enlist the services of spin doctors in order to design a perfectly formed 20 second segment which would make the TV producer’s job as easy as pie.

And very soon they were all speaking like robotic morons.

And very soon we were being treated like dumbed down morons.

‘You might turn, but the Lady’s not for turning’.

‘Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.’

‘It’s the economy stupid.’

And hard working bloody families until you could happily sling a half brick through the screen.


And then worm started to turn thanks to a mixed race lad with a Kenyan dad and an Kansas mum. I refer of course to a certain Barrack Obama who proved he could give Gladstone or Churchill a run for their money when it came to getting a crowd up onto its feet. Barrack was such a dream of an orator that people wanted a whole lot more than the 20 second extract the TV channels were willing to give them. His people were quick to latch onto this and they put all their efforts into prompting people to log on and catch the whole of the speech online.


The game changer.

And of course millions upon millions did exactly that. They logged on and listened to the whole thing from beginning to end. And the Republicans were duly put to the sword, just like the government of Disraeli all those years ago.

Surely even the most cynical of individuals has to be encouraged by this. The virtual world is giving democracy a chance at last. Once he became President, Barrack took things a stage further. There was no way that the Mullahs in charge in Tehran were about to invite him along to talk to their people. So instead he talked to the Iranian people online and millions duly logged on to hear him. All of him. Each and every word.

A few years ago my friend Tommy Sheridan was elected to the Scottish Parliament. Tommy is the kind of guy who gives the Establishment kittens. He tells it like he is. He is the kind of guy who would not think twice about raising the kind of secrets the Establishment is desperate to keep on the floor of the Parliament. He is the kind of guy would use his Parliamentary privilege to expose the very worst deeds of the State.

In short, he is the sort of guy who the Establishment always goes out of its way to shut up. They tried locking him up in HM Prison Barlinnie a time or two, but that had no effect whatsoever. So it was time for Plan B. Those two worthy souls Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks were enlisted to go get him and did they ever. It was the News of the World that won it. Or so they thought.

Establishment 1 – Tommy 0

And no doubt they thought they had done enough to gag him on a permanent basis. They really thought they had rid themselves of this particular ‘turbulent priest’.

Not quite.

Not nearly in fact.

For the turbulent priest that is Tommy Sheridan is back and firing on all cylinders. He is in the frontline of the ‘Yes’ campaign and he is shooting from the hip. If you want to watch a speech from a genuine master of the art, then follow this link.

Here is a man at the top of his game. You will see that his audience is rather higher than mine was in Lockerbie, but not that much higher. Maybe two hundred and fifty or so. But here’s the thing. As I write these words, over 102,000 people have logged on to watch him. 102,000! Now we are talking the same kind of numbers as once upon a time turned out to hear the voice of Gladstone. And when you click the link you get the chance to hear ALL of Tommy’s words. Not just a soundbite carefully chosen to make him seem off the wall and semi demented.

Have a watch and then ask yourself if the likes of Cameron, Milliband or Clegg could dream of coming up with something that would even come close. Not a chance. Not in a million years. My guess is that the average age of those who have logged on to watch Tommy will be thirty years less than the average age of those who turned up in person. And that is fine by me. How you actually watch the whole speech is a distant second in importance to actually getting the chance to watch the whole speech.

The online world has many, many problems, but the fact that it has enabled over 102,000 people to hear Tommy seems a pretty big deal to me. Something tells me that somewhat less than 102,000 will tune in to my efforts, but I am merely a novice.

I wonder if Rupert Murdoch is one of the 102,000? Maybe. I hope so. You thought you had rid yourself of this particular turbulent priest didn’t you Rupurt?

Well think again.

It was 6.45am when I started writing this blog. At that point 1684 people had tuned into YouTube to watch my speech. It is now 7.53am and 1742 people have now had a watch. In 68 early morning minutes, 58 have enjoyed the fact that they can hear the words of a middle aged nobody from a small inconsequential town in the South West of Scotland.

Ain’t that something!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


We’re deep into the Istanbul night. Midnight has come and gone. A thin wind cools the faces of 70,000 hyper-tense football fans, every one of whom has made a personal odyssey to the city at the gateway to Asia. After three decades of watching the men in red through thick and thin, the ultimate few moments have come to pass in the bizarre soulless concrete of the barely finished Ataturk Stadium.

Against all odds, men in red and men in white are taking penalties to decide who will be crowned European Champions. The men in white have taken three and missed two. The men in red have taken two and scored two. It is almost there. Close enough to touch. The most improbable, outlandish, ridiculous victory in the history of football. I mean, come on. 3-0 down at half time to the Italian Champions with a back four made up of Maldini, Stam, Nesta and Cafu. Italian defences don’t ship one goal let alone three. But this Italian defence has shipped three goals. And the supposedly greatest centre forward on planet earth has managed to miss from three yards in the last knockings of extra time.

And yet there is still time for everything to go pear shaped. There is still time for the greatest victory in the history of everything to be ripped away at the last moment. Because penalties are penalties. Each penalty is a stand alone moment of crisis. Each penalty represents a tipping point in the life of the poor sod who is expected to take it.

Usually I find penalties almost unwatchable. Even in the most humdrum of league games I have to force myself not to look away when the moment of truth arrives. It doesn’t seem to matter how many key spot kicks Stevie G clips into the side netting, I always expect him to miss the next one. It is the gnawing paranoia of the football supporter.

But when John Arne Risse stepped up for penalty number three I had no problem whatsoever watching. And when he missed I felt no sense of impending doom. I remember turning to my two lads, both of whom had their heads in despairing hands. Don’t worry. It’s fine. Steve Nichol missed his penalty in the Rome final in 84. He was a left back as well. He had red hair as well. It’s all part of the script. They looked at me like I was some sort of madman. And maybe I was.

Kaka stepped up and slotted home.

2 -2

Time for Vladimir Smicer. Vladimir Smicer who had seemed so promising when he arrived but who had never really cut it. A man of the Czech Republic. A man who was about to kick a ball in the red shirt of Liverpool for the very last time.

Basically it was the most unwatchable penalty in the history of the universe. Miss, and everything would be back to square one. Score, and victory would be one kick of the ball away. And that ball would of course be kicked by a lad from Huyton called Stevie Gerrard who had dragged us to Istanbul almost single handed.

Could I watch?

Course I could. It was easy. Because for months I had become convinced by all the superstitious portents that shouted that this was our year. It was written. It was inevitable.

And so Vladdy duly scored as if he was having a kick around down the park.

And then of course the greatest centre forward on the planet stepped up like a man headed for the gallows and mishit his penalty which was saved by the son of a Silesian coal miner who at that very moment entered the LFC hall of legends.

The fact that the 05 season ended with the up to end all ups means that it is easy to forget lots of the downs. Me and the lads took a Ryannair to Nice in the autumn of 04 to witness one of the most tepid, dismal performances in the history of the club when we crashed 1-0 against Monaco. Then there was the Jimmy Traore inspired fiasco in the mud and rain of Turf Moor when Burnley dumped us out of the FA Cup. And of course things hardly looked all that bright at half time when Rivaldo had put Olympiakos well and truly in the box seat to made the knockout stage.

None of us at that point would have given a second’s thought to winning the whole thing. I defy any Red to claim that they were brimful of confidence about the prospect of the lads scoring three unanswered second half goals with Neil Mellor and Sinema Pongolle providing the spearhead of our attack.

And then everything changed. It changed the very second that Luis Garcia smacked one in against Juventus. Bouffon was left sprawling and the Anfield roof almost came off. I seem to remember that being about the time that all the superstition stuff started to emerge. At first, it was whispered by people who were almost embarrassed. Look at 1981. Prince Charles got married and a Pope died and Liverpool made it to the final of the league Cup. Just like now. And slowly but surely, the superstition started to take root. Slowly but surely, the Miracle on the Bosporus started to be written in the stars.

In large letters.

For me, the Luis Garcia moment arrived last Sunday afternoon. All week I had dreaded the trip to Old Trafford. I hated the fact that so many pundits were making us favourites. I hated the fact that the great football genius that is David Moyes had such a record of dismal failure against us. I couldn’t get memories of the game when we stuffed United 2-0 at Anfield to present the title to Leeds out of my head. Everything seemed to point to a hideous 1-0 win for the Mancs care of a dodgy penalty or a horrendous deflection.

The trip into Mordor seemed like the banana skin to end all banana skins.

But it wasn’t.

I never would have believed that watching United 0 – Liverpool 3 could be boring. But in a way it was. They were so completely and mind bogglingly crap. We were not even that good. This was no 5-1 against Arsenal or 0-5 at White Hart Lane. This was a performance as brutally efficient as the German invasion of Poland. We had all the Panzers and 88mm guns and Stukas. They had the completely out nof date and defenceless cavalry regiments.

And as the goals to reflect our utter superiority went in one by one, that familiar superstitious feeling was once again upon me.

It still is.


On May 9th Liverpool Football Club will be crowned champions for the nineteenth time. All of a sudden I have no doubt about this. Just like in 2005, it is written in the stars.

Justification for this outrageous optimism?

Here we go.

Back issues of this blog are filled with examples of me having a go at our American owners, but I guess it is time to eat a plateful of humble pie. Hindsight shows that in several key areas they have hit the ball out of the park - appointing Brendan, keeping Anfield and keeping Suarez being the big three. To have ducked and dived so adroitly around the billionaires ranged against us is nothing short of outstanding.


So, as well as Liverpool FC they also won the Boston Red Sox and last year the Red Sox won the World Series. If we win the league, it means they will be the first guys in history to hold the Premiership and the World Series at the same time. Now wouldn't that be something?

And then there is the Stevie G factor. He went public a while ago to say that he had all but given up hoping for the final medal to complete his collection. Well. He ain’t saying that now. Fate surely demands that now is the time for him to add that one final medal to his cabinet.

Then there is the 25 year thing.

25 years ago I was sitting in the Kemlyn Road stand as Michael Thomas hurdled a desperate Steve Nichol tackle to clip the ball by Bruce Grobbelaar to win the league for Arsenal in stoppage time. Something tells me that the tables are about to turn. Something tells me that things could once again come down all the way to the last knockings and maybe, just maybe, it might be Liverpool and Arsenal who are the last men standing. Shoulder to shoulder. Pushing for the finish line.

Last time they won the league and we won the cup.

This time it might just be the other way round.

Written in the stars.

But none of these represent the big one.

The big one is the fact that on 15 April, a quarter of a century will have passed since 96 of us never made it home from the Leppings Lane end.

It seems now that justice might be a matter of months from finally being delivered. Even the Prime Minister has stood up in the House of Commons and pointed the finger where it should have been pointed all along. (Though the 70,000 Mancs don’t seem to have heard about this. Why else would they have sung ‘Murderers’ last Sunday afternoon with such enthusiasm. Or could it be that they are just a bunch of contemptible bastards?)

What goes around, comes around and every now and then the good guys come out on top.

Every now and then things just get written in the stars.

Like now.


Said it.       


Saturday, March 15, 2014


On Wednesday night I stood up from my seat at the speakers’ table and made my political debut. The occasion was a pro independence meeting in Lockerbie Town Hall on a cold, misty night. About a hundred or so were there in the audience to witness my efforts. Less than 48 hours after I resumed my seat, the early morning news channels broke the news of the death of Tony Benn at the age of 88.

Is there a reason for those two pieces of information to be included in the same paragraph? Absolutely, though Tony would never have had any inkling as to why. The fact is that at the very start of the 33 year road that delivered me to a lectern in Lockerbie Town Hall was Tony Benn.

I’ll rewind the clock all the way back to a crisp winter night in1980. Maggie Thatcher had been in Number 10 for just over a year and already her wrecking ball was starting to do its worst across the industrial heartlands of the North. Kenny Dalglish was leading the line for Liverpool and the Soviet tanks had ground to a halt in the heat and dust of Afghanistan. Nelson Mandela still had the thick end of a decade of prison time to serve out. Reagan was in the White House and Brezhnev was in the Kremlim. And me? I was getting my head around being a Blackburn Grammar School lad amidst the cords and tweeds of a whole bunch of Etonians and Harrowvians. It was my first term at Magdalene Collage, Cambridge and for a while it felt like the dark side of the moon.
I had spent the previous few months travelling across Africa in an old army Bedford truck and my eyes had been opened so far that I barely had any lids left. There had been a whole lot of reality checks. What the absolute, utter emptiness of the desert looked like. What a starving village looked like. What a military dictatorship looked like. What a war zone looked like. It all looked a whole lot different from the rain drenched valley where the terraces and cotton mill chimneys of Blackburn cowered and waited for Thatcher to do her worst.

After the heat, light and mayhem of Africa came the cotton wool suffocation of Cambridge at the time when Brideshead Revisited took the coutyards and fantasy into the living rooms of millions. Everyone wanted to be Sebastian Flyte. Everyone wanted a teddy bear in their room. Everyone wanted to drink themselves into oblivion and beyond.

Not a thing made any kind of sense. Well. Not quite. Jumping into my VW Beetle and trundling up the A1 and over the M62 once a fortnight to take up my place on the Kop to watch King Kenny still made sense.

Hindsight tells me that I was 19 and completely and utterly confused. A fish out of water. Like Joe Strummer said around that time, I was all lost in the supermarket, I could no longer shop happily.

Then the word flicked around that Tony Benn was coming to town. He was down to appear in a debate at the Cambridge Union where he would take on Sir Keith Joseph, Maggie Thatcher’s very own Josef Goebbels. Maggie’s in house attack dog. Maggie’s very own evil genius.
The event was always going to be a slam dunk sell out, so we took no chances. We pitched up about an hour before the doors opened and already the queue was impressive: as was the police presence. This was a new experience for most of the lads, but it was old hat for me. From the age of six I had been turning up at football grounds hours before the kick off to make sure I didn’t have to suffer the misery of seeing the gates closed in my face.

What were my politics? I had none. I merely had a whole lot of completely different experiences, none of which seemed to fit into a coherent whole. My life had become a chaotic mess of jigsaw pieces and they showed no signs of ever being slotted together. I had absorbed plenty of the propaganda of the time, and there certainly was plenty of it to absorb. Those were the days of the Cold War and Trade Union Power and the IRA. The Sovs had stormed into Afghanistan, the Unions had all but shut the country down a year earlier and the Provos had recently atomised eighteen Paras at Warrenpoint. Every day we were told about all of the Bogeymen who threatened everyone and everything. The Red Peril from Moscow. The Reds under the bed at home. And the Irish nutters across the water. Did I believe it? Not really. Lots of different voices had already made me doubt almost everything that I had been told. Graham Greene, John Le Carre, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi, Joe Strummer. And more than everything else, I had a nagging gnawing guilt that all of the starvation and savagery I had laid eyes on in Africa was pretty well all down to us. Our greed. Our violence. Our robber baron instincts.

It all made the picture postcard smugness of Cambridge seem like a screaming lie. And now here was the prospect of watching one of the greatest bogeymen of them all in the flesh. In 1980, the media left nobody in any doubt about Anthony Wedgewood Benn. He was Moscow’s man. He was a threat. He was a fifth columnist. He was the man who would welcome the Red Army’s T62 tanks with open arms when they rumbled into Trafalgar Square. He was the man who would light a flare to guide the Spetsnaz paratroopers onto the roof of Buckingham Palace. There were many hints and suggestions that he was basically insane and the best thing for everyone would be for him to be locked away in Broadmoor for ever and ever.

All of this of course made the prospect of seeing what he as actually like absolutely unmissable. The atmosphere inside the Union that night was uncannily similar to a Liverpool v Man United game. Lines were drawn. Hostilities were huge. A fight was always a matter of seconds away. Everyone was in uniform. The Reds wore old overcoats and second hand granddad shirts and free Mandela T shirts. The Blues were clad in cord trousers and checked shirts and Harris Tweed jackets. Those were the days were lines were always clearly drawn. Punks and Rockers. Workers and bosses. Socialists and Capitalists. Ban the bomb or bless the bomb. Those were the days when street riots were a weekly occurrence. The evening news would not be the evening news if it didn’t carry pictures of lines of policemen stretching and straining against mobs of angry guys with perms, donkey jackets and long ‘sidies’.

And most of the papers were in agreement that the main man behind the bottle throwing street mobs was none other that the right honourable Anthony Wedgewood Benn.

At the appointed time the gladiators appeared and the electricity cracked around the venerable old hall. It was two a side. In the Blue corner, Keith Joseph and a tweedy looking lad with thinning hair and the look of someone who was heir to half of Buckinghamshire. In the Red corner, Tony and a lad in a combat jacket complete with a CND badge.

The rules of engagement were laid out by the Chair who also encouraged the audience to try to be civilised. Then it was time to kick off proceedings. I cannot for the life of me remember the topic of the debate. No doubt it revolved around the rights and wrongs of one of Maggie’s flagship policies. I remember being somewhat in awe of the lad who was first up to speak. Christ, he must have been laying eggs. This was the student of the left and to my eyes he made a hell of a start. I very much doubted that I would have been able to remember how to open my mouth and speak had I been in his shoes. The three debaters who were waiting their turn were seated in well worn Chesterfield style leather seats and all of a sudden Keith Joseph started thumping his hand on the chair arm. It wasn’t loud enough for anyone to be able to say anything, but it was a country mile louder than a gentle tap. It sent out a message to the gallant young speaker. As in, just who the hell do you think you are you horrible little toe-rag? All the while he wore a small smile of dismissive disdain. The thumping Tory hand was more than enough to throw the lad completely off his stride and when he sat down, he had the look of someone yearning for the ground to open up and swallow him. Tony gave him an avuncular pat on the back. Been there. Done that. It’s a dirty, dirty business but when you have experienced the stomach churning terror of flying combat missions against the Luftwaffe, it doesn’t seem quite so bad.

Next came the student in tweed. He was word perfect, polished and utterly machine-like: an advert for what a £10,000 a term education churns out. The Blues roared and the Reds jeered when he was done.

And then Sir Keith took centre stage. He was groomed and fluent and flaunted a brain that was razor sharp and then some. He was pitch perfect and super smooth and at the end of his speech the Blues tried to take the roof off whilst the Reds hissed out their loathing. For a moment he stood stock still and absorbed it all. You could tell that he relished the hatred every bit as much as the adulation. Here was the embodiment of the British Establishment, soaking it up in the very heart of the British Establishment. A knight of the Realm. A Tory Grandee. A man who’s life long mission was to keep a thumb on the heads of the masses. I couldn’t stop thinking about a line from John Cooper Clarke’s epic song ‘Beasley St’, a ballad to the tragedy of the terraces of the North.

‘Keith Joseph smiles and a baby dies in a box on Beasley St.’

And then it was time for Tony. He was immediately different from Keith Joseph in every respect. He wasn’t remotely wired. Listening to him was as comfortable as donning a pair of favourite slippers. And Christ he was funny. It took him under five minutes to have the whole hall eating out of his hand. And for twenty minutes or so, everything made absolute sense. When he was done the Reds cheered. And the Blues cheered. Everyone cheered. Everyone except Sir Keith and the heir to half of Buckinghamshire.


Simple. We all knew we had been privileged to spend time in the company of someone who was genuinely special. His sheer unrelenting warmth and humanity shone through. Some people pretend to care. Some people genuinely DO care, and Tony was such a person in every respect.

After that night, I always fumed at the malignant spite the media threw at him for year after year until the Establishment found a safe pair of Labour hands in the form of Tony Blair and then it was deemed safe to turn Tony into a National Treasure.

And now he is gone and he will be very greatly missed. Leaders like Tony Benn are as rare as Giant Pandas. What would Britain look like now had Tony Benn led us through the wild years of the 1980’s instead of the Iron Lady? Would the bankers have been allowed to crash the economy? Would millions be reduced to near slavery on zero hour contracts? Would the poor be hammered into the ground by the media and the Welfare Reforms? Would we be mourning hundreds of young soldiers sacrificed in illegal wars?

I doubt it.

Maybe under Tony’s stewardship, Britain might have evolved into something like the Scandinavian countries we now admire so much. But he didn’t and we didn’t and we are where we are.

I am simply glad to have had the chance to see him in action all those years ago when the world was a very different place. I sometimes wonder whether it was Tony who set me out on the path I have taken these last 33 years. Maybe without his guidance I might have sold my soul for the big bucks the City was offering to anyone emerging from Cambridge back then. No books written and no charity managed. Instead a house in Surrey and a bank account full of bold, black numbers. And lots of noughts! But Tony was right. Selling out your soul for a few lousy quid is never a smart play. So thanks for that Tony. I hope you are now in a place where the Establishment allow you a level playing field.

I’ll finish off with a quote from Mahatma Ghandi which appears on the ‘Wings over Scotland’ website. It seems more or less completely right.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they come to fight you, and then you win."

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


“The army tried one last time to bring him back into the fold. And if he pulled over, it all would have been forgotten. But he kept going, and he kept winning it his way, and they called me in. They lost him. He was gone. Nothing but rumours and random intelligence, mostly from captured VC. The VC knew his name by now, and they were scared of him. He and his men were playing hit and run all the way into Cambodia."

Of course you really need Martin Sheen’s voice to do the words justice. They lost him. He was gone. The quote certainly made a pretty major impact on an 18 year old Frankland in an empty Preston Odeon. Way, way back. Pre Maggie Thatcher and pre middle age. 1979 for Christ's sake!

First Base lost one this week, but in no way, shape or form is he playing hit and run all the way into Cambodia. Nor does he have any men at his side. Instead the one we have lost is sofa surfing his away round the flats of North West Dumfries whilst the local cops make half hearted efforts to pick him up.

So Robbie is now a man on the run. He must have made all the right noises in prison. He must have smiled when he was expected to amile and nodded earnestly when he was expected to nod earnestly. He must have made all the right noises. All the right promises. This time everything would be different. This time he had learned his lesson. This time he would stay clear of the Buckfast and the handfuls of blue valium. This time he would stay clean and knuckle down and look for a job or do a course and see his kids and start out on the road to becoming a model citizen. Honest.

Did anyone really buy any of it? I doubt it. They must have been tempted to roll their eyes and say come on Robbie, pull the other one, it’s got bells on. But Robbie is a dab hand at promising to turn over a new leaf. He is one of those lads you just can’t help but like. He has a ready smile and he is always genuinely confused at how he has managed to get himself into so much bother.


When he tells you that everything will be different this time, you really want to believe it. Hell, everyone really wants to believe it. Robbie really wants to believe it. And why should it not be so? On the surface Robbie has all the tools he needs. He is smart and popular and charming. If a prospective employer were to interview ten young lads and Robbie was one of the ten, then the odds would always be stacked in his favour. But then of course they would ask for a sight of his criminal record and the whole thing would fall apart into a million pieces. Bloody hell. Would you believe it? All those times inside at that age. And he seemed such a grand lad….

We first came across Robbie when he was fifteen. He came in with his mum and brother and all of his horizons were open and bright. His mum had just read one of my books and she was looking to pick up a couple more. I was just about at the end of ‘The Poisonous Past’ and my mind had turned onto a design for the cover. I had a plan for a picture of two lads in hoodies standing somewhere in the wrong part of town. How would Robbie and his brother feel about being the lads for the picture? No problem. Glad to help. And they did. You can see them at the top of the page.

After that he called in every now and then to let us know how things were going. Back then the big dream was a career in the Army. It had been his dream for as long as he could remember. When he reached 16 the time for the dream to come true duly arrived and the British Army liked the look of him. Just like everyone else.

But it didn’t work out. After a few weeks he was chronically homesick and he chucked it in and came home. But home was suddenly a problem. You see, he had never bothered to formulate a plan B. All there had ever been was the Army and he had no kind of backup plan. So he fell in with the other lost boys who had walked out of school with no hopes and aspirations. He fell into a life of guzzled Buckfast and handfuls of cheap and cheerful pills and low grade moronic gang fights.

And trouble. More and more trouble until the Sheriff got fed up with listening to his excuses and sent him up the road to Her Majecty’s Polmont prison for young offenders. Once again he got pretty damned homesick but this time the option of chucking it in and heading back to Dumfries wasn’t on the cards.

He served out his time and came home full of good intentions which once again failed to materialise. We saw his name in the court files of the paper on day. I can’t remember what he had done. Just more drunken idiocy. It seemed more than likely that community service would be the punishment of choice. So I picked up the phone and tracked down his Criminal Justice worker. I said that if he were to get a few hundred hours of community service he could come along and do it at First Base.

And so it was. He became a part of our schools programme and what a complete and utter star he was. Sixteen year old likely lads are never much likely to listen to anything an old sod like me says. Why on earth would they? But when Robbie told it like it was, they sat quiet and took on board every word. They filed away what it was like to spend a weekend in the custody cells. What it was like to be a small town boy in the midst of all the Glasgow hard nuts in Polmont. How it was to live with the guilt of letting your mum down. Again, and again and again…

Coppers started taking him with them because the kids would listen to him. Hang on his words. Take him seriously. Get the fact the getting in the shit real time is a far cry for Grand Theft Auto or 50 Cent.

And for a while everything seemed possible. He settled down with his girlfriend and started to be a pretty good dad to his daughter. His brother started to talk to him again after being disgusted for years.

One by one, all the good things of a normal life started to come his way. A family. A partner. Two kids. A job. Respect. Self respect….

And then he blew the lot over the course of a madcap weekend with the lost boys and too many blue valium pills to keep a count of.

‘The army tried one last time to bring him back into the fold and if he had pulled over it would all have been forgotten. But he kept on going… they lost him …. He was gone.”

The slippery slope. More stupid crimes, most of which he couldn’t remember the next morning when he woke up in the cells. More self disgust. More shame. Breakups. Rows. Fracture.

And jail time.

And after a while, the local Homeless Department told him they were done with him. And local Housing Associations told him the they were done with him. Just about everyone told him they were done with him. We never did, but he stopped coming in to see us. Too embarrassed. Unwilling to have memories dragged back up of a the time when it looked like his life was about to get back on the tracks.

Every now and then I would bump into him out and about in the town. Sometimes he was off his face. Sometimes he was clear headed and sombre. Always he was his normal charming self. He would always promise to call in the next day. And he never came. The last time I saw him was in Tesco a few months ago. He had a black eye and his skin was grey. He was with some lass who looked like her brain had departed for somewhere on the far side of Pluto. He didn’t know what to do with his hands and he couldn’t drag his eyes from the floor. She kept pulling at his sleeve but seemed to lack the strength to pull it very hard. Two sets of eyes swivelled on stalks. They never said anything, but was clear that they were expecting to be turfed out by security at any minute.

He promised to call in the next day.

He never came in the next day.

Surprise, surprise.

A few days later I heard that he was back inside. And then we got a call saying there was a chance that he might be let out on a tag so long as he signed on the dotted line to put in community service time. Could he come and do his hours at the First Base Walled garden? Sure he could. But I never for a minute really thought that he would. The idea was that he would call in to arrange things on the day after his liberation.

He never came.

The only address he was able to give to the privatized keepers of the electronic tag was his dad in Annan. Well he wasn’t there long. He cut off the tag and went on the run.

They lost him. He was gone.

Now his dad comes through to Dumfries on the train every day to try and track him down and hand him in. On a couple of occasions he has missed him by less than ten minutes. But at the time of writing Robbie is still at large. No money and no prospects of anything other than yet another stretch inside. No doubt by now most of his pals will be getting pretty pissed off with the late night knock and the fugitive on the sofa.

How long will it last? Christ knows. I don’t expect the police are giving his capture any great priority. He doesn’t warrant Tommy Lee Jones and a bunch of tracker dogs. They probably figure that he will get fed up of the fugitive life soon enough and eventually the idea of a warm cell and three square meals a day will look pretty appealing.

I’ll hit the publish button on this in a few minutes at which point theses words will wing their way off to who knows where. Maybe they will be read by someone who is giving our runaway the use of a sofa. Should that be the case, then try and persuade him to have a read. Tell him he’s a bloody daftie. And tell him that the door to 6 Buccleuch St is always open.
And maybe, just maybe, this blog can make like a virtual message in a bottle.
You know well enough that we don’t bite Robbie. Sure you’ll feel embarrassed and sure you’ll like a right dickhead. Well, such is life. That will pass soon enough. I reckon it’s time to have a another go at getting things back on track. Sure it will be a long haul and most of it will be pretty crap but you’re going to have to start sometime.

So its over to you Robbie. The kettle’s on.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Well here they are. The two modern day knights who will lead the line when England take the field against Italy in the buzzing heat of the Amazon jungle. Two young men, one who hails from Liverpool and one who plies his trade in Liverpool. For Liverpool. Wayne and Danny ….. and  Danny and Wayne.

Superstars. Icons. A list celebrities. Redtop fodder.


And last but absolutely not least….

Role models!

This is something we hear a great deal about amidst the wailing and gnashing of teeth that accompanies any debate about the realities of Premier League football 2014.

Wayne is probably more in the limelight. He has recently signed a new contract to hitch his wagon to the dark forces of Mordor (Manchester United FC) for the next five years. His remuneration is very much of the eye watering variety. Over the coming 60 months, Wayne will receive £65 million for leading the line for the forces of darkness. Not bad from a lad from the wrong side of the Croxteth tracks, assuming that there is indeed a right side of the tracks to be found in good old Crocky – the gun capital of Greater Merseyside.

How do we feel about this? Not very happy it seems. News of Wayne’s new contract has been met with all the usual comparisons with the take home pay for nurses in A&E and combat infantrymen in Helmand Province.

When it comes to salaries that closely resemble international telephone numbers, it seems that Footballers and bankers tend to generate the maximum levels of outrage. It has always seemed odd to me how film stars, tennis players and the Royal Family get let off so lightly. I have no clue how much the Queen will rake in over the next five years, but I have an inkling that it will be somewhat more than Wayne and Danny. But of course she deserves every penny that we pay her. Well of course she does. She has fought tooth and nail all of her life to reach the top of the pile where such sums are a truly appropriate reward for her absolute wonderfulness.

Let’s compare and contrast. What has Wayne ever done? He was born poor in one of the most deprived corners of Britain where life expectancy will be rather less than three score years and ten. All he managed to do was to maximise his talent as a footballer to go one to reach the pinnacle of his chosen profession. Pathetic when compared to our national treasure of a Queen.



She was born. And being born isn’t all that easy. And…..


And she has held her knife and fork right for the whole of her life and never once has she poured a stream of expletives into a pitch side camera at Upton Park.

So our beloved Majesty deserves absolutely every penny. Of course she does. She offers a perfect example to every one of her subjects. She is the ideal role model for any youngster who is born into a family with billions of pounds worth of inherited wealth and a surname that has a crown to go along with it.

Would the Queen have been held up as such an utterly perfect icon had she like Wayne been born and raised in Crocky? Doubtful. Utterly wonderful though she may be, the Queen has never really shown much evidence that she would have been the kind of gal to drag herself free of the mean streets of Croxteth to become an A list celeb. More likely she would have ended up behind the counter in the local Greggs serving sausage rolls to wannabe gangsters. No doubt she would have been a much loved Nan to a brood of tearaway grandkids. In fact, had the Queen been born into a Crocky family instead of a Royal Family, she would have probably gone on to become a genuinely worthy role model, but of course that fact would have gone entirely unnoticed because nobody cares about worthy grandmothers from Britain’s less favoured areas.

It has been a long, long time since Wayne went unnoticed. Ever since that moment when the sixteen year old Wayne smashed a thirty yarder past a sprawling, grasping David Seaman, his every move has been scrutised. Seldom has he been hailed as a lad who has defied all the odds to make it to the top. Instead he has been slagged off as typical Scouser who really should in prison. How dare he be granted a contract worth £65 million! That sort of money should never be given to the likes of him. What about the nurses and the firemen and the brave boys in Afghanistan……

I wonder why we never get to hear about the poor old nurses and firemen and soldiers when Parliament nods through a multi million pound contract to keep the Royal Family in the style they have become so very accustomed to. In fact, I can’t remember the nurses and firemen and soldiers being brought up when Andy Murray won Wimbledon or when Daniel Craig took to the red carpet to launch the latest Bond movie.  

Daniel Craig attended a comprehensive school in Wset Kirby on the Wirral. A quick glance at Google maps shows that his school was about seven miles or so away from Wayne’s school in West Derby as the crow flies. And yet there never seems to have been any undue pressure loaded onto Daniel Craig to become a perfect role model for the youngsters of Merseyside. For some bizarre reason, if you become a film star, tennis player or Royal and earn a vast fortune, then there is no accompanying role model requirement. But if you make it big on the football pitch you are required to be Mr Perfect in every respect.

It’s ridiculous when you think about it. The perceived wisdom is that footballers are different. Footballers are held in such high esteem by our young people that their every move will be copied and aped. That is why the likes of Nike will pay the likes of Wayne and Danny such fortunes to market their wares. It has become a widely held assumption that young people will sheepishly follow football stars in everything they wear and do. If Wayne is photographed modelling a bright pink hooded top, then millions of uber-gullible youngsters will follow suit.

Will they?

I wonder. Our boy Danny has become something of a star over recent months. He is now a shoe-in for the World Cup and he is knocking in goals for fun in front of the Kop. Surely here is the kind of lad who the tabloid press will demand to become a role model for all reprobate youngsters. The assumption is that if Danny proves to be model citizen like the Queen, then lots and lots of young Scousers will stop carrying knives and taking drugs and robbing shops.

Over the last few months Danny has been much questioned by the media. Why is everything suddenly going so well Danny! What is your secret Danny! And Danny has consistently answered these questions with great directness and clarity.

Danny has told us that his success in front of goal is all down to God. Danny is very big on God and he never misses a chance to praise his Lord and maker.

If we are to buy into the tabloids' role model agenda, then there must have been a huge upsurge in young Scouse lads and lasses piling into their local churches to catch the Sunday service. The average age of Liverpool congregations must have fallen from seventy to twenty. Numbers choosing to take a Religious Studies GCSE must have double and trebled…

Well maybe there has been a like in youthful religious fervour across the churches of Greater Merseyside as Danny’s dancing feet have lit up Anfield. But I doubt it. And I haven’t noticed much of a redtop media campaign to demand Danny should be knighted for his efforts to persuade British youth to embrace the light of the Lord. Does this surprise anyone? I doubt it. All this role model stuff is just a part of the  spiteful media agenda against the poor. When poor lads from the wrong side of the tracks manage to make good, we sneer and scoff. Such lads shouldn’t be allowed to get rich. How dare they? That kind of money should only be paid to lads from public schools and Royalty.

That said, it is still hard not to be thoroughly disgusted at the ludicrous amounts our clubs are paying their players. I don’t know how much an Old Trafford season costs, but I guess it will be similar to what we pay at Anfield: about £800. Basically it will require the cash from 20,000 season tickets to pay Wayne his salary each year. It goes without saying that coming up with £800 to buy a season ticket is not an easy thing to do in these tough economic times. I hate to think how many divorces will have been caused among the 20,000 disciples of Mordor as a result of £800 being spent to go the match. I remember seeing an article way back when in the late 70’s comparing the salaries earned in different professions. I cannot remember the exact details, but Mick Martin who was the captain of United at the time was earning £42,000 a year which was about three times as much as a copper or a nurse. Now Wayne earns 500 times more than a copper or a nurse.

Which of course is ludicrous.
But it is hardly his fault. Has Wayne made the right decision in signing over the rest of his career to the dark forces of Mordor in exchange for £65 million? Probably not. Already he will have more cash stowed away than he will ever be able to spend. I expect he has taken some time to think about the rest of his life and what he wants it to look like. He has been guided by the fact that he will in all probability beat Bobby Charlton’s record and go on to be the highest ever goal scorer for Mordor.

Well that is all fine and dandy. But you had the opportunity to hit the ball out of the park Wayne and you have completely missed it.

Wayne has never hidden the fact that he is still and will always be an Evertonian. His whole family is Evertonian. So here’s what you could have done Wayne. You could have said that you would see out the last 18 months of your contract with Mordor. Then you could have moved back down the East Lance Rd to Goodison on a free transfer and accepted a contract from Everton at the same rate as the lads graduating from the Academy. The message could have been clear. I’ve got more money that I will ever be able to spend. Now I wo0uld like to finish my career as captain of my boyhood club and become a living legend in the city of my birth.

Now that would have been classy Wayne. Really, really classy and the rest of you life would be so much the better for it. Instead you have sold your soul for the gold of Mordor and you will end you playing days in that ghastly corporate mausoleum that was once upon a time a football stadium.

Bad call Wayne.