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, August 31, 2015


Corbynmania has induced a fascination with echoes. Echoes from times gone by. Echoes of the good old 1980's. In the red corner, a bearded throwback to the old school left. Only the donkey jacket is missing. But everything else from the old Tony Benn playbook is suddenly back in the spotlight from re-nationalised trains to scrapped nukes. And of course in the blue corner is the most right wing government since Maggie.
For newsreaders and stand up comics alike, these echoes are just to easy to be ignored. Archives throw out reels and reels of perfect background sights and sounds from Orgreave to champagne quaffing city boys in braces to Ben Elton on 'Saturday Night live' with the sleeves of his shiny jacket rolled up.
But I am not too sure the 80’s echoes are the ones we should be listening to. They are obvious and they are easy to hear, but that doesn’t make them right.
Cameron’s Tories are constantly compared to Thatcher’s Tories, but in reality there are few similarities. Maggie Thatcher was many things and not many of them were very good, but she was anything but a coward. When she picked a fight, she stood her ground and slugged it out like a street brawler. She was merciless and she was vicious and she had no interest in the Geneva Convention.
She lined up her enemies one by one and she took them on. She always explained exactly why they were her enemies. And then she laid into them. And she wasn’t shy about standing next to her more ghastly friends for a photo shoot, be it the Apartheid Government in South Africa of President Pinochet in Chile.
And let’s face it, very few were able to withstand the manic assaults from the Prime Minister’s handbag.
The Argentinians, the miners and the IRA were all left bleeding out on the floor.
And the Labour Party of course.
The old left.
Michael Foot and Tony Benn and Arthur Scargill and Derek Hatton.
Squashed like beetles under a skinhead’s Doc Martin boot.
There is none of her thuggish bravado to be found in Cameron and Osborne. These are not leaders for the front line. Instead they pull their strings from far back in the shadows and giggle at their covert nastiness.
They could not be less like Maggie and her bully boys.
The real echoes are much more sinister and much fainter. And of course we really don’t want to hear the real echoes because they are so ugly. This is a government that delivers its cruelty through legions of bland faced beaurocrats. They never front up. They hide. And their cowardice is endless.
The echoes are not from the eighties. They are not even from Britain. Instead they float silently through the decades from the dark days of Germany's past. The pitch black horrors of the Third Reich and the grey misery of Communist East Germany. They were both hideous regimes run by miserable cowardly men who were corrupt to their core. From Martin Bormann to Heinrich Himmler to Adolf Eichmann to Eric Honnecker. Grey men. Chicken farmers and paint salesmen.
Evil was delivered with perfect paperwork. Brutality was documented in copper plate handwriting.
A few years ago I visited the museum at Auschwitz on bitterly cold day in February. Those few blighted acres on the Upper Silesian coalfield in every respect represent the very worst place in the world. Nobody will ever find the right words to describe the numbing horror of the place. Certainly not me.
Oddly enough, of all the awful things I saw that day, the one thing that seemed worst of all was some paperwork. A ledger book. I have never seen a document more neatly written. Perfect handwriting. Immaculately lined up figures. The book recorded the exact take from every train that drew up at the platform in Birkenau. How much gold and silver and diamonds and rubies. And dollars and Reichmarks and Swiss Francs. Share certificates and works of art.
The loot. The plunder.
Measured and audited and accounted for and stored ready for transportation.
Right down to the last pfennig.
This was not about the insanity of psychotic zealots. It was plain crime. Industrial robbery. A crime that relied on perfect railway timetables and an assembly line from hell.
Adolf Eichmann didn’t have an office in Auschwitz Birkenau. He never looked his victims in the eye. Instead he hid away in Berlin and drew up his flow charts and cash flows.
When it all started in 1933, Hitler and his cronies scraped over the electoral line much like the currant Westminster Government squeaked home in May. From the very get go they relied on an army of grey, anonymous beaurocrats to cement their power. Endless nastiness was wrapped up in bland civil service language.
And nothing worked. As Germany slipped into a permanent recession, the Nazis tried to mask their dismal incompetence with vitriolic propaganda. Blame the Jews and the Gypsies and Homosexuals and the Slavs and the Communists.
And all the while those obliging grey men in cheap suits did their bidding with unblinking obedience.
The vaults of the banks of Zurich were filled with treasure whilst a million souls went up the chimneys of Birkenau.
Obviously the cowardly crew who are running Britain are not even beginning to touch the evil of the Nazis or their successors in East Germany. But they are using the same playbook.
You start by blaming people who are easy to blame. The poor. The immigrants. You orchestrate a relentless drumbeat of hate in a compliant media. And once the eyes of the public are firmly fixed on your chosen bogeymen, you quietly get on with the job of looting everything you can lay your hands on. And all the while you pretend that you are the most efficient people the world has ever seen. George Osborne started out with a record National Debt and doubled it and still managed to con people that he was a penny pinching master of austerity. And as the country slips ever deeper into poverty and mediocrity, you keep everyone looking the wrong way by bombarding them with wall to wall propaganda. You keep on blaming the poor and the Jews and immigrants and the Gypsies and the feckless Labour Government and the feckless Weimar Government. And you spend a vast fortune of borrowed money on holding the Olympic Games in your capital city.
And all the while you keep coming up with completely inept ideas and pushing them down everyone’s throat via your army of grey men in cheap suits.
Take just one First Base example from last week. Let’s call the lad Joe. Joe is 43. Joe left school at 16 and went to work on a building site. Joe has worked on building sites for twenty seven years. He’s never been unemployed because he’s a good builder. He’s an ordinary Joe. And for 27 years he paid his National Insurance into the pot to make sure he would be given the lend of an umbrella should a rainy day ever come.
Well the rainy day duly arrived a couple of months ago when Joe was paid off. So he signed on. Like you do. And he signed up to his part of the Jobseeking contract the grey men have drawn up for the citizens under their charge.
Joe doesn’t want to be unemployed.
Joe hates being unemployed.
Joe is used to earning over £300 a week. So why would he be happy with £70 a week?
So Joe has been looking for his next job. Looking hard.
How does a builder look for work? Well everyone knows that. You wear out shoe leather. You go from site to site. You ask for the foreman. You introduce yourself. You leave your number.
And you keep calling again and again. You make sure that every site foreman knows your name. Your face. Your number.
That’s what Joe did.
But there was a problem. When Joe entered into his Jobseeking contract with the grey men in cheap suits, he failed to read the small print. And the small print demands that he must spend a minimum of 35 hours each and every week seeking work online. Joe hasn’t come close. Instead he has spent his days walking from site to site to site.
So they sanctioned him.
No more £70 a week.
Instead Joe has had a month of living on fresh air and two food parcels per week care of First Base. Adolf Eichmann would have been proud of the beaurcratic trap that ensnared Joe. It had the impossible lunacy that the hideous regimes of Hitler and Honnecker so specialised in.
If Joe DOES spend 35 hours a week online, he will never find a job. Building sites don’t do online recruitment. They like face to face. Site foreman like to shake a man’s hand and judge the work in the man from the hardness of the skin on his palms.
And so Joe has been plunged into the same crazy Alice in Wonderland world that generations of Germans became so familiar with.
Spend 35 hours a week online and never get a job. But get £70 a week.
Or spend 35 hours a week visiting building sites and get sanctioned.
And all the while Osborne and Duncan Smith preen themselves for the cameras and keep banging on about how superbly competent they are. And all the while the media rubber stamps their nonsense.
And all the while the country gets poorer and poorer whilst a few off shore accounts get filled up. And still wave after wave of propaganda blames it all on poor people and immigrants.
And we buy it!
Just like the Germans bought it.
It emerged last week that over the course of two years almost three thousand people died within a fortnight of being deemed fit to work. Surely that represents the almost perfect blend of cold brutality and breathtaking incompetence.
Telling someone who is ill enough to have less than two weeks to live that they are perfectly fit for work beggars belief. It is incredibly cruel. Of course it is. But it is also utterly incompetent. After all, what do you actually gain? You save a lousy £140.
No wonder these cowardly idiots have doubled the national debt in five years.
And then there is once last echo, though this time it is an echo to be found from our own past.
Hundreds of thousands of desperate souls are fleeing from lives made up of the kind of hell that we cannot possibly imagine. Our response? Build higher fences. More razor wire. Blame them. Drown everything out with an ever louder barrage of propaganda.
Keep them out, keep them out, keep them out….
This is road we have been down before. Eighty years ago in fact. Hundreds of thousands of Jews begged us for a place of safety and we slammed the door in their faces. We put up the ‘Britain is Full’ sign.
We double locked the door and switched up the TV to drown out the sound of their pleading. And a few years later they went up the chimneys of Birkenau.
Have a read of this. WH Auden wrote these words in 1939. It seems to me that there is a familiar echo here.

Refugee Blues

Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there's no place for us, my dear, yet there's no place for us.

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you'll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.

In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,
Every spring it blossoms anew:
Old passports can't do that, my dear, old passports can't do that.

The consul banged the table and said,
"If you've got no passport you're officially dead":
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.

Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
Asked me politely to return next year:
But where shall we go to-day, my dear, but where shall we go to-day?

Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said;
"If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread":
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.

Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;
It was Hitler over Europe, saying, "They must die":
O we were in his mind, my dear, O we were in his mind.

Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,
Saw a door opened and a cat let in:
But they weren't German Jews, my dear, but they weren't German Jews.

Went down the harbour and stood upon the quay,
Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:
Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.

Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;
They had no politicians and sang at their ease:
They weren't the human race, my dear, they weren't the human race.

Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors:
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.

Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.

Friday, August 14, 2015


I can’t pretend to be the most emotional of guys. Lets face it, I'm from Blackburn.
Born 1960.
It wasn’t the done thing to be over emotional in the grey old cotton town that turned me into what I am.
But ten minutes ago that good old Northern reserve was sorely tested and if I am going to be honest here, I am writing this with the prickle of tears in my eyes.
Regulars will know that the Foodbank I manage is facing hard times at the moment. Regulars will know that in a frantic attempt to raise the required £15,000 to keep the doors open I have written and released my 24th book: ‘The Great Foodbank Siege’.
The picture is at the top of the blogpage.
Since the book has been out and about, I have been trying to rustle up support. In the real world people have been handing out leaflets for us and the local media have been brand new.
In the virtual world I have asked for virtual support and received it. Lots and lots of kind words and generous reviews.
Tris at Mungiun’s Republic was a stand out in this regard. And of course I sent a message to Stuart at 'Wings over Scotland' asking if he could give us a leg up.
As in a retweet to his 45,000 followers.
Maybe even a review of some sort on the 'Wings over Scotland' site. This was the message I sent
‘In a perfect world you will give it a read, like it and review it. Sadly the world tends to be more shit than perfect but you never know!’
Well Stuart gave me the retweet and I was chuffed to have his support. Never in a million years did I expect what happened this morning. I received an e mail from Bruce, the local BBC reporter who had interviewed me about the book.
Had I seen this?
Had I seen what?
So you can follow the link I followed.

Bloody hell, right?
I damn near fell off my chair. Stuart’s case study is horribly familiar and will be so to anyone involved in a food bank in this era of cruelty. Thankfully with every passing day the curtain is being lifted on the small print viciousness of this nasty government.
Every day we hear stories like the one Stuart has focused on. These are the stories of the little people who cannot quite believe what they have done to deserve such a miserable fate. At First Base we see twenty of these people every day.
And they come to us because they have nothing to eat.
And most of the time they have nothing to eat because the Government has chosen to strip them of every penny of their income for the crime of….
The crime of what?
Of being ten minutes late for an appointment?
Of being to anxious and too generally mentally ill to get out of the house to make an appointment?
Of having a reading age of nine and being incapable of completing 38 online efforts to apply for work in a given fortnight?
These are the spongers and the scroungers we hear so much about in the right wing press. The ones who it seems are to blame for all the problems the world has faced since Lehman Brothers crashed and burned.
And as a punishment they have nothing to eat.
Sometimes for a week.
Sometimes for a month.
Sometimes for a three months.
Sometimes for three years for Christ’s sake.
Well in our small Scottish town, we can at least make sure they do have something to eat.
So long as we keep raising enough cash to keep the doors open. Hence the book. But in promoting the book there have been one or two unintended consequences.
There always are. Because life is never, ever simple.
It goes something like this.
Nobody is going to buy the book unless they know there is a book to buy. Duh! So you need to publicise the book. How? Get the media on board.
Press release.
‘First Base is in a £15,000 hole and we have just released a book to raise enough cash to fill the hole.’
Well what else could we say? So we said it.
And our message duly went out via the local papers, radio and TV.
Not surprisingly lots of people got the message.
Including every food parcel client I chatted with yesterday.
Oh yeah.
They heard the message all right. And they were scared. You’re not going to close down are you Mark……
And of course I made confident noises. Of course not. We’ve been here before. Many times before. One way or another we always find a way to keep the doors open. First Base knows how to run on fresh air.
I think I managed to ease their worries.
But I defy anyone not to feel the pressure of the situation. Because if the day comes when we cannot open our doors twenty people will have nothing to eat. Including kids.
And the safety net we have known since 1945 is barely there any more. 20% of the people who arrive at our desk have been sent to us by social workers who don’t have an emergency budget.
Not any more.
All they can do is send their client to the likes of First Base.
Because we have become the last line of defence. Oh and how politicians just love to grandstand and go on and on and on about the disgrace of foodbanks.
You want to take a moment to wonder how things would look right now if there were no foodbanks to hold the line.
Not great.
Knowing there is a danger that we might have to close the doors sometime in the depths of the winter is a thing that refuses to leave the mind. It is always there. Always nagging away. Always leaving an uneasy feeling in the pit of the stomach.
When you step into the spotlight and announce that you are in a financial hole, you really, really hope that you will find you have a few friends to step up alongside.
And be shoulder to shoulder.
I cannot say how pleased I am to say that First Base has had many, many friends standing shoulder to shoulder with us over the last few days.
And I see no point in not pointing out that most of them are fellow travelers from the ‘Yes’ campaign. The '45'.
But not all. More than a few ‘No’ voters have helped out as well.
Stuart has proved himself to be a true friend.
So thanks Stuart. Profound thanks.
Oh yeah, I know exactly how much you’ll hate me going all gushing on you. Well tough. You’ll have to live with it.
In the blog I posted yesterday I waxed rather lyrical about Scotland being the new ‘shining city on the hill.’
A beacon of hope for people all over the world.
A place where it is OK to be decent and caring and sympathetic. A place where immigrants and poor people don’t get blamed for everything. That is why I chose the picture at the top of the blog. Sentimental I know, but sod it.
You know what Stuart, I think you have just rubber stamped that particular thought. And everyone who has donated to your appeal has just rubber stamped that particular thought.
Big time.
And you know what? It might be tipping it down with rain outside but Scotland looks a pretty good place to be right now.    

Oh and by the way. If you want to buy yourself a copy of the 'Great Foodbank Siege' you can do so by following the link below.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


It has become a regular as clockwork part of the evening news. The Jeremy Corbyn piece. The 'Corbynmania' piece.  Public halls that have been echoing and empty for years suddenly jam packed. Extra chairs dug from dusty store rooms. Standing room only. People actually locked outside. People arriving three hours early to make sure of a seat.
And young people.
Lots and lots of young people with their faces full of unexpected hope.
For those of us who fought on the side of ‘YES’ last summer it all has a very familiar look about it. Remember how it was this time a year ago? The clock was ticking down to September 18th and the fever pitch mood of the final weeks was gathering momentum.
The battle lines also have the look of something very familiar.
On the one hand there are meeting halls filled with hundreds and hundreds of people drawn like moths to the flame of hope. Of something different. Of something fairer. Of something better.
On the other had are the giant grey walls of the establishment. 
Cold. Ugly. Dismissive. Arrogant. Lying. Condescending. Smug. Hideous.
The torrent of derision and abuse being poured over the Corbyn campaign is much the same as the derision and abuse we had thrown at us twelve months ago.

But something has changed.
A year ago it seemed like the vast grey armies of the Establishment would always prevail. On September 19th it certainly felt that way as the streets emptied of all hope and the evening news was given over to a crowd of fascist morons and their Nazi salutes in George Square.
My how the vintage port must have flowed in all those London clubs. The great unwashed had been duly conned out of their chance of something better. All those telephone calls from murky call centres had hit the mark.
You’ll lose your pension… you’ll lose your pension…. you’ll lose your pension…..
Drip, drip, drip……
Lie, lie, lie…….
Vow, vow, vow……
And that was supposed to have been that.
You’ve all had your chance. Your once in a generation chance. And you’ve blown it. We lied. And you bought the lies.
Because you’re stupid.
And we won.
Because we always win.
And now you can go back into your box.
And stay there.
But it didn’t work out that way. Not even close.
People refused to go back into the box and as their nasty, grubby lies were exposed one by one, the people of Scotland found a way to project our power.
And on May 7th we delivered our hammer blow.
On May 7th the Labour Party and the Lib Dems discovered the real meaning of Better Together. They suffered the kind of fate that the Romanian and Italian soldiers met at the battle of Stalingrad. They paid a heavy price for teaming up with the dark side.
They learnt what the word obliteration means.
And for four months the Tories and the Establishment had been smug as bugs in their rugs. The super rich have slept like babies in their vast beds.
And they are now completely convinced that things are just getting better and better as Jeremy Corbyn has moved from being a no hoper to a near shoe in.
Because nobody will vote for such an 80’s loser, right? He represents an enemy that the Establishment took on and destroyed thirty years ago when their cavalry stoved in the heads of the fleeing miners on the battlefield of Orgreave.
So let the gullible young fill the meeting halls of England to listen to the out dated words of Tony Benn. Let the deluded young indulge themselves in some misguided hope. Where is the harm? There is no harm. They are nothing. Pitiful.
And my how the good and the great of the Labour Party are closing ranks. Just listen to the desperation in their voices as they see their seats at the Establishment high table about to be taken away from them. They are terrorised by the prospect of becoming the next set of victims and going the same way as Murphy and Balls and Clegg and Alexander.
And Alexander.
Membership cancelled. Desk cleared. Access codes cancelled. Keycard reclaimed. No more invitations to the black ties dinners where the super rich write out the fat cheques and bestow the six figure non exec directorships.
On the wrong side of the wall.
In the cold.
Blair and his disciples are becoming frantically shrill in their warnings of mayhem and Armageddon and wipeout.
But here’s the thing.
None of it is working. Not any more. It doesn’t matter if it is Tony Blair or Alistair Campbell of the Murdoch Press. They all promise an electoral nemesis in 2020 if a man like Jeremy Leon Trotsky Corbyn should ever be put in a position to genuinely threaten the thousand or so people who call all of the shots.
So why oh why are the hundreds who fill the meeting halls not listening to such wise and trusted Establishment words? And why are the thousands and thousands who are about to succumb to Corbynmania not listening? Why do they not get it! Why can’t they see that nobody will vote for this kind of pipe dream 1980’s socialist drivel!
Go on!
Answer the bloody question you impudent deluded idiots.
And you know how all the people in the meeting halls are answering the question? They are answering the question with a single word.
Look at Scotland.
They HAVE free university education in Scotland.
They HAVE a publicly owned NHS in Scotland.
They HAVE a government who has promised to get rid of nuclear weapons in Scotland.
They HAVE a government who is nice about immigrants in Scotland.
They HAVE a government who condemns fighting illegal wars for the interests of corporations in Scotland.
They HAVE  a government who wants to play a positive role in Europe and the world in Scotland.
And you know what? These were all the things their manifesto promised in the run up to the election in May.
And you know what? They won by a landslide.
And you know what? You can stick your lies and bullshit where the sun don’t shine because people in England are no different from people in Scotland.
And if the Scots can do it, then we can do it to.
In the desperate years of hunger and disease after the end of the Second World War, America was the shining city on the hill for the starving millions of Europe. A place of plenty. Coca Cola and Gary Cooper and Levi jeans and shelves filled to bursting point with non rationed food. The land of the men in white hats who had sailed across the ocean to rid the world of Nazism.
Holywood brought the American Dream to the hungry and the cold.
And the hungry and the cold wanted their countries to be like that shining city on the hill.
America had the chance to guide the world into a better future. But America blew it. And now the world has become an increasingly dismal place and hundreds and hundreds of millions of people are becoming sick to the stomach with it.
It is becoming clear with every passing day that the status quo cannot last for much longer. People are arriving at a tipping point. People are arriving at a point in time where they will no longer be willing to put up with 1000 people owning well over half of the whole world. People are arriving at a time where they won’t wear the gilded thousand having $24 trillion stashed away in their off shore accounts in Grand Cayman and Luxembourg and …
Oh yes.
And the City of London.
All over Europe dark forces are coming up with dark answers to address the growing rage of the masses. And most of the time it isn’t pretty because most of the time the answers are the very same answers that Hitler and Mussolini came up with eighty years ago after the last great financial crash.
All over Europe people with the wrong coloured skin are being beaten and blamed. Even the once tolerant Scandinavians seem to be succumbing to the siren voices of the far right.
Greece tried to make a fight of it, but it seems that Greece has been smashed back to the ground.
Which leaves just one shining city on the hill for all of the millions of people whose lives just seem to get a little bit worse with every passing year.
The place where hope is the winning ticket. The place where simple words of decency and hope precipitated a democratic landslide.
A democratic revolution where not one single person was beaten to a pulp.
Whether we like it or not, we have become the role model for those who dream of achieving something better by using the power of hope not hate.
We are the antidote to the fast spreading virus of Putin and le Pen.
What we have managed to achieve over the last year or so has offered inspiration. That’s why when the Manchester Evening news asked its readers if they would like their city to become a part of Scotland over 70% said yes they would actually.
Just like 70% of Europeans would have dreamed of being Americans in 1946.
So we are the new shining city on the hill.
Hope is the asylum seeker and we have given hope a sanctuary.
It is very important that we are fully aware of the fact that the world is watching us. And admiring us. And wanting to be like us.
A place of decency and tolerance and hope where the vicious voices of those who hate are barely heard.
When I grew up I had a free university education and a grant. When I got ill, I was treated in an NHS that had no place for the private sector. When I travelled I could afford to use the train. When I was cold I could afford to switch the heating up.
These are not lunatic ideas that will destroy the fabric of our lives. Instead they are ideas that will hit the super rich hard.
No wonder they are fighting so hard to squash hope before it gets out of hand.
Well maybe this time they will not be so successful. Because when Tony Blair says vote Corbyn and get a guaranteed electoral wipeout, the hundreds in the meeting halls respond with a very simple question of their own.
What about Scotland then?
How come these barking mad ideas delivered 56 MPs out of 59?
Answer that one.
And right now nobody has an answer. And because they have no answer, more and more people turn up to every meeting.
Because all of those people have a shining city on the hill to inspire them.
I just hope that we do better than America did. Our small country has punched above its weight for hundreds of years.
We have given the world a lot.
Maybe now we can play our greatest role by providing a permanent safe place for decency and fairness and hope.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog I reckon you'll also enjoy my new book, 'The Great Foodbank Siege'. It costs £3. All proceeds go to keeping the First base Foodbank alive. And you can find it by clicking the link below.

Monday, August 10, 2015


‘The Great Foodbank Siege’ is now available to buy in the Kindle Store for the princely sum of £3. 
Once Amazon and the Vat Man have taken their respective slices of the cake, £2 from every sale will help The First Base Agency Foodbank to keep our heads above water.
What do you need to do to get yourself a copy?
Just click on this link.

Then it is simply a case of doing the usual thing in the Kindle Store and duly buying and downloading a copy.
To be honest I feel pretty nervous about the whole thing. Our financial situation certainly isn’t all that pretty at the moment. If ‘The Great Foodbank Siege’ proves to be a success and we manage to sell lots and lots of copies, then it will be a huge weight of the mind. As things stand First Base will run out of cash in January and the thought of twenty people a day turning up for emergency food only to find a locked door really doesn’t bare thinking about.
I feel pretty confident that most people will enjoy the book. It isn’t overly long and everyone who has read it so far has told me it is a quick read. A page turner to use a particularly well worn cliché! I guess anyone who voted ‘Yes’ with enthusiasm last September will enjoy every page. Those who crossed the ‘No’ box with gusto? Well I guess they won’t like it quite as much! But what the hell. Even if you think you are going to hate every page, maybe you could still buy a copy. At least it helps to put food on the table for people whose cupboards are bare.
Is there anything else you can do to help out?
You bet there is.
If you read it and you like it, please take a few minutes to put a short review up on Amazon. Reviews really help.
If you read it and you like it, please share it around on social media. If this fundraising gambit is going to stand any chance of success, we will have to pick up some serious momentum in the ether worlds of Facebook and Twitter.
We have also had a bunch of leaflets printed. If you are willing to spread a few around for us, you can e mail me at with your postal address and I will send a few out.
If you are a part of any kind of group that invites speakers along, I would be delighted to turn out to do a couple of readings and to answer questions about the book and the foodbank.
It is odd how the world is changing. Thirty years ago we might have put on a jumble sale or shaken collection tins up the high street. Now we encourage supporters to click a button and spend an electronic three quid with an American multi-national.
How very bizarre and daunting.      
What is truly alarming is the fact that front line charities such as First Base find ourselves in a position where we are having to resort to increasingly frantic efforts to raise cash. Last week’s implosion of the Kids Company opened up an awful lot of eyes. I have no idea if there was bad stuff going down at the Kids Company. I hope not. It doesn’t seem that way. I found some of the criticism leveled at them to be a bit rich. Apparently they were at fault for not building up lots and lots of financial reserves. I very much doubt if this was an active choice they made. First Base has been running for twelve years now and we have never once managed to amass any reserves. It just doesn’t happen that way for most front line charities. Demand keeps on coming in through the front door and you simply do your best to keep up. It is called living from hand to mouth. Imagine if we told our clients that there is no food today because we are building up our reserves.
It seems that Kids Company worked from the same play book as the one we have always used. They tried their best to help as many kids as they could manage to help and in the end the massive demand became too much. 
In the end they were overwhelmed.
The decision the Government has made to succumb to their cold feet and pull the plug on Kids Company will end up costing the tax payer a fortune. Most of the buildings the Kids Company were using were given to them free of charge. They also had many thousands of volunteers who were willing to give up their time and their energy to help some of the most broken and vulnerable kids in the land.
So what happens now?
Will anyone let the Social Services use their buildings for free?
Will anyone volunteer to give their time and energy to the Social Services?
Will the Social Services be able to handle the thousands of broken children the Kids Company were supporting?
So what happens next? That is easy enough to predict, especially for someone who works in a front line charity like First Base. Alcoholism happens next. Drug addiction happens next. Homelessness happens next. Mental health problems happen next. Crime happens next. Violent crime happens next.
And people will get hurt and the prisons will be filled to bursting point.
The Government needs to wake up to the fact that it cannot simply throw the biggest nightmares in our society to the voluntary sector to deal with and expect us to manage on fresh air.
You are NOT cutting costs. All you are doing is sweeping problems under a carpet otherwise known as the front line charities. We are pretty good at what we do. And we are pretty dedicated. But we still have to find a way to pay the rent and the phone bill and the accountants and the electric bill.
There is no such thing as a volunteer light bulb.
It is high time that politicians of all colours stopped showboating for the cameras as they bang on about the ‘disgrace of foodbanks’.
Maybe it makes you feel good. In fact I’m sure it makes you feel good. But it does absolutely nothing to put food on the table for those of us who have nothing to eat. It would be a great deal more useful if you would take time out to ask us what help we need. I think you might be pleasantly surprised. You will find that front line charities get things done at a fraction of the cost that the public sector is used to.
But there ARE costs and there always will be costs and it is getting harder and harder to find enough cash to pay all the bills.
In a perfect world we would have enthusiastic people from the Government coming to visit and asking how they might help. Because getting food to people who have nothing to eat is pretty damned important.
In a perfect world they would wake up to the fact that places like First Base and Kids Company are now the safety net of last resort.
But our world isn’t close to being anything resembling perfect. In our world there will be no 7th Cavalry arriving care of the Government. Instead the only way we are going to be able to keep our heads above the rising tide is old fashioned people power.
So we really, really need lots of people to buy a copy of ‘The Great Foodbank Siege’.
For £3
By following this link

And then we need lots and lots of people to tell their pals to do the same.
And then by hook or by crook, our doors will continue to open every day and twenty or so people will get something to eat.
It really, really shouldn’t be this way.
But it is.
It’s Great Britain 2015 and it’s a hard place to be.
I guess that is about all I have to say.
I hope you’ll help us out.  

Saturday, August 1, 2015


So all you need to do is follow the links below to hear my dulcet tones reading two extracts from 'The Great Foodbank Siege'


This is the blurb from the leaflet we are having printed which will give you a feel for what the project is all about


I am a man who wears two hats.
Hat Number One - A thriller writer – ‘The Great Foodbank Siege’ is my twenty third book.
Hat Number Two - A Foodbank Manager. The First Base Agency Foodbank in Dumfries.
Right now the Foodbank Manager’s hat is weighing heavy.
Every day twenty hungry people come to us for emergency food..
5000 in the last year. 30,000 since we started the project.
Never once have we had to turn anyone away.
It’s a responsibility everyone involved with First Base really feels.
Right now we have a £15,000 funding hole for this year.
Unless we raise the cash, the lights will go out in January.
For this reason I have joined my two hats together and written ‘The Great Foodbank Siege’
You can buy a digital copy for £3 at Amazon. Every book sold gets us £2 nearer to filling the £15,000 hole (Amazon’s cut is £1 by the way)
We need to sell 7500 books
That is what ‘The Great Foodbank Siege’ is for.
I really hope you will help us out.


Basically I started out with some fact and turned it into fiction.
In March this year, David Mundell, the only Tory MP in Scotland, appeared in the Holyrood Parliament to defend his Government’s Welfare Reform Policies. He was asked to comment on some statistics I had produced in a blog. At which point he said that anything I said ‘should be taken with a pinch of salt’. Why? Because ‘I was a very prominent ‘Yes’ supporter’. His comments caused a minor media storm. We invited David to come along to First Base for an afternoon to help serve some food parcels and to hear about the problems people were facing. We never received a reply. On May 7th, the Conservatives won an outright majority and David became the Secretary of State for Scotland. All fact.
In ‘The Great Foodbank Siege’ It is not David who is the Secretary of State for Scotland in the summer of 2015. It is James Shillingford-Moore. And James accepts our invitation to come to spend an afternoon at First Base.
But it doesn’t work out well. Two disillusioned veterans armed with semi-automatic weapons take control of the building and the Great Foodbank Siege gets under way.
It doesn’t take very long for things to get completely out of hand. Huge tensions develop between the Governments in Edinburgh and London. As the crisis deepens, the ties holding together the United Kingdom are stretched to braking point…
Like I said….pure fiction!
People tell me it is a quick and easy read. Entertaining. Some will like it, others will hate it. It is certainly irreverent. Thankfully free speech is still allowed!
Hopefully you will buy a copy and make your own mind up.