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, December 24, 2018


You know when you're at some kind of function and it is time for the speeches. And then it becomes clear the time has arrived for some poor sap to run through a list of thankyous. Yeah? The speaker knows only too well the audience is switching off like the British power supply circa 1974. Everyone appreciates the fact the thankyous need to be said. Of course they do. The problem is the process always involves copious amounts of boredom for all concerned.

So the speaker and the audience grit their collective teeth and find a way to get through it. Even the ones who are being thanked wish there was a way not to have to sit through being thanked.

Well, this is the situation I find myself here right now. Outside the field is shrink wrapped in frost and the sky is gleaming blue. Dog walking looks like a whole lot better Christmas Eve pastime thann blogging. However certain facts are unavoidable which means the key board needs to be hammered for the next hour or so.

Bare bone facts. On December 1, the First Base storage basement had the look and feel of a post Brexit supermarket. Swinging a cat would not have presented any kind of challenge. We could have happily swung Top Cat and the whole of his crew. I was slamming in daily online orders to Tesco and receiving dribs and drabs in return. Filling the required number of food parcels for any given day meant trawling round the shelves of Lidl and Aldi and Bookers to gather up the neccessary items.

And now? Well let's just say cat swinging has become a significant challenge. Our basement has gone from dismally thin to wall to wall packed.

In cold, hard numbers about £6000 worth of donated food has made its way to us over the last three weeks. Time and again I have pulled up with yet another stuffed van load and been met with rueful grins from Iain and Jason. Will it go in? Nae bother. And one way or another, they have found a way to stow away every tin and packet. The lads certainly need to be the recipients of the first vote of thanks. Believe me, the First Base basement is hardly the most cushty place of work, especially in the damp depths of December. The heating arrangements are similar to a Siberian labour camp and if I am honest, the space is ideal for any filmmaker looking to shoot a dark dungeon scene. Dami and Anne also need an honourable mention for the time they have spent in our in house fridge.

Rather than a tedious list, I think it might be better to throw you a few snapshots. But first, maybe a short overview.

When the Christmas period arrives, all kinds of familiar images and traditions are dusted off and stuck out on display. Peaople spend fortunes to stick illuminated reindeer shaped lights out on the lawn. When exactly did these Northern animals find their way into Christmas tradition? I guess it must have been at about the same time as the Santa myth fleshed out into a big guy in a red suit with a flying sleigh who could defy the laws of time and physics to make his way up and down endless millions of chinmeys without once getting any soot in his beard.

I am always pleased by the sudden appearances of lots of donkey images as the festive period arrives. As as donkey owner myself, I am more than happy to see lots of big ears on seasonal cards and wrapping paper. This is a busy time of year for donkeys. I Googled the bible coverage of Christ's birth to track this down a bit. It seems Mary made her way to Bethlehem on a donkey and it joined her in the stables for the big moment. I guess things would have been different if Christ had been born a couple of thousand years later and Mary had made her way through the Israeli army check points of the Occupied Territories on the bus. Would the cards have been adorned with images of a battered Palestinian bus rather than cuddly looking donkeys? Maybe not.

So where am I going with this? Well it seems to me this has been the year where foodbanks have joined the Christmas narrative along with donkeys, holly, robins, reindeer, snowmen, Slade, Bing Crosby, miseltoe and Myrrh.

We have become part of the story along with the sales figures from Marks and Spencers and the evening news taking notice of tents in doorways. We are the modern day version of the the Christmas Carol. People look at the their own abundant Christmases and spare a thought for those who dread the thin pickings they are about to offer their kids. Thirty years ago Bob Geldof steered the nation's instincts to millions of starving Ethiopians. This year the sympathy is headed closer to home. To us. To the foodbanks.

And believe you me, we are well and truly thankful. Long may it continue.

So. Snapshots.

I'll start with Daisy. 

Six years ago a five year old Daisy came in to see us with her mum. She had saved all her pocket money for several months and used it to buy advent calenders for kids less lucky than her. Well this year Daisy was back. For the sixth year in a row. How about that?

A young lad working in the storeroom of the Dumfries Tesco. Eleven cages of food to load into my long wheelbase hire van as the grey rain lashed the tarmac. Not a great gig, but the smile never left his face. He was chuffed to bits there was so much. He couldn't get over how generous people had been. One lad of nine had filled a whole trolley. Not one of the small ones, one of the big yins..... 

An evening training session for the young players of Greystone Rovers Football Club. Under tens I guess. The coach had shelled out on thirty of so selection boxes for his squad. Before he got the chance to hand them out, the players held an inpromptu Parliament and voted unanimously for a different narrative. They asked him if he would mind taking the selection boxes into the foodbank. They would be getting lots of stuff. Other kids were in greater need.

A call with Sharon, the journalist on the Dumfries Standard who every year co-ordinates the collection of toys for kids in Dumfries and Galloway who otherwise would not be marked down for a visit from Santa. She gets lists of names from the social work department and a number of charities. And this year the list had soared to over 800.

Over 800.

In a region of 150,000 people 800 is a scary number. And these are the ones where the poverty has become public. How many more will go presentless behind closed doors of embarrasment and shame? She shuddered to think. And she did what she could. Again.

A £100 cheque accompanied by a brief note. A mother's donation in memory of a lost daughter.

Standing with the staff of Tescos Annan and trying to work out if all the food could be carried in one trip. Not a prayer. Not with so much. How come so much?

The travelling community. The 'foodbank nomination challenge'. A phenomenon which started in England and spread north. One traveller would fill up a trolley for the foodbank and then nominate a fellow traveller to do the same. And so on and so on until a hired long wheelbase tranny van was not enough to haul it all in a single trip.

Iain coming up the stairs and dropping a handful of envelpes on the table along with a bemused smile.

"People just keep giving me these."

A young lad from the India Palms takeaway on Glasgow Road. What could he do to help? How's about some curries? Nae bother pal. I'll bring in fifteen chicken curries and fifteen portions of pilau rice. And he did.

The supporters of Queen of the South. Two full van loads....

I could go on and on but I won't.

Instead I will cut to the chase. Millions of people will have a pretty lousy day tomorrow. There will be no piles of presents under beautifully decorated trees. There will be no steaming turkeys lifted from the oven. Instead there will be barely any heat and fridges filled with nothing much. Thankfully the community gets this and the community has come through with flying colours and then some.

What a contrast to the school yard bickering we have had to witness in the House of Commons.

Like night and day. Like a fifteen pound turkey and a microwaved tin of beans.

So thanks to absolutely everyone who has taken a moment to spare a thought fro the people we do our best to help. Each and every one of you.

Have a good one.


  1. Mark, I applaud all you do at Firt Base. Your blogs make me smile, cry and fume. My husband and I would like to send you a donation.
    What is the easiest way to do that?

  2. Hi Helen. Thanks so much for your generous thoughts. Maybe the easiest way to donate is through our justgiving page -
    This is the best place to add the gift aid. Otherwise you can send a cheque made out to The First Base Agency to 6 Buccleuch St, Dumfries, DG12AH. I hope one of these suits. all the best for 2019. Mark

  3. Mark, I have made a donation to your justgiving page in my husband’s name so you can benefit from gift aid

  4. Five weeks ago my boyfriend broke up with me. It all started when i went to summer camp i was trying to contact him but it was not going through. So when I came back from camp I saw him with a young lady kissing in his bed room, I was frustrated and it gave me a sleepless night. I thought he will come back to apologies but he didn't come for almost three week i was really hurt but i thank Dr.Azuka for all he did i met Dr.Azuka during my search at the internet i decided to contact him on his email he brought my boyfriend back to me just within 48 hours i am really happy. What’s app contact : +44 7520 636249‬

  5. It is a very hard situation when playing the lottery and never won, or keep winning low fund not up to 100 bucks, i have been a victim of such a tough life, the biggest fund i have ever won was 100 bucks, and i have been playing lottery for almost 12 years now, things suddenly change the moment i came across a secret online, a testimony of a spell caster called DR EMU, who help people in any type of lottery numbers, i was not easily convinced, but i decided to give try, now i am a proud lottery winner with the help of DR EMU, i won $1,000.0000.00 and i am making this known to every one out there who have been trying all day to win the lottery, believe me this is the only way to win the lottery.

    Contact him via email:
    Call or what's app +2347012841542