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, September 30, 2019


Our family moved from England to Scotland twenty five years ago. How would I have described this life change at the time? I guess I would have simply said we had moved. It didn't really feel like moving from one country to another. Instead it was more like shifting from one place to another.

Back then I was very much a Lancastrian. A northerner. And back then, the North of England and Scotland were very much shoulder to shoulder. We had suffered Thatcher in equal measure. Back then it was all about the North/South divide: and we were both the North. Or so it seemed to me.

With hindsight, I can see our move was something of a window into the future. My home town, Blackburn, was becoming increasingly toxic. Racism was both open and growing. Streets which in my youth had been Hovis advert friendly were now home to Union Flags, Dock Martins and snarling dogs.

It was no place to bring up our two mixed race boys. It was time to get out of Dodge.

We were fed up with living in town. In our last Blackburn year, my car was broken into twice before it was torched. Was this because we were a mixed race family? Who knows? The cops certainly didn't.

We wanted to bring the boys up in the countryside. Had we been able to afford it, I guess we would have moved somewhere in the Ribble Valley or Cumbria. But there was absolutely no chance.

So we headed across the border to a glen in Dumfries and Galloway where you didn't have to be a lawyer or a banker to live in the country.

And for years I never felt like either an immigrant or a refugee. Fair enough, there was plenty of England/Scotland banter, but that's all it was. Thankfully our two boys got the chance to grow up with minimal levels of racism.

Then things started to shift. Once the SNP won control of the levers of Scottish power, it became clearer with every passing day that things were miles better north of the border in almost every way. Of course I had a front row view of this as a foodbank manager. When I got ill, I was treated in a brilliant hospital. When my dad got ill, he was treated in a succession of dire Lancashire hospitals which seemed Third World in comparison. Slowly but surely Blackburn sank further and further into a mire of racism until it was as divided as Portadown.

And then came Indyref. I wrote a blog explaining why I planned to vote 'Yes' and suddenly found myself on an accidental rollercoaster. I got an invite to give my views as an English born 'Yes' voter to a town hall meeting in Lockerbie. I guess there were only about thirty people in the audience that night, but well over 5000 watched my efforts on YouTube once Reverend Stuart at 'Wings over Scotland' posted the video.

It's her, in case you're interested.


My next few months were unlike anything I had ever known before, and as the poignant misery of the dawn of 19 September broke, everything had changed. By now I absolutely wasn't British any more. I guess I never had been. Not really. 

Now I was Scottish.

And I realised we hadn't merely moved. We had emigrated. And like immigrants throughout history, we had become fiercely patriotic. Not for the old country. For the new country.

And then things changed again as the same virus which had infected my home town of Blackburn spread like a contagion all across England. From Carlisle to Torquay. England became polluted by a new aggressive ugliness which found a home in the cult of Brexit.

And for the first time, I realised we hadn't been migrants. We had been refugees. We had been a Jewish family who had seen the writing on the wall in 1930 and legged it out before the approaching storm started dropping trees and ripping off roofs. We had been a family of Ugandan Asians who had taken one look at Idi Amin and sold up everything before he took it at the point of a gun.

Last week I was chatting with a fellow refugee. A fellow New Scot who has been here for as long as we have been here and has gone similarly native. We got to talking about Brexit. Of course we did.

I said I was conflicted. A big part of me welcomes the prospect of a Hard Tory Brexit as the final nail in the coffin on Unionism.

But I still have lots of family south of the border and I fear for them once the horrendous implications of Johnson's self inflicted wound start to hit the streets. A Hard Brexit England won't be a good place to be if you happen to be either old like my mum or the wrong colour like Carol's family.

The guy I was talking to was as appalled as I am at the course our old country is set on. He told me of family members he can no longer stand to talk to.

We both shuddered at the thought of still being there. In England. In the land which had once been our home. And we both thanked our lucky stars we had seen the writing on the wall and got out. Left. Fled. Refugees who didn't grasp the fact that were were refugees. Not then. Not a quarter of a century ago.

But we do now.

I was in Glasgow for a conference last week. The venue was the Royal Glasgow Concert hall at the bottom end of Sauchiehall St. Eleven o'clock meant a comfort break and the chance to escape outside for some fresh air and nicotine. The front door to the venue sits on top of a flight of concrete stairs and a statue of Donald Dewer. I got a long view down a gun barrel straight Glasgow street to the Clyde.

I leaned against the wall and worked my way through a rollie. And I people watched. A busker was doing Lou Reed and Bowie whilst the world walked on by him. And suddenly it hit me. It really was like the world was walking by him. As in black, white and all colours in between.

My mind wandered back to the early eighties when I once upon a time drove through the night to hit the Barrows market at dawn to buy second hand Tweed overcoats for a quid each. By nine o clock, my old VW Beetle would be stuffed full and we would head to town for fifteen hours worth of drunken mayhem. Had I stood on the same steps back then, every one of the faces below would have been white.

Then I got to thinking about more recent visits to second city of the Empire. How would Sauchiehall St have looked five years ago in those grey autumn weeks after the heartbreak of 19 September? Sure, there would have been may more brown faces than there were in the days when Souness and King Kenny ruled the roost. But nothing like this. Nothing like now.

So why does Sauchiehall St suddenly look like Oxford St or 5th Avenue? Are these people all tourists? In Glasgow on a wet autumn day? Not very likely.

Or all they immigrants who have beaten a path to Glasgow from all four corners of the earth? I doubt it. The Home Office in London still has its snarling guards on the Scottish door.

Then it hit me. These were almost certainly people like me. Internal refugees. People like me who have taken a ride up the M6 to a country which prides itself on the ability to still do common decency. People like me who's refugee journey involved Gretna services rather than Ellis island and the Statue of Liberty.

And of course there are no forms to fill in at Gretna services. No dotted lines to sign on. No oaths of allegiance to swear. No identity cards to apply for.

When a refugee flees up the M6 from England to Scotland, there is no official record. They just up sticks and move. There are no fences and watch towers and minefields.

How many are here already? And how many are planning to join the exodus? Old mates tell me it is already a common dinner table topic. Stay or go? How bad does it need to get? If my kids go to university in Scotland will they be able to get a Scottish passport?

As I stood and watched and smoked, I could see it right there in front of my eyes. It's here. It's now. It's happening.

Back in 1800 there were 10 million people in England and Wales, 8 million in Ireland and 6 million in Scotland. 24 million in total.

42% England and Wales. 33% Ireland. 25% Scotland.

Then shit happened. Lots of it. The Irish famine. The Highland Clearances. All the good stuff as London let us all know who's in charge. If shit hadn't happened, todays population might have looked something like this.

27 million people in England and Wales, 22 million in Ireland and 16 million in Scotland.

But shit DID happen. So now we have this.

England and Wales, 55 million. Ireland, 5 million. Scotland 5 million.

85% England and Wales. 7.5% Scotland. 7.5% Ireland.

We've seen this kind of thing before, right?

Montana 1800. Red Indians 100% White people 0%

Montana 2000 Red Indians 1% White people 99%


Vilnius, Lithuania 1940

Christians 60%, Jews 40%

Vilnius, Lithuania 1942

Christians 100%, Jews 0%

Thankfully our London rulers have never quite gone to such genocidal lengths to keep a grip on their closest colonies, though they came kind of close with the Irish Famine.

I guess this explains why we have so much space and not enough people.

Well after several hundred years worth of wall to wall shite, the boot seems to finally be on the other foot. The strutting Tories are like the bellowing bull and the governments of Dublin and Edinburgh are like the dancing matadors, delivering pain by a hundred carefully directed stabs.

All of a sudden people south of the border are waking up to fact that a better life awaits at the far end of the M6. And it seems like they are coming.

Like refugees.

Like I did. 

And very soon it won't just be people. It will be banks and businesses and and cash.

And by the time London notices, it will be far, far to late.

I'll make like the busker by the Donald Dewer statue and wind up with the words of Lou Reed.

You're going to reap just what you sow....”

Sunday, September 22, 2019


The guy in the picture?

Hans Achim Litten

I had never heard of him until last week. He came to me care of a BBC documentary charting Hitler's rise to power in the early 30's. The programme was OK. Nothing special. Most of the story rang distant bells from 'A' Level History. Schleicher, Von Papen, Hindenberg. A comedy of errors which set the dominos falling.

But Hans Litten was new to me. He was a Jewish lawyer from Berlin who called things absolutely right and absolutely wrong at the same time. He couldn't have been more right about Hitler and his brown shirted thugs. He saw them as a lethal danger. No arguments on that front. So where was he so absolutely wrong? Well history proved his unswerving belief in the rule of the law to be sadly misplaced.

His moment in the limelight arrived in 1931. By this time he had dedicated his professional life to putting Nazi thugs in the dock and shining a light on their brutality. He used individual cases to prove the orders for every murder and beating came all the way down from the top. At this stage, Hitler was still filling his days with photo opportunities with beaming kids and wholesome families. He was painting himself a Mr Nice Guy who's life's work was to go out and bat for the little guy. Sure he despised all the bankers and corportaions, but at heart he was just a nice patriotic boy from Linz who was determined to give good decent Germans a fair shake.

Litten saw right through the carefully crafted photo opportunities which were so slavishly reported by a doting right wing press. And so the canny lawyer came up with a cunning plan. He used one of his cases as a means to subpoena Hitler into the courtroom.

It was a pretty big deal and Germany's press were there in force to watch as the Nazi leader and young jewish lawyer faced off. Litten kept his target on the stand for three long hours, and slowly but surely he needled his way under the Austrian corporal's skin. For two hours Hitler kept the mask firmly in place. He held the agred party line. But finally Litten started to find a few chinks in the armour.

As the three hour mark drew near, he smashed through the veneer and Hitler went full on Jack Nicholson in 'A Few Good Men'. He totally lost it and went completely loco. Yelling, frothing, screaming. Hook, line and sinker to the quietly smiling young lawyer who had so skillfully walked the great man to the end of the branch.

And for a while things played out in the way Hans Litten had hoped. The German papers described the tantrum in lurid detail and the German people stepped back and took time out for some second thoughts. It seemed like Hitler's moment had come and gone. At the next elections the Nazi vote caved in and the Austrian corporal seemed like yesterday's news...

Except he wasn't of course. The petty ambitions or a few petty men played out and the countdown to genocide duly began. Within two years the Reichstag had burned to the ground and the Nazis drove through 'The Enabling Act' which did away with Parliament altogther. As in they closed it down.

You could even say prorogued.

Forever. For the duration

Litten bet the farm on the rule of law. On courts and judges and due process. 

He bet his life on it.

He was one of the first to be awoken by banging on his door at two o'clock in the morning. They came for him on the very night of the Reichstag fire.

He never got his last day in court. Instead he was imprisoned without trial. For the next five years he endured a hell tour of concentration camps – Spandau Prison, Sonnenburg, Lichtenburg, Buchenwald and finally Dachau where his will to resist finally ran out.

On 5 February 1938, he hanged himself.

I guess you know where I'm going with all this.

Normally I wouldn'd have taken a huge interest in last week's Supreme Court case. The reason I was so tuned into the proceedings has nothing to do with political geekery. Anything but. As I mentioned in my last blog, one of the QC;s who was front and centre of the thing is an old university pal of mine. I wish this blog was all about how Big Jim is a Hans Achim Litten for the twenty first century. That would have been nice! Sadly Big Jim wasn't lined up on the side of the angels. Well, not my angels. Instead Big Jim was batting for the opposition and telling us all how the forces of the rule of law should stay out of politics.

Or else?

After watching the story of Hans Litten, it was hard to put feelings of unease to one side. In 193,1 Germany was still very much a functioning democracy. It's fragile constitution was creaking, but there were no real signs of what was about to come next. 

In 2019, our fragile constitution is creaking. At least Hans Litten was able to summon Hitler to court and put him on the witness stand. Our lawyers had no such luck with Prime Minister Johnson. He refused to even sign a witness statement.

By the time Hans Litten ended his misery at the end of a rope in 1938, the world was waking up to the unfolding German nightmare. By then, the evil genie was all the way out of the bottle and 50 million would die before the genie was finally killed off.

How will last week's court case look in seven year's time? Will it be a half forgotten footnote in the dismal hitory of the Brexit fiasco? Or will it be seen as one of the last chances we had to stem the tide? To slam the stopper into the bottle before the eveil genie had the chance to get out?

Hans Litten's heroic story got my mind wandering to some pretty uncomfortable places. It took me back to one of my long drives to the continent to buy cheap tobacco. I stocked up in Luxembourg and took a night drive down to Bavaria.

To the museum at Dachau. 

To memories of indescribable horror. I'll never forget the display of all the newspaper front pages reporting on the grand opening of the camp where Hans Litten ended his days. It was trumpeted by the strutting Nazis. They were in no mood to keep the place secret. Instead they threw open the gates and preened themselves for the cameras. Within a few days of shutting down parliament, the Nazis rounded up tens of thousands of potential troublemakers and packed them off to the new concentartion camps. Socialists and communists and trade union leaders and acadmics and lawyers and bothersome journalists. Thorns in their side. Stones in their shoe.

And had there been an internet back then, they would have certainly had a berth in Dachau waiting for those writing blogs like this one. Even Nazi goons can use Google. I don't suppose it would have taken them very long to put my front door through in the early hours of a Scottish night.

Our Blackie is a heck of a guard dog, but he ain't that good....

So now the rain falls and the Indian Summer has breathed its last. Winter is coming. Sometime in the next couple of days the Supreme Court will announce their judgement. And all of a sudden it feels like a horribly big deal. All of a sudden the lights seem to be going out. And all the while we tell ourselves it really isn't the same as it was back then. The world has moved on. Things like that can't happen again. Not here. Not now.

Can they?

Is the rule of law still a thing? Or are we all about to learn the same hard truth Hans Litten learned in 1931? 

Sorry Jim, but I really hope you lose this one.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Sometimes things happen which just stop you in your tracks. Unpredicatable things. Unforeseen. Moments when you suddenly feel the passage of time. I had a couple yesterday. And what prompts me to write them down and throw them out into the ether is their utter incompatability. Well. They seem pretty incompatable to me.


Moment one.

The lads were down in the basement putting away the weekly Tesco delivery. Regular readers will know our weekly Tesco delivery has been a bone of contention for us at times. For years we would order 99 tins of best value spaghetti only to receive ten or twelve. Once we were actually sent a single half tin in lieu of an order for ninety nine. The story of that particular delivery hit the Daily Record and prompted a call from Pat, the new DotCom manager in our local store. And from that moment things have changed and changed utterly. In a nutshell, Pat is a complete star and these days when we order 99 tine of spaghetti, we actually get 99 tins of spaghetti.

So credit where credit's due. Thanks Pat.

But I digress.

The lads were still down in the basement when the bell over the front door announced an arrival. So I paused what I was doing and went down to reception to see a familiar figure waiting. I will call him Issac.

When did we first meet? 2005? 2006? Years and years ago. Tony Blair would still have been Prime Minister. Then as now, Issac was smartly turned out and quietly spoken. Old school polite. Then as now, it seemed like he was wrapped in a shroud of sadness.

Back then, Issac was disdainful of those who had succumbed to the charms of tenner bags of heroin. No sympathy whatsoever. He spat out the word 'Junkie' as if it was a piece of ten day old gristle which had been left out in the sun.

Issac's poison was the booze. Once started, he never knew how to call a halt. And from time to time, he would cross the invisible line and the red mist would descend. He wasn't a guy who tended to lose fights. Hours in the gym made him formidable and the red mist took away his kind side and made him vicious. And slowly but surely, the offences stacked up until the Sheriff decided enough was enough and sent him up the A76 to HMP Kilmarnock.

This outcome in the Noughties tended to be a life changer and so it was for Issac. He walked through the gates an angry young man with a growing drink problem. A few months later, he walked out of the gates as a broken young man with a three bag a day heroin addiction.

At first he couldn't believe the extent of his own stupidy. How could he have? And for his first few months of liberty he was full of plans of how he would kick the habit and find the kind of life he wanted.

The plans crashed and burned. One by one. And soon he was stuck in the revolving door which is home to so many of our clients. Prison. Homelessness. Petty crime. Failed tenencies. More prison. Probation. Failed community service.

Soon he was on a high daily dose of methadone and his teeth started to fall out one by one. He still made his plans. A driving licence. An HGV licence. Weeks away doing long distance work. The chance to be hundreds of miles away from Dumfries and the bad company which always sucked him in. And dry. And down. Every single time.

With every passing year, the plans became a little more half hearted until they became pipe dreams. His rap sheet grew into a slim volume. His mental health slipped and slithered until regular psychiatric treatment was needed. And strong meds which were in no circumstances to be mixed with the cheap and cheerful drugs of the street. But of cource Issac never managed to follow such sage medical advice.

So the hostel to prison cycle just keep of stretching out. For year after year. And like clockwork, we would have our chats at the counter. Groundhog chats. How are things Issac....

Again and again and again until yesterday. Until 2019. In all the years of our acquaintance, he hasn't done so much as a day's work. And I doubt he ever will. I guess he'll be in his mid forties now and his prospects are non existant.

For many of the passed years, I genuinely thought he would manage to find the life he has always craved. A home. A job. A partner. Kids. Nights in front of the tele. A car parked outside. No methadone. No prison. No red mist.

Do I still believe? Sadly not. The passing years have left me hard bitten. I have seen too many Issacs. Once upon a time I genuinely thought if they could make the required changes the world of so called normality would find a place for them. Naive, right?

The world of normality keeps the security chain on when the likes of Issac come knocking. 'Once a Junkie, always a Junkie' is the prevailing wisdom. Second chances are for the birds. The likes of Issac are consigned to a lifetime of being on the outside. Half glimpsed figures we tune out from looking at. Doomed by the merciless truth of their Disclosure reports.

So we passed the time of day and I didn't bring up the subject of plans. He was amused by the plastic World Cup 2019 wine goblets on the counter. Where had they come from? I said I didn't know. Someone had donated them. Fifty or so. In boxes. Could he take one? Nae bother. Help yourself.

"It will remind me to drink more water. I need to drink more water. Don't you think?"

"Sure. You can't drink enough water."

And so Issac's plans had shrivelled from dreams of crossing Europe from north to south in a thirty eight tonne wagon to drinking more water from a plastic wine goblet souvineering 2019 Cricket World Cup.

He left. And the remaining hours of my working day drifted by. Tesco. Home. A walked dog. And then YouTube sent me back all the way to the early 80's. Toxteth ablaze and Exocet missiles streaking across iron grey South Atlantic skies. 'This town is coming like a ghost town...' A banner headline blazed across a French paper carrying the image of a British riot cop with his face bathed in blood.

"Grande Bretaigne Sur La Verge!"

And as Thatcher's mayhem hit the north like a force nine gale, I was all wrapped up in a Disney World of cotton wool. Magdalene College, Cambridge. Ancient courtyards and punts under weeping willows. Wearing a gown for dinner in a candlelit Elizabethan Hall nobody had ever gotten round to wiring for electricity.

I was the Blackburn grammar school boy in a world of tweed and 'Ya' insyead of 'Yes'. Suddenly in the midst of a kind of end of the world mania. Everyhing was on tick. A world where the clocks had stopped somewhere in the fourteenth century

And in the midst of the mayhem was Big Jim. We were mates from different solar systems. I was all Blackburn. Mill chinmeys and NF marches. Jim was Radley and Kensington. I was the Liverpool of King Kenny and Graham Souness. He was the West Ham of Frank Lampard Senior and Billy Bonds. I was History and no work whatsoever. He was Law and the fat books all but killed him.

We did Disneyland for three years while the rest of the country descended into near anarchy. Excessive. Idiotic. Manic. Drinking bouts Issac could only dream about. Jim came up to the burning north and I headed south to the Kensintonness of Kensington.

And then in 1983 we both picked up our degrees and headed out into different lives. Alan Kennedy slammed home a late winner against Real Madrid and I took off for years of hippydom in India. Jim entered the world of grown ups as an up and coming commerical lawyer.

By the time I moved into two years in Moss Side, he was in court stripping the assets from the National Union of Mineworkers. We stayed in touch, but it was infrequent.

The last day I saw Jim was the day he got married.

And then nothing for thirty years. From time to time his name would hop off the pages of the papers. He was on the TV during the fallout from the Ian Huntley killings. Then he was back in the limelight representing the Government in the Leveson Enquiry. In 2013 the Guardian splashed on the fact HMG had paid him £2,2 million for his Leveson efforts at a time when they were slashing legal aid payments to nickel and dime criminal barristors.

A couple of years ago my eyes almost popped out of my head. When Gina Miller took the Government to the Supreme Court over Parliament having the right to a vote on triggering Article 50, HMG fielded their top attack dog to hold the line. The attack dog went by the nickname of the 'Treasury Devil'. Yeah. You've got it. None other than Big Jim who by now was a QC.

Well, devil or no devil. He lost that one. Just like West Ham lost the 1981 League Cup Final replay at Villa Park when a certain Ian Rush exploded onto the scene.

Yesterday YouTube brought me up to speed. The Treasury Devil was back in the saddle fighting the good fight and defending Boris Johnson's right to make like Robert Mugabe. I chuckled to see that James Eadie QC was now Sir James Eadie QC.

We've taken quite a journey in utterly opposite directions. Jim has ventured to the very beating heart of the British Establishment. A Knight of the Realm going out to bat for great and the good. And me? A food bank manager in a small town in Scotland. A writer of blogs about the dream of an Independent Scotland which have been deemed to be sufficiently against the British Establishment for Russian Troll Farms to give my efforts a regular boost.

So I sat and stared at the screen and smoked as four decades drifted through my head. Issac and Big Jim and Ian Rush bursting onto the scene under the Villa Park floodlights.

Tick, tock....

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


I figure it is fair enough to say the whole No Deal Brexit thing has kicked off big time. When people start singing 'Keep the Red Flag flying high' at one o;clock in the morning in the House of Commons it's a pretty good indication that things are starting to get a bit wild. I've got say, it was great to hear a resoundingly Scottish voice say 'No' when the bouncers called last orders on democracy as usual.

What a bloody shower.

We are told time and again to tune out from all the Remainer scaremongering. Project Fear, right? Blatant propaganda. Lies, lies and more lies. Who are all these senior doctors and haulage bosses and customs agents and shipping companies anyway? What do they know? And they even have the gall to call themselves experts in their field. When will they get it into their thick liberal heads that even if they do their so called jobs for a hundred years they will never know 10% of what Nadine Dorris knows. Because Nadine Dorris knows best. Of course she does.

Hard Brexit will mean milk and honey and anyone who says otherwise is a traitorous surrender monkey. Normal people from Wakefield aren't about to fall this kind of spineless defeatist talk.

The party line is rammed down our throats day after day after day. Britain great, foreigners bad. Everything is great and everything is about to get even better.

End of.

Well it doesn't feel that way for our little African charity, The Kupata Project.

I'll assume you don't know what we're all about, so here's a potted summary. School girls in Uganda miss 25% of their education because their families cannot afford to buy sanitary pads. It's a massive problem with a really easy solution – provide sanitary pads.

So we raise funds in Scotland and we use all the cash to buy sanitary pads. The Kupata Project has no office, no paid staff and when Carol and I visit Uganda next month, we will be paying all of the expenses for the trip out of our own pockets.

Basically, every penny we raise is spent on buying sanitary pads.

We are now buying re-usable pads. SoSure. They are manufactured by a not for profit company called AfriPads. The factory is in Uganda and all of the workers are Ugandans. 

If you want to check them out you can follow the link below.

We will be giving the girls four re-usable pads each which is enough for a year.

OK. Hopefully you get the picture. And of course you are thinking what on earth has any of this got to do with the looming prospect of a Boris Johnson 'No Deal' Brexit.

Well, quite a lot actually.

It's all in the maths.

When we first visited Uganda in November 2017, one of our British Pounds was worth 5500 Ugandan Shillings.

When we arrive in Kabale Province in October, we have £3000 to spend on SoSure pads.

If the value of the pound had held up, the cost of four re-usable pads would have been £2.40 per girl per year.

If the pound had retained its value, we would be able to help out 1250 girls.

But our British pound hasn't retained its value. Instead it has crashed and burned as the rest of the world has watched the antics of our pathetic excuse of a Government with a mixture of contempt and horror.

As I write this, one of our devalued British pounds is now only capable of being converted into 4500 Ugandan Shillings.

Which means the cost doing what we do is now £2.90 per girl per year.

Which means the £3000 we have raised from the good people of Scotland will now only run to helping 1000 girls.

Which means 250 girls will spend the next year missing a quarter of their time in school. I suppose this falls under the banner of Globalisation. An overblown Etonian tells a bunch of fairytales and the dominos fall all the way to Kabale Province in the heart of Africa.

And 250 school girls miss a quarter of their education.

So thanks, Mr Johnson. Thanks a bunch. The maths puts me in mind of a joke from the 1970's when Westminster looked at all the maxed out credit cards and called in the IMF for a bailout. The joke described an imagined front page headline.

Britain's application to join the Third World turned down!”

And these same people have the front to suggest a Scottish Pound wouldn't be viable. Aye right.

When your currency is falling against the currency of a struggling country where most people get by on a dollar a day .... well ..... the message seems pretty clear! For Christ's sake.

Anyway. It is what it is. We land at Entebbe International airport on October 14 so I guess there is still time to try and raise the money we have lost thanks to the chaos south of the border.

Maybe you might be minded to help out? Yeah, yeah. Of course you knew it was coming. The proffered hat. The shaken tin. The abject pleading. Well at least I'm not pretending to need a quid to get a bus ticket to Cumbernauld.

A fiver is enough for a full year's worth of school for two girls. It isn't a sticking plaster. It's an investment. And we make sure every one of the girls knows the pads are a gift from the people of a country called Scotland. And in a few years, we will be joining Uganda in the 'Independent from London Rule' club. It's a club worth joining. And fair enough, right now London doesn't allow us to do any diplomacy of our own. Right now it's one of those grown up things we aren't allowed to touch. But this doesn't mean we can't forge a few links. A few bonds.

And as the years roll by, we hope there will be thousands of better educated girls in Uganda who have a warm feeling towards a far away country called Scotland.

Can't hurt, right?

If you are minded to help us to help a few more girls, you can find the Kupata Project online fundraising page by following the link below. We can absolutely promise every last penny will be spent on buying sanitary pads. 


Monday, September 9, 2019


It's Thursday. Groundhog Thursday. And it's raining. Groundhog raining. The usual routine. Thirty three miles up the road to Kirkconnel library with ten food parcels. Thirty three miles back down the road with seventy packets of sliced ham care of Brown Brothers.

Should I repeat the plug? Yeah. I should repeat the plug.

Thirty three miles back down the road with seventy packets of sliced ham care of Brown Brothers.

Headphones on and into the splashing traffic. A line up of podcasts fixated on the all consuming Westminster mayhem. Am all I consumed? Sure I'm all consumed. Carol says I'm obsessed. Maybe she's right. She generally is.

How do I feel about the Brexit mayhem on a wet Thursday morning on the A76? The usual. Conflicted. Worried sick for my family south of the border whilst at the same time cheering every twist and turn as the mayhem brings an independent Scotland closer with every passing day.

Pundits in my ears tell me for the umpteenth time this is the greatest crisis since Suez. And within a decade of that particular stromash, Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, Kenya, Uganda, Barbados and many other colonies had thrown off the shackles of London rule. When Westminster goes into full on chaos and mayhem mode, it tends to lose its grip on its pesky colonies. So maybe the time is finally ripe for us to join the Independence club. So like I said: conflicted.

Tory voices in my ears. Telling me that black is white. Telling me fairytales. Selling me unicorns and snake oil. Voices formed by £20,000 a term public schools. Best economy ever. More people in work than any time in the absolute whole of history. A great, great country. Every sentence drips with the memories of Agincourt and Waterloo and the Blitz. All those glory days when Johnny Foreigner thought he was hard enough to come and have a go. Well, we'll bloody well show all those sausage eaters and garlic munchers. We'll head down into the tube stations and sing 'knees up Mother Brown', so will will. Oh yes we bloody well will. And the more you bomb us flat, the more we'll bloody well sing, so we bloody will.

On and on. Great, great country. No surrender. Bastard collaborators. Tar and feather the lot of 'em. Too bloody right. Good riddance to bad rubbish is what they say. If only they had their own version of Siberia. Ken Clarke in a Gulag? Now what's not to like about that?

Time to take off the headphones and cart my ten parcels into the library. How are things? Same old same old. Except it's not same. Not even close. Once up on a time. Well two years ago. Whatever. Two years ago, ten of our emergency food parcels would keep the good folk of Kirkconnel going for two months. Now? Now its a weekly delivery. Forty food parcels each and every month for a small village of 2000 people. As in 500 food parcels per annum heading up the A76 to a small village of 2000 people. 25% by my maths which are not great by any means but they are easily good enough for this particular sum.

A great, great country? Not so much in places like Kirkconnel where once upon a time there was a coal mine.

There is a message for me from one of the two thousand inhabitants of the village. A mother with two unemployed grown up dependants. A household of three people and one bread winner. Universal credit has thrown some merciless rules down onto the table. If there is a job on offer within a 90 minute commute, you have make an online application. Duty bound. No ifs, no buts. Apply or be sanctioned. End of. And remember, Big Brother is watching. Always.

There was a job. A 27 hour a week job spread over 5 days. In Lanark. OK. Let's check it out. In the spirit of the climate crisis, the train is supposed to be the way to go. Trainline. Ooops. £31 a day for an anytime return. £155 a week. Out of an after tax pay packet of £200 and change.

OK. So not the train.

The car then. A seventy mile a mile round trip over the hills and the single track roads. Two hours a day on roads picking their way through postcard Scottish vistas. Great for a set for Rob Roy. No so great for a daily commute. Too many low gears to find the 55 mpg fuel consumption sweet spot. 300 miles a week and change. If our client in Kirkconnel were a civil servant filling out an expenses clain for travel costs, she would probably be due 50p a mile. £150 a week. But she isn't of course. Instead she has to find the money to put fuel in the tank.

I don't know what car she drives. They didn't say. For ease of maths let's say she gets 30 to the gallon on those single track roads over the Rob Roy hills. Ten gallons. 45 litres. £1.30 a litre.

Sixty quid.

Out of £200 and change.

Leaving £140. For rent and power and Council Tax and food for three. And all those other bits and pieces which make up life's neccessities. And no doubt some credit card minimum payments. Maybe a Christmas Club. Maybe a dog to feed.

Whatever. Too much for £140 a week to deal with. So the maths don't work out whichever way she cuts it. But the DWP aren't interested in the maths. All they are interested in is the small print and the small print says she has to take any job to be found within ninety minute commute. And keep it. Or get sanctioned.

I guess you could call it work to go backwards or else. Because we're a great, great country. The absolute best. And when Johnny Foreigner bombs us flat, we take to the bowels of the earth to sing 'Knees up Mother Brown'.

So how do you make the maths work when the maths don't work? You head into your local library for emergency food parcels, so you do. And the money you save on the weekly shop is enough to make the incomings capable of dealing with the outcomings.


And the food parcels enable you to spend two hours a day commuting over those Rob Roy hills to twenty seven hours a week's worth of keeping your head above water.


In our great, great country.

I drive back down the road with more Westminster mayhem in may ears all the way.

Back to base. Back to First Base. A couple are at the desk. Nervous to find themselves in a food bank. They are newly weds. Just through the hoop. And their wedding cake has proved to be to big for the guests to deal with. So they have portioned up and cling filmed what is left and brought it to us. Will we be able to give it out? Sure we will. And thanks for thinking of us. And thanks for your straight forward human decency.

And all the while a familiar figure waits his turn with a wry smile and a thousand mile stare wrapped across a face which has lived outdoors for getting on for twenty years. Our very own tent guy. He has given up on doing indoors. He has stepped away from all the mayhem and chosen his own path. Have tent, will travel. Ireland, the Highlands, Dumfries and Galloway. Any wilderness will do. Rain shine or snow. None of it makes any difference to our tent guy.

What made him head for the hills? No idea. I've never asked and he's never told me. Maybe he saw the widening cracks. Maybe he saw he was about to fall right on through. Maybe he worked out the best way to avoid the cracks in the system is to get right out of the system. Check out. Walk away. Choose morning mist and the sound of the rain in the trees and the sight of the buzzards above. Gliding and soaring. Far from the madding crowd. Far from the cracks.

A few months back, he told me all about the generator he had picked up on the cheap. It was a game changer. It meant the chance to use his Playstation in the tent. Now the generator is surplus to requirements. Too much noise. Too much 2019. Somehow he's found a way for his generator to start a journey which will take it all the way from the woods above New Abbey to a village in India where candlelight is the only light to be had.

And then my phone rings and Wilma from Kirkconnel library is apologetic. Of the ten food parcels I dropped off a couple of hours earlier only three are left. Any chance of a re-order? Sure. Nae bother. I'll be with you in the morning.

And so I am. Another wet morning in our great, great country. Mayhem at the top.

And ever widening cracks at the bottom.

Knees up Mother Brown..... Knees up Mother Brown.......”

If you are minded to help First Base out as we help out 500 people a month with some food, our online fundraising page can be found by following the link below.