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.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020


If you are like me, you might well have completely tuned out of the news in the weeks that have passed since December 12. I cannot stand to watch even ten seconds of the appalling Johnson or his equally appalling cronies.

There was obviously an instruction sent out from Downing St to the DWP during the time of the election. Make nice. Ease off on the sanctions. Let the sick be sick. Put the attack dogs in their cages for a while. Because nobody wanted the story of some poor, desperate soul in Bacup or Dewsbury topping themselves having opened a letter to find out every last penny of their income was sanctioned for three long cold winter months. No. That kind of unpleasantness wouldn't have been in line with the promised post Brexit golden era which awaits us all. Allegedly.

So for a few short weeks, things were relatively calm in our food bank. Like in one of those old westerns when the square jawed hero frowns at the vast horizon and says 'It's quiet. Too quiet.......' at which point, hordes of yowling Apaches sweep down from the hills with murder in their hearts.

Well the DWP attack dogs are off their leashes again. And how.

And how.

And we've got five more years of this. Maybe ten. Maybe forever. Oh whose haunting words of George Orwell from the greyness of 1948.

"If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever"

Agggh. Enough already. Enough Johnson and enough Trump and enough of all of it.

So here's something else entirely. Something straight forward and simple. A snap shot of ..... of what? Of a lost innocence, maybe? Of our lost innocence? As in 'us' being the West. The First World. The masters of a universe on fire.

Maybe you have read some of my blogs about our new African Charity, 'The Kupata Project'. You can check out the link below to find out more if you are interested. We provide sanitary pads to school girls in Uganda which means they don't have to miss a week's worth of their education once a month.

This is a massive problem but also a simple problem with a very simple solution. Raise cash. Buy pads. Hand out pads. Personally. One by one.

We're getting there. On our last trip to Uganda in Novemeber we were able to give out a year's worth of pads to over 1000 girls in five schools.

And every one of the girls received a postcard with a picture of Edinburgh in the snow on the front and a simple message on the back.

'To you from the people of Scotland'

Anyway. We decided to fund two scholarships. Some basic background is probably required here. High school education isn't free in Uganda. Families have to fund their kids once they are done with primary school and it is invariably very much by hook or by crook. Less than half manage it.

There are two options – day scholars and boarders. The boarding option is a far cry from Eton or Marlborough. Boarding means a dormitory with no electricity and a clay floor. You need to provide your own mattress and a plastic bucket for washing. Boarding also means breakfast and supper included, which is a mighty big deal in a place where most of the population is a couple of weeks away from the onset of malnutrition. 

The cost of boarding is about £200 a year. Day scholars pay about half of this and only lunch is included. And if your parents can't come up with the fees....? well, you don't eat.

To choose our scholars we asked for the pupils to write a short essay. 'A day in my life'. We wanted to get a picture of what an average day looked like. From dawn till dusk in the green hills of Africa. The nuts and the bolts. The rhythm of their lives.

One essay jumped out of the pile. Saviour's essay. Saviour's account of one of Saviour's days.

Here it is.

'I wake up early in the morning, but before I go to school I first make sure that I fetch water, clean the house, prepare breakfast for my mother because she is suffering from diabetes which sometimes makes her blind. After doing all these, I reach school at 8.30 on foot when others have already started morning prayers. I join classes and wait for the teachers and then after they come they teach us up to lunch time. During lunch break, if I have cleared fees, I take lunch seated in the tree shade. If I have not cleared school fees, I hide and do some revision when others are eating.

After lunch at 2pm, I go to class again and wait for teachers. At 4.40pm I participate in general cleaning and sports. Sometimes netball and volleyball up to 5pm. When I set off on my walk home, I always take around one and a half hours walking home. On arrival at home I find the water is not there so I have to first go to fetch water. I then wash my only one uniform so that I can go to school the following day looking smart.

After washing I have to prepare supper which usually gets ready around 9pm if I have dry firewood.

Sometimes I use the candle light after supper to do some revision, but most of the time I am too tired so I go to bed immediately.

In last term, I got '14' points but I think if I were a boarder I would have got '17' points or above because I don't have enough time to read my books at home. I always hope to become a boarder but that was always refused.

My hobbies at school are reading novels and singing.

In conclusion, my day is always tiring but interesting since every single hour is programmed.'

So there you go. A life light years away from the lives we lead. The kind of life we used to lead. Once upon a time. Rooted to the land. To family. To responsibility. To diligence. To hope. A mile and a half there and a mile and a half home. Water carried up and down the steep slopes of the green hills of Africa. Revision by candle light.

Well, now some of these problems are about to go away for Saviour. No more an hour and a half there and an hour and a half back. No more revision by candle light. No more hiding through lunch hour when her fees aren't paid. No more having to miss a week's worth of school every month due to a lack of sanitary pads.

Now the way is cleared for her to get her points total up from 14 to 17. And then? Who knows? Maybe a job and the chance to go to a pharmacy to buy some insulin for her mum. Maybe all sorts of newly opened doors. Just a better chance.

I hope the picture of Saviour starting out on her new term as a boarder helps clear some of the post 12 December gloom! It works for me.

If you are maybe minded to help the Kupata Project with our work, you can find our online funding page via the link below.