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.

Sunday, June 21, 2020


In America, they have come up with a name for everything going down at the moment. The Floyd Rebellion. 

Not the Floyd Protests.


A rebellion against the Status Quo. A rebellion against the endless, wall to wall propaganda A rebellion against the swaggering power of the hated 1%.

Could the murder of a guy none of us had ever heard of in a place thousands of miles away really be the cause of walls starting to come tumbling down right here, right now? Surely not?

Maybe we should rewind the clock all the way back to 28 June 1914. Ring any bells? A complete nobody called Gavrilo Princip got lucky and managed to assassinate a semi nobody called Archduke Ferdinand on a Bosnian side street and the rest, as they say, became history.

If we bother to take a few minutes of time out, there are all sorts of boxes starting to get ticked. Right here and right now. Which all leads me to wonder if we are seeing the first knockings of the British Revolution of 2020.

Box number one. The big one. The one which needs to be ticked before any rebellion or revolution can get properly underway. Basically, you need two key ingredients to create a human fertiliser bomb to blow things apart. You need a whole bunch of severely pissed off and angry young people from the poorer parts of town. Then you need a whole bunch of students who are every bit as pissed off and angry as their counterparts from the schemes and the tenements.

These two groups are not natural bedfellows. It takes something special to bring them together. To give them a common cause. A shared banner to march under. A way to see each other as brothers and sisters. To straddle the class divide.

Usually this common cause is found when a tiny number of utterly corrupt people at the top of the tree behave badly enough for millions of young people to say you know what, enough is enough. Time to march. Time to own the streets. Time to tear it all down.

In Russia in 1917 it was all about the war. A fumbling, inept Tzar surrounded by similarly inept ministers and cronies was killing off hundreds of thousands of woefully equipped Red Army soldiers as a result of their bottomless incompetence.

The 1% demanded sacrifice and patriotism. The 99% ran out of patience and finally said 'screw you'. Tzar Nicholas pulled all the familiar levers and ordered his attack dogs out onto the streets to thin out the mobs with carefully placed machine guns, only for the attack dogs to say 'screw you'.

Much the same thing happened on the very same Russian streets in 1992. The old guard of the Politburo had no more luck with unleashing their attack dogs that Tzar Nicholas had seventy five years earlier.

In 1968, two killings and one disgraceful war brought the ghettos and the university campuses together. The slaying of Dr King and Bobby Kennedy provided the spark to light up the powder keg created by the Vietnam War. The young people of ghetto were sick of being drafted to serve for 13 months in a far away charnel house. The young people from the universities were appalled by the sight of Vietnamese civilians being char grilled by napalm strikes.

In 1917 and 1992, the walls came tumbling down.

In 1968, the walls just about stayed in tact. But only just.

So what about 2020? Have we reached a similar place? A similar moment in time? A moment when young people from both sides of the tracks suddenly come together to feel their collective power?

Maybe we have.

Once young people suddenly find themselves marching in step, another ingredient is required to turbo charge the situation.

Heroes. More to the point, varieties of John Lennon's brand of working class heroes. Men and women who suddenly emerge from the 99% to get right into the face of the 1%. Some of these heroes make their names over many years. Their legends are a long time in the making until their moment finally arrives.

Leon Trotsky. Rosa Luxemburg. Martin Luther King. Nelson Mandela. Lech Walesa. Vaclav Havel. Steve Beko. Jerry Rawlings.

Others come out of nowhere. Like the guy who stood down the Chinese tank in Tiananmen Square. Or the monk who burned himself to death in Saigon. Or the market trader who did the same in Tunisia. Or Rosa Parks taking her seat at the front of a Deep South bus.

OK. Time to check the boxes.

Pissed off young people from the poor side of town? Oh yeah. We've got them by the million. Young people in our modern ghettos with postcodes which guarantee long term unemployment and bully boy police. Stop and search in Hackney doubled in April as the Met Police took predictable liberties with the new lockdown rules. No wonder the residents lost their collective rag when they watched the evening news showing pictures of thousands of white people being left to their own devices on the beaches.

Pissed off students? Same story. Before Covid 19, £30,000 worth of lifetime debt was more often that not rewarded with a job in Costa Coffee and a box room in an overcrowded hovel with fungus on the bathroom wall. Now even the job at Costa Coffee looks like a pipe dream. Finally students are having the wool ripped from their eyes and seeing they are little more than victims of an epic Ponzi scheme. They take on tens of thousands of pounds worth of lifetime debt to pay Vice Chancellors £500,000 a year and predatory landlords hundreds of pounds a month for box rooms.

Heroes? I think we can tick another box. As yet, we don't have any long time in the making heroes cut from the Trotsky/Mandela cloth. But we are starting to see some unexpected heroes.

Heroes like Patrick Hutchinson. You know, the Black Lives Matter protestor with a face carved from granite who hoisted a Millwall FC supporting fascist onto his mighty shoulder and got him out of Dodge. The pictures snowballed into a worldwide phenomenon.

Heroes like Marcus Rashford, a young mixed race lad from the wrong side of the Mancunian tracks who leveraged his fame as a Man Utd centre forward to humiliate Boris Johnson into a shambling U turn.

The corrupt Tory Government met the Black Lives Matter protests with a well worn playbook. Rally up the right wing press and brand those out on the streets as thugs and low life hooligans with a touch of dog whistle racism thrown in.

Well Patrick Hutchinson and his crew shot them down in flames.

The corrupt Tory Government met Marcus Rashford's plea for poor kids to be fed with a contemptuous wave of the hand. Who do you think you are to tell us what to do? A footballer? Really? It's time you learned to know your place young man. It's time you went back to kicking a ball around.

Except it wasn't. They picked a fight with a young man who was way more eloquent than they were. A young man with moral fibre they could only dream of. A young man with absolute right on his side. And in less than 24 hours, Johnson crumbled like a high rise block in Aleppo hit by one of Putin's barrel bombs.

And all of a sudden people are starting to see the corrupt Tory Government for what it is. Inept. Pathetic. Totally reliant on daily propaganda from what they were foolish enough to believe is a tame right wing press. But it seems the tame right wing press isn't so tame after all. The right wing press has put Patrick Henderson and Marcus Rashford front and centre on their front pages.

Covid 19 has put the Tory Government into a tail spin. Johnson's woeful collection of yes men and women have proved utterly incapable of any kind of competence. And north of sixty thousand have paid with their lives. So far. Johnson and Co have dished out fat, multi-million pound contracts to their cronies in Serco and Deloitte and their cronies have banked the cash and completely screwed things up.

'Twisting and turning in the widening gyre,
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.
Things fall apart.
The centre cannot hold.
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.'

Well things are certainly starting to fall apart. And the centre is slowly but surely loosing its grip.

Mere anarchy? Maybe. It will all depend on the last box being ticked.

The young people have hit the streets and started to feel their power. All they need now is a goal. A target to aim at. Something achievable which will completely transform their lives.

Will they find it? You know what, I think they just might.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you 'The Rent Strike'.

Rent is a common grievance shared by young people from both sides of the tracks. 

The poor kids are sick of over paying for rotten social housing in the ghetto. They are sick of Council waiting lists which run into decades. They are sick of never getting the chance to move out of the bedrooms they grew up in. 

The rich kids are sick of being ripped off by landlords in over priced university towns. They are sick of seeing the housing ladder being pulled up far beyond their reach. They are also sick of never getting the chance to move out of the bedrooms they grew up in.

Rip off rent is a thing they share. A common purpose. A common goal. And what is the answer to being charged rip off rent? Simple. You stop paying rip off rent. And if enough people simply stop paying rip off rent, then there are not enough bailiffs in the land to handle all the evictions. And there are not enough police officers in the land to back up the bailiffs.

We saw a bit of this in Spain at the height of the Euro crisis. Government austerity measures meant an axe was taken to old age pensions. Slashed pensions meant millions of old people couldn't afford their mortgage payments and the banks sent out bailiffs to dump the old people out onto the streets.

Except things didn't go as planned. Young people came together. They called themselves the 'Indignados'. They worked it out. If a young person's granny found the bailiffs at the door, all she had to do was make a call to her grandson or granddaughter. The grandson or granddaughter put her address into a ready made WhatsApp group and within minutes the bailiffs would be backed off by a crowd of over a hundred. The bailiffs called the police and the police said thanks, but no thanks. And very quietly the banks gave up on even trying to evict pensioners from their homes.

If a rent strike starts, it will spread like a bush fire. Will there be enough police to stop it? No chance. And slowly but surely, young people will start to realise the beauty of their actions. A successful rent strike will lead of a huge crash in the cost of British housing.

An average British house logically should be worth three and a half times the average British wage. As in £25,000 x 3.5 = £87,500. Instead the average British house right now costs £215,000. It is the bubble to end all bubbles and a rent strike will burst it in a big way. 

And the longer the strike goes on, the further house prices will fall. In fact they will fall all the way down to a place where young people can suddenly get themselves onto the housing ladder.

It if a 'win, win' plan walks like a 'win, win' plan and quacks like a 'win, win' plan, then it almost certainly is a 'win, win' plan.

I reckon they might just do it. And then? Then the 1% will suddenly be reeling. The Stock Market will start to nosedive. Banks will stare into the abyss. The old order will start to fall apart piece by piece. And over the the long months of summer, we might just make our way to the place where the last box waits to be ticked.

If Johnson calls out his attack dogs, will they obey him? Will British police offices and soldiers be willing to take to the streets to defend the ill gotten gains of the 1% and their corrupt, useless puppets in Whitehall?

Will they make like the attack dogs of the Communist Party of China in 1989 and dutifully open fire on thousands of young demonstrators? Or will they make like the attack dogs of the Communist Party of the German Democratic Republic in 1989 and say thanks, but no thanks. 

Not this time. Not for you lot. Screw you.

We might just be about to find out. I'm an optimist. I think our police officers and soldiers will make like their East German counterparts and stand back to watch the walls come tumbling down. I don't think they will be ready to shoot young protesters in the name of Boris Johnson and his big money puppet masters.

We could be about to live through some pretty exiting times. We could be about to live through the British Revolution of 2020.

We'll see I guess

Sunday, June 14, 2020


A couple of weeks ago I became involved with a food crisis in Africa. I know it sounds nuts, but the whole thing was pretty much an accident.

It went something like this.

Three years ago, Carol and I set up a small charity called the Kupata Project. We asked people in Scotland if they could help us provide sanitary pads to school girls in Uganda who were missing 25% of their time in school. Happily, lots of Scottish people were happy to chip in and the Kupata Project is now able to provide pads to 2000 school girls every year.

Over the last three years, we have been lucky enough to have been able to put together a small team of absolutely fantastic young Ugandan volunteers who make sure everything goes to plan on the ground.

Which brings me to a fortnight ago. My Facebook feed started to tell me the extraordinary story of one of these young volunteers: Rabson.

Endless days of record breaking rain had cascaded down onto the Mountains of the Moon. Climate change at its most brutal. The towering peaks gathered in the billions of gallons of water and threw it down onto the plains below. 

Roaring. Raging. Unstoppable.

One day there were houses. Homes. The next day there was this.

Lives were obliterated. Terrified survivors gathered up what they could and built makeshift camps on spare patches of high ground.

The town was Kasese. Rabson's home town. When the floods hit, the Covid 19 lockdown meant Rabson's work as a tour guide had dried up. He was back in his home village wondering how on earth he was going to feed his young family. He could have easily have allowed himself to sink into a pit of self pity.

He didn't. Instead he chose to take the fate of over 1000 flood refugees onto his young shoulders. His resources? A mobile phone, a Facebook page and the contacts of tourists he had guided over the years.

Carol and I heard his call and sent a donation of our own. It barely scratched the surface.

Should the Kupata Project try to help out? Of course it should.

So I wrote a blog and I did my best to tell Rabson's story. I asked if any readers might be minded to offer a helping hand to one remarkable young man trying to achieve the impossible.

Well. Yet again the people of Scotland came through in spades. Over the last two weeks £2500 has come into the Kupata coffers.

We have been in constant contact with Rabson and our head volunteer, Peace. Peace is a super smart young woman with an absolute motherload of common sense and wisdom. She constantly keeps us on the straight and narrow. At times we have been in danger of acting like typical sentimental westerners. Peace always slaps down any such nonsense. She keeps us focussed.

There is a full lockdown in place in Kabale Province and a tortuous five hour drive separated Peace from Rabson and the refugees. Not that Peace was ever about to be deterred. She nagged and lobbied and was soon in possession of an emergency travel permit.

She blagged a vehicle, rallied up two fellow volunteers and they headed north into the heart of the catastrophe.

We had a small difference of opinion as we did the sums. How far could £2500 stretch? What were the absolute necessities? Like typical sentimental Westerners, we insisted on every young child getting a lollipop. Peace rolled her eyes and gritted her teeth, but in the end she allowed it. It has to be said, she seemed to have a pretty wide smile on her face when she handed out the lollipops.

Just saying! Check it out.

The sums came up with the following solution.

200 families.

6 weeks

Enough available funds for a weekly ration of the following.

5kg Cassava Meal
1kg 'Posha' which is Maize meal.
'Brown porridge' for babies.
Half a bar of soap.

The absolute basics. Not enough to stop the hunger pangs. But enough to stave off starvation. We suggested a little less starch and some peas and beans for protein. Peace had a consultation with the elders and they roundly rejected our thinking. They wanted every penny spent on the maximum amount of food and no fancy nutritional thinking. We didn't argue. I have never known what starvation feels like and I hope I never do. These people know all about the desperate grinding reality of starvation. They have first hand expertise.

They know best.

Here is the team making the Kupata Project's first delivery. It's what it looks like when people in Scotland step up to help desperate families many, many thousands of miles away.

I suggest it is a pretty good look. If you are one of the many people who did their bit to help Rabson, I hope these pictures make you feel pretty good about yourself. So you should.

So. Where are we now? Well, like I said. We have enough for six weeks. Peace asked about and gave us a report. It didn't make for happy reading. There is little or no sign of the Ugandan Government intervening to help Rabson's refugees. They have been told there is no point in rebuilding their homes. Climate change means the historic floods of 2020 will now become yet another 'New Normal'. They need a new place to live and hopefully such a place will eventually be provided.

Until that day comes, they are marooned. 1000 refugees in a world where there are tens of millions. 200 families in a makeshift camp in the shadow of the Mountains of the Moon.

Rabson's people. Rabson's List. Will everything be better in six weeks time? Probably not.

Which means our starvation maths look likely to continue for a while.

200 families.

1000 souls

5kg cassava meal per family per week

1kg maize meal per week.

Brown porridge and half a bar of soap.

Lollipops? We'll see I guess. I'll have to build up my courage before putting the idea to Peace!

£400 a week.

£65 a day.

It isn't an impossible sum, surely? All we can do is to keep telling the story and Rabson and Peace and the fantastic young people down in Kabale Province who all have the hearts of lions.

Every last penny is going to count and you have my absolute promise that every single penny we manage to raise will be spent on food and nothing else.

If you are able to help out, you can find the Kupata Project online fundraising page via the link below.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020


Oh those moments of pure, unrefined joy. They are few and far between. Sometimes they can be entirely predictable. Other times, well they come as a complete surprise.

Like an emotional league table I guess,

So. The utterly predictable moments. Birth of kids. No surprises there.

Then there are moments which you can see coming, but when they arrive they still take you by storm.

Midnight on a chilly spring night in Istanbul. 30,000 brain frazzed Scousers wait on one guy in the white shirt of AC Milan and one guy in the green goalie's shirt of Liverpool FC. Europe's finest striker versus a the son of a coal miner from Upper Silesia.

Andre Shevchenko versus Jerzy Dudek. Just a few yards between them. And when the coal miner's son saves the Ukrainian's penalty, an explosion of euphoria sweeps through the 30,000 travelling Scousers.

Including me. And my two sons. We had made our way to Istanbul hoping for something memorable. Instead we found a near miracle. A game for the ages. Sporting history. And who in their right mind could have predicted any of it?

Next up. A young me in India. 82. Maybe 83. Washed out and tropically ill. In a kind of daze as I threaded my way through the chaotic streets of Agra. As hot as a radiator. A threadbare Hippy Pied Piper with a rag tag entourage of street kids at my heels

In town to tick a box.

The Taj Mahal.

I can't pretend to have known much about the Taj Mahal. I was in Agra. A 50p a night mattress on a baking hot roof. But if you are in Agra, you tend to go and see the Taj Mahal.

Did I have great expectations? Not really. I've never been a buildings kind of guy.

I stepped out of the madness of the streets and through and arch and...

It was like being slapped. It stopped me dead in my tracks. And a wholy unexpected tide of joy washed through me. I had never before seen anything made by my fellow man which was so completely perfect. Flawless. Miraculous.

And I have never seen anything like it since.

Unexpected joy. Pure, unrefined joy straight out of a clear blue Indian sky.

Kerpow bang. Is that how you spell kerpow? I have'nae a clue.

Over the last few days I have had two similarly unexpected moments of sheer joy.

The first moment arrived care of the Mayor of Washington DC, Murial Bowser.

You know her. Here she is.

What a moment of absolute genius. To order the painting of a street with giant yellow letters right under the nose of the wannabe tyrant. With these vast, garish words she became Trump's very worst nightmare. A super smart black woman right there in his bloated face. Rubbing it in. Making him look smaller than small. Pushing hard in the back. Propelling him towards the exit door and a waiting prison cell. Americans with brains in their heads could easily enough understand the realities of the situation. The President might be the most powerful person in the world. He has the ability to destroy the whole of our planet in a single nuclear tantrum. But when it comes to what can or cannot be painted on a Washington street, he is every bit as powerless as you and I are.

Not that his racist cult followers will see it that way. They will stare dumbly at their TV's and wonder how can he possibly allow such a thing to happen. Surely their great hero will never stand for it. Surely he will sign one of his fabled executive orders to command a team of black prisoners in stripy uniforms to get out there in chains to scrub the giant letters into oblivion.

Imagine how they must feel to see the great leader so completely and utterly humiliated by a woman.

A black woman.

Oh yeah. Pure joy.

But that moment of pure joy was soon to be eclipsed.

Let me hit rewind for a moment. Racism has always disgusted me. In the street wars of 1970's Blackburn, I was never on the side of the road where Skinheads in their Doc Martins spat out their venom.

Then things moved to a whole different level when I became the white half of a mixed race family: a father to two brown boys. It got personal. Really personal. As personal as personal gets. And yes, I had that conversation with my sons. Never get lippy with the cops because you just never know. I thank my lucky stars the lads didn't have to grow up in 1970's Blackburn. Or the United States today.

There have been incidents when they have wound up in the cells for the crime of their skin colour. But they have never been beaten. They have never been killed. And when I watched the slow death of George Floyd, I could in a very small way feel the nightmare his family are living through.

Early nineties. A cheap and cheerful package holiday to the Gambia. A hired jeep which wouldn't have come within a country mile of passing one of our MOT tests.

Parked up by a river under the burning sun. A baked silence clamped down of the lush green. Dyonne and Courtney playing with a bunch of local kids by a sluggish river. Dyonne is eight. Courtney is two.

I squint and stare through the brightness to a small island in the middle of the river. Thick vegetation and no sign of human life. Well. Not quite. No sign of currant human life. Through the leaves and the twisting vines it is just about possible to make out the shape of a long collapsed building.

And then it hits me. Like a punch in the stomach.

It's a slave fort. An old British slave fort from way back when. And ice slides down my spine. Endless millions of unseen ghosts seem to be all around me. And as I watch my sons playing at the water's edge, I can almost hear the long lost voices of their ancestors. Maybe they had been held on this very island. In chains. In squalor. In utter degredation. In fear. In bottomless terror. Locked down and waiting on the next boat to Barbados.

Weeks and months of fetid air and dysentery and daily death. Then the market place to be sold like farm animals. Then the slow death of the sugar fields.

And somehow they made it through. Survived it. Lived to pass on their genes. Their legacy. Over centuries and oceans all the way to the veins and arteries of my two sons. A full circle. From Africa to Barbados to the UK and back to Africa.

A journey completed after 400 years.

The sensation stayed with me and when my God daughter Carmen turned 18, I did my best to commit my African riverbank feelings into a short story for her.

I called it Mpene. The story of a young African girl who made it through the Middle Passage and passed on her stubborn ferocity down the centuries. All the way to Carmen.

You can read it here if you like. It isn't long. 20 pages or so. I have made it into a free download instead of the usual 99p.

My afternoon on the river bank left me with feelings of shame and cold rage. Shame at what my people had done. Rage at what my people had done. The deed. The lies. The manipulation of history. The 400 year whitewash.

A 400 year whitewash designed to airbrush the very existance of Dyonne and Courtney's ancestors from memory. From History.

For years I have been trying to find the right fiction. One day before I die I am determined to write a book about slavery. A book for those ancestors whose ghosts I so strongly sensed by an African river bank.

Here are a couple of facts for you to chew on which will one day find their way into the book I hope to write.

The Brits first claimed the island of Barbados in the early seventeenth century. Experiments were carried out and it was soon clear that growing sugar cane was going to be a goer. A money spinner. A game changer.

But there was a problem. Growing sugar cane needed a whole bunch of people to dig and cut and squeeze. Barbados was basically unpopulated, so the required people needed to be imported. And the new masters of the island had no interest in paying out any wages.

In 1650, the English and the Scots fought it out at the battle of Dunbar. The English won and 3000 Scottish prisoners were put on a forced march all the way to York. In chains. Once they arrived in the city, they were locked up in the cathedral and then sold as slaves and put on boats to Barbados to be worked to death in the sugar fields.

For decades the island's cane was hacked down by Scottish slaves. But problems soon emerged. Scottish slaves were OK in a European climate. In Barbados, they dropped like flies under the burning sun. Something better was required. Something more robust. Better adapted to the heat and the disease. And so it was the planation owners started buying African. And for years African slaves worked shoulder to shoulder with the sons and daughters of the Scottish slaves. The Africans liked to take the piss when the pale skin of their Scottish brothers and sisters burnt in the sun.

They awarded them with a nick name.


And the island is still home to a village of 'Redlegs'.

Fact two.

The live of expectancy of an African slave being sold in Bridgetown market in 1700 was less than the life expectancy of a Jew getting off the train at Auschwitz Birkenau in 1943. Yeah, you read it right.


When it came down to sheer, off the scales brutality we actually outdid the Nazis.

My son's ancestors lived through that. Christ knows how.

So when a street mob in Bristol ripped down the stature of Edward Colston, I felt a tide of pure unrefined joy wash through me.

And when a street mob in Bristol dragged his bronze carcass through the streets, I felt a tide of unrefined joy was through me.

And when a crowd in Bristol threw his memory into the waters of the harbour, I feld a tide of pure unrefined joy wash through me.

Who knows. Maybe among the 80,000 human lives Colston traded were the lives of the ancestors of my sons. Figures on a ledger. A purchase. A sale. A profit made and booked. And stashed.

The most lucrative crime against humanity in the history of our species.

And after the joy came a moment of delusional hope. I hoped somehow, somewhere the ancestors of my sons were watching. Looking down as the ripples spread out and across the waters of the harbour. Looking down on a long belated payback. Looking down on a curtain being ripped open after 400 long years. Looking down as the fetid, poisonous truth of what we did was finally thrown out into the open.

400 years is a bloody long time. But their blood still runs through the arteries and veins of my two sons. And the bronze memory of Edward Colston is buried in the mud.

Where it belongs.

Saturday, June 6, 2020


I've had a strange week. Really strange. I've been sitting here for a while wondering how to go about the task of committing the last seven days to paper. Smoking. Staring out at the June sunshine. Trying to find a way to make a start.

Well, I have concluded the best approach is to focus on cold, hard facts. So here they are.

This week, I have been involved in two food emergencies. One here in South West Scotland and one many thousand miles away in Kasese, Uganda. The common thread connecting the two is a whole bunch of people with not enough to eat.

But there the similarity stops.

Big time.

I'll take them one at a time. Scotland first.

Once again the foodbank I manage has been required to provide just over 500 people with emergency food over the last week. In normal times this number would have been about a 100. So believe me, 500 is a lot.

It is Saturday now and the task is complete. Every one of the 500 people who needed emergency food has received emergency food. Cupboards aren't exactly full, but they are no longer empty.

To achieve this I have been lucky enough to have been able to call on significant resources.

First Base has a base to work out of in Dumfries where three volunteers are dab hands at handling food in and food out.

Beyond this, we have six distribution centres across the region where a further 20 volunteers handle food in and food out.

A whole bunch more volunteers deliver the food to those who need it.

I move most of the food from A to B in my Arnold Clark transit van.

Providing enough for 500 hungry people of course requires lots of food. Like this much

500 pies
500 rolls
500 portions of homemade Scotch Broth
500 packets of biscuits
500 bags of cereal
500 bags of pasta
500 portions of pasta sauce
500 portions of mashed potato
500 tins of beans
500 tins of rice pudding
500 boxes of eggs
500 pints of milk.

Plus a variety of extras which we add in according to availability.

Some of this stuff is donated, though it's a whole lot less than it was a couple of months ago. Lockdown is pretty ruinous when it comes to getting in food donations.

So coming up with the food listed above needed lots of the most important resource of all.


Yeah, I know. Duh!

How much? About £3500. Some items were donated, but most had to be bought. All of a sudden First Base is burning through the thick end of £10,000 a month on buying food.

How long does each parcel last? 2 days. Maybe 3 days at a stretch.

Cost per person per day? Let's say £3.50.

Which in my book ain't half bad. You can't expect to help feed 500 people a week on fresh air.

Thankfully we have had the money to spend. We have received funding from the Scottish Government, the local Council, businesses and Trusts as well as overwhelming, jaw dropping generosity from the local community.

All of which means we are well set to help out 500 people again next week. And the week after that.

In the depths of next winter's recession, it might well be a different story. But next winter is quite some time away.


Food emergency number 2.

Maybe you read my last blog which told the story of a young guy called Rabson who is heroically trying to find a way to feed 1000 people who are hanging on in makeshift camps having seen their homes washed away in a sea of liquid mud.

Three years ago, Carol and I set up a small charity called the Kupata Project. We raise cash here in Scotland to provide sanitary pads to 2000 school girls in Kabale Province, Uganda.

We are lucky to have several brilliant young Ugandan volunteers who make things happen on the ground.

And Rabson is one of these volunteers. His day job is tour guide, but things all went west when Covid 19 came to town. The borders were closed and suddenly his living was gone.

So he went home to Kasase and within days a biblical deluge of rain wreaked havoc and wrecked lives.

The Kupata Project was never set up to be involved in emergency relief work, but we decided it was a case of needs must. If Rabson was willing to take on the mighty task of somehow feeding a thousand desperate people, then it would be quite unnacceptable for us not to try to help him.

So I wrote my blog, asked for donations and crossed my fingers. The response was heart warming. We hoped to raise £400. After a week we have in fact managed to raise £1800. One couple who I will not name gave us £1000. This isn't the first time they have helped First Base and the Kupata Project. They are truly, totally huge hearted people. As Colonel Kurtz said in Apocalypse Now "If I had 40,000 men like that, our problems here would be over very quickly....."

I contacted Peace, our lead volunteer. I asked her to get a handle on the cold hard facts of the situation in Kasese. Here they are.

Ok. 203 families with nothing to eat. How long for? How long until they can make their homes habitable again? Maybe a month?

Maths time.

£1800 to last for a month.

£450 a week. 1057 people. 42.5p per person per week. 7 pence per day.

7 pence.


Peace tells me the normal way of sorting things is to distribute weekly to each family.

So started to do to the calculations over WhatsApp. And after a few goes, this was what we managed to come up with.

5 kg Cassava Flour
1 kg Maize Flour
'Brown porridge' for babies
Half a bar of soap.

It's what you get with 7 pence per person per day. It isn't enough. Not nearly enough. An NHS nutritionist would have duck fit, but what can you do?

And when I compare what we helping Rabson to provide in Kasese with what First Base is providing to those in need in Dumfries and Galloway....

Well. It's pretty hard.

It is worth touching on the logistics. When I run food around Dumfries and Galloway, I drive a spanking new hire van along quiet roads. Tarmac roads.

Rabson's task is a tad stiffer. The Cassava meal comes in 65kg sacks. By hook or by crook, he gets two sacks onto on the back of his old motorbike and then he somehow navigates dirt roads with pot holes filled with liquid mud. Not a task for the faint hearted. But nobody could ever say Rabson is faint hearted.

Anyway. Here's the long and short of it. Nobody in Dumfries and Galloway is going to starve to death in June 2020. And nobody in the makeshift camps of Kasese is going to starve to death in June 2020. And for that we should be thankful. And everyone who has helped Forst Base and the Kupata Project to make this happen should be proud of their generosity.

But there is a huge difference. Nobody needs go hungry in Dumfries and Galloway this June. There is enough food available for all. Good food. Nutritious. Plenty enough to maintain life and limb and then some.

Sadly, this isn't the case in Kasese. 7 pence a day is enough to keep them alive, but not enough to drive away the gnawing pain of hunger. 7 pence a day is only enough for starch. We can't afford any protein. Which sadly means the diet is far from healthy.

It is what it is. Can it be better? Well, I have no doubt you already know the answer. Of course it can. If we manage to raise more money, then we can provide more. 15 pence a day is enough for some protein.

I actually hate asking. We are all living through truly miserable times. I get that. But we would dearly love to able to bring the people Rabson is helping in Kasese just a little closer to the people we are helping here in Scotland.

You can find the Kupata Project's online fundraising page by following the link below.

For all of you have given donations to help Rabson, I hope you feel some pride and satisfaction. Because of your generosity, nobody is going to starve. Without it, they might well have done.

And that's quite something, right?