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.

Thursday, November 12, 2020



A list of names and addresses.

And concrete from the 1970's.

Clues without back stories.

Leaving Care team.

Adult Social Care.

Care in the Community.


A list of the struggling. The broken.

Closes and Crescents and Avenues.

Nooks and crannies.

Cracked pavements and half hearted cats.

Dying weeds wrapping long dead sofas.

Where the winds of heroin once blew.

Where the concrete of the 1970's was once laid in hope.

As if.

But hindsight is a fine thing.

Some of the security doors work.

Most don't.

Beyond the pebble dash the stairwells crouch.

Bare and disinfected.

Stairs worn down by a million foot falls.

From Bay City Roller platforms

All the way to 50 Cent Nike.

Leaving the concrete of the 1970's

As eroded as the grey hills on the skyline.

Tired doors open up with a kind of fear.

Pallid faces.


Lights off. Sometimes the view through the door

Offers a glimpse of a life in chaos.

Sometimes everything is obsessively clean.

And there is hardly ever any light.

Curtains drawn tight.

The endless flicker of a 24/7 TV.

Lives entombed by the concrete of the 1970's.

Clues found in the eyes.

Fear or aggression or drain out.

Sometimes the glaze of cheap drugs.

Sometimes the faint gleam of madness.

Sometimes absolutely nothing.

An emptiness.

A blandness.

Worn down and lifeless as the concrete of the 1970's.

Things change in an instant once I say who I am.

The First Base guy.

The Food Bank guy.


Not an imminent threat.

Old normal, new normal, just normal.

A means to some kind of end.

A bringer of Pot Noodle.

Glimmers of smiles.

And sentences of thank you.

Before the tired doors click closed.

And I retrace my steps

Over the concrete of the 1970's.

Monday, November 2, 2020


I am writing these words in the last knockings of a grey Sunday morning. It is 1 November 2020. It is 11.45. Outside the window, the weak sunshine of the early morning is long gone. The wind becoming a gale. The rain will soon be horizontal. There is barely a leaf to be seen on the swaying trees.

And tomorrow is Monday. The start of another week. A week where so many things could change for better or for worse. A week which will go a long way to shaping the course of the rest of my life. And the lives of my sons. And the lives of my yet unborn grandchildren.

Might the coming week be the most important in my near sixty years on the planet? Well. Almost certainly not.

I guess there were three weeks when my life could have been changed and changed utterly.

April 1989. 

Not the whole week. The weekend in the middle of an unusually sunny month. On the night of 14 April, Carol and I got togther and we have stayed together ever since. A true life changer. Then on the afternoon of 15 April, I skirted the gates of death by the skin of my teeth. In the cages of the Leppings Lane Terrace.

Hillsborough. Sheffield. South Yorkshire. And I made it. 96 of my fellow Reds didn't. It was the only time in my life when mass death stared me in the face.

So, yeah. April 1989. My life went on, but it was changed. Changed utterly.

The first huge week of my life is one I have no memory of whatsoever. October 1962. I was closing in on my second birthday when Kennedy and Kruschev brough the world to within a few minutes of mass death. And a one year old me would no doubt have been on the list of tens of millions to perish. Preston was high up on the Soviet nuclear hit list and our little family would have been transformed into ash within a nano second had the Americans and Soviets chosen to press their buttons.

The second of my life and death weeks also passed without me having a clue that anything had even happened. Me and millions of others. In fact, me and pretty much the whole world. We're talking September 1983. I was a couple of weeks into my last year at Cambridge. On September 26th, the threat screen at a Soviet early warning station lit up like Blackpool illuminations. The computer had sensed multiple American nukes headed for the Soviet Union and the doomsday clock was ticking down. The guy in charge was a Colonel called Stanislav Petrov. His training made what was to happen next crystal clear – pass the news down the line to the rocket guys and let Armageddon roll.

Stanislav chose not to buy what the computer was selling. Three times the klaxons howled and three times he ignored them whilst all his colleagues begged him to do otherwise. After a few minutes it became clear the computer had screwed up and everyone smoked strong Russian fags with shaking hands.

There were at least five U.S. Air Force bases within fifty miles of my college. Had Stanislav Petrov obeyed his standing orders, I would have been been gone without a trace. Of course I never knew any of this. None of us did. The story only leaked out decades later when the Bolshevik Empire crashed and burned.

The coming week is unlikely to carry the same imminant threat to my life and limb as those long lost weeks in 1962, 1983 and 1989. Its impact will take longer to play out. And yet the after effects of the next few days could determine the next half century. Maybe longer.

I'm not going to look at this globally. Instead I will be selfish and examine what might or might not come next through the eyes of me and mine.

First up is the big one. Tuesday night and the long early hours of Wednesday morning. The U.S. Election. What else? Has there ever been an election in the history of democracy which has held the attention of the whole world like this one has? No chance.

Of course anything which affects the way America is run has a pretty massive impact on the rest of us. For now at least, they are still the big dog. But the fate of Trump represents something much bigger. For the last five or so years, the world has been sliding into darkness much like it did in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Country after country has fallen into the hands of so called 'strong men; Russia and Brazil and the Philippenes and Hungary and Turkey and England.

And of course America.

Trump has made himself the pin up boy for an encroaching tide of Fascism. At times it feels like if you listen hard enough you can hear the sound of crashing jack boots drawing ever closer. And this is a sound guaranteed to scare the living daylights out of anyone who is a part of a mixed race family.

Right now the world has a horrible feel of Germany 1932. If the nightmare becomes reality on Tuesday night, the world will suddenly feel like Germany 1933. A die cast. A dark future locked in. The road to a new Dachau suddenly open for traffic.

But if he loses and loses big, then it will feel like the world has taken a step back from the brink. From the appalling. From the unthinkable. And maybe it can mean the start of something better.

The media seem to think our Lords and masters in Westminster are waiting on the result of the U.S. Election before making up their minds about a 'No Deal' Brexit on 31 December. This is a huge deal for my professional life as a food bank manager.

A no deal Brexit will probably mean thousands of trucks stuck on the wrong side of the English Channel. Supermarket shelves won't take long to empty out and the panic buying will make last March's run on toilet roll and pasta look like a minor inconvenience. Last March conclusively proved all the Brexiteer talk of the plucky 'Blitz Spirit' to be nothing more than yet another right wing fever dream. There will be no Blitz Spirit if the shelves are cleared. There will be mass panic and civil unrest. And probably not enough cops.

As a food bank, we are doing our best to put some kind of plan into place to do as much as we can in the event of this potential nightmare. Thanks to unbelievable support from some of our local food suppliers, we should be capable of providing enough for the most vulnerbale 4000 people in the area we cover for two weeks. The amounts of food needed to achieve this are eye watering. 10 tonnes of flour, 2 tonnes of pasta, 2 tonnes of mashed potato flakes.... Our thinking is probably somewhat optimistic. There seems no way the spineless occupant of 10 Downing Street will be able to withstand mass rioting for more than a few days. Hopefully after a week of so of this kind of mass mayhem, Johnson will high tail it to Brussels to get down on his knees and beg for a five year extension to the Transition Period which will hopefully allow for a return to some semblence of normal. It seems beyond crazy to have to be thinking this way, but we live in truly crazy times. Our threadbare plan reminds me of the old war plans from the height of the Cold War where the NATO forces were tasked to hang on by their finger nails for long enough for massive American forces to make it across the Atlantic to save the day.

OK. U.S. Election. Done. Prospect of a No Deal Brexit done. So all that leaves in my life changing week is the future of Scotland.

This one is a tad more subtle. Right from the get go of the Covid 19 pandemic, the Scottish Government opted for the tried and trusted option of using local health boards and Councils to run 'track, trace and isolate'. Johnson and Co chose to dish out £12 billion work of tax payer's money to their cronies in the corporate sector. The results have been pretty much conclusive. Our system, which has been tried and tested since the pandemic of 1918, has worked reasonably well: it seems we get a hold of 98% of those who test positive. The system down south barely reaches 60% on a good day.

This coupled with clear communication by a leader the people like and trust has meant Scotland has done a whole lot better than England. Every day at 1pm, I obsessively log on to the Scottish Government site to see how many cases we have had over the last 24 hours. Over the last week this figure has fallen every day. Not by much, but by a bit. 1400, 1300, 1250, 1150... On a pro rata basis, were we following the English curve these numbers would be at least double and rising.

Right now we seem to have falling numbers whilst still being able to keep schools, colleges and shops open everywhere and pubs and restaurants in over half of the country.

The next week is huge. If we are able to see a continued fall in cases whilst under a regional and partial lockdown at the same time as England sees an explosion of cases drive it into a full lockdown, then it could well be a true game changer.

Right now 'Yes' is sitting at 58% in the polls. If this coming week sees Scotland pull away from England as both countries battle the pandemic, then the lead could begin to stretch past 60% and well beyond. 

Far enough for the result of the coming referendum to be pretty much a done deal.

Which of course would mean I get the chance to live out my days as a New Scot in an independent country.

So if things go well this week, the future can start to look slightly brighter. The cancerous march of Fascism might be stopped in its tracks. The lunacy of a No Deal Brexit might be put back in its box.

And the dream of an Independent Scotland might just be a whole lot closer.

It's going to be quite a week.