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.

Saturday, March 12, 2022



It's March and it is already crystal clear. History will recall 2022 as a year of catastrophe. We don't yet know just how great the catastrophe might be. God forbid, it might still end in mushroom clouds.

Let's all pray otherwise.

Right now, all eyes are all on the pictures of 1942 in HD which fill our TV screens. How could our eyes not be?

But soon our attention will inevitably be drawn to disasters closer to home.

The cold hard economic facts are unlike anything we have seen since 1973.

Petrol is about to hit £10 a gallon and the price of a loaf of bread will double in the next couple of months.

A sixty mile round trip is about to cost £20.

The consequences are beyond comprehension and as the manager of an already over stretched foodbank the near future has become a thing of utter dread.

And in a way it started yesterday. The first clap of thunder from the approaching storm.

I parked up the van and clicked off a podcast describing how hell had come to earth in a city on the shores of the Black Sea.

Check messages.

A quiet voice on the very verge of tears.

I don't how how I am supposed to do this. Do I need to register? Do I need to bring in some documents?”

She wasn't a Ukrainian refugee facing the UK's wall of bureaucracy.

She was a lady living in abject rural poverty twenty or so miles from First Base.

Our near abroad.

Choking back the ever present tears, she ran through her story. Her tragedy. Her small, unnoticed tragedy in a world of vast tragedy.

A tragedy of various parts which had suddenly come together to make her life impossible.

The bare bones I will lay out are anonymised.

She has a serious long term disease which is getting steadily and inevitably worse.

But she can still work. And she has worked. She has worked for the same employer for all but 20 years.

Steady. Reliable. A part of the furniture. A model employee.

But over the course of a few days, everything has fallen apart.

Driving to and from her place of work involves five round trips of 50 miles per week. 350 miles in all.

And all of of a sudden the cost of travelling to and from work has gone up by £25 a week.

A straw to break the back of a camel.

Already going to work was costing her money. Staying at home in perpetual isolation on Universal Credit would put a few more pounds coins in her purse.

And already her incomings were incapable to filling the oil tank and thereby allowing her to heat her damp abode.

A real terms pay cut of £25 a week might as well have been £1000 a week.

She had arrived at the gates of impossibility.

And now she really has to fight her way through the tears.

Because her place of work was behind the till in a garage.

She laid out her tragedy to her boss. Piece by piece.

Maybe he could help make the impossible possible with a weekly splash of petrol?

Surely twenty years of reliable service had to be worth something?

In a perfect world it would be.

But this is anything but a perfect world.

This is planet earth in the year of Our Lord 2022.

Her boss gave her the same answer Putin has given to the people of Mariupol.


Not a litre, not a pound, not a penny.

Not my problem.

Plenty more fish in the sea.

So she resigned.

What other choice was there?

A dictator invades a neighbour and an ill lady in Dumfries and Galloway has to give up her job of twenty years in favour of a life of endless cold and utter isolation.

Dominos, right?

In their own way, basic sums can be as life ruining as cluster bombs.

The catastrophe of 2022 will come in many different forms.

For the people of Mariupol it is beyond every nightmare.

For the countries of the Middle East and Africa who rely on affordable wheat from Russia and Ukraine, it will mean famine.

And for us it will mean a vast rolling tragedy for those who could barely manage in the days before petrol hit £10 a gallon and the price of a loaf of bread doubled.

She came in to us yesterday. She is in town once a week for unmissable doctors appointments.

She came to us with the tears still flowing.

And of course we gave her a week's worth of food for herself and her dog and her cats.

And of course we assured her we would help her for as long as she needed our help.

And of course we told her there would be no documents required to enable her to keep her body and soul together.

First Base is not the UK Home Office.

First Base does not make people prove the extent of their desperation.

First Base does what it can and to be frank, it isn't going to be remotely enough.

Yes, we can keep food on the table. But we can't keep the heating on. Or the lights. And we can't pay the rent. Or buy clothes. Or drive bailiffs from the door.

And there is no parcel to drive away fear and despair.

I put the phone down after half an hour or so and couldn't escape a growing feeling of dread.

And so it starts.

Our part in the catastrophe of 2022.

Our resources are desperately limited. We do a pretty good job of distributing 16,000 emergency food parcels across and area which spans 3400 square miles. And our parcels are decent. Varied and reasonably nutritious. Three days worth of eating.

Not Fortnum and Mason. But not bad.

I wonder what one of our parcels will look like in six months time? Milk and a bag of porridge oats?

In the year when petrol is about to hit £10 a gallon and the price of a loaf of bread is about to double, how many emergency parcels will we be required to hand out in the 3400 square miles we cover?

I have no idea.

Nobody has any idea.

And so it starts.