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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022



So we call them library bags. Hardly the most imaginative of names! Library bags are the food parcels we make up for libraries and various other locations – Social work offices, NHS, homeless accommodation. I'm sure you get the picture.

Each library bag contains basics enough for three meals a day for three days. For one person.

A hungry person of zero means.

A citizen of the winter of 2022.

Ten basic items. No frills. Calories with a long shelf life.

Only a couple of months ago, I would distribute 50 or 60 library bags in a busy week.

But of course things have changed now.

Changed utterly as WB Yeats once upon a time said.

There was a sheen of frost in the fields yesterday and darkness closed in at five o'clock.

Anyone associated with a foodbank has been dreading this week for many months.

The week of the first frost. The week when the reality of the coming winter starts to bite. The week when the rubber meets the road.


So did I distribute 50 of our library bags last week when a sheen of frost glittered in the morning light?


Last week I distributed 200 of our library bags. A new record for First Base: a record which will probably stand for as long as the Truss lettuce.

Winter's not coming any more.

It's here.

When 'The Hunger Games' become a bleak and grinding reality.

Signs and signals.

A referral to a family of four in a small village which sees its fair share of tourists in the lazy days of summer.

Not a familiar location for a food parcel delivery. A leafy sort of street. Tidy front gardens with not a rotting old sofa in sight. Clean cars in the driveways. A backdrop of steep, forested hills.

For millions, a dream place to live. Not quite Cotswolds enough to be labelled a rural idyll. But pretty dammed close.

I open up the back of the van and unload food enough for four.

And a dog.

Are the curtains twitching?


The door opens and the eyes upon me are a mixture of embarrassment and panic. For I am the visitor she hoped would never, ever call. The foodbank guy.

Right here right now. Not on the news.

Here. In person.

In 2022.

We didn't do much small talk. We didn't do any. I tried on a smile to try and make the whole thing normal. She smiled back and looked bereft.

And did the neighbours see? Did they work it out? Will they be next?

Back in the van.

Back along the highways and the by-ways.

A foodbank guy. A white van guy. A part of the coming winter of 2022.

James from Moffat calls.

We do pleasantries.

He says the local school has been on. Ten families are failing to cope. Could we bring an extra 25 of our library bags? Not just for this week. For every week? If that's OK?

Of course it's OK.

It's what we're here for when all is said and done.

It's the role we are deemed to play in the hunger games of 2022.

I end the call. Light up a smoke. I drive the highways and the by-ways as a renewed curtain of rain lashes the windscreen.

I do the maths.

25 library bags a week.

100 a month,

1200 a year.

1200 x £5 = £6000

Add it to your budget, foodbank guy.

A scene from 'Apocalypse Now' jumps into my head. Kurtz and Willard. Brando and Sheen.

“Are you an assassin, Captain Willard?”

“I'm a soldier. Sir”

“You're neither. Your an errand boy sent by grocery clerks …... to collect the bill.”

The bill.

Another £6000 worth of bill.

And as I drive, I hope to hell Aldi continue to come through for us.

Because right now Aldi are the only show in town. They are the only place who are willing to sell us the tins and packets we need in sufficient quantities to stand a chance.

A delivery to a couple I have been delivering to for months now. They're of an age. They're waiting on decision for PIP. Personal Independence Payments. A chance to be independent of feeling hungry. It's another nice house with another nice car in the drive. Appearances don't deceive any more. Not in 2022. In 2022 they appear at the door looking for all the world like Michelin people. Layers and layers and not a light switched on.

It's all a long way away from the miserable strutting and fretting of Westminster where they are hell bent on blaming all of it on dinghy riding Albanians. Or the French. Or Vladimir Putin. Or people who eat tofu. Which at least leaves me in the clear. I've never eaten tofu in my life. Maybe I should try some?

A zoom meeting.

Like being back in 2020 again. Peak pandemic

The emergency food providers of Dumfries virtually gather to share their news and thoughts.

A food provider from a less favourable area of town lays a problem down on the table and asks for ideas. Her project collects 'end of day' items from shops, bakeries and supermarkets. Pies and sausage rolls and hot cross buns. She lays the collected food out on a trestle table outside a community centre, takes a picture and announces it via Facebook. In the Covid days, people would carefully keep their social distance and go out of their way to share and share alike. Back in the days of disease. Back in the days when we all figured it was nice to be nice.

Not so much any more.

Now a crowd is gathered and waiting before she puts the table out of the door. No need for Facebook. And once she starts to lay out the day's offering, it becomes a case of grab what you can grab and grab it fast. One or two families with something of a local reputation fill their carrier bags whilst the more timid stand back, too feart to argue the toss.

The days of making nice seem to have faded away.

In 2022 things are different. In 2022 is hard to see an end in sight. There's no vaccine roll out for ingrained poverty.

A long dark winter awaits.

If you would like to help First Base do what we do, you can find our online fundraising page via the link below.