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, January 28, 2023



This is going to be something of a nuts and bolts blog. A logistics blog.

So I guess the best plan of attack is to keep things short and snappy. Honed down. To the point.

So Frankland, you have your remit. Crack on.

The problems of January 2023 are well enough documented. In a nutshell, millions of us turn ashen faced when our smart meter breaks the news of how much it has just cost us to boil a kettle. Tick Tock are running an advert suggesting we stash away any boiling water we don't need for the cup in a waiting flask. All boiled and ready for next time. Watch the pennies....

Like a bunch of nostalgic lemmings, it seems we are creating our very own 2023 version of 1942 without the air raids and genocide.


So. Some nuts and some bolts. Some problems to solve.

Up until a week ago, I would deliver 20 food parcels to Gretna library every three weeks or so. Suddenly they now need 20 a week. Every week. Maybe it will be 30 in a couple of months time.

Problem 1.

Demand for emergency food parcels seems to have more or less doubled over night.

Problem 2.

Dumfries got hit by the worst flooding in fifty years a couple of weeks ago and our basement was turned into a swimming pool. We lost a lot of food but it wasn't a complete disaster.

The bigger problem is climate change. It ain't going to be fifty years until it happens again. It might not even be fifty days.

Finding a solution to Problem 1 and Problem 2 at the same time was taxing to say the least.

Especially when we had no choice other than to factor in a bunch of supplementary problems.

Problem 3.

If we need to double the number of food parcels we are handing out, then we are going to have to double the amount of food we are buying in. Well, duh!

Can we afford this? Thanks to the unbelievable support we received from the community in the run up to Christmas, the answer is yes, For a while at least.

Problem 4.

Can we find someone willing to actually sell us what we need at a price we can afford?

This is a pretty big question believe it or not.

The major supermarkets are now all in full 1942 mode and rationing the hell out of their 'Value' lines. Asda won't let us buy more than 3 items from the value range. This makes Tesco's 16 seem positively generous.

Three tins of baked beans per delivery doesn't get us very far when we need to come up with 500 parcels per week.

Thankfully two retailers who were both very much on the other side of things in 1942 have stepped forward to play the role of our saviors.

Aldi and Lidl.

The managers at both Dumfries stores have promised me they are not rationing. If First Base wants to buy 500 tins of spaghetti at 16p a tin, then they will order it in for us.

Both of these businesses won the hearts of the German people in the desperate years following the war. In a decade known as 'The Hungry Fifties', Aldi in particular stepped up to the plate to sell basic food at a price the starving population could afford.

This has never been forgotten and lo and behold here they are bailing out a foodbank in Dumfries seventy years later.

However, solving Problems 3 and 4 doesn't help us to get to grips with Problem 2.

There is little point in successfully managing to buy and store 500 packets of savoury rice only to see them all ruined in the next flood.

For twenty years we have run our food parcel operation on a pretty simple basis.

We store as much as we can in the basement and fill up parcels as and when they are required.

Climate change and the threat of the floods to come mean we now need to find a way to change this.

Now we need to find a way to fill up lots and lots of parcels as soon as we purchase the required items and then find a way to make sure these parcels are safe from future flooding.


We certainly don't have the room in our upstairs areas which are all filled with freezers.

Well here's how.

Kerr at The Little Bakery in Dumfries has been one of our greatest supporters for years now. He has expanded his site and he generously offered us storage should we need it. We took him up on the offer in the autumn when we bought in three tonnes of baked beans as a hedge for the looming winter.

So I asked if we could have space for a stock of 400 food parcels and he said yes.

He's that kind of guy. To edit the words of Colonel Kurtz in 'Apocalypse Now' - 'If we had ten thousand men like Kerr, the problems of the Cost of Living Crisis would be over very quickly.'

It wasn't feasable to store 400 parcels in one big pile, so we ordered 10 three sided cages on wheels. Like the ones you see in supermarkets. We found them on Ebay. £90 a pop. Thanks to the December donations, £900 was a bill we could afford to pay.

So. We had a solution to part of Problem 2. But not a perfect solution. We would still have to carry big stocks in the basement for at least two days a week and sod's law would most certainly make sure the next floods would always hit us on one of these days.

Was there a way to keep 75% of the items needed to fill and store 400 parcels out of the basement altogether?

There was.

For some years we have worked with the local Community Payback team. Quite a few of their clients have completed their community service hours with us and, touch wood, a majority have gone on to live non-re-offending lives.

They have a depot in Dumfries where community services hours are used up on a variety of worthy projects.

We made our pitch. Could we deliver all the items we buy from Lidl and Aldi to their depot where their guys would fill up the food parcels? And once all the parcels were ready, could they deliver them all to our storage area out at the Little Bakery?

The answer was yes and yes.

And all of a sudden Problems 1, 2, 3 and 4 had all taken a kicking.

We can now pick up items and keep them above the coming floods every step of the way.

And the cost apart from £900 we invested in storage cages?

Zip. Zero. Nowt. Nada.

And this where the way we managed to solve problems 1, 2, 3 and 4 is suddenly highly relevant to the times we are living in.

Think about it.

We all know there is a chronic cost of living crisis which is probably going to a permanent feature in our lives in the years to come. Politicians will never own up to the cold hard fact of how far the UK has fallen, but the cold hard fact is there all the same.

It's staring us all in the face. Our currency is weak and we are all a whole lot poorer than we were twenty years ago.

People are broke.

Councils are broke.

National Governments are broke.

The global money markets have called time on us getting away with printing any more money.

All of which means we need to find smarter ways of getting things done. The Pandemic was a great trial run for this.

Think about it.

We have been able to find solutions to some pretty daunting problems by setting up a straight forward partnership.

It's a four way thing.

We have the community who made enough donations to enable us to be in a position to buy the food and the storage cages.

We have the private sector – The Little Bakery, Aldi and Lidl – who have provided basic assistance to make things possible.

We have the public sector – The Community Payback Team – who have made people and resources available.

And we have the voluntary sector – First Base. 


Our job is to put the partnership together.

This new partnership of ours has the capacity to pack and store north of 20,000 emergency parcels per annum. Just imagine what this kind of operation would cost in the government tried to do it? With premises, staff, equipment, power, IT, human resources, line management, oversight.....

My guess would be an overhead cost of £200,000 minimum. Then there would be the cost of food on top.

Well our new partnership is costing a twentieth of that.

This kind of partnership is capable of solving many of the problems we will all face in the coming years.

The community.

The voluntary sector

The private sector

Local and National Government.

If we can find imaginative ways to put all four together, all kinds of solutions can be found.

If you want to help us to keep on doing what we do, you can find our online fundraising page via the link below


Monday, January 16, 2023



I'm a relatively easy going sort of guy. It takes a lot to get me hot under the collar about things. If a Man Utd defender hacks down Mo Salah if front of where I sit at Anfield, well fair enough: foul language will probably pour from my mouth in pretty copious quantities.

Otherwise? No. Not really.

But there is one thing which is winding me up more and more these days – the utter inability of either the Scottish Government or the Scottish media to ever point out all the areas where we do so much better than the complete shitshow playing out south of the border.

Why? I haven't a clue why.

We are acting like archetypal meek and cowed colonial subjects, scared to say anything which might in any way upset our rulers.

Sorry Baas. We didn't mean nuttin' bad, Baas. Nuttin' bad, Baas.

As a manager of a foodbank, I tend to watch lots of  foodbank stories on YouTube. Of course I do. And every time I watch a video from Stoke or Barnsley or Swindon or Sunderland, the story is always the same. And these stories get a little more biblical with every passing week.

I see queues at Foodbank doors stretching for hundreds of yards. Anxious, pinched faces peering over the shoulders of those in front.

Did I get here early enough? Will there be anything left?

It's a first come, first served world. A dog eat dog world.

Demand up, donations down, walls closing in.

If you turn up too late for a decent spot in the queue you'll be walking home with empty carrier bags in your pockets

Well our foodbank is busy.

Really busy. We're as busy as we have ever been outside of the early months of the pandemic.

But we're able to keep up. We can deal with the high demand. We're not yet getting uncomfortably close to capacity. It's not biblical.


Well I can't pretend to have anything close to a definitive answer. I just know in my bones if First Base was in Carlisle we'd be close to being completely buried right now.

The only reason I can find is what I would describe as all the small differences around the edges of the crisis which are managing to keep Scotland out of the abyss.

No Bedroom Tax

No brutal rent hikes.

No evictions

No prescription charges.

Extra cash every week for struggling families with kids.

A baby box for the newest of New Scots.

None of which are game changers on their own, but when you add them all up together they seem to be making a hell of a difference.

And because none these differences are big enough on their own, they just get ignored.

Sometimes I wonder if it is just Dumfries and Galloway where things are so much better than Lancashire, where my family still lives.

If I want to see my GP, I pick up the phone and I get to see him in a couple of days.

My English family have about as much chance of picking up the phone and asking to win the lottery as they have of getting an appointment with a GP.

Maybe this is a feeling many Scots share. Everything seems OK where I live, but it must be awful everywhere else. I mean it has to be, doesn't it? After all The Daily Mail and the Telegraph and the Sun and the Daily Mail say it is.

Every single day.

I get the feeling if an editor from any of these Unionist rags was ever caught in the act of writing a positive story about Scotland they would be stood up in front of a wall and shot as a traitor.

Last summer, the 'human sewage in the sea' story was huge for a couple of weeks. The nation's privatised water companies ran ISIS a close second in the 'Organisations We Are Told To Hate' league table. And every night on the six o'clock news, we were all treated to maps. Red dots showed where human sewage was being pumped into the sea and therefore making any kind of swimming as dodgy as sharing a lollipop with someone with leprosy.

The red dots on the maps screamed out a story so blindingly obvious it seemed even the Daily Mail couldn't ignore it.

The red dots started just north of Newcastle and they ran all the way down the east coast to Dover. Then they ran all the way to Lands End. Then they ran north around Wales and they didn't stop until they reached Carlisle.

And then they stopped.


And all around the vastness of the Scottish coastline there wasn't so much as a single red dot.

Because Scottish Water isn't privatised.

Because Scottish Water doesn't operate in the regulation free Wild West which starts the moment you pass the 'England' sign at Gretna.

England, the regulation free Wild West where it is absolutely fine and dandy to strip every last penny out of the water game and send the proceeds back to Bahrain or Malaysia our some private equity outfit in Texas.

And shit in the sea? Do any of the privatised English water companies give a shit? Of course they don't give a shit.

And neither do the politicians in Westminster who sign it all off in return for a nice two week a year Non Exec place on a corporate board once the time comes to strep off the gravy train.

Isn't this a difference so completely stark we should be able to shout it from the rooftops?

Well it seems not.

Well here's another stark difference which has got my fingers hitting the keys this morning.

Now these are cold, hard facts and figures.

As in figures which are facts.

Inescapable. Inarguable.

So here goes.


It is one of the richest cities in the world with a population of just shy of nine million. It is certainly the richest area of Britain with a GDP per Capita rate of £55,000 per person per annum.

Scotland is smaller than London.

Our population is 5.5 million.

Basically we are 60% the size London.

Our GDP per capita is £30,000 per person per annum. It's the second highest in the UK, but it is still only 55% of what the good folks of London enjoy.

So let's see how this pans out in practice.

In Scotland we have 8800 homeless kids in temporary accommodation.

How should this compare with London?

Well, London has 40% more people than Scotland so I guess they should have 40% more homeless kids.

An extra 3200.

So maybe we should expect there to be 12,000 homeless kids in London.

But hang on a minute.

They are 45% richer than we are, so surely they really should have 45% less homeless kids on a like for like basis? Well, shouldn't they?

More money means less homeless, kids right?

So let's knock off 3600 kids.

Leaving 8400 homeless kids in London as compared to 8800 homeless kids in Scotland.

Has to be.

Hasn't it?


Not even close.

The number of homeless kids in temporary accommodation in London, one of the richest cities in the world is.........



You read it right.


On a like for like population basis, six times worse than Scotland.

On a like for like money basis, nine times worse than Scotland.

And the why?

Well there really only can be one why.

In England they have a lousy, heartless, corrupt, right wing Government.

In Scotland we have an often flawed but essentially decent Government.

Our Government gives a damn about homeless children.

The Westminster Government?

The answer is in the figures.

Which are also the facts.

It seems about 55% of Scots now want away from these despicable shysters. I seriously wonder what on earth the 45% who want to stay with them are smoking.