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, May 9, 2023



It turned up a couple of weeks ago. The picture. I didn't notice it. And I probably never would have noticed it. I have never been remotely observant and old age has rendered me pretty much blind to everything barring the blindingly obvious.

So it was left to Sean to notice.

I suppose it was kind of meant to be Sean. He floats his way through life, always wide open to the strange. The out of step.

So it was he walked through the front door with an unusual gleam in his eyes.

"Have you seen it?"

"Seen what?" And I can't say I was giving his question my full attention. I am used to Sean asking me questions to which I have no answer. He once asked if I thought Yetis were an actual thing.

His explanation at first glance seemed very Sean. There's a picture wedged behind a drain pipe by the front door. A portrait. A mystery.

I just said I hadn't seen it and cracked on with the day to day stuff a food bank manager cracks on with.

When the time came for me to step through our front door a couple of hours later, Sean's question hopped back into my head.

"Have you seen it?"

So I stopped in my tracks and took a look. At first I didn't see it. Like I said, I'm unobservant.

Then I saw it.

And it was just like Sean had said. A white canvas, about 12 inches by 12 inches. A line drawing of what looked like a young woman but it could just as easily have been a young man.

A few words written at neck level. In scratchy capitals.


The words were not on the level. They were tilted, starting low and climbing high.

I took a photo which my phone won't allow me to download. So you'll have to take my word for how it was. A line drawn face. Not exactly Picasso, but not bad.

And in a way, it raised a whole bunch of questions. Were they life and death questions? Not even close. They were quiet questions on a quiet April day of watery sunshine. High white clouds. People still needing a coat to stave off the chill.

Not really such a bright spring day after all. So the picture must have been penned on another day. And we haven't had many bright spring days this year. Not yet.

So maybe this was from last year. Or the year before.

So why now? And why our drain pipe?

Was it the drain pipe itself? Did our particular downspout offer the perfect space for wedging a picture? And was the relative quiet of Buccleuch St somehow preferable to the heavier foot traffic of the High St?

Or was it important to the artist to site the picture at the entrance to a foodbank. Was it a message to those who made their way inside? Street art for the victims of the world we live in?

At a time when the price of everything is going up and up, the cost of a bright spring day remains stable. Unchanged. Free at the point of use. A hint at the summer to come when the heating can be switched all the way off and the incomings have a fighting chance of matching up with the outgoings.

Was our artist an aspiring Banksy? Was the location a part of the art? Was our front door every bit as much a part of the picture as the picture itself?

Or was the foodbank connection a pure red herring?

How much had our artist paid for the canvas itself? Amazon suggests about three quid for 10 x 8. Not a fortune, but not nothing either.

Assuming our drain pipe was indeed the gallery of choice, then maybe our clients are the preferred viewers. A drain pipe outside M&S would have meant more eye balls. But different eye balls. The Big Issue sellers choose the pavement outside M&S to maximise their remuneration. Our guy was clearly uninterested in financial reward. Instead they had invested £3 for the pleasure of going public.

So who is the face by the drain pipe? Our very own foodbank Mona Lisa? Subject unknown. Artist unknown. Do they even know their face is on our wall? Do they walk by every day on the way to work with a small, knowing smile. That's me. Right there. Wedged by a drain pipe. Bringing news of a bright spring day. Not taken down yet. Not shipped away to land fill.

Left in peace. Respected? Yeah. Respected. How many passing pedestrians have noticed? Stopped in their tracks? And have they smiled or frowned? Have they approved or sneered?

Have they judged?

Have they felt anything?

Has a contribution been made?

Is the world a better place?

Is it really a food bank Mona Lisa?

Or is it merely the right drain pipe at the right time?

I have absolutely no idea and that of course is the whole point.

And now, on the very day I have penned these words, our food bank Mona Lisa is no longer with us. Gone without any trace other than the undownloadable photo in my tired old phone.

Our drain pipe stands alone and unadorned..

Saturday, May 6, 2023



There will be two events in the UK today which will be watched by an audience of hundreds millions of people all around the world. And fair enough, the Coronation of the new king in the morning will win the ratings war. Liverpool v Brentford at 5.30 doesn't quite have the same pomp, ceremony and forelock tugging appeal. However, the game will still be watched by well over a hundred million fans from Sydney to Singapore to Seattle to Sinaloa and stations between.

Because it's Liverpool. Because we have a global following measured in the hundreds of millions. When either Liverpool or United play, the world tunes in to watch. We are the behemoths. We are the giants. We suck the oxygen from the room. And at 5.25 this afternoon our lords and masters in Westminster will learn the hard way they have scored an absolute dog of an own goal.

Let's rewind a bit. 

For years we have been subjected to the sight of the worst of the worst preening in front of the Union flag. Johnson, Truss, Sunak, Starmer. They all know the price of everything and the value of nothing. The dream of cracking the whip. They brand anyone with a shred of decency as woke. They seriously think they can ram patriotism down our throats: like force feeding hunger strikers.

So obviously the whole Coronation thing is a huge deal. A chance to paint the world a picture of global Britain. A chance to showcase our pitiful subservience to a dysfunctional family living off the proceeds of hundreds of years worth of crimes. And the powers that be are taking no chances. The Realm must be defended and how. A few days ago the Government fast tracked the Public Order Bill to make sure the watching world wouldn't get so much as  a sniff of any dissent. Did they fast track the powers by a democratic vote in the mother of all Parliaments? Well. Not quite. No time for any of that tiresome procedure and protocol. Instead they dipped into those good old Henry the Eighth powers and pitched up at Buckingham Palace to ask for Royal Consent. And guess what? Our new King granted it. Good for him.

On the back of these beefed up powers, they wrote to all the Republican groups in the MI5 database to threaten all kinds of prison time to anyone bold enough to demonstrate any kind of noisy dissent on the big day.   

It's funny when you think about it. When the Russians pass the same kind of laws, we are utterly appalled. How dare they lock people up for daring to publicly question their lords and masters? 

And so the stage is set. The BBC will gush on endlessly about how great we are at this kind of thing and do interviews with the pavement dwellers who have camped out for the chance to tug their forelocks in awe when the gilded carriages trundle by.

By mid afternoon the glasses of sherry will be clinked in celebration of a job well down.

And then at about 5.25 the wheels will come off. 

Right off.

So. Why is this a day to feel good about being Scottish and Scouse. The King Kenny Dalglish cocktail if you like.

I'll do the Scottish bit first. As regular readers will be only too aware, I am very much a a white van man. I pick up food. I deliver food. I do the logistical nuts and bolts of a 20,000 parcels a year food bank. Every week I criss-cross Dumfries and Galloway. 

So what? So this. Sadly, Dumfries and Galloway is an area where 'Better Together' won big in Indyref back in 2014. Sadly we are an area that sends Tories to Holyrood and Westminster. And yet as I have driven the highways and the by ways this week, I have seen not a single Union Flag. Not a single string of bunting. Not a single Charlie picture in a single front window.

I have no doubt there will be plenty among us who are itching to get some bunting into the front garden. Just like there will be plenty who wish the good old days could come back when it was OK to call black people ni**ers. And bring back the birch and capital punishment and all that good stuff.

But here's the thing. It is no longer socially acceptable to call a black person a ni**er. In fact it is just plain illegal. Well, it ain't illegal to stick some bunting up and fly the Union Jack. It just seems to have become socially unacceptable even in this neck of the woods.

The only places where the Coronation is playing big are the supermarkets who are fighting like starving dogs to win the battle for who can sell the highest volume of royal tat. There's a whole bunch of Union Flags on sale, every last one of them made in China no doubt. Thankfully nobody seems to be buying them. No doubt bright young things in head office will stare at the figures next week and scratch their heads in confusion. How come Carlisle sold flags by the truckload and Dumfries hardly sold one? 

It's called Scotland pal. You just don't get it. You never do.

And so on to why it's such a great day to be Scouse.

We have been booing the National Anthem for years. The first time I was a part of it was Wembley 1977 when we played United. The less said about the result the better by the way.

For years nobody really noticed. Or maybe they didn't choose to notice. And if they had chosen to notice, they would have resorted to a familiar playbook. Liverpool, right? The Enemy Within. What do you call a Scouser in a suit?

Until recently nobody could be bothered to ask why? Why is there a 'Scouse, not English' banner on the Kop? Why does a city hate the Establishment so much they boo the national anthem at every chance they get?

Well, last year the boos hit a new level when Prince William pitched up at the cup final. And for the first time, it made other fans angry. So now they pitch up at Anfield and think they will get under our collective skin by belting out the National Anthem from the away end. And then they move on to a disgusting playlist of Hillsborough chants. Of course they do. Doff your cap and then revel in 97 Scousers being crushed to death care of South Yorkshire's finest.


Well the boos have been a long time in the making. A whole city doesn't come to hate the establishment for nothing. Far from it.

So here are a few edited highlights. before 1840, Liverpool was a smallish sort of place. Big port, not that many people. Then the Irish famine struck and tens of thousands of desperate families came across the water to make a new start in Liverpool. And they came with a burning hatred for the London government who had refused to lift a finger to aleiviate the catastrophe of the potato famine.

The anger and resentment never went away. It simmered and from time to time it boiled over. In 1911 the Merchant Seamen went out on strike. At first London was pretty comfortable about the situation. But not for long. Union after union came out in solidarity and suddenly there was a one city General Strike and many other cities were watching. Thinking about it.

It was the first ever General Strike. 

There was more than a whiff of revolution in the air and Home Secretary Winston Churchill knew if the Realm was to be defended, then the whip would have to be cracked and cracked hard. The Scousers had to be broken. First it was tens of thousands of extra police. Then it was thousands of soldiers and the threat of live firing. An Amritsar preview show played out in L1. But these dire threats had no impact. The strike held. 

So Churchill took the 1911 version of the nuclear option and sailed a warship into the Mersey and promised to open fire if the crowds refused to be dispersed. The organisers knew only too well this was anything but an idle threat and they backed down and thereby avoided the fate the citizens of Dresden suffered 34 years later.

And the Churchill threat was never forgotten.

In the years following the Toxteth riots, Tory policy was to deliberately starve the city of resources to drive the population out to pastures new. It was a version of the starve them out approach. They called it 'Managed Decline'. Thatcher never missed a chance to brand the city as a founding member of the Enemy Within club.

The 80's were a time of abject desperation forever archived in the form of 'Boys from the Black Stuff.'

Those years of so called 'Managed Decline' were never forgotten.

And then came Hillsborough.

Again. Never forgotten.

So as the likes of Johnson and Truss and Starmer fetishise the Union Flag and their nauseous brand of plastic patriotism, we just boo louder.

Which all brings me to 5.25pm today. The London Government got heavy handed this week and leaned hard on the Premier League. They demanded the National Anthem must be played before every game on Coronation day. The Premier League duly folded, doffed the cap and passed the instruction on.

You have to feel sorry for those in charge at Anfield. I mean talk about a lose, lose situation. Don't play the bloody thing and the Daily Mail will pop a blood vessel and accuse you of being every kind of woke traitors. Or play the thing and.....

Oh yeah.

Play the thing and the boos will take the roof off. And tens of millions of people all over the world will hear those boos. And they will ask why? What's that all about? We thought the English bow and scrape to their monarchy.

Scouse, not English, guys. Scouse, not English. 

Scottish, not English.

And the funny part? No matter what powers they receive Royal Consent for in their beefed up Public Order Act won't be of any use whatsoever at 5.25 pm this afternoon.

Of course Suella Braveman might choose to take a leaf out of the Churchill playbook and send a frigate up the Mersey to threaten us. If you dare to boo we will open fire.......!

I think not. The funny part is that it didn't have to be this way. If they hadn't thrown their weight around and forced the club to play the anthem, then we would have had the chance to let the world know exactly what we think of them.

Like I said. It's an own goal for the ages.

A good day to be Scottish.

And a good day to be Scouse.