A PRETTY GOOD YEAR
I started this year living – existing – on a £10 a week food budget topped up with five items of food from the Storehouse food bank once a week. I ended it with a recipe book deal, baking biscuits on Woman’s Hour, with a Guardian column, a debate in the House of Commons and regular political and campaign pieces in the Daily Mirror. As I started to write this article, I thought there was no better way to do this than in photographs.
At the end of January, Xanthe Clay came over for the lunch that changed everything…
…and in February I was offered the position of Trainee Journalist at the Southend Echo, my tiptoe into a career in journalism. I say career with my fingers crossed, here’s hoping!
I’ve since had my work published in Observer Food Monthly, Independent, Daily Mirror, Red Magazine and The Guardian – not bad for an untrained journalist with four and a half GCSEs to her name and a three month stint at her local paper.
I made new friends…
…and said goodbye to one of the most inspiring women I have ever had the good fortune to meet, Hetty Bower.
I joined Child Poverty Action Group as an ambassador, and Oxfam, and worked alongside the Trussell Trust to raise awareness of food bank use in Britain.
I’ve been in the news *a little bit*…
…and even made some front pages…
I came out of a closet that was practically transparent anyway, and was overwhelmed at the outpouring of support from my readers when I did so – Thankyou all so much for sticking with me.
I stood up for kale against the odious overpaid twerp that is Richard Littlejohn, in a hastily typed response to an ill-judged and poorly researched smear campaign. He responded in a later article, saying my rebuttal was ‘hilarious’. Hmm. I’m still chomping on kale, and judging by my Twitter feed, so are a lot of other people. Viva la pesto!
I’ve written a book, and am now halfway through the draft of my second.
…and because life doesn’t always go to plan, this happened too:
I’ve spoken at the Houses of Parliament (twice!), at Green Party conference, Labour Party conference, Conservative Party conference, South London People’s Assembly, Urban Expression and countless other public meetings.
Oh, and this happened…
…and these award thingies happened: Fortnum and Mason, Red Magazine and the YMCA, and was short listed for the Guardian Person Of The Year, Groucho Maverick Award, and the Telegraph’s Britons Of The Year.
And I raised £3,000 doing the Live Below The Line challenge for Oxfam, and £3,000 for sleeping rough in a car park for a night to raise money for the YMCA. I’ll be doing both of these challenges again in 2014, and hope some of my readers will join me!
And with the help of the Daily Mirror, Unite, Change.org and the Trussell Trust, this happened…
And this is all very nice and all very bizarre – but really I’ve just been getting on with what I love, day after day. I don’t really have a plan; I’m just saying yes to the things I can fit in my diary that I think I can do, cooking, blogging, reading, writing, campaigning, exploring, and always learning. (And running for the hills any time anyone mentions a TV series, honestly, I’m far too shy. It would take a lot of persuasion.)
So only new years resolutions are to carry on saying yes, and to learn to play the guitar that has moved house with me 12 times, had 2 new sets of strings, and still can’t do much more than D, C, and E. I don’t know when I’ll fit this in but I’ll give it a go!
And I also have some pretty big new news – but there’ll be a separate blog post for that…
Thanks all of you for riding this year out with me – here’s to the next one and all of the adventures that it will bring. Starting with a Sainsburys advert, a trip to Africa, and a book launch. I think that’s enough to be getting on with!
You are an inspiration – a true survivor who deserves everything that life has given you in 2013. I’m so glad I discovered you. Long may you reign! Happy New Year!
A very good year, well done
Truly, truly inspiring – have so enjoyed reading your blog posts this year and seeing you turn things round, wishing you all the best for 2014!
Can not say it any better!! What a turnaround year!
What an amazing year, well done and good luck for 2014 xx
Such a lovely post, so happy for you
Roll on 2014
I DO hope that you enter politics seriously in the future. Maybe when you have taken time to enjoy some of the “perks” you so deserve.
I’m a life-long, but seriously disillusioned socialist and would love to see someone with a real interest in making a difference, not just a career.
Good Luck to you
Well said – it’s been aninspring part of the year following jacks progress and I would love to see her in parliament
It is a pleasure to read this, and a pleasure to follow the blog. Uplifting for New Year’s Eve!
Well done, what a great way to end a year, wishing you and your son a great future you are a brilliant role model for all of us.
I think Jack is too honest and has too much integrity for party politics.
Whatever you do Jack, I wish you all the best and I hope 2014 is as full and rewarding as was 2013!
After following you for most of this year I am thoroughly delighted with the way your life has turned around, and so grateful for the tireless energy you have found from somewhere to be the spokesperson for the hungry generation. You have changed the way I cook, and the way I use food.
Wishing every happiness in 2014 Jack, Karen xx
What I truly love about you is the fact that you remember how hard it was for you, how tough you had it and, unlike some people who come out of such horrid circumstances, you stood up and fought for everyone else still in that situation. I hope you are incredibly proud of what you have become and what you have acheived. All the best wishes for the new year.
Well done Jack. Your courage has led you to follow your wise intuitions. You are truly representing something different and fine for all of us…authenticity. Especially inspiring for some younger people whose future may look bleak at the moment. And the downtrodden people in our society who have little or no voice. Your work as an activist has already made such a difference to so many.
Bless you… and your little family. May you continue on your brave path of empowerment.
[non illegitimus carborundum]… don’t let the b……s grind you down.! ….Classicists please correct pig latin.
What a year!
I have so enjoyed trying your recipes – they have become a real interest.
Every good wish for 2014 to you and SB and your your partner.
I have been following your blog since you were budgeting £10 a week for your food, and you have been a real inspiration to me. I am so glad things have turned around for you. I hope 2014 brings you everything you hope for.
Thank you for all you’ve done this year, Jack. I hope 2014 is as good or even better for you.
Dear Jack, while I am sitting in a lovely hotel room in Berlin celebrating New Years Eve with my family, I am thinking of all those people out there with (almost) nothing to celebrate…no food and no money in their pockets. I do donate monthly to 10 charities/NGOs but I have also decided to donate to Trussel Trust. I encourage all the repliers on your website to do the same. LETS WALK THE WAY WE TALK! Have a wonderful prosperous 2014! Eun-Shil (Amsterdam Area).
Wishing you continued success in 2014. Can’t wait for the book!
From across the pond, Thank you.
Congratulations on an inspirational year: I love your blog, your ideas, energy and enthusiasm. All best wishes for 2014 and beyond.
What an amazing year! You deserve to feel truly proud of yourself!
Well done Jack…well deserved success resulting from integrity and honesty not diminished by your new found fame and fortune!
Jack, i have said it before but you really rock. I hope you, your partner and small boy have a fantastic 2014 ahead of you.
What a wonderful post Jack. You must be so proud of all your achievements, is there one particular moment that stands out for you? 2013 has been a great year for you, here’s hoping 2014 carries on that theme! Best wishes.
All the very best to you, Small Boy, and your partner, for 2014. You inspire me. Thank you!
More big news? Wow, can’t wait to read it. And I’m thrilled that there’s another book out too.
It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? Stay with it, Jack, we’re all supporting you as we can, even if that isn’t really very much in the whole scheme of things. You are an amazing lady, that’s for sure!
Young lady of 2013!
Thank you Jack for inspiring and challenging me. Look forward to seeing where you go in 2014. Wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year.
Congratulations on all your sucess, it is due to your honest and open soul and you are inspiring. Wishing you and small boy every peace and happiness for 2014.
You have worked your butt off this year and have not only earned your rewards but our respect. May 2014 bring you even more sucess.
Amazing, inspiring, fabulous. Keep on!
Jack – you are amazing, and that is not something I say lightly. I love your generous, big-hearted approach to life and I wish you all the very best for 2014 – can’t wait for your book! xx
A reasonable effort, I suppose. In 2014 you might get your finger out and really achieve something. Just jesting! You’ve done really well and I am a huge admirer and supporter. Iain
Well done . I love your posts. I wish you all the luck for 2014.
What a year, amazing stuff Jack, well lived! Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2014 🙂
Well done, Jack. Bloomin’ brilliant. May 2014 blossom and bear fruit from the roots you’ve laid this year. X
you are amazing.
I’ve loved reading your blog over the past year and I’m so happy that you’ve replaced that smug git Jamie Oliver!
hope you have a wonderful 2014.
We’ll done Jack. Thanks for all the interest and inspiration. We really do wish you happiness and good health for 2014, Ann and Paul J
I came across your blog and later column in The Guardian some weeks ago. Why shouldn’t we celebrate the fact that someone who was skint a year ago has made it? I’m proud of you and I think your son should be proud of you, too. You are an inspiration to hundreds or thousands of people who are slammed daily in the tabloids and parliament for apparently “sponging off” the so-called strivers. As someone who works on the frontline, I say to you, very well done! If Jamie can do a Sainsbury’s ad and barely anyone bats a bleeming eyelid, so can you. To me you and Criado-Pérez are the true faces of feminism in Britain in the 21st century.
Keep up the good work. Especially when such good work includes getting up Richard Littlejohn’s nose. 🙂
So nice, in a rather bleak year, to see one of the good people get some happy breaks. Well overdue, and bless you for being so determined to remember the people still struggling under the horrors of “austerity” (aka “let’s take the UK back to Victorian values, where the poor must be that way through personal culpability and it’s entirely moral to be selfish and greedy”), despite sunnier times for you and yours. A happy 2014.
You are a gleam of hope in a dark world.
Next year for a New Year’s Honour I hope – you’re far more deserving than many of the celebs! I’m sure your many friends and followers here would be delighted to nominate you – see https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/223483/Do-the-Honours1.pdf
you have brightened my year- all good wishes for 2014 to you and yours.
Fantastic, incredible year. You’ve inspired, informed and challenged.You’ve played a massive part in giving a voice to those who have none. Thanks for bringing hope and decency into the nasty world of austerity.
All the best to you and yours and my fellow blog readers! Happy New Year everyone
You and your lovely wee family deserve all that’s good, as you have worked so hard & given so much to so many. ps looking forward to your book.
Respect Jack. Hope springs eternal…
PS, love the Tatts
You’ve worked hard for and thoroughly deserve your successes. It’s just nice to see someone who needs it get to a good place in their life. Let no one whose name isn’t Littlejohn hold you back or pull you down.
Yay, well done Jack, what a fabulous turnaround and you did it under your own steam. I hope you go on to even bigger and better things in 2014.
Chickpeas. Say no More 🙂
Very glad to see that your way of cooking have had an impact in peoples lives. Cheap is important, but I get scared every day seeing what people put in their mouths. And how they do it. And what becomes of people trained in that behaviour. Ignorance or its opposite, fascism where the Food Bullies ravage media telling what´s right and what´s wrong. Food is not only about money. It deeply concerns our independence in life. To be fed or not. That´s the question 🙂
However. The main reason to the comment was this: Happy New Year!
Fantastic year Jack, one I am sure you will look back on with pride as the years roll on.
Happy New Year Jack, to you, Small Boy & your beloved & thank you. Much love from me.
That was one fantastic year and you deserve every minute of the success and good times. I hope you go from strength to strength and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of that book.
Wishing you and Small Boy all the very best for the New Year.
You know you’re doing something right when you’re criticised by Richard Littlejohn.
Seriously though, you’ve been an inspiration and deserve the fantastic year you’ve had. Here’s to an even better 2014!
Fantastic read and you have deserved all that has happened apart from the smear campaigns courtesy of the daily fail!!!
May you continue to be blessed in 2014.
Fantastic Jack. I hope 2014 continues in the same way for you and that lots of other people can achieve their true potential in the new year too.
This was a good year for me, because I met you..on the web. I talk about you to everyone I meet. And who says one person can’t make a difference? Am I going to have to order your cookbook from Amazon UK, or will it be available here in the US?
I remember seeing this phrase on a homemade piece of junk sculpture on a blog. “Every wall is a door.” Keep going through those walls, Jack! Ann from across the pond.
A lovely pictorial wander through your year, so glad that it has finished way better than it started for you. You continue to be an inspiration and I disagree about the TV series – the piece you did on “The One Show” would be the perfect way for you to present a cookery show, you came across very well. Am waiting with baited breath for the next bit of big news, so lovely that you have nice stuff to get excited about now. Happy new year to you and yours x
Wowy I don’t know what’s going on must be the dry hot weather here in oz I got something in my eye again 🙂 just gorgeous and I always chuckle to myself when I’m watching tv and I hear the word kale lol not long now until book is available 🙂 my birthday in feb gonna ask for it for birthday 🙂 xo
you have really inspired me this year and I am truly nailing my colours to the mast in 2014 to fight for social justice. What you have achieved in a year is more than most achieve in a lifetime. Happy new year.
Wow!!! what a year,
I just knew you would go places…and this is only the beginning… Watch this space!!!
Well done Jack
I can’t remember how I stumbled upon your blog, but I feel like I’ve followed the whole of your journey. You’re an inspiration to many, Jack. Keep it up. So happy for your success. You deserve it. X
Happy New year to you and Small Boy.
You have inspired me.
I found you blog, when I was looking for recipes that would help my pension go further. ( we are not all well off)
Well done! You are making a difference. Keep going, I hope you have even more succes in 2014. x
Congratulations to you! What a wonderful post. Unfortunately, like someone else said, you’re probably too honest to be a politician. You have to be a sneaky, lying bastard to be one of those. Good luck in 2014 and please keep up the good work.
Congratulations on such a great year, and thank you for playing a small but very important part in my success this year. I was already reading your blog and knew you were involved with food banks, when I went for an interview for an assistant manager job in an Oxfam shop. At the time, I didn’t realise your involvement was with the Trussel trust and Oxfam. I talked about you and your blog during my interview, and my interviewers really sat up and took notice. I had unwittingly scored lots of bonus points by knowing about a very hot topic that Oxfam were involved in, and it’s all thanks to you! Needless to say, I got the job and am loving it, so thank you, Jack, for helping to make my year better, and all the very best for next year! x
What a year it has been! You really are an inspiration, your son is very lucky to have you as a mum. Keep up the amazing work, we are all here to support you. Happy New Year! xoxo
Congratulations for 2013 and all the best in 2014 – and please: do not, ever, regret the Daily Kale 🙂
You’re like a breathe of fresh air, standing up and showing what can be achieved with guts and determination! Wishing you and your son the best of everything in 2014!
You have made my life a lot brighter – every time I see a new post in my inbox my heart sings. Well done Jack, keep up your amazing work with wonderfully delicious and affordable recipes and with your campaigns. Looking forward to seeing where 2014 will take you – I, for one, am with you all the way
Congratulations Jack! I live in Australia.I discovered your blog this year and I really enjoy reading about your experiences. Your life over the past few years illustrates that we never know what is around the corner. I admire you for the ways in which you used your ingenuity to survive, support yourself and your son and then to thrive. And you have used your experiences to help others, which I also admire. Just think – your blogs about your experiences and your recipes and your efforts to help others led to you being noticed, your talents recognised and you receiving job offers. Your recognition also put you in a position to help others even more. All because you did something – you wrote a blog and tried to make a difference. Good on you – you deserve all the good things that have come your way. I hope that in 2014 you find peace, achieve your goals and have security for you and SB.
In these strange days of overnight talentless celebrity it makes my heart sing to see your review of 2013. That our mad media riddled world can recognise your metal and give you such a wide platform for campaigning gives me such hope.
Happy new year to you Jack. I have to say I was quite worried about you doing the “Live Below the Line” for so long in 2013. Looking forward to your book. I still regularly cook your recipes.
Inspiring … great recipes too
Happy Newy Year. xx
Happy New Year Jack! Have enjoyed following you over the last year and reading about your various experiences good and bad. Love the recipes. All the best for 2014!
As a dad who taught his two kids to cook as they grew, I now find myself pointing their uni mates to your blog for great food on student budgets. Lesley Waters told me about you. What you have achieved is astonishing. Hard to imagine that 2014 could be even better for you..but I hope it is. Best wishes, Declan
You are going to have a fantastic year- you deserve it!
Hope the little man’s arm is better 🙁
Dear Jack, I just wanted to wish you every success for 2014. You are a great inspiration to me, especially since you have made it through tough times. I work on minimum wage and your recipes have inspired me to cook better on little money. Like you, I hope I can do better through 2014 🙂 <3
Life is weird, couldn’t agree more with that statement. I’m not a believer in pre-destined fate but life has a funny way of turning good and bad situations on their head. Anyway, point is, I’m glad you are enjoying the good times. I hope 2014’s just as good!
I have really enjoyed your writing and following your journey – thank you!
I jumped on late, but already enjoying your affirmative journey. I’ll hang around to the end because your writing thrills and your successes fill me with joy.
Congratulations Jack, you have so much passion and dedication and you’ve worked so hard, and you so deserve everything you’ve achieved. I’m really looking forward to hearing what you do in 2014 : ) Thanks for being such an inspiration.
What an immense and epic journey, or rather year as your journey is still only starting. Sharing your pictures really capture what so many words and thoughts would/could/will take a book to write. Your courage, determination and spirt for life and love shine the brightest light. thank you x