This Is England (A ‘f***-you UKIP cooking series)

Jack Monroe gets to the heart of it…

Jack Monroe

Shit son, food just got political again. I’ve been in a sort of personal hell lately, hence the sudden blog-silence and absence of any recipes lately, and I hope my wonderful readers will forgive me that. I don’t want to talk about it. I just vanished for a bit, and now I’m back.

Anyway, this morning I turned on the TV to see Sky News zooming in on a jar of Polish pickles with the voiceover declaring that THIS was what people were worried about in the General Election. The camera flashed over to some not-white people behind the counter of a corner shop, before some members of the public espoused their views on the rise of the Polski sklep and how immigration was ruining our great country.

This was not satire. This was a serious news broadcast on a mainstream channel at 11 o clock on a Saturday morning…

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Checking in…

Whoah, it has been a long time since I last visited this blog, but it seems like a good time to check in, take stock and account for myself.

It feels as if change is in the air: Winter is bursting into Spring, we have an election due in a few months, my beloved son will be heading off to University this year, and even my mother is in the process of moving after 40 years in the same beautiful house.


And me, I sit here feeling happy, content with my lot, planning nothing more complex than a spot of decorating in the Summer, while all this change whirls around me. Don’t get me wrong, this is a GOOD place to be, after so many years of turmoil. I am married to a man I love and respect and who loves me back. I am doing a job which is fulfilling, but which leaves me energy to do other things. I am surrounded by young people creating beautiful, exciting and thought-provoking works of art – I am thankful every day for the path my life has taken.

To be fair, I have experienced change in the last couple of years, not least the loss of my grandmother last year.  Although she lived a day’s journey away, which meant I did not see her as often as I should have done, she was one of those constants in my life: the strong matriarch who fought fiercely to protect her family. She was the person I ran to as a child and young adult when I was utterly miserable, knowing that she would simply give me a hug, pour me a cup of tea in her sunny dining room (served in her best porcelain cups and saucers from her silver teapot), and I would feel safe again.  You knew where you stood with her, and it was always behind you, fighting your corner!  Unless, of course, you did or said something which clashed with her deeply conservative values, in which case you quickly became a silly goose… But even then the rush of irritation was soon forgotten and you would be welcomed back into the fold as long as no mention was made of the matter.  At 95 and after surviving a major stroke more than a decade ago and countless mini-strokes, we had almost convinced ourselves that her indomitable love for life would overcome mortality itself.

So it was a shock when the news arrived, and although I feel she is at peace, she is missed. It is as if her passing has acted as a catalyst for change. It was at her funeral that I had a conversation with my brother about yoga, and he recommended Iyengar yoga, which he and my sister-in-law had started practising.  I had been thinking about learning yoga for some time, but hadn’t found a class which I could fit in with my working hours. So it was a bit of a road to Damascus moment when just two days later I happened to glance at the notice board in the car-park and spotted a poster about an Iyengar class which I could attend if I left work a bit early.  Long story short, I decided this was one of those gifts from the Universe which should be accepted with gratitude rather than ignored or rejected as inconvenient.

I now not only attend my weekly class, but have developed a daily yoga practice, starting every day on the mat, even if it is only for a few minutes.  I also try and fit in a longer session in the evening when I get home (easier now that I leave work at 4pm every day). I followed a youtube ‘challenge’ called 30 Days of Yoga on the Yoga with Adriene channel.  I cannot recommend this yogini enough – she is the genuine article whose warmth, humanity and humour got me jumping out of bed every day in January (and February!). She is at pains to provide alternatives to those of us who are less than bendy, and also to point out that when she started she couldn’t achieve the poses with the mastery she demonstrates in her videos.

I am delighted to report that I can already notice changes in my posture, level of flexibility, endurance and even shape. But even more important is the fact that yoga is centred around mindfulness, connecting with energy and being aware of connectedness. While noodling around on you tube over the Christmas break, I started to explore meditation, after years of thinking I would never be able to do it. Yoga practice also introduced me to the concept of ‘the edge’ – the place of resistence in your mind and body which can be breeched by breathing into that place.  Having experienced my body going beyond the point of resistence, I realised that I could take the same approach with my obstinately noisy mind: approaching meditation with the attitude that I would start, give it a go, and see how it went. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I have yet to reach a complete state of stillness, but I often experience blissful moments of it!  If nothing else, my morning yoga and bedtime meditation sessions mean I sleep like a baby for the first time in years, and I am generally much calmer and able to cope with pressure.

However, there is another kind of change occurring in my body which pleases me less. Three years after joining Weight watchers and losing 60 lbs, I have realised that some of that weight has crept back on. Whilst I now look in the mirror and, for the first time ever, can appreciate my body for what it does for me, comparing the lengthened and strengthened muscles shaped by yoga to the bulk created by too many visits to the gym, I know that putting weight back on is a betrayal of all my hard work. So today is the day I stop burying my head in the sand, and I start taking action.

There, I have gone public, put my intention out there, so now the rest is up to me! I have picked up all sorts of useful ideas for goal setting and implementation from a great blogger whose home is Crazyhappygorgeous. She has posted some great guided meditations which couldn’t have come at a better time.

The problem is not what I eat – I eat clean. The problem, as ever, is that I eat too much of it, and I need to get back in touch with portion control and take more care with the amount of healthy fats I consume. I feel good about it this time – I know what to do, I have the willpower, the tools and the time to get back to a healthier weight. My motivation this time is entirely positive – arising from self-care rather than self-loathing. I regard the prospect as the opportunity to be even more creative with the food I cook, rather than as a chore or a punishment.  I’ll let you know whether this positive framing succeeds!

Note to self at a time of extreme discombobulation

Note to self at a time of extreme discombobulation

Drafted a blog explaining the background to this title, lost it, and remembered this picture I created for my community page… Normal service (such as it is, lol) will be resumed another day!

Home is where the heart is


So, I sit in the latest cafe to open in my home town, Petersfield, pondering on the welcoming atmosphere redolent of freshly ground coffee and delicately spiced home-made cakes, and artistic way the owners have displayed their goods to reflect the name of the cafe: The Natural Apothecary. There are couple of people discussing business development over a frothy cappucino, a mother and daughter planning a wedding and me, just kicking back and enjoying the freedom to sit, think and observe.

It is now some months since I handed in my notice – following my tightly-knotted gut which was telling me that the life of long days and long knives that I was leading would not end well. I had no plan, just a feeling. But us women of a certain age learn to trust their feelings. Mine was telling me that the world is changing, and that the ruthless pursuit of profit and material wealth is not only damaging the planet, but also our psyche. I see people embracing a more simple life and reconnecting with nature and communities, both in cyberspace and in their immediate surroundings. I want to be part of that movement.

I am still working part time (and from home) for my old company, for which I am very grateful. It is keeping the wolf from the door while I explore opportunities and the job market closer to home.  I have been concentrating my search for work in the charity, not for profit and educational sectors, and have had a number of interviews. I remain optimistic and hopeful that the perfect role is waiting for me, and that there is a reason that I have not so far been “successful”.

I feel successful: I am volunteering with Community First East Hampshire, meeting new friends and creating a network at long last. I continue to look after my health by eating healthy, organic vegetables from the wonderful Riverford Farm box scheme, cycling back and forth to town along the River Walk (please note any town planners: we need more cycle routes in our towns) and rather too occasionally working out at the gym.

I have started up a Facebook page: to share articles, links and thoughts about achieving a healthy, happy and worthwhile life. I have had the fortune to meet some really inspirational bloggers on here to whom I can direct people for guidance, ideas and entertainment. I have been excited by the sense of connectedness I am getting from the online communities of which I am a part, but also from my own local community.

Whilst sipping my healthy energiser juice at the cafe, I spotted a card advertising a new website promoting Petersfield: There really is so much to offer in this ancient market town, and I would love to help to encourage people to come and visit it, to enjoy the fact that it still has a heart, a thriving market square, unique shops which do not appear on every high street and shopping mall all over Europe, excellent cafes, restaurants and pubs full of original art and live music – what is not to love?

Still in search, but seeing light

It has been some time since I last wrote on this blog. I have been really busy reading, researching and trying to marshall my thoughts into some kind of plan of action. I cannot believe how fast my days go now, and how little I achieve!

My last official day of being a wage slave was 17 August, but since then I have been some work on a freelance basis. I have applied for a handful of jobs, including one as a fundraising administrator for a charity which provides sailing experience for young people on Tallships. My baby brother went on a week-long expedition with them before he joined the Navy, and had the time of his life learning how to deal with tricky situations and working as a team with a large group of people. This is something I would dearly love to be a part of, even if only for a short while (it is maternity cover).

Having signed up for numerous job searches and recruitment agencies, I am pretty aware that jobs in the areas I would like to work are few and far between. I have therefore started planning to market myself as a small business support firm for businesses in the local area. I have never considered myself an entrepreneurial person. In fact, I have spent my life so needy of security that the very idea of setting myself up (to fail, as I would always qualify that statement) would induce a panic attack. However, I am in a different place now, and I think I have skills, experience and ideas gained in my years in the City which could be put to good use to help local companies whose own skills lie elsewhere.

I have a couple of good friends and members of my family who are being really helpful in terms of advice and support about the practical aspect of working for yourself, and I am trying to make sure I have everything ready in the next three months, if not before. I have just worked out that of my immediate family (siblings, half-siblings and their partners, numbering 10), only my husband, my brother (the submariner) and my brother in law are salaried!

If job-hunting and setting up a business were not enough to keep me occupied, I have also been knocking around some ideas for a wellbeing forum or charity. This idea came to me after my positive experience on a weight loss programme which as an online community – we lovingly call it Fatbook. Along with the 30+ pounds I have lost, I have gained some virtual friends who have become closer than some of my real friends. Indeed, a number of us are crossing from virtual to real by arranging to meet up. The level of mutual support, encouragement and wisdom which is available on the blogs and profiles is mind-boggling, and I have watched us blossom as people, shedding our neuroses and inhibitions along with pounds, becoming everything we can be, but have always been to afraid to be in case we drew attention to ourselves.

I am convinced that this kind of support network is what we are missing in our modern society with its nuclear families and commuter/dormitory town demographic. New technology and social networks are allowing virtual communities to spring up across borders, which is hugely exciting. Why not try and use these mew media to attract people, nurture them, support them and entertain them?

So, still very much in the dark, but there are chinks through which light is seeping, and I am hoping a little more work will finally illuminate my path to a useful life.Image



I read a really interesting and thought-provoking post on Analyfe’s blog today, and it reminded me of a post I put on my Weightwatcher’s blog a little while ago.  Our WW community has a Friday Feme, and this was one of them – we created our own superhero and then explained their super-powers.  This is my alter-ego – tell me about yours… If you want to create a superhero, here is the link

Meet my superhero – Purrfectwoman. She is icecold to the touch, muscular yet soft in all the right places. She has the ears and tail of a cat because she, above everyone else, needs to listen out to protect those who rely on her, and needs her languorous long tail to help her balance when negotiating life’s little pitfalls and hurdles.

Her chest is emblazoned with the ancient taoist yin and yang symbol – opposites which do not conflict but which complement eachother, the hidden, feminine and the manifest, masculine, interacting as party of a larger system – balance again.

Her right hand is a fist of steel to keep control and knock out those who threaten her and her loved ones, but her left hand is clothed in the softest velvet glove to caress and stroke away their cares and fears.

She is booted and pink vinyl suited, perfectly, colourfully co-ordinated but with an eye always on the practical, her knee-length boots sport kneepads for those hours spent kneeling to scrub, shred and other, more pleasurable passtimes 😉

Purrfectwoman hunts for her food, brings it down with speed and efficiency, then presents it to her mate and offspring in carefully pre-chewed kisses. She wastes nothing, but nor does she over-indulge for fear of slowing herself down. She is purrfectly evolved, purrfectly elegant and purrfectly wonderful.

A thought to ponder this week…

La Paz Group

Click the image above for the full story describing scientific investigation into a phenomenon that might be called an inverted Golden Rule:

…“Self-compassion is treating yourself with the same kindness and care you’d treat a friend,” says Kristin Neff, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and the leading researcher in the growing field of self-compassion…

…A recent study at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests an even more surprising way to heighten self-compassion: acting compassionately toward others…

…“There was a unique benefit to giving support—the benefit wasn’t just from feeling connected or realizing that others had problems, too,” explains Breines, a doctoral candidate in psychology and the study’s lead author. During tough times, people naturally tend to focus on themselves and find it difficult to support others, she says. “But actually, as many people intuitively discover, taking the opportunity to support other people can make…

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