Jamie and Jack

Aside

So today, everybody is talking about Jamie Oliver and his rant about poor people (did he really say that?) who choose big tellies and chips over mange tout from the market.

I hope his mom has phoned him and given him a proper telling off. He flunked school and if it wasn’t for the fact that he had parents owned a pub and gave him the opportunity and encouragement to follow a food career, he too could be one of those poor people living on a diet of Kyle instead of Kale.

I like Jamie, I really do, he put his head over the parapet and criticised school dinners, got the government to increase the spend on school meals. Turkey Twizzlers were revealed to be made of pink slime and his books improved my husbands cooking.

He is a bit gobby, he gets angry when children are passed burgers through school gates and I genuinely think he cares about the health and diet of young people. Fifteen gives young people employment training. What is not to like about Jamie?

It seems he has some right wing views about poor people that have upset a lot of us, poor or otherwise. Here’s the thing Jamie, not all ‘poor’ people have big tellies and eat chips. Some rich people do. People may be poor because they have a disability and can’t work. People may struggle because their partner died. Some are poor because they got into debt and got ripped off by loan sharks. What is shocking is that many of these loan sharks companies are legal, advertise on the big telly conveying the message is that Wonga will solve all their problems and Brighthouse has everything you need to have a lovely home. All at two zillion percent interest.

What I am certain of is that no one chooses to be poor. People with good jobs can lose their homes if they are made redundant. Three months away from homelessness. I have been there, have lain awake at night and wondered how I can keep my house, buy shoes for the children and have enough money for the prepayment electric meter. I was lucky as parents stepped in and helped us out financially. Not everyone has parents that can or will.

I am also lucky because I can cook. My grandmother had to feed an extended family on a very small budget and I guess by watching her I learned basic techniques. By the time we had cookery lessons at school, I was capable of making beans on toast, (a recent survey claimed that 1 in 10 are not) and I went to uni with a pressure cooker, a Kenwood Mixer and a recipe book. I ate well on a limited student budget and created Beef Daube in bedsit kitchens. I owe that to my mom, her complete inability to cook made learning to cook a matter of survival or else eat soggy cabbage the rest of my life.

I am lucky that I have travelled. It was travelling that changed my cooking. I wrote a post You Never forget your first Moussaka a while ago, as it was my first trip to Greece that really inspired me to experiment more with food. Since travelling in SE Asia I have cooked more with thai basil and lemongrass. I am lucky that I have a local grower that supplies me with these plants so I don’t have to pay silly Waitrose prices for them.

Jamie thinks we all need to go to our local market and buy fresh cheap ingredients. I don’t have a local market. It would cost me £4 in bus fare to go to the market in Birmingham. If I was living on a minimum wage I could not afford to do that. That is equivalent of buying a veg bag from Salop Drive Community Garden. A valuable community resource which  the council may pull funding on, a resource that not only gives people on limited incomes access to affordable healthy food, but also provides the opportunity for people with disabilities to learn gardening skills. A resource that is under threat due to budget cuts.

I can also buy from The Bearwood Pantry a food co op who buy direct from a farmer. Watch this short film to find out more about what they do. Then there is a couple of enterprising butchers who have recently started to sell loose vegetables since the fruit and veg shop shut down (yet punters still complain it is more expensive than Iceland) which I mentioned in The Tesco Footprint post.

Jamie really has no idea what it is like to struggle to bring up a family on a minimum wage, to not have access to a wide range of affordable ingredients and not have the skills to make a pasta sauce without opening a jar. I have ranted before about the Live Below the Line recipes and I would rather not eat a sausage at all than eat one from a value range, as they suggest, basing their meals around frozen veg, plastic bread and cheap sausages.

And yet, his accusing poor people of eating chips and cheese maybe career suicide combined with his affiliation with The Sun. The ad on my big telly promoting his budget cookery was patronising. With his flash diamante shoes and his cheeky chappy manner screaming ‘I am rich and I can show you benefit plebs how to cook with mange tout from your local markets’ made me want to chuck all his cookbooks in the bin. And The Sun, Jamie. Will you let your daughters flick through the pages to find your recipes? How will you explain Page Three to them? I would have admired you so much more if you had told them that you would not work with them while they still have Page Three. You cannot be motivated by the money, surely? You care about family values yet will encourage people to buy this publication for your recipes? Bring a paper into the home which objectifies women. How do you look your wife, your mom and your children in their eyes when they open The Sun and see tits?

Jamie is a millionaire, from a privileged background. He may have struggled at school and he has worked hard, but he doesn’t have a clue about what is like to manage on a limited budget, he doesn not know what it is like to be really hungry.

But Jack does.  A Girl Called Jack really knows what it is like to be broke and cold and hungry and is angry at how the smug rich think all ‘poor’ people choose a telly over mange tout. She uses easily available, cheap ingredients and transforms them into interesting affordable and nutritious meals. She got flak for using tinned potatoes (they are cheaper than fresh) and has accused of being a foodie snob for using chick peas. And, OMG, she used fish paste in a pasta dish. You would have thought the sky had fallen in. Yet she is adapting recipes from Nigel and Nigella and making them simple and affordable. She didn’t feed her son crisps and watch her big telly eating chips when she was unemployed and had less than £6 to feed herself and her child for a week and she doesn’t now she has got a job and a book deal. Because she knows that hunger hurts and her recipes and her campaigning is telling it like it really is.

Expect to see more ‘poor’ people in the country, Jamie, as the bedroom tax hits, as more jobs go in the public sector, as companies out source employee services to Romania. People get made redundant, clever, talented people are losing their jobs. They apply for 10 plus jobs a week get interviews weekly, and rejection letters daily.

We do not need Wonga, we need financial education in schools and more credit unions. A number of library services have blocked access to applying for loans on line and are providing information about managing money and information about credit unions. I just hope that these resources don’t close too.

We shouldn’t need food banks. We need access to affordable food, decent wages and people like Jack.

The IDS £53 bandwagon and the legacy of the Thatcher years

Seems I am not the only one blogging or bragging about being able to live on £53 a week. Just read this article in the Express and Star. Hmmm I don’t think he really gets it. Blagging meals from parents and not counting the cost of living on leftovers. Or taking bills etc into account. Ah well, if it sells papers. In the old days they would be tomorrows chip paper, but there are rules about that sort of thing now.

Poor man he had to downshift from Waitrose to Aldi. I feel his pain, I really do.

As I mentioned yesterday I needed to look at how much all my other expenses are and I am shocked. £170 per week. That is with mortgage, gas, electric, water, household insurance and car insurance, cable, phone and internet. I have not even factored in the cost of having a car serviced and MOT’d. I can’t see any way of cutting back except that the cable and internet would have to be considered a luxury. I couldn’t afford to go out to see a film and I couldn’t watch the telly box. If I got rid of the cable service I would have to have a free view box or something to continue to be able to watch any tv. I can get free internet at the library (while we still have them) or at a cafe, although I would have to buy a coffee of course.

That £170 divided by three adults is £56.67 each. so if we were all on Job Seekers Allowance for instance this is what our income would be:

Contribution-based JSA

You can only get contribution-based JSA for 182 days (approximately 6 months). After this, you may be able to get income-based JSA.

Age Weekly amount
16 to 24 £56.80
25 or over £71.70

A household income of just over £200.

or this

Income-based JSA

Status Weekly amount
Single (under 25) £56.80
Single (25 or over) £71.70
Couples (both aged 18 or over) £112.55
Lone parent (18 or over) £71.70
Lone parent (under 18) £56.80

Given those figures the car would have to go and we would have to live on nasty sausages, plastic bread and lentils. I may have to steal from supermarket bins. My only entertainment would be books (thank goodness for the library) and because we couldn’t afford to heat the house it would be bed by 8pm.

How could you even afford clothes? What would happen if you had an interview and didn’t have a suit?

We wouldn’t have to pay council tax, but as we have a mortgage we wouldn’t get housing benefit. There may be other benefits we could claim, yet from this month a Benefit Cap is being introduced:

The level of the cap will be:

  • £500 a week for couples (with or without children living with them)
  • £500 a week for single parents whose children live with them
  • £350 a week for single adults who don’t have children, or whose children don’t live with them

More information about benefits can be found here.

So Iain Duncan Smith, I would love to see you and your wife living on £500 per week, but then you don’t pay a mortgage or rent a house, because you married a rich mans daughter. You get paid much more than the minimum wage and claim more in expenses than most people earn.

What happens if we all eventually get a job and are only offered the minimum wage?

The National Minimum Wage rate per hour depends on your age and whether you’re an apprentice – you must be at least school leaving age to get it.

Year 21 and over 18 to 20 Under 18 Apprentice*
2012 (current rate) £6.19 £4.98 £3.68 £2.65
2011 £6.08 £4.98 £3.68 £2.60
2010 £5.93 £4.92 £3.64 £2.50

How much you really need to live on? If you lost your job tomorrow what would you cut back on? Could you pay your mortgage?

This has been a very humbling and shocking experience. And I am even more cross now that the tax payers are having to pay for an overblown funeral for Margaret Thatcher,  a woman who got us into this mess in the first place. There, I have said it. I won’t watch the funeral of a millionaire who died at the Ritz. Most of us will die, like my mom did, in an NHS Ward or a smelly care home, because we can’t afford a really good one, neglected by those who were paid to care for us. Neglected because the care workers are on a minimum wage, have too many visits to make in a day and worried that they won’t be able to afford to put petrol in the car they need to do their job.

I am sure I have upset some care workers and Thatcherites. Here’s the thing. I don’t care! And neither does this government.