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Saluting two Heroes - some inspiration to end 2013

Frank Hutton
Frank in a coffee shop

I am ending 2013 on a congratulatory note and on this occasion it’s to two women. There’s already plenty out there on what the guys are doing.

I feel that there are two stories at the end of 2013 worth noting, both of which are inspiring and both of which involve different women; at least one of which perhaps you won’t have heard about; but who both share a common virtue.

The first is Jack Monroe, a 25 year old mother, ex-Fire service, living in Southend who just a couple of Christmases ago was facing a bleak future . Even as recently as July 2012 she posted on her blog (typing painstakingly on her phone!) describing the challenges of surviving on benefits that didn’t meet her already meagre outgoings. It’s a somewhat sobering read in the run up to the season of excess, and it also demonstrates an incredible resilience and focus on resolving her issues.

Not only does she act in every way to reduce her outgoings (even removing light bulbs so she can’t be tempted to switch them on) but she uses what remaining assets she has (TV and a guitar) to buy time. And she keeps sharing her experiences online and .... things begin to happen.

It seems her struggle is not only inspiring to others but her solutions are also practical and helpful to many; particularly her recipes as she works creatively to feed her son and herself on £10 a week.

The recognition she has received in 2013 has been matched by work offers from the Guardian (now a regular columnist), campaigning opportunities which have put hunger in the debating chamber of the House of Commons this month and which led to her being recruited for a commercial by Sainsburys. Her situation has changed dramatically in that short time.

What is truly incredible is that she has rejected over 50 offers for TV commercial work to concentrate on what she loves doing and still lives on that £10 a week food budget. Her Christmas lunch this year will be a Finnish recipe of Liver and raisins - a refreshing change perhaps.

So it appears you can change your life and avoid selling out your principles so hard won in hard times, even in the face of substantial financial temptations. Her focus and determination are an object lesson to us all (me included).

My other female hero (avoiding denigrating anyone by calling them a heroine) is this year’s X-Factor winner Sam Bailey.

I gave up watching X Factor when my daughters moved out and when I could no longer handle the emotional roller coaster that the hopeful and aspiring singers put themselves through each week. So then, why pick up on ex-prison officer and Mum of two Sam Bailey?

Not only does she have my admiration for finding the courage (somewhere) to pursue this gruelling exposure to the spotlight and the testing of a talent that, like any of us, she probably feels is less than perfect. No, she also managed it alongside her duties as a parent, a partner and an involuntary representative of older people (older? 36!).

Yes, she’s proved that: you’re not dead once you’re past 30 and that you can still realise your ambitions:;it’s not just size 6 people that can sing (thought that we’d got over that with Adele but it seems not); and has weathered the maelstrom of press comments about everything and anything. It’s not enough just to have talent.

And she’s remained herself through all of it. Honest and open; no airs or graces. No apologies; just a passion and determination to do what she loves doing.

If we achieve nothing else in 2014, let it be to do more of the things we are passionate about, in a way that is authentic and true to whom we truly are. We might not receive a £million pound recording contract or be in a Sainsbury commercial (though you never know!), but we may find a greater happiness.

Praying for a peaceful and joyful Christmas and an inspiringly different 2014 for you.

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By Frank Hutton