The whole jungle experience is a psychological nightmare which messes with you constantly. At one point, I made it my mission to work out what time it was – that was my mental goal. Call it a rebellious streak, but I just felt like I wanted to beat the game somehow. When you do a trial, the cameramen and any staff aren’t allowed to talk to you. I tried pretty hard to tempt them, but they never said anything back when I talked to them. They also have to cover up their watches or anything which might give us a clue as to what is going on outside. I was about to go on a task and one of the cameramen slipped and I saw his watch. So, I was like right, I’ve got ‘em. I tried to figure out how long it took me to get to the task and how long it took to get back, so when the lights turned on, I’d be able to work out what time that happened every day. It realised it was definitely 7pm and told everyone else. I was so proud of myself and everyone was very impressed with my recon skills. Then of course, the producers heard me because you have a mic on the entire time and you even have to sleep with it. So, the next day, in the middle of the day the lights came on randomly and we lost track immediately. So, my triumph against them didn’t last long. But, I tried! I beat them for a day.
In the end I was in the jungle for only four days. But they were the longest of my life. I don’t know how I would have done it if I’d been in there until the end three weeks later. I know I would have survived somehow, but it would have felt like months. The amount of things that happened between us all and how close we became in such a short time just makes you realise what an intense experience it was. I’m still so tight with some of my fellow jungle mates now - Toff and Vanessa of course, and I see Jamie, Amir and Dennis all the time. I’ve been to all of Amir’s fights since which has been amazing and Dennis gives me tickets to Chelsea games which is so great! I also speak to Becky a lot, but she lives all the way in Leicester so I don’t see her too much.
Ironically, day four (my final day) was the day I woke up and felt the best. I remember waking up thinking, ‘ok, I’ve got this. I know I can do it.’ I knew things were going well and I felt like I’d got over the hard bumps of the first few days – the lack of food, how horrible the water was, little things like that. I’d got used to sleeping in a hammock and stinking the whole time. I can remember thinking I was in a pretty good position. While you’re in the camp, you know you’re in competition with each other and I knew the people I worked really well with. Those people have ended up being the ones I’ve stayed closest to, we were a little team between us and that definitely gave us a tactical advantage.. It’s a natural thing to flirt with someone you like but knowing that it was what everyone else wanted us to do kind of made it less awkward. As much as we were enjoying it and we didn’t fake anything, It actually kept us both pretty sane because we had such natural chemistry and lots in common. We lived in the exact same area, had a lot of the same friends and just had the exact same sense of humour, so we didn’t have to force anything at all.
Around 6am that morning we were woken up and I remember thinking it was so obvious that something was about to happen. No one was allowed to leave the camp in groups of less than three and people were being called off to do tasks, to get the wood for the fire and so on. I remember thinking, ‘why am I the only one here?’ Then from the speakers I heard, ‘Jack can you go to the medical hut.’ The day before I’d had a tick bite – and I guessed they wanted to check up on that. Or else they were about to ask me to do a little secret mission or something. I was very, very wrong.
I will never in my entire life forget that moment. When they told me what was going on at home it felt like the blood had drained from my entire body, but at the same time I was finding it hard to make the information sink in. It almost felt like I had no emotion because it was in such a state of shock. The producers told me that a series of tweets that I’d written when I was younger at school and college and had deleted years before had come out in the press. In addition some messages that I’d sent to a girl I didn’t know on Facebook which were really shitty had also be passed on to the papers. I was 15 when I first started talking to this girl and turned 16 a few few months after. Even so, I knew that I had completely and utterly fucked up. When you’re in the middle of nowhere, going through the experience like I was in the jungle and you have no access to your phone or the internet and something like this happens…it’s like you can’t even comprehend what is going on. It definitely still hadn’t actually hit me that the dream of starting my primetime career was shattered. Absolutely shattered. I finally managed to speak to my manager on someone else’s phone and when I hung up I felt like my head was about to explode. When I eventually arrived back at the hotel which was a few hours drive from the jungle, my phone was going crazy. Pretty much everyone in my life had messaged me or tried to call me – my boys, my mum, everyone was asking if I was ok.
The only person I called back was Conor because I knew he understood the entertainment industry, press and having a career on the internet more than anyone else. I didn’t want to call mum straightaway – I didn’t have much time before I had to leave to go directly to the airport and I still didn’t have my head straight so I didn’t know what to say to her. When I spoke to Conor, that’s when it hit me. I was like, fucking hell and I just started crying down the phone. It’s probably the only thing I’ve ever cried about as an adult, because I’m not massively emotional like that. But I just felt so out of control and so confused about what I was meant to be feeling and that’s what really set me off.
It felt like I was almost outside of myself, because I was just so mentally drained and exhausted, but still frantically trying to figure out the logistics of what I needed to get done when I got back to London. The people I needed to apologise to. My amazing followers who must be so disappointed in me. The weight of how much I’d messed everything up just felt unbearable. Then Conor told me to look on Twitter, and I just said no way, presuming the absolute worst. I didn’t realise it but I was already trending on Twitter and my leaving the jungle became the biggest news of the day. Conor made me hang up the phone and look there and then. I was so surprised, because so many people had written to support me and that is one of the strangest things about the whole experience. In the mainstream press, things were about to get worse—a hell of a lot worse. But online, right from the beginning there was a huge amount of understanding, possibly because people who live and communicate digitally appreciate how easy it is to fuck things up on there. That was the most overwhelming thing that has ever happened to me, seeing so many people come out to support me.
I finally got to sleep after what felt like the longest, most surreal day of my life then woke up the next day to a feeling of deep shame and embarrassment. I was so scared to face everyone and I knew my friends and family would be so gutted— reading their countless emotional messages, one after another made me realise how bad it really was. And once I’d looked online, I couldn’t stop. Just before I got on my flight home, I called my mum. It was around 3am in the morning in the U.K , but she’d stayed up and my sister and dad also spoke to me, trying to reassure me. The very best thing about that whole time was the 24-hour flight home. I didn’t have my phone, I couldn’t get online. I was on my own. It meant I could finally just shut off and try and calm down. But it was only a brief reprieve: I landed on the Heathrow tarmac at 5am on the day I turned 23 with no idea what would be waiting for me and my entire future hanging in the balance….