Podcast Picks


It’s International Podcast Day so here’s a quick rundown on what I’ve been listening to lately. Check them out & be sure to let me know your podcast recommendations too…

Ear Hustle

Recorded & produced within a fully functioning American prison, Ear Hustle is a fascinating insight into the reality of life behind bars, as told by the prisoners themselves. Beautifully made, this is tender & eye-opening storytelling at its best. 

Mortified

As someone who has always kept a diary, I fully appreciate the next-level-cringe as authors share nostalgic excerpts from their teenage journals. “We are freaks, we are fragile & we all survived”

True Geordie

A great mix of interesting guests and straight-talking hosts, Brian & Laurence offer insight into how men think and feel about a range of topics. Always honest, sometimes hard-hitting, often laugh out loud hilarious, this must be what men are really like when we’re not around! A great balance of humour and heartfelt and feels a tiny bit like spying on boys to find out how they tick. Think ‘Loose Men’ with more burping and less botox. 

Modern Love

My favourite New York Times column narrated by guest actors & featuring follow-ups from the writers. A nice blend of romance & swoon together with a healthy dose of real life love. I usually cry. Soppy arse. 

School for Dumb Women

Hilarious and definitely not dumb women, random lessons & outrageous opinions on foam banana sweets (we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one) You’ll laugh and learn stuff and want to be their friend. 

Kind World 

Short story nuggets of kindness and it’s impact. These are great for when you need a quick reminder that there’s good stuff in turbulent times. Perfectly timed for squeezing into a coffee break for an instant boost. 

Strangers

Intimate stories about the people we meet, the connections we make and the wonderful way the world brings people together and sometimes drives them apart. There is an impressive variation of global topics and issues covered by the brilliant Lea Thau, our host with the warmest voice you’re sure to fall in love with. 

My Dad Wrote A Porno 

You must’ve been under a rock if you haven’t heard at least some of Belinda’s erotic escapades. And if you haven’t, you have three series to binge-listen. Definitely NSFW, unless you happen to work at Steele’s Pots & Pans. Regular binge-breaks are recommended, if only to google the basic anatomy you thought you already knew. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts & podcast recommendations too. What are you listening to right now? 

Lucy Letter 


She’s known me my whole life. She used to sleep 3 feet above me. She’s my best mate and she’s also my sister. 

This year my sister Lucy has committed to writing and sending #LettersOfGratitude to some special people in her life. I very gratefully received mine a few weeks ago. At the time I wasn’t in a great place emotionally. I was raw, very tearful and had a really sad heart. So much difficult stuff was going on and as much as I knew her words might lift me up, I just couldn’t open her letter. 

I popped it away and it sat unopened. Until today. 

It’s a beautiful letter that I will treasure. 

It just so happens that my sis currently needs a little bit of cheering up and as luck would have it, it’s also National Letter Writing Month. What better way to mark the occasion & hopefully bring a smile than to reply to her brilliant letter right here? Sorry you don’t get to decide to read this when you’re ready sis…

Look at me breaking ALL the celebration rules (it’s meant to be a handwritten letter…I’m SUCH a rebel) 

Dear Lucy

I read your letter today & I cried. 

By the time I had finished I was almost deee-hyyyyy-drated. 

It feels like we’ve cried together so much recently and I know that sadly there will be a few more tears & challenges to come. But equally, we share just as many laughs and adventures and this is probably what I love the most about having a sister like you. 

Lucy & Kate’s Top 5 Adventures

1. New York, New York. When we thought EVERYONE on the Staten Island ferry would be wearing Statue of Liberty dress-up tat (literally no-one else was) We looked so ridiculous that other tourists asked to pose for photos with us. My bra had also just set off the security alarms. We were lucky to be given clearance to board. Our bagel-filled bellies ached from laughing so hard. 
2. Vegas baby Vegas. Existing entirely on vodka, Celine Dion, red bull, wings & ‘slaw. Partying with an American Idol winner. Momentarily falling asleep in the midnight Penn & Teller magic show (and waking up to gunshots) “We’ll sleep when we’re dead!”
3. Dublin. Sliding down the bannister at the Guinness factory after a few pints of the black stuff, then heading straight to the Jameson’s whiskey tasting. 
4. Paris. Our picnic & photoshoot at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Singing Daft Punk. Wearing stripey tops. Buying berets. (Fair play, we always commit to embracing local culture) 
5. Not all of our adventures are far from home….Remember accidentally making our way into a VIP drinks reception behind Ronan Keating and his wife? “Act natural. Drink the champagne.”

We have so many happy memories to look back on & I know in the years to come we’ll make so many more too. I absolutely love spending time with you and no matter where we are, we’ll always have something to talk about, laugh at and some mischief to make. 

You might have wanted a telephone instead of a little sister. You might have resented having me tag along to all of your dates (1984-1990) You might have threatened to cut all of my fingernails off whilst I was sleeping. But I hope that by now I’ve redeemed myself and we’re all good? 

I’ve learned so much from looking up to you. You taught me dance routines to the Fame album in the front room. You told me all about periods in Cardiff Bus Station. You made me reluctantly play schools with you for HOURS. (I deserve career credit for this) You stuck glitter stars on my face & introduced me to eyebrow plucking & Lipcote. You made me sing the other man parts in Stay (when we both know I was the better Barry Manilow) You let me pop your bubblegum when I wasn’t allowed to have it. You let me hold your thumb when I couldn’t get to sleep. You got us backstage at my first ever gig (Chesney Hawkes, Newport Centre, 1991. I’d shouted out in a quiet ballad part like I’d seen on the Karen Carpenter TV movie because I thought that’s what people did at concerts….and you didn’t disown me) 

You were the first person I called when I found out I was going to be a Mum. 

And when my living room flooded. 

You have always stuck by me, cheered for me, supported me, counselled me and motivated me. And I hope you know that I’m always here to do all of that for you in return. I am so lucky to have you. We all are. 

I will always laugh when I’m wearing no make-up and people think you’re my Mum. Even more so when it means I get a free Under 15s breakfast at the Premier Inn and you book an urgent appointment for Botox. 

I admire the way you always knew what you were going to be when you grew up (I’m still figuring it out for myself) I admire the way you have brought up your two gorgeous boys single-handedly and given them the very best of everything. I admire how sassy, kind, generous, caring and loving you are. I admire your dedication to our strong little family. I admire your loyalty, commitment & passion for inspiring children to be the very best they can be. I admire the huge impact you’ve had – and continue to have – on thousands of little people whose futures are significantly better because of you and who will never forget you. I admire your expert cartwheels and am secretly jealous that I’ve never been able to pull off gym-elastics in the same way you effortlessly do. 

Thank you for my letter. Sorry it’s not a handwritten reply. Hope you can forgive that. Your wish for me is everything I wish for you too. Happiness, health and love in abundance. Someone to adore you, appreciate every bit of joy you share with the world & always have your back. (Plus do the bins & pick up milk on the way home….and at 50% of this you’re even easier to please than I am!) 

Here’s to all our future adventures, to laughing, dancing & growing old together; to always having a shoulder to cry on & to never ever forgetting the words to Starmaker or the routine to One Step Further. 

Love you always

Kate x 

Mother’s Day 

When you become a Mum not only do you get this little reliant human, you also pick up a party bag of endless and interchangeable worry, guilt and happiness. 

When you are a single Mum and you know that absolutely everything depends entirely on you, you can supersize that goody bag and ramp up the worry, guilt and happiness accordingly. 

I’ve talked about it a bit before (here) and being a lifelong worrier I probably fret more than most but I’m trying really hard to get better. Each parenting stage comes with its own challenges. I realise the one you’re currently living in is always the toughest, but this teenage bit is quite a minefield. I fear I might be heading off the fretful chart. 

I really don’t want to tell you that I drove around like a lunatic looking for him when he was late home the other night. But I’m going to, because it’s true. 

It was dark and he was out on his bike (Did he remember his lights?) not answering his phone (Is he dead in a ditch?) and not with his group of friends who had passed me earlier (Was he now hanging around with a new bunch of murderous drug dealing bad kids?

I’m pretty stressy anyway but on this particular evening I went from zero to requiring light sedation fairly swiftly. Add another half an hour, he’s still not home and I’m in total IMM (Irrational Mum Mode) 

In an alternate world where I have a loving, supportive co-parent I might have offloaded some of these IMM worries and been gently reassured. “He’s probably cycling home right now and that’s why he can’t answer your calls…..Perhaps his phone battery died…..Give him another five minutes you beautiful crazy woman…..Shall I take over making dinner?” is how I would imagine the conversation might go, followed by a soft kiss on the forehead and a cheeky bum tweak (shut up, it’s my alternate world) 

In the real world however I’m switching off the oven (safety first) and grabbing my car keys. 

Enter WORRY. 

I’m not sure what I was looking for other than trouble or blue lights but in just under ten minutes of driving around his usual hangouts a “Where are you Mum?” text hits my inbox and I hit the roof. 

WHERE AM I?! WHERE AM I?! 

Where are YOU?!!! 

Of course he’s back at home, bike put back in the garage, like NOTHING is wrong in the world and I’m a banshee frantically searching for an imaginary disaster. 

Where am I? Great question. I think it’s most commonly referred to as The Edge. 

And when I got home from disaster-hunting and eventually found out the reason for his lateness, the shame nearly tipped me right over it. 

One of his best mates has a broken foot and is on crutches. Instead of leaving him behind – like the others – my boy got off his bike and walked home with him. It took ages which made him late but he made sure his mate got home ok. 

Enter GUILT. 

I’d gone bananas and he’d been the kindest and loveliest friend to broken foot boy. 

Enter HAPPINESS. 

Relieved that he was safe, happy that his kindness hasn’t diminished in teenagerhood and proud that my boy is a really good mate. 

BUT YOU STILL SHOULD HAVE ANSWERED YOUR PHONE. 

C’mon he was still late, whatever the lovely reason. I’m not going to let that go. With the cool slab of Apple’s finest technology in his skinny jeans pocket he should have let me know what was happening. (He got his confiscated phone back from me 24 hours later) 

Staring at the ceiling in bed later that night, I had to question my actions and be really honest with myself. Did I massively over-react? Yup. Am I nuts or just a worried Mum? Both. Do I need help or is this just life? I’m honestly not sure and 3am internet searching didn’t provide a definitive conclusion either. 

When he asked me “Why are you so afraid of everything?” I didn’t have an answer but I know I didn’t want to be. 

I don’t want to be afraid but I guess that worry is just part of this job you accept on the day you bring another person into the world. I must’ve overlooked that bit in the Terms and Conditions and skipped straight to “beaming with pride on Parents Evening” before signing. 

I hope my son knows that I never want to stop him having fun. I hope he knows I trust him to make good choices and be the brilliant human he is. I hope he knows that a big bit of my fear is because I love him so much. I hope he knows that he is the most precious thing in my whole world and I can’t help wanting to keep him safe. 

Also, I hope he knows that the mobile phone I pay an extortionate amount for each month also functions as a communication device and when it rings YOU ANSWER IT. 

I hope he knows that I want him to live the most fulfilling, joyous and fear-free life he possibly can. I realise I have to set the example. Fear, worry and anxiety are so debilitating. 

Is this mental illness or motherhood? Both? I honestly don’t know. All I know is that if you do it alone it’s bloody hard sometimes. 

But it’s bloody worth it too. 

Happy Mother’s Day x 

February Love


My February was filled with love and not just the red foil-covered, cellophane-wrapped, chocolate-smothered commercial stuff. This month has been sprinkled with all sorts of amour and when you’re not in a romantic relationship it’s particularly important to remember that there are far more types of love than just the gooey, heart-stopping, vom-inducing kind. When you’re surrounded by gushy “we” couples it can be hard not to feel alone, bereft and lacking. It’s good to be reminded that, just like Wet Wet Wet said, love is all around me and so the feeling grow-oos.

(I read this brilliant piece on the joys of non-romantic love which explains some of these really interesting thoughts far more eloquently than I can.) 


Meet Me in Paris

This month I had an amazing weekend trip to the beautiful city of Paris. It was my first visit there and completely impossible not to fall in love. The architecture, the art, the food, the wine, the accent (*swoon*), the fashion, the EVERYTHING. It was a jam-packed few days as we tried to squeeze every drop of tourist joy out of each moment and see as much as we possibly could. 

My top five personal highlights were… 

  1. Palais Garnier (the ACTUAL opera house featured in the Phantom of the Opera, see more on why the timing of this was perfect) The building itself is just incredible, its history and personal importance to me even more so.
  1. Mona Lisa (when I was pregnant with F I started a cross stitch version of this painting and quickly discovered just how many shades of brown and black there are in the world. I also bought the kit online from Hong Kong so was never quite sure if I was doing it right. The project remains unfinished.) It was fascinating to see the crowds gathered around her, taking selfies and queuing with their backs to the most beautiful giant canvas I have ever seen on the opposite side of the gallery room. It was a weird and wonderful insight into the oddness of our modern world clashing with the historical significance of one of the world’s most famous paintings.
  1. The Eiffel Tower – it was quite a gloomy morning so it wasn’t until later on in the day when the clouds lifted that we got to see its full glory. F’s deadpan “Looks like a pylon” (along with his Arc de Triomphe “Looks like a big staple”) will be remembered in family history, together with the fact that F and my nephews climbed the steps of the tower twice because they got in the wrong lift to the very top (and ended up back at the bottom again)
  1. Remembering some GCSE French – F’s face when I came out with some dust-covered phrases from the depths of my teenage memory was just brilliant. The shocking realisation that I might know some stuff and can still surprise/impress him gave me all the Mum joy. Getting to spend time with my boy will always be the best thing I can ever do.
  1. Paris actually IS full of love – I know it’s a cliché, but it’s TRUE. The wedding couple taking photos with the Eiffel Tower backdrop; the proposal on a park bench (she said YES! The upper-deck of the sightseeing bus cheered); it could all make you dry heave but alternatively it could also warm your heart and remind you that love is possible. I chose the latter.

Massive thanks to my sis for organising the trip & the best Christmas present – making more marvellous memories.

My Funny Valentine

Valentine’s Day when you’re single can be a lonely version of hell like no other. (Likewise if you’re in a rubbish relationship). Instead of wailing into a bucket of power ballads, this year I went for the most entertaining dinner with a bunch of hilarious folks and had the best night out. We had delicious food & wine, laughed our socks off, got serenaded by a sexy saxophonist and went home with giant bunches of red heart balloons. Hands down, one of the best Valentines I’ve ever had. (Second only to snowy New York where me & my sis fell asleep at our midnight dinner after several Manhattans in a near pitch-dark jazz club….why have I spent more V-Days with my sister than anyone else? True love that is)

Unconditional Love

Our little puppy Pamela turned one this month. In her drama-filled first year she has brought so much love and happiness to our little family. She’s had so many health ups and downs for such a young pooch but she fights so hard to get better, just like a proper Hammond. Unconditional love is like no other and even on my saddest days her tiny face & giant googly eyes always make me smile. Having a birthday celebration for a dog seems a bit bonkers – and it is – but she’s my bestest little girl and I plan to make her little life the loveliest it can be.

Love Actually

It’s been a month full of LOVE. That’s not to say I don’t get sad and have a big old sob about loves lost now and then. Social media (and especially those who work in this field and are utterly INESCAPABLE despite unfollows…) has a lot to answer for here. (No YOU sat & watched his keynote in angry tears like a massive loser)

But you suck it up, you share with the group chat, you wail, you laugh, you low-key reference a rubbish relationship in a throwaway line in a blog post, you remember all the love in your life in all its forms and you get the hell on with it.

Love is all around. You’ve just got to feel it in your fingers (and feel it in your toe-ooos)

Bring on the Spring flings…

(Edit note: The month ends at probably one of the most personally challenging times of my life. I promised I wouldn’t miss a monthly post, hence the fluff on love & stuff. Perhaps something more meaningful next time, we’ll see) 

 

 

January Birthdays

Three generations of our family have birthdays in January. My son, myself & my Dad. An uncomfortable thought that I never really wanted to consider but is undeniably true, is that something happens to us frisky Hamms in late spring which occasionally results in having some more of us on the planet. 

January birthdays suck. 

Except they don’t. 

But they should, for these reasons…

1. Diets. Christmas & New Year has left us carbed-up to the eyeballs and the detox pressure is challenging to avoid. If dieting friends do come along to your birthday dinner they will usually be boring, talk endlessly about points & syns and leave early. These are not your people. You must find your people and eat birthday cake. (Or donuts) 

2. Dry January. See above with added virtue & soda. Join me drinking cocktails in a swimming pool. Dry? I’M BOOZING IN THE WETTEST PLACE I CAN FIND. (note: more power to those who are committed to Dry January, especially those who are fundraising at the same time. Good luck to you…but it’s my birthday) 

3. Skint. We’ve all spent too much money at Christmas and payday hasn’t arrived yet. This makes for more creative celebrations & even more creative presents and forward planning. My son & my Dad are my two favourite men on Earth, I simply can’t let their special days go by without balloons & birthday breakfasts. 

4. Pantomime. Not so much of an issue now that I’m in my thirties, however as a child this was THE way to mark the day of my birth. A piece of paper detailing my name & new age was slipped to someone working at the theatre (usually Cardiff New or sometimes Swansea Grand) and I’d end up on the stage in the audience participation bit, stood next to Buttons / Widow Twankee / a generic creepy cabaret star asking 9 year old me if I was married. Hilair. (…I loved it really) 

A giant theatrical leap from that, this year’s stage was the glorious Her Majesty’s Theatre in London as I got to go backstage at Phantom of the Opera. A truly breathtaking, unforgettable, chance of a lifetime experience that I will forever be grateful for. To get to see the magic up close and watch one of my all-time favourite musicals from the Royal Box is just wow…I’m still emotional thinking about it. 

For my birthday this year I ate donuts & beautiful dinners. I sipped cocktails by the pool. I swooned over Gosling on the big screen. I cried during All I Ask of You being beautifully sung less than an arms length away from me. I was also spoiled with heaps of thoughtful & really personal gifts from the loveliest friends. It was all pretty bloody brilliant. 

So yeah…January birthdays don’t suck at all. Not even a bit. Especially when you’ve got the most wonderful people in your life who make each & every one extra special. 

16 things

1. Getting glammed up & going to the National Television Awards with Fletch, arriving on a boat & being in the same room as Aidan Turner (more here)

2. Meeting Gary Vaynerchuk – a big hero of mine (more here) The actual moment is captured in his vlog (here) He later shared the photo of us with his bazillions of followers on his social channels and included it in an article on emotional intelligence (here) It was good to know that our moment meant as much to him!

3. Finding Pamela whilst looking for bedside tables on Gumtree & realising a puppy would make our family complete much more than furniture would. The joy & cuteness & exercise she would subsequently bring has changed our lives hugely and I will never tire of people stopping us for selfies whenever we go out for walks. Things got a little scary in July when she became unwell and the vet discovered she was born with a liver condition, however she has responded really well to her ongoing medication & special diet and is now doing great. She definitely came to the right family to be looked after. We still haven’t found our perfect bedside tables.

4. Another brilliant trip to Hay festival, one of my favourite places on Earth. Sadly this year I was battling an awful chest infection & had a horrendous coughing episode during Ruby Wax’s pin-drop-quiet mindfulness demonstration (Sorry Ruby)

5. Pam’s first trip to the beach. She loves sand! 

6. Coldplay at Wembley Stadium. Fletch’s first proper gig and one I’ve been desperate to tick off my list since Parachutes. It was absolutely incredible and hands down the best live concert I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Magic. 

7. Our annual Hamm family reunion in Brum. Each summer we get together for a lovely Sunday roast at The Belfry and with Dad’s rapidly declining condition (no sad talk here in my happy list) it was an extra-emotional day. Making memories.

8. Dancing & singing our heads off with Barry Manilow. Me & my Mum & my sister never miss the chance to see Bazza whenever his tour hits Cardiff. Mum turned 70 this year and making sure she had the best night was even more important than ever. We had the best seats. We all cried at “Memory” because the lyrics mean something different to us now. I just wish Barry would bring back the “Can’t Smile Without You” bit where someone gets to sing with him….I’d be gentle with his hip replacements, promise. 

9. Fletch got to drive a Lamborghini. He’s 13 & had never driven a car before so heaven knows what I was thinking when I arranged this one. He was absolutely brilliant & (again) much braver than me. My favourite bit was when the instructor asked him if he’d ever driven before & he answered “Well, I’ve been on the go-karts at Legoland”. The in-car footage is hilarious as he kept being told to slow down….yeah right, he’s a 13 year old boy in a Lambo, he ain’t slowing down! As always I was so proud of him & he got to be like KSI for a day. 

10. Joining a Samba band. This year Velindre turned 60 & one of the ways we celebrated our milestone year was with a family fun day. Never one to do things by halves, preparations turned the event into a mini-Glasto and true to form it absolutely poured with rain. I don’t mean just rain, I mean hurricane-named-after-someone rain. The weather was truly awful but what made the day brilliant for me was everyone’s attitude & spirit. Not one volunteer complained & my team pulled off the most entertaining event for those who came along & braved the weather. One of the many highlights on the line-up was Samba Galez who kindly gave us the opportunity to grab a big drum & play along with them. You can see how much joy I found in Samba and a hot pink high-vis vest. 

11. My Dad. As previously mentioned there will be no sad stuff in my list, so instead I am going to share the positive things that Dad’s dementia has brought this year (I know that sounds a bit weird but go with it…like a Pollyanna Glad Game?) I’m really glad that I’ve had the chance to spend much more time with my Dad this year & that I am still able to tell him every day how much he means to me & how much I love him (he tells me too). Early in the year he came along to one of my Dementia Friends sessions and told me how proud he was of me. I’m glad that we got to dance together before he was unable to walk anymore. I’m glad that although on one day when I was with him he didn’t remember me, he remembered my favourite biscuit and that’s ok by me. And I’m glad that he has my Mum to take such perfect care of him. 

12. Feeling fancy at the Races. Another first to tick off my list thanks to my lovely friend Lisa. I had never been to the races before so a VIP experience at Chepstow was such a nice way to do it. I learned that I am expertly skilled in picking losers based on in-depth & total nonsense criteria and also what a “Guinea” is.

13. A lovely trip to the Cotswolds with my sister Lucy. We watched the rugby from our four-poster bed and sipped cream teas like ladies. 

14. Me and Fletch. Every day I’m so proud of this boy I made. He’s now taller than me, has a voice deeper than Barry White & turns 14 in a few days time. He’ll always be the best thing I have. 

15. Cheltenham Literature Festival. Another first. It was made extra-special with a bulging bag of proofs from Transworld for CwtchUpBooks (yeah, that’s me too) and spotting some pre-release signed copies of My Dad Wrote a Porno in the festival shop. This podcast has brought me hours of commuting hilarity this year & I’ve been bigging it up to all my friends so we were well chuffed to get our sticky fingers on the book too. 

16. Meeting the Sidemen. This was a long & tiring day in London but seeing my boy so happy to meet some of his YouTube faves was well worth it. A few weeks later we saw them again at Upload festival and I know it’s a Mum-thing to say but I was really impressed with the professional way they handle themselves, their internet fame and influence. A lovely bunch of lads. 

Yeah it wasn’t all that bad.