Will you be my friends?

2016-05-13T17-33-51-828I became a Dementia Friends Champion in October last year, after my Dad was diagnosed with dementia. I wanted to find out more about how best to support him and be able to share that learning with others too. I am hugely passionate about the initiative & as someone who LOVES to talk and meet new people it really is right up my alley! There is nothing more personally satisfying than volunteering for a cause you enthusiastically believe in.

Dementia Awareness Week begins on Sunday & to help raise understanding I am hosting a Dementia Friends evening on Monday in Cardiff (see below for details on how to register)

Register here

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You can read a bit more about the Dementia Friends initiative here (Dementia Friends) but in a nutshell it involves you coming along to a 45-60 min session – facilitated by yours truly – where we’ll share some key messages through interactive activities and identify some actions you could take to help support people living with dementia.

Did I mention that you also get a badge?

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They are fun, informative & thought-provoking sessions and I think you should probably just come along & find out for yourself, ok?

If you’re reading this before Monday night & would like to join me & take action this Dementia Awareness Week, please register here

I’m awesome and I want to come along please

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If you are reading this after Monday night, please hit me up on Twitter (@GlamHamm) & I can let you know where/when my next sessions are going to be. I will even come & do a special session just for you if you have a group / team / department / business who would like to become Dementia Friendly – just ask! Likewise if you have a venue that I can commandeer for an hour or so, please shout – I’d be so grateful.

I’m on a mission. Not only for my Dad but for the other 849,999 people living with dementia too. With a little bit of understanding and a few simple actions we can help make their lives (and those who support them) a whole lot friendlier!

I look forward to seeing you at a session soon (….Monday?)

Big love xxxx

A night with the stars #HammsAtTheNTAs


This week we got our gladrags on & attended the National Television Awards at the O2 in London.

A birthday treat for me & my boy, it was our first proper showbizzy awards event and here are some things I learned.



1. Celebrities look like a different species because THEY ARE. 

Somehow they’ve been modified to temperature control in outdoor environments. I was in a sheepskin-lined winter coat – on top of the gladrags – and still freezing. Not so for the stars; exposed midriffs, bare arms & not even a shiver or runny eye in the howling January wind. WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO THEM?

2. Those red carpet poses you see online & in magazines look RIDICULOUS in real life.
The contortions that some get themselves into might make for a fab photo but you look like a total weirdo spinning around to get the back-of-your-dress-shoulder-peep shot from every angle. Or that odd elbow-pop thing? Looks like a shoulder dislocation. I genuinely feared for some joints.
Perfecting the smile that doesn’t reach your eyes is QUITE the thing too – I’m guessing it’s to achieve no eye-crinkles? Definitely going to practise this one.
Best not to discuss the fake tan (but the maintenance ALONE must be a full-time job) THEY GLOW like the Ready Brek kid.

3. Hosting an Awards Ceremony isn’t as easy as it looks. 
Dermot O’Leary is one very talented man. His autocue (although gigantic) was halfway back on the arena floor & he makes reading it look so seamless and like a natural flowing conversation. Skills.
There is also a spectacular man who tells the award presenters when to announce the nominees names. He stands with them on the stage (whilst the TV audience sees the clips) holds a stop palm in their faces during the applause ripples & then does a finger-gun when it’s time to say the next one. That man has a great job. We liked this bit.
Getting slebs back into their seats after every commercial break was challenging too. Like herding cats. Props to the warm-up guy for the attempt.

 
4. Seat warmers are A THING. 

When a sleb goes onstage to present or receive an award, someone swiftly slips in their seat until they get back. Heaven forbid that their famous cutie booties should find themselves on an unwarmed seat!
I’m unable to confirm if this service also extends to the lavatories but I’d like to think that it does.
(Note: I KNOW that this is probably more about camera angles & not showing empty seats on telly but the diva thing was more amusing)

 
5. Really, it’s a bit like school prizegiving evening.
Lots of applauding, you already know who’s likely to win everything, Fleur East from Year 9 has made up a song & dance to break up the evening, the popular kids are sitting in the best seats and there’s always that one award that no-one knew about & they just made up to help a naughty kid feel good. (The IMPACT award?!)
Which brings me nicely to….

 
6. If Aidan Turner is in the room, it is almost impossible to look at anything else. 
Like a magnetic force or the pull of gravity, you are at his mercy. If he’s nearby, you just can’t help staring at him & the majestic wonder of his beauty. For those obsessed enough as me to be interested, he applauded everything (hand cream?) gave big hugs to sleb mates & stood back to allow EVERY SINGLE PERSON from Downton Abbey to leave the stage before him, like the beautiful gentleman that he is. The man can do no wrong.

And I’m GLAD they made up an award for him.

 

Couple of other noteworthy points: arriving by boat was the best thing ever – highly recommended for events at the O2; the showbiz doesn’t stop at the end of the night – the team from The Chase were sat next to us & the guys from DIY SOS stayed in our hotel – GLAMOUR; And I really hope the lady who fell over at the end of the awards was ok – you didn’t know but I put all your make-up brushes back in your handbag for you. Sista, I KNOW how much attachment we have to our brushes, especially in times of crisis, you’re welcome.

In summary, a BRILLIANT night where we had a window into the weird world of being a celebrity.

Tickets are now on sale for next year. I’d give it a go if you fancy getting glammed up & having some fun.

All the top guns in British TV in one pic. Weird, huh?

New Year, New Family Tradition?

It’s the perfect time to stop, take a breath, reflect back on the year that has passed and think about our hopes for the next.

 

Time whizzes by so fast and depending on the lens you’re using, the phrase “It’s been a tough year” rolls off the tongue far too easily. Has it? Has it REALLY though? Have you forgotten some of the joyful, incredible moments in your sweeping analysis of the last 365 days? I bet you have. I bet you’ve had some tough times but some absolutely amazing ones too. How can we make sure we don’t forget them?

 

For that reason, on New Year’s 2010 we started a new tradition of documenting these annual highlights and hopes in our family book. My awesome sister Lucy gets full credit for this wonderful idea and beautiful family record.

 

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Each New Year the book comes out, a fresh page is turned and we write. We write with gratitude and hope.

 

First it’s our highlights of the year, a really positive way to remember the good stuff. Chatting with my Mum & my sister at Christmas (when our thoughts turn to The Book) we all agreed that we love going through our previous years’ diary or calendar to help us recall everything that has happened and how we easily forget some of the really brilliant stuff. Bringing it all together in one place is such a positively powerful thing to do. We have great lives and we do our best to enjoy each and every day of them. (OK, maybe not EVERY day of them…) But it feels so good to remind ourselves of this.

 

It has been a challenging year for us as a family living with Dad’s dementia. We started this tradition long before his diagnosis, but perhaps this is why our memories are even more precious to us now?

 

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There are seven of us & we all have a different approach to our highlights, some write LONG essays with lists of events & anecdotes (…possibly me) some also document news stories that have particularly inspired them (I remember my Dad wrote about the rescue of the Chilean miners one year) and some write about just one great thing that happened (F was only 7 when we started the book so his early entries are quite amusing)

 

However we all approach it, the idea is the same – great stuff has happened this year & we don’t want to forget it.

 

I’ve even included haircuts I’m particularly proud of – it doesn’t have to be DEEP… (2011 – The Year of The Fringe. Good times.)

 

The highlights pages are then turned & it’s time to write about our hopes for the year to come. Not resolutions. Not awful restrictions or rules to beat ourselves up with, but what would we like to see happening in the next year? What would we like to MAKE HAPPEN in the next year?

 

This is always the really funny bit to look back on when The Book appears again at the end of the year, I know I’ve personally had some corkers…quite how I thought I’d be looking out on a healthy crop of allotment vegetables grown by my own fair hands – when I can barely summon up the motivation to mow my lawn – is beyond my thinking. What on EARTH?! The veg patch definitely didn’t happen, but the laughs looking back on it certainly did, as well as so many of the other hopes we’d written about.

 

We give ourselves the time to focus on some goals for the next 12 months (or in the case of my son, literal goals as he hinted MASSIVELY that his dreams wouldn’t come true unless he went to a Manchester United game at Old Trafford – of course it happened – oh yes, we’ve seen some clever uses of the power of the book!)

 

This time last year me & my son were living in a cold, damp, old house. It was filled with love but just wasn’t making us happy. When writing my hopes for 2015 I decided that we’d be moving house this year…but maybe not quite as soon as it actually happened…We viewed our new home on January 6th and paid the deposit on the 7th. We were moving! (Still no veg patch though….)

 

They’re not all as massive as moving house or changing jobs. “This year I will spend more time doing XXXX” is a great one and gives us the chance to think about how we’d like to be spending our next year on the planet. Watching our boys becoming men & thinking about their future is just awesome. Watching our parents growing older, less so.

 

By far, my favourite part is when it’s my turn to write and I take the chance to sneakily read back over the last few years of our family. So much has changed. Our kids are growing up. Our parents are growing older. Our lives are taking so many twists and turns it’s often hard to keep up. I always read it before I write a word.

 

Every curve in our handwriting represents that moment in time when we stopped to think about the good stuff. Every page tells our story. It is something we will treasure forever.

 

All you need is you, a pen and a book (ours has sequins….obvs, we’re a razzle-dazzle kinda bunch…but any notebook will do)

 

Our book tells our story. We are grateful and we are hopeful.

 

Maybe this year you’ll start your story? I’d love to know if you do.

 

Happy New Year x

 

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Kindness

  
I’m a believer in the rule of threes and this week we’ve been blessed with three counts of incredible kindness which are all connected to my lovely Mum & Dad (aka The Senior Hamms) Those who know me will know what an incredibly close family we are and just how much they mean to me.

They are the most fantastic parents anyone could wish for. I wanted to share these little stories of loveliness with you. 

My Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s back in September 2014. It was absolutely devastating news for the whole family. We’re a tough and tight bunch and with the help of humour, love & compassion we’re getting through this challenging time. We’ve been so lucky to be able to rely on the support of so many of our friends and family, but this week has been especially heartwarming with three examples of gorgeous people just being ACE. 

1. Water

When the Seniors had a problem with their downstairs loo flush not working properly earlier this week, they were visited by the friendliest plumber who not only helped them but didn’t charge them a penny either.

“Call it my good deed of the day!” was his beautiful response. 

I know, right? This is the stuff of fairy tales…yes, lovely kind plumbers exist who work free of charge. We know. We’ve met him. 

2. Fire 

The battery in their upstairs smoke alarm was beeping constantly & driving my parents mad, especially my Dad who can get quite fretful with uncertainty and change. They called me after having a sleepless night to see if I could go over to help replace it. Scared of ladders (I know…I’m a giant wuss) I popped in to our local fire station for a bit of advice on where best to put it. After explaining our situation, I was soon heading to my parents’ house with a friendly Fireman in a van following behind me. Not only did he replace the smoke alarm but carried out an assessment of their home & offered some really helpful fire safety advice. 

Dafydd from South Wales Fire saved the day! Such a kind and lovely thing to do, he really reassured the Seniors and made them feel safe again (as well as stopping “that bloody beeping!”)…and the extra bonus….I didn’t have to go up a ladder. Win. 

3. Time

I was chatting with some friends at the weekend about how cool the Alzheimer’s Day clock is & how we really needed to get one for my Dad. Time is something that he really struggles with – he gets confused between night & day and often gets up in the middle of the night to get dressed and “go to work”. My poor Mum has to patiently remind him that it’s night time and get him back to bed. Similarly he gets confused with which day of the week it is. The Alzheimer’s Clock recognises that this is something that lots of people living with dementia have trouble with & really simply displays easy-read messages like “It is Monday morning” that are timed to change automatically. It was only mentioned briefly in conversation with my friends and then today this mystery package arrived….

 

  

  
Can you believe that there is such kindness? I was overwhelmed & so emotional. My parents were thrilled & know that this will make such a difference to their day-to-day (and most importantly night-to-night) lives. I am just astounded and so grateful to be blessed with such amazing people in my life. I will forever be thankful to the incredible Toni and Matt. Just gorgeous, lovely humans. Look at my Dad’s face! He’s so happy with his surprise present. 

  
This post was a way for me to say THANK YOU and also serve as a massive reminder that there ARE kind people in our world. Really really kind people who go out of their way to fix a loo for free, fit a smoke alarm or buy a surprise gift that will change lives. We are truly blessed and if I ever lose sight of that for any reason, I’m going to re-read this post and remember just how grateful I’m feeling right now in this moment. 

Kindness is one of the most powerful things we’ve got, sharing it as much as we can is a choice we can all make. 

Always choose to be kind – it will never be forgotten x 

  

Feeling the fear

It’s really tricky to pinpoint the exact time when I started getting more afraid of stuff. I’ve always been a worrier, my childhood tics and twitches were physical evidence of such. (just writing that makes my face itch)

I swear if there was an award for worrying I could win it (but then winning would mean a whole load more worries to contend with…as would NOT winning….being a worry-wort is the WORST)

A huge part of my worrying used to centre around what people think of me (I know, huge ego right? As if people haven’t got better things to think about than me) And as I’ve grown older the people-pleasing gene hasn’t diminished entirely but it’s definitely more under my control. I’m cool with who I am (and I’d happily be my friend) and I’m also cool with knowing that not everyone is going to like me. (Like, what’s WRONG with them?) 

When I became a Mum – jeez – I encountered an entire world of worry like never before. Suddenly there’s two of us to worry about, so that constitutes at least double the amount of anxiety. Lots of it was utterly irrational (What if that car mounted the pavement right now & ran over me & the pushchair?) to the only slightly more realistic (Is it chickenpox? Oh my god is it meningitis? Oh it’s just jam…ok) Again, you learn as you go and begin to get to a place where you can laugh at your own ridiculousness. 

Fear is a crippling emotion. It holds you back, it takes up your time, your thoughts & energy and stops you living your most fulfilling life. 

Acknowledging that I am afraid is something that has really helped me cope with all of the worries of the world (because it’s all down to me guys, don’t sweat it, I’ve got this) Talking myself up or down depending on the circumstances is often enough to get me to the other side of it. 

Knowing someone else is depending on you is also a huge motivator for me. My son loves adventure & action & feeling like I was letting him down due to my fear would devastate me far more than any anxiety. He makes me push my boundaries and try new things (in the loveliest way) even when I am wracked with fear. I want him to live a fearless life and so leading by example I have to suck it up, plaster on a grin & be brave enough for the both of us. Let’s do this!

Somehow this resulted in me standing at the top of the UK’s biggest zip wire wearing a harness & preparing to jump. 

   

 I was completely breathless (though in part that might be to do with a helluva climb to the top via a dusty, rubble-filled track)

  
I felt nauseous and SCARED. Really, truly terrified in a we-might-die-doing-this fashion. The views from the top were quite sensational, you could see for miles with amazing views of the Severn Bridge. I just really didn’t want to have to take a leap off the wooden platform & rely on a 16mm wire to get me back down to the bottom of the quarry. I get dizzy at the top of a step-ladder…this height was something else! 

Honestly, had it not been for my son, I’d have absolutely chickened out. No question, I did NOT want to do this. My fear was overwhelming & all of my instincts were telling me to walk back down the path we’d just hiked. No shame in that. Some things are not meant for everyone. We actually had a conversation where I pitched the idea of not doing it (but just telling people we HAD anyway…no-one would ever know! “We’d know!” came the honest & lovely reply from my boy) 

Once again, showing wisdom and courage way beyond his years and utterly role-reversing our relationship “Let’s just get our harnesses on & then see how we feel? Just don’t look Mum, we can do this.” 

  

And so we got our harnesses on. And took each preparatory step one tiny toe at a time – still not looking – slowly reaching the point where we’re being clipped on to the wire by a really friendly chap, as we perch on a tiny wooden box on the 70m high cliff edge…”You ok mate?” he says to F. As I look across I can see my son paler than he’s ever looked in his life & answering in a very uncharacteristic one syllable “Yup” 

…He was scared too. Excited, but it was really really high! We were both trying so hard to be brave for each other. I grabbed his hand & told him how proud I am of him – he’s such a fantastic human – “See you on the other side! Love you”

And then we were pulled back & told to lift up our legs. I said a tiny prayer & we launched out over the water-filled quarry (incidentally, the water is 80m deep) 

The next 700 metres were a blur of screaming & whooping. I have never felt more alive! I looked back & could see F whizzing down beside me, the biggest grin on his face. 

Reaching speeds of up to 40mph dangling off a tiny wire, suspended from a cliff is pretty damn exciting. 

Once we were released from our harness at the other end (after dropping bit by bit to the ground like Spider-Man – totes cool) we hugged, still shaking. 

WE DID IT! 

  
I can honestly say I would never have done it without F. No way. I was going to bottle it. He calmed me, took me through everything at baby-steps & encouraged me to find my bravery – all whilst battling his own fear. He was definitely the grown-up. 

I will forever be proud of my boy and the lessons he teaches me every single day. I have so much to learn from him. 

  

There are all of these great things to feel if we’re only brave enough to take a leap. Sometimes we just need to hear it’s ok to be afraid…and it’s all going to be ok. 

“What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, what if you fly?

  

Digital detox: Is a technology-free festival a good idea? 

I’ve just spent the bank holiday weekend in the woods in deepest, sunniest Kent with no wifi, no 3G & no iPhone. No instagramming my outfits, no tweeting my random observations and no swapping Twitter handles. A proper digital detox; and it was all thanks to those lovely smoothie folks at Innocent. 

  

In a return to their festival roots, Innocent hosted a weekend off the grid, a two day festival in a gorgeous secret location just outside London. Innocent Unplugged ditched traditional electricity, instead opting for solar power plus people-powered bicycles, human hamster wheel & seesaws. (Super fun) We were asked to leave our phones behind and really connect and be present in the moment. I didn’t see any actual phone police in operation however the use of mobile phones was actively discouraged – phone-shame made you leave it alone!

  

I’ll be honest, the thought of going off the grid for a weekend made me really anxious. As a social addict, my phone is never far from my fingers and my next tweet or text is only moments away. The thought of not having that next to me, gave me palpitations. Bonkers, right? 

I’ve digi-detoxed before, mostly on holidays and once the initial anxiety is dealt with I’ve usually really enjoyed my incommunicado status. However, at festivals & events one of the first things I do is check who else is there & talking about the same things on social; who can I connect with? Who is sharing cool thoughts & opinions & photos? What’s happening here? ….Where’s the bar? The thought of having to actually talk to people crossed my mind.

My ticket to attend Innocent Unplugged came very kindly from one of my best friends Georgina Jones, founder of the incredible movement Turn Lights On, who had been invited to deliver a workshop in the Innocent Inspires yurt. Turn Lights On (TLO) is a practice that inspires you to live in the here and now. Aptly at an unplugged festival, Turn Lights On is absolutely nothing to do with electricity but everything to do with the power we each hold to make our lives better. Fancy a bit of that? Join the movement here

When George asked if I’d like to come along, my light was shining bright & couldn’t have been more ON. TLO is a practice I like to live every single day of my life, so I delightedly joined Team TLO for the fun!  

However….

I bloody hate camping. I have tried to be an outdoorsy, adventure type but it’s just not for me. I like comfort, warmth & getting dressed in an upright position. I like being clean, dry & lazy. I like a magnificent bed, a fully-stocked minibar and a loo seat you can actually sit on. However, I also love festivals so the camping bit is somewhat of a necessary evil.

  
But camping WITHOUT MY PHONE too? Ack. I really wasn’t sure I’d be able to hack it. 

Realising that because of my phone-dependency I don’t actually own a watch or a camera I had to borrow both (thanks Mum) – this was going to be a challenge. 

I should note that as an eternal rebel I did take my phone with me *gasp*. Stashed away in a back pocket of my handbag, my illicit Class A iPhone sat on silent airplane mode. Somehow this gave me comfort (and was an even bigger test of my iron will not to touch it) As a Mum I just couldn’t go a day without checking in on my son who was staying with my parents, I simply had to wish him goodnight. It’s a soppy parent thing. 

However – as my friends & social channels will testify – I didn’t use it for anything other than this purpose. I really wanted to see if I could do it. 

  

Do you know what happened? The world didn’t end. I had the BEST time with the most wonderful people. I appreciated the beautiful surroundings, I actually stopped to smell the flowers. I drank stunning local cider (Lady Petrol*), I danced like a woman who’s not recovering from a knee dislocation (see Lady Petrol*) I laughed til I cried and I cried til I laughed again. I went to workshops which made me ponder & question. I wrote things down. I had space and time to think and just to be. It felt so great to be me – not work-me or Mummy-me – just me. 

*It might not actually be called this

Lots has been said about the concept of a tech-free festival, some positive….some not so much…I can see relevant points on both sides. However, having lived it – and I’m not a camper OR a hipster – it was magic.

Innocent Unplugged was one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to (and no, they haven’t paid me in everlasting smoothies for life to say that) a brilliant location, amazing entertainment, great people & a truly magical experience. Being Off the Grid made me enjoy and appreciate it even more. Their staff were helpful, fun & lived the cheeky Innocent brand (as well as being achingly beautiful and kind) I love them! Hats off to their PR team & everyone involved.

Being back on the grid today isn’t too painful, I have a lot of emails to get back to but with a new energy & feeling less of a slave to my mobile….it really did feel good to have my phone back though! 

So because I wasn’t able to share it with you at the time, here’s my festival entertainment Top 10…

1. TLO – Turn Lights On. Watching my bestie dazzle & shine and do her thing. My number one – obvs. 

2. Mr Motivator – A 62 year old man leading an aerobics class for a tent full of tiddly people, Mr M was truly amazing. His wife was funky chicken-ing along with him & when chatting with the audience he said “The reason for my happiness? If it’s not because of people like you, it’s because of her. My best friend, my partner, my lover. My everything.” We cried. 

Mr & Mrs Motivator are my new relationship goals. 

3. Plump DJs – Fell in love with these handsome guys dancing til 3am in a yurt. The toppest of tunes that they seemed to enjoy as much as we did. Dancing. Shoes. On. 

4. Grace Dent – Sassy, stylish and as addicted to social as I am, Grace’s Q & A session made me desperately want to be her friend. New girl crush. 

5. Morning Gloryville – fancy a rave first thing in the morning? These lovely people have taken something similar to my pre-school-run kitchen discos, added glitter & superstar DJs and made them a thing. In London. Epic. The world needs this! 

6. Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer – Championing “Chap Hop” this sharp fellow dresses dapper and raps like a posh chap with a banjo. Tweed & elaborate facial hair & rapping & poshness. Spiffing good show. 

7. Black Cat Cabaret – Ballsy, burlesque beauty. My buddy Matt did a bit of ballet on stage with them. It was a sensation. 

8. Action for Happiness – Been a fan of their work on Twitter for a while now, nice to see and hear about them in real life too. Still impressed. 

9. Hackney Colliery Band – Brass and beats. You need to hear their Prodigy medley. Too cool. 

10. My friends – More entertaining than anyone else on the line-up, Camp Cymru had the most fun out of everyone there. No question. Our Welsh bunting identified us as a little piece of Wales & we had our very own little community on the campsite. We now have abs of steel from all the laughter. I love you all! 

  

Today I have my phone back in my hand (writing this), I have the huskiest voice ever (campfire singing) and a left knee the size of a baby elephants’ (I really am recovering from a knee dislocation) I also have the biggest grin & the happiest memories that will stay with me for a long time. Perhaps I am a happy camper after all? 

If you get the chance, get off the grid & get into the woods. I can’t recommend it enough. 

  

Viva Brazil! 

Just a super-quick post simply to share my joy at discovering ELLE Brazil’s gorgeous cover.  

 

Any magazine that features plus-size beauty front & centre is just brilliant & I applaud them. No token fat people (“…pretty faces only, don’t photograph them below the neck…”) or the perfect streamlined hourglass plus-size models we’d all love to be….

REAL JUICY GORGEOUS FLESHY LUMPY BUMPY PEOPLE! With folds! And sexiness! And ALL THE SASS! And IN YOUR FACE! 

I’m so in love with ELLE Brazil right now. 

(And very much available if any UK titles would like to follow suit? Call me…)