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. 

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

2016-05-13T17-33-51-822

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?

2016-05-13T17-33-51-826

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

2016-05-13T17-33-51-827

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.

 

9776261_thb

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?

 

Hamms WordPress

 

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

 

image

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