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) 

 

 

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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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?