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First time up to London since New Year, which is strange, as I’m usually up a few times  a week. We needed a little time apart, London and I, but the separation did us the world of good. There’s something about the city in Winter, walking along Waterloo bridge with collar high and cheeks stinging in the wind, looking across the river at the tangerine lights and the bruised sky. I went up for a few meetings but took the time in between to wander the Southbank – and also to try on the most insane top in Topshop. I mean, what is it?!

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First up, I met the lovely Frankie at Foxcroft & Ginger in Soho for stacked sandwiches, cups of coffee in antique teacups and lashings of ginger beer. Topics of the day were: Adam & Joe (always), Blake Mycoskie’s brilliant book ‘Start Something That Matters‘ (EVERYONE needs to read this), food, Surrey, charitable initiatives, and Frankie’s amazing new project ‘Nice One Frankie‘, where she does something good/nice/generally beneficial to society every day. Oh, and a top notch Liam Neeson impression. We also talked about the fashion industry and a new project I’m working on, more to come on that soon.
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I had a couple more things to sort out, and then I had some blissful free time to mill about taking photos. It’s been ages since I just wandered for an hour with no purpose in mind. Then finally, when I was chilled to the bone and the sun had set, I huddled into Canteen to meet my friend Sophie. We had a lot of fun feeling like we were back at school thanks to the desk-like tables and the fact we were both wearing cable knit jumpers.

I’d heard mixed reviews of Canteen, but I loved it, largely because you can genuinely have breakfast all day. ALL DAY. Not like those places that say ‘all day’ but stop at noon. The novelty of evening porridge is not to be overlooked. Anyway, I settled for two perfectly poached eggs, fresh lemonade, and a big bowl of Christmassy tasting apple and blackberry crumble with vanilla custard. Good prices, fun atmosphere, and proper British grub, just like school.

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And finally home to watch the programme on Richard III, presented by lovely lovely Simon Farnaby. If you didn’t catch it last night, you MUST. The whole thing is bizarre, moving and very compelling.

Until next time x

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TOMS x Movember Launch Party

Movember is about to begin: the month when chaps grow moustaches to promote awareness and raise funds for men’s health, in particular testicular cancer and prostate cancer. For a moustache-fancier like me, it’s a bit like Christmas. TOMS, the shoes and glasses brand, have partnered with Movember, and I attended the official launch party at The Hospital Club last night with Christie of From The Heart 90

The concept of M0vember started in Melbourne, and has grown into a global campaign, raising money and awareness for men’s health. The charity encourages men to begin November clean-shaven, and then to grow a moustache for the entire month, providing a constant visual cue to promote awareness of the cause. Since 2003, Movember has raised £184 million. In 2011 alone, £79.3 million was raised, with 1.9 million entrants. We can all work together to make 2012 the most successful Movember so far, and you can do that by donating, holding an awareness party, attending Mo events, or by getting the conversation started with some moustache covered clothing.

I didn’t know much about TOMS until yesterday, when I started reading up a little on them ahead of the launch. I knew they produced adorable shoes and had just introduced a range of glasses and sunglasses, but I didn’t realise the brand had such an altruistic philosophy. TOMS have devised a concept called ‘One for One‘, whereby for every pair of shoes you buy, TOMS will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. Since the concept was devised, over a million pairs of shoes have already been given away. Likewise, for every pair of glasses bought, TOMS donate a pair to someone in need. To further support Movember, TOMS have produced some limited edition styles of shoe, with a portion of profits going to the charity. It’s exactly the kind of approach that more brands need to start adopting – using their klout to benefit those in need, and I think TOMS are hugely admirable. You can find out more about them on their site.

We trotted along to The Hospital Club to get into the swing of things – quite literally in the case of our dancing. The night was 1920s themed, and as we stepped in we spotted men in waistcoats, bow ties, and hats, and women in flapper dresses and headbands. We also spied a wooden record player, crates of TOMS shoes, and some rather magnificent moustachioed barrels. After swiping some champagne cocktails from the bar, we were whisked aside by a photographer, which entailed dressing up like loons and posing. We then explored the venue a little and listened to the amazing Franky and the Jacks – a very talented AND handsome band. We also caught up with the gorgeous, charming and statuesque Sammy Aki, aka The Groom Style Consultant, who runs an innovative service that aims to raise the style stakes for grooms on their big day. As the band played on, we decided to shake a tail feather on the dancefloor, busting out some prime 1920s moves including a sneaky Charleston, before screen-printing moustaches on t-shirts and finally heading home.

So, what can you do? To get involved with Movember, visit their website, make a donation, grow a moustache if you’re a chap, or get your boyfriend to grow one. If you’re of the female persuasion, how about buying some merch? Or hosting a mo party?  TOMS will continue their charity projects through Movember and beyond, so purchase any item to participate in their ‘One for One’ programme. Above all, be inspired, get involved.

Schiaparelli, The Savoy, and Shoreditch

Hello all, sorry for being super quiet the past few weeks. In  fact I’ve been MORE than super quiet this week. I’ve been more or less asleep for the most part, thanks to a lovely (and probably well-deserved) bout of flu. A little tickle in my throat turned into an awful lot of time spent in bed. I remember actually quite enjoying being ill when I was at school, as it meant a few precious days off – I know that I must be growing up as I was just mega annoyed! Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details, but let me just say that I asked Twitter and Facebook for remedies, and the one that came out tops and genuinely worked was: hot milk with a splash of brandy,  and honey swirled in. I styled it out with some nutmeg and cloves, and I think I may have found my new drink of choice.

Just a quick line about something that I’ll be discussing in more detail soon, but on Monday we had a meeting of the *deep breath* Tunbridge Wells Teenage Cancer Trust Fundraising Group. We’re in the process of planning a Winter Ball on the 29th November in Tunbridge Wells, and we’ve got some very exciting plans that we’re just starting to sort out. I’ve mentioned TCT before – I’m an ambassador for the charity and am really looking forward to raising their profile in the coming months. If you would like to be involved in any way – if you’re an entertainer, a caterer, an organiser, a generally brilliant person or you’d be interested in attending, please drop us a line at tunwellstct@gmail.com or check out our Facebook page. Thank you!

Before the dreaded flu hit, I popped to The May Fair Hotel (in, uh, Mayfair) on Tuesday for the launch of the Chamilia & Breast Cancer Care collection. It was a lovely afternoon spent with the delightful girls at Push PR and some very sweet girls, mostly spent lounging on the ginormous sofa, eating marshmallows and cupcakes with edible flowers on them, drinking pink champers and gossiping. We were in the jaw-dropping Schiaparelli Suite – allegedly Paris Hilton’s room of choice when she stays there. We were all really quite overexcited by the space and spent much of the afternoon dreaming about staying there. I’ll be writing it up for LadyMPresents.co.uk, but in the meantime check out Chamilia here.

I then had a call from an old advertising chum, and ended up leaping in a cab from Mayfair over to Brookes Brothers bar in Holborn. Thanks to my amazing powers of geography, I very nearly sent my driver to Brooks Brothers, the shop on Regent Street. What?! I bet some shops totally have bars. Aaaanyway, we hopped from there to a true heritage pub, also in Holborn, and which I’ve forgotten the name of, then made a stop in the American Bar at The Savoy. I’m a big fan of The Savoy. Low lighting, a pianist even on a Tuesday, and inventive cocktails. If you’ve never been, I insist that you do. Just…don’t send me the bill. We finished with a nightcap at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, which was pleasingly deserted. See what I mean about deserving the flu?

After lying low until Friday, mostly asleep, I was getting cabin fever. I missed going to Fashion’s Night Out on Thursday, watching Frasier in a fug of Lemsip fumes, but I suppose there’s always next year. *Tiny violins* Anyway, by Friday I was more than ready to see an old chum and drag him along to photograph the launch of the 5 Inch and Up line for Nelly.com at Beach Blanket Babylon in Shoreditch. After days of hot milk and medicinal drinks, the mojitos and prosecco both proved a welcome tonic. The collection’s intriguing – full of vertiginous wedged heels and panelled, highly tailored jackets. Again, review coming soon on LadyM. The old chum, Paul, took some alarmingly good photos – some of which you can see below, and should you need a photographer I can’t recommend him enough. (Get in touch with me should you like to contact him.) I also wagered him that I couldn’t make a pizza when sozzled – I’m pleased to say, readers, that I won the wager, although I’m not sure to what degree of success…

And on that note, I’ve exhausted myself again – my energy levels are truly pathetic at the moment. It’s Fashion Week next week, and I need all my strength reserved. Hope you’ve all been enjoying the gorgeous weather! x

Teenage Cancer Trust: Time for T, 24th May

Hello everybody!

A while ago I wrote about the Teenage Cancer Trust, a phenomenal charity who both facilitate support and recovery for young people suffering from cancer, and also provide education within the school system. They were actually on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour this morning talking about what they do and the importance of education. As I’m being a Speedy Gonzalez in writing this post, the programme isn’t actually on iPlayer yet, but if you want to hear it you can go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer later today and search for ‘Woman’s Hour’. You can read the post I wrote about TCT so you can get some background on the charity:  – or you can also visit www.teenagecancertrust.org.

I promised to let you know about ways you could get involved, so here we go. The 24th of May is going to be ‘Time for T’ day. Essentially, we want people to get together and raise some money by doing an activity that begins with the letter ‘T’. So turn up to work in tuxedos and tiaras, play table tennis, host a tea party, do some sponsored shots of tequila…we’d really like people to have some fun and raise some money. It doesn’t matter how big or small the event you organise is, or if you literally bring in some cakes to work and sell them under the title of afternoon tea. Get creative or keep it simple. I’ll personally be avoiding the tequila (my friends know why, right guys? Ahem.) But I’ll most likely be doing something afternoon tea based, as that’s much more up my street.

We’d really like as many people as possible to get involved, and we can offer you all the support necessary. Go to www.teenagecancertrust.org/timefort to get more information or your free fundraising pack, or you can contact me via this blog, or via ameliasimmons@hotmail.co.uk. I can’t stress enough how amazing it would be to get a lot of you involved. You don’t need heaps of props or complicated ideas – you could bake a treacle tart and sell each slice for a small donation. So start thinking about what you’d like to do! We’ll help you out however you choose to do it.

I’ll be tweeting, Facebooking and probably blogging more about it as the event gets closer. I hope to hear some of your ideas soon!

Big thanks and lots of love,

Amelia x

If you read one thing on my blog, read this

As you sit down and read this post, I want you to pretend to be Doctor Who and transport yourself back to your own teenage years. Strip away any thought of children, marriage, university, your first job, everything you know now…feel those years falling away. Can you remember how it felt to be 16? To be 15, 14? How did it feel? Those awkward, self-conscious, hilarious, embarrassing, exhilarating years. Remember how you felt in your own skin. Did you go through an ‘ugly duckling’ stage? Did you wear braces, glasses, carry a bit of extra weight? Did you stay up all night talking to your friends? Did you discover eveything new? Drinking, smoking, having sex, relationships, a social life…

Even if you look back and still want to dig yourself a hole for those moments when you felt unbelievably uncomfortable, you probably still think it was an amazing time. Even if you scraped through your GCSEs, experienced your first painful breakup and your first breakouts, you might still look back and smile. For me, my teenage years were entirely self-absorbed. My worries seemed huge. WHY had I left my homework until the last minute, again? Would I be carded if we went to a proper club? Why couldn’t I afford the shoes I wanted? Oh, the delicious vacuity. I look back now and think about how I felt. I thought I knew everything. Some days, I thought I could take on the world. Others, I didn’t think I could get out of bed. I was a raging mess of hormones, laughter and precociousness. Perhaps you were similar.

Are you there? Are you back there, wandering school corridors, frequenting coffee shops, huddling in the only bar known to serve the underage? Ok, good. Now I’d like you to imagine that, in the midst of all of that wonderful turmoil, the most unthinkable thing happens. Perhaps you just have flu that you can’t seem to shake off. Maybe you find something a bit lumpy – but that’s nothing new, because your body seems to change everyday. Possibly that little mark near your elbow seems to have changed a bit. You worry, because you’re a teenager and everything seems like the end of the world. Maybe you tell a parent. They might seem concerned, or maybe they just tell you it’s probably perfectly normal, and not to worry about it. You might go and see your GP. They too might tell you not to worry – after all, they probably have hundreds of teenagers in every week, worrying themselves stupid.

Maybe you lose or gain weight. You just don’t feel quite right. You go back to your GP. They might take a look and refer you onwards. You’re more than worried by now. You get your referral, and you’re thoroughly checked out. And some time on, you get a phone call that you never, ever thought you’d get. You’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. Cancer, that huge, ugly word that automatically inspires fear in all of us. It’s a word that shouldn’t really penetrate the world of a teenager, and yet it is, for six young people every day in the UK.  Your world feels like it’s closing in, and your identity is thrown into question – the identity you’ve been striving to understand anyway. And bit by bit, the things that make up who you are slowly get taken away. The more it progresses, the less control you have over your own life. Everything, from the time you get up to the time you go to bed begins to be taken away from you. What you eat, what you drink….maybe even your hair. At a time when a spot on your nose can seem utterly catastrophic, imagine how it would feel to lose your hair. You can imagine the rest.

You might be wondering where I’m going with this. You might well have stopped reading, because it’s just a bit too uncomfortable to read, and you want to look away and not think about it. Well, I just wanted you to think about some of the issues a teenage cancer patient has to go through. Why? Because I want to talk to you about a charity that I am currently working as an ambassador for: the Teenage Cancer Trust. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. I want to explain a little bit about what they do, and why they’re very worthy of your support.

The Teenage Cancer Trust was founded just over 20 years ago by a group of people who found out what a hard battle teenagers with cancer faced. Teenagers used to be either treated with young children or old people, so were effectively alienated from the people on their ward. Anyone who has been in a hospital knows that for the most part, it’s not a good place for a young person to be. When you’re young, your bedroom is your sanctuary. To be taken away from that and plonked on a ward with people more than four times your age is not conducive to recovery. Teenagers tend to need to visit hospital a lot as they can get some of the rarest and most aggressive forms of cancer, due to their developing bodies. The original group raised the money to build the first Teenage Cancer Trust unit at Middlesex Hospital in 1990.

So you see, TCT need to raise funds not just for supporting teenagers and their families, and educating young people on recognising cancer (all things that they do exceptionally well), but they need money to build units for young people. They’re currently finishing work on a ward at the Royal Marsden in Surrey, which has cost £3 million. TCT wards are beautiful and unique, and designed to create a comfortable and enjoyable environment for the young people, which in turn leads to them having more strength to fight back. TCT aim to give teenagers back some of the control they lose in their lives, by making them completely in control of their surroundings. They can control lighting and sounds, have individual computers with constant internet access, TV screens, and ‘common rooms’ that look more like university halls than a hospital.

Everything is designed to make a teenager still feel like they are first and foremost a teenager, and that the cancer is secondary. Games tournaments are held on the Wiis or Playstations fitted on the ward. A special sound proof room is provided, where the young people can plug their iPods in on the outside, and listen to music at top volume without disturbing anyone. This can be cathartic if someone has received some bad news, or just needs some alone time – they can even go there at 3am in the morning if they need to. All staff are specially trained to deal with teenagers, and it shows in the way they interact with the young people. TCT are providing an unbelievable service that is so, so essential to these young people, and can help give them back their quality of life.

TCT units provide a positive and stable environment for teenagers to go to. Units feature ‘schoolrooms’ where teenagers can study, read, and even take their exams if they want. Many former TCT unit patients go on to good jobs, to sixth form college, or to university, and this is in no small part due to the encouragement and positivity that TCT provides. It’s so important for a teenager to feel like a teenager, and this is exactly what the Teenage Cancer Trust give them. In fact, I’m going to stop talking and let the teenagers tell you exactly what they think themselves:

I hope you’ve felt inspired by this blog. There’s so much more I could tell you about this amazing charity, and all the services they provide, but I’ll wait, because I’m already at well over 1200 words.

We’re currently setting up a fundraising outpost in Tunbridge Wells. Although the Royal Marsden is in Surrey, it’s our closest unit. We need people with ideas, with passion, with empathy…and you can give as little or as much time as you’d like. I’ll keep posting about TCT, but please comment on here or find me on twitter @ameliafsimmons for more details. We want to raise as much as we can. TCT is a very small charity who receive no government funding, so fundraising is incredibly important. I’ll keep you posted on upcoming events and ways you can get involved with this truly inspirational charity. Meanwhile, check out http://www.teenagecancertrust.org and ‘Like’ their Facebook page.

Thank you so much for reading.

Amelia x

Project #004 Start being charitable

Project #003 sadly postponed due to weather (will be looking at completing it this weekend), I started to think about what else I wanted to do this year. Every year, I feel that nagging voice saying ‘you really should try and do something charitable’. Every year, I fully intend to, and fail. There is NO GOOD EXCUSE for this. Literally none. Most of last year, for example, I had a substantial wage coming in, and pretty much no outgoings. Plus spare time! And yet I did nothing for anyone else, except myself. My version of doing something for someone else was just buying them an outlandish present. Nice enough stuff, and I certainly enjoyed it, and will continue to do it, but not exactly Mother Theresa-ville, is it?

I’ve called this project ‘start being charitable’, as I don’t think ‘being charitable’ is something you can, or in fact should, be able to just pop on your ‘to do’ list, and tick off after a week. I just want to mark the beginning of this as an ongoing project. Basically, to start opening my eyes and pricking up my ears to actually doing something for someone else.

As I posted on an update, I’ve signed up for Race for Life. While people keep telling me it’s ‘only 5k’, they haven’t seen me running. This for me is a HUGE distance. I am not at all a fit person, so I want to do it properly and actually be able to do something apart from wheezing around in a tracksuit like Vicky Pollard (ooooh, how achingly topical I am….Vicky Pollard references? I need to wake up in 2011.) So, that’s a pretty big deal for me. I’ve already pimped this out, but my sponsoring site is:

http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/ameliasimmons1601

Please sponsor me. I chose Race for Life for a reason, and that reason is that not only have I lost so many people to cancer, but I think you’d be very hard pressed to pluck anyone off the street who HADN’T been affected by it. I’ll keep you updated with my progress.

The other thing that I’ve just done was of a different ilk (brilliant word.) If you’re worried about not having the time/energy/Bob Geldof hair/feet for doing any running, then you can take a different tack. Tack, ilk, any word that ends in ‘k’, really. When I was passing by a TK Maxx in Guildford t’other day, a big poster caught my eye. Vivienne Westwood (plus husband, standard), and Sienna Miller, all dressed up in typical 1600s meets 2060 style, wearing these absolutely ace t shirts for Comic Relief. Shakespeare with a red nose, a classic Westwood punk rocker, a Hogarth print (The Laughing Audience), a French Revolution lady holding up a mask with two carefully positioned red noses in a certain place, and best of all, the two great idols of my youth – Blackadder and Queenie from the second series of…well, Blackadder. Both with red noses.

Now, after my absolute joy that Blackadder was finally getting the sartorial recognition it has always deserved had subsided, I started looking at the details. Most t shirts were priced at £9.99, with ‘at least £5’ going to Comic Relief. Now, anyone who has previous bought something for a charitable cause will know that £5 is a pretty substantial portion being donated. Not only that, but they’re 100% Fairtrade certified cotton. Those priced at £14.99 have £7 going to Comic Relief. And designed by Vivienne Westwood!! When will you ever get a chance to buy a piece of Viv for under a tenner?!

The only problem you’ll have is choosing honestly. This is why the Hogarth, Blackadder and French Rev sexy lady are all winging their way to me as we speak, and I may go back for Billy Shakespeare, and Queenie. Go on, you absolutely WILL NOT regret buying one.

 http://www.tkmaxx.com/page/tshirts

Hope to see you all around with a big beardy Edmund face emblazoned on your top….. xxx