Friday, 23 September 2016

Restaurant review: St James, Bushey

Mr Angelina booked The River Café for my birthday. I have never dined there and would have been very delighted to do so however in the end, he had to go away on business so we moved our celebratory date to the day before and went local instead to St James, Bushey.

It was a Monday night, the musak was very loud and made me feel like I was trapped in a scene from a late 90s TV movie about a single mother who, after divorce and heartbreak finally finds true love in her forties. (Ha ha!) We were sandwiched in between two tables of loud, glamorously kempt, elderly couples. To my left were a group of four, one of whom generously discussed his liver issues (those of his body, not his plate) at full decibel -  he looked and sounded like any minute he would peel off a mask to reveal Kayvan Novak.  

Close to my right were another elderly couple, the man seemingly much more elderly and compressed in his seat than his female companion (-was this a horrifying glimpse into my future? Mr Angelina is ten years older than me…) who, after I had shared with my husband that I thought the music was bonkersly loud exclaimed in a loud voice “This music is JUST PERFECT”. I prefer to think that this was simply coincidence and not a passive-aggressive attempt to put me in my place. Because it is a well-known fact that no one is passive aggressive in Bushey.

I’m making this sound terrible and it really wasn’t. Mr Angelina’s duck mosaic starter was yummy and he was very happy with his calves liver main which looked beautiful. My barley risotto (which was cooked to a perfect texture and mixed with a bountiful assortment of wild, earthy mushrooms) would have been delicious with some garlic or onion or something in it and my seabass with broccoli mousse and almond salad would have been less dry on the tongue had it been cooked for a shorter time and/ or served with some sort of sauce or dressing.


So, I’m not writing it off at all.  I will one day revisit St James, as I’m full of hope that I will again experience the ecstasy of the creamy squash risotto that I ate there a couple of years ago. It was close to the best I’ve ever had. Oo-er.

Angelina gets on her bike. And then can't.

Mummy on the Edge
Families North West London Magazine
September 2016




So I’m sitting here in my bed-office (yes, that IS a thing) trying to write this column for your delectation but I keep stopping to listen to Midi-Me who is singing eighties songs loudly in the kitchen while making pancakes for breakfast. Take heart, dear reader: after years of no sleep, mopping puke, feeding, watering and loving them (most of the time) you eventually start to turn a profit.

Judging by Midi-Me’s excellent impression of Rick Astley, she is in good spirits and quite right too, as we have just returned from a week in France.  Our June-inset-day-inspired break in the Cote d’Azur never happened as my dad had an unfortunate accident on the High Street in Watford and he needed me here. (Unexpected isn’t it, to find those two locations in a sentence together.) So instead, I booked an August week in Il de Ré which is an island off the west coast of France over the bridge from La Rochelle.

Thing is, in Il de Ré, it’s all about the bikes. That’s how everyone gets around mostly, from town to town. So, while Midi-Me was on a wonderful engineering course (which I will tell you about in next month’s education issue) I found a course of my own. If, like me, you never had the opportunity, always felt you were missing out, and really want to enjoy the basic pleasure of riding to the park with your mini-you, guess what: it’s not too late to learn! Most boroughs offer subsidised classes to get you on your bike and you can find these by asking the google. I contacted watfordcyclehub.org.uk which is a brilliant organisation that services, repairs and re-builds bikes. They take donations and sell bikes and run fun events and most importantly for me, they offer cycle classes for children and adults!

I treated myself to a one-to-one class (they also offer women-only group classes) with the fantastically patient and encouraging Fiona. She took the pedals off and had me scooting along, balance-bike-style. And then after a while, she added a pedal. And after some practice, she added a second pedal. As someone who possess neither confidence nor coordination it was a delightful shock when I lifted both feet off the floor and pedalled both pedals at the same time. (Documentary evidence available on the blog and facebook page). I spent the latter part of the hour-and-half of tuition in nirvana, flying on wheels around the basketball court, my shirt billowing in the wind, like you see people do in real life! I just kept picturing Midi-Me’s face so happy and proud of me when I showed her what I could do! 

Elated and only slightly bruised, I walked back to the car with my old dad whom I had brought along to watch and he said, “That was all wrong. Someone needs to hold the back of you and run while you ride as you are very wobbly. I could have taught you better.”
“OMG! I’ve JUST learnt! Obviously I need practice! You had forty-three years! Why didn’t you??” I retorted, incredulous at his lack of vicarious joy.

“It never occurred to me.”

***

Picture it, Midi-Me and I, baguettes in our baskets, riding in rapturous gallic cyclement through the hollyhocks of quaint little towns around Il de Ré, our hair flying like a jubilant Tricolore in the breeze, and behind us a soundtrack of popular French accordion music.

Naturally, it never happened. If you are regular reader you will know it’s because our lives run like a British spin-off of Modern Family. I broke a few ribs a couple of weeks before leaving by slipping in the bath. We still went, sharing one Easyjet-sized hand luggage between us to avoid me having to carry anything (coz I couldn’t). Relying on walking slowly and infrequent buses to get around the island wasn’t ideal but equally wasn’t the end of the world. We gorged on the freshest fish, market delicacies, and oysters as big as my hand washed down with Ré Lemonade for her and Pineau (local wine which had a wonderful anaesthetic effect…) for me. And a rainbow of glace flavours with crepes and waffles. And buttery croissants for breakfast every day.

Franchement, what else does one need?

mynotesfromtheedge.blogspot.com * facebook.com/angelinamelwani * twitter @appleina *Instagram @mynotesfromtheedge *



"If you can't be one, marry one," and other terribly wrong examples to set for your daughter.

Mummy on the Edge
Families North West London
July/ August 2016

Midi-Me has a few inset days coming up so I very cleverly booked a break the Cote d’Azure for she and me. Sorting that assuaged my guilt about taking a two week grown-ups’ holiday in the Yucatan and Havana with Mr Angelina (there are some pictures on my Instagram account @mynotesfromtheedge and posts about this epic trip on my blog).

Mr A sent his own Midi-him a picture of a black and gold sombrero as a joke, saying he had bought it for her. She replied back words to the effect of “Cool!” So he was faced with a dilemma: not to buy the sombrero because his fifteen year old daughter was probably being sarcastic or to buy the sombrero because she actually thought it was ironically cool. My advice? “Don’t buy it.”

We worked the market in 100F heat, stall by stall, looking for nick-nacks and paddy-wacks for the three (in total) Midis (two his, one mine). I stopped to handle some maracas which I thought a wonderful idea as Midi-Me is so musical. “What’s she gonna do with those?” asked Mr A. “Play them!” I countered, helpfully demonstrating with a cheeky 10-second shimmy. I realised I was buying them for myself. Upon his advice I instead chose a cute wooden spinning top and a white top of the wearing kind (one I could borrow...)

At the airport we had time to kill. As we walked around, the normally laid-back Mr A encountered a vast heap of overpriced synthetic velour sombreros in assorted sizes and hues and became somewhat crazed, flinging sombreros around. “Which one shall I get her? The red one? The yellow one? The green one?” “Get a small one,” I reasoned. “No I think I should get a bigger one; how about this, or this?” There was nothing I could do but shake my head and walk away. I became momentarily sidetracked with some maracas and two shakes later I returned to find him clutching a turquoise monstrosity with gold braiding, too heavy for anyone but the butchest Mexican to carry on his head for more than 30 seconds. (Number of people we saw wearing a sombrero in Mexico: zero.) “I’m not carrying that for you,” I remarked.

The book!
I also brought home a pretty painted octopus which Midi-Me loved because there is an
Octopus named after her in Mr Angelina’s children’s book which is being published this summer by Penguin Random House in India. Ayeshaand the Firefish is about a brave 10-year-old who accepts a mission to save the world while travelling it. It’s a bit like a kids’ version of the Da Vinci Code but cleverer, funnier and more unputdownable. Our heroine embarks on this adventure with the help of a sarcastic snail on a surfboard, and under the radar of her hedge-fund-manager-mother and her househusband-father. The story was born out of so many bedtime stories that Mr A made up for his Midi-girls when they were Mini-girls.

The last few months has been an education for all of us. Midi-Me and I have watched as Mr A has skilfully edited and honed his manuscript and now…  it is ready for launch! Inside are cute illustrations and the cover is colourful and sparkly with a beautiful Puffin logo in the corner… just like what we read when we were kids! I am beyond thrilled for him, and I get to see my name in print, on the thank you page. I was his self-proclaimed muse of course (– a very important job which luckily could be carried out alongside my three favourite activities, i.e. eating, thinking about writing and watching Real Housewives.)

So the moral of this story is: if you want to write a book but for whatever reason are not doing it, marry someone that will and experience the glory vicariously. I realise that’s not a very good life lesson for one’s Midi-Me but heck, no one’s perfect.

Oh and if you are wondering, Midi-Me loved the spinning top as much as she loved the octopus and was glad I didn’t buy the maracas. And yes, Mr A’s Midi loved the monstrous blue sombrero too!  Shows how much I know about teenagers… I’ll stick to Housewives.

mynotesfromtheedge.blogspot.com * facebook.com/angelinamelwani * twitter @appleina *Instagram @mynotesfromtheedge *


Angelina and Midi-Me change their mindsets.

Mummy on the Edge
Families North West London Magazine
May June 2016




As a kid watching telly, I would get very excited whenever I saw an Asian person on the television. I’d make a quick lap to the foot of the stairs and back to shout, “Indian person on the telly!” so that my sisters and parents could share the thrill.

On BBC 2 on Sunday mornings they used to show an English language teaching programme. One day they featured an Indian lady learning to drive; hitting the breaks suddenly, nearly whiplashing herself and her instructor in the process, she learned the invaluable phrase “Oof! Vut vent rung?” (Nope, not offensive when I do it.)

With the achingly cringeworthy Desi Rascals enjoying 2 primetime seasons, you would think that I’d be over it by now. But no. Seeing an Asian on the telly STILL manages to press my novelty button and I now subject Midi-Me to my compulsion. If we are zapping channels on a Saturday night and an Asian name appears at the bottom of the screen in the XFactor programme info, are you kidding? Of course, we HAVE to watch it.

Same went for a Ted talk that flashed up on my facebook feed. Teach girls bravery, not perfection says the founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani Everything in the description made me want to watch this immediately.  Also… INDIAN!!! I have put a link to this talk on my facebook page; it’s well worth a watch. It came at a timely moment because Midi-Me and I had just been to a talk by Robin Launder (behaviourbuddy.co.uk) all about Mindset Theory which stems from the research work of psychologist Carol Dweck. It’s about prioritising bravery over perfection when it comes to the education of our kids.

Dweck’s work has highlighted the difference in achievements between those with a growth mindset and those with a fixed mindset. If you have a fixed mindset, you believe that people are born with a certain level of intelligence that cannot be changed. If you have a growth mindset, you believe that intelligence can increase. When we praise children for being clever, this fosters in them a fixed mindset which discourages them from taking risks (eg harder work) because of the fear that they will fail and show themselves to be not so clever after all. By contrast, when we praise children for their efforts, it encourages a growth mindset which makes them want to work harder and improve themselves for the joy of learning things that they haven’t mastered YET. I have tried to synthesize this HUGE subject into a single paragraph. There’s a lot more to it. I will put up some other links on my facebook page that explain more about Mindset Theory for it is not an overstatement to say that this talk has changed my life. I now believe I can create new neural paths in my brain by using the Italian in a Month app on my phone every day. I now understand better why I am the way I am and how the way I am affects Midi-Me…

She is loving learning to code at school and of course I’m hoping she’ll design some amazing app that will make us her rich and pre-pay her way through university. In the mean time, she’s providing feedback on someone else’s really useful app. Isn’t it strange how things appear just when you need them? I was encouraging Midi-Me to create a revision timetable for her forthcoming exams when up popped a facebook status update from someone I went to primary school with, announcing her creation of a free app called Study M8 that does just that. You enter the subjects, topics, time available and priorities and it works it all out for you. Genius! Midi-Me and I suggested scheduling reward activities too. While we were downloading Study M8, we found another free app called Gojimo that provides self-tests for loads of subjects covering 11+, 13+, GCSE and A Levels. It even covers different examination boards.

IF I had not spent so much time in front of the box scanning for Indians; IF I had known about growth mindsets; IF there were such things as apps to help me study; IF. I might at this point in my life be giving a Ted Talk myself, instead of sitting here saying “IF”. With my new growth mindset however, I know it’s not too late; there’s still time to learn to be brave.

More at mynotesfromtheedge.blogspot.com and facebook.com/angelinamelwani and twitter @appleina.