The knowledge of everything I did not achieve this summer is pricking the very soul of my being. Not least in the garden. If I stand still for 30 seconds I will be suffocated in bindweed. The runner beans are a feast for the slugs. And the courgette we planted inappropriately in a little hanging basket is producing many pretty flowers (which I should be stuffing with Mini Mars Bars, coating in batter and deep frying to outdo both Nigella and Jamie in one fell swoop) but perplexingly, no courgettes. This is what you get when you plonk stuff anywhere without the associated necessary labour: A big, fat, green, mess. And a mysterious crack - wide and gaping enough to swallow all the wads of cash that it will probably take to diagnose and fix - in the concrete outside the shed...
One beautiful Sunday morning, I decided that Mini-Me and I would tackle the garden and make them look… less disastrous. I would pull and she would dump, to the rhythm of next door’s intrusive “BOOM BOOM” base, punctuated by frightening rottweiller growls to keep us on our toes. And then it dawned on me. We’ve “tried and tried again” and “made things fun to get things done”. What a perfect day to teach Mini-Me another valuable life lesson: “When it’s all too much to deal with, one must simply run away.” And so we did.
“Yey mummy! I’m so excited! We’re going to the seaside!” It was 12.30 by the time I had located the bucket and spade, twice told Mini-Me not to get too excited (kind preparation for likely let-down) Googled the nearest bit of seaside to Northwest London (Canvey Island) and filled up plastic bottles with filtered water. Child-Nav sat in the back, reading aloud from the journey planner I had printed off theAA.com (“Take the second exit off the roundabout signposted: Oh... sorry, Mummy”) and we got there by 2.30 to find a thin concrete strip covered in semi-naked bodies, a steep bumpy slope and sea. No sand. The tide was high. We walked down this disappointing promenade until we found a handkerchief-sized patch of crumbled shells and set up camp for 2 hours. I had promised Mini-Me that we would go to the seaside during the holidays. And now that she would be starting 3 weeks of Drama, Sports and Music Camp run by Hertsmere Play services (just 50 quid a week with experts drafted in) I could relax in the knowledge that I had fulfilled my promise.
Closer to home, last Saturday, I took Mini-Me to Wood Lane for a CBBC tour! We were shown around by Louisa and Richard, jolly, happy acting types – who remarkably remembered all the children’s names and ensured each had a turn at “taking part”. Mini-Me took charge of the sound buttons in a mock-up of a Weakest Link studio, generating applause, groans and quiz show boings at will as well as seamlessly performing a voice over: “Next on CBBC…” etc. While another little girl controlled the studio lighting and touched a screen to select clips, the rest were in front of the camera answering questions and reading from the autocue. Mini-me dressed up as a hobbit in a pretend “Raven” game show (actually, I’ve no idea if that’s right – I’ve never watched it personally – but it was some sort of brown cloak and she was supposed to threaten to eat children, I think). As I sat on the bench in the Sunken Garden in front of dear old Shep’s statue, I wondered at how tiny the Blue Peter garden is compared to how it looks on telly! We now know why - because they use a wide angle lens to film it. We visited some rather posh looking dressing rooms that Take That had been in (at some point in the near to distant past). And looked down from the heights of the hundreds of heavy lights shining upon the studio of Eggheads. If we could go again I would choose a weekday rather than a Saturday as we didn’t see any kiddies programmes actually being filmed. It was very quiet and my secret desire of seducing Adrian Chiles in the BBC canteen went unfulfilled. But none of that made any difference to Mini-Me who thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. I think she may finally have found an alternative career goal to being a Sing and Sign teacher, like mummy.
Angelina Melwani runs Sing and Sign baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at www.singandsign.com