Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Mummy on the edge, Families NW Magazine September

Angelina Melwani and Mini-Me share their Olympic journey

By the age of about four, Mini-Me was displaying an early taste for schadenfreude and I think it was me who had inadvertently cultivated this bent by recounting tales from my childhood. I found that the stories she most appreciated invariably involved a degree of mild cruelty and peer-induced humiliation. And there could be no more fertile ground for such stories than school, specifically the sports field. Failing to learn to swim in late autumn in the freezing cold outdoor swimming pool which was peppered with dead daddy-long-legs. A failed javelin attempt which landed me on my bottom in a ditch covered in a chocolate coating of mud. And these are just the highlights. All in all, my collective PE attempts were a jaw-dropping display of physical ineptitude. If there had been yoga on the curriculum, I might have excelled at it. But by the time of the post A level boat dance (the dodgy uncle of today's high school prom, held on a non-travelling, rickety old vessel docked somewhere on the Thames), my need for sport had been sated only by hours wasted at the wonky pool table in the common room.

Mini-Me however is destined for greater things. She can ride a bike (thanks to my wonderful friend who taught her while I was away on a trip), she can swim (thanks to years of swimming lessons, come summer and winter), she did a couple of terms of karate (before giving up because it was too stressful) and we have discovered that she has good aim (through a couple of goes at velcro archery on a school trip and at summer camp last year). I am very relieved that having a supremely mal-coordinated mummy-on-the-edge has merely dampened and not drowned her prospects of sporting prowess.

Mini-Me and I were in Harrow holding a banner for super-boy Jai Padhiar (son of my friend and colleague, Versha, Sing and Sign franchisee for Brent Cross, Edgware and Mill Hill) as he carried the Olympic torch - and a big grin. Together, over a greasy takeaway, we watched the rousing Olympic opening ceremony, feeling in our bones that this was the start of something we would never forget. Mini-Me stayed up very late to witness the relentless parade of participating countries, yanking me awake from post-biriani zonkage towards the end, screaming, “Mum, wake up! It's team GB!”

In the farce which was the Olympic ticket drama, I managed to claim possession of the hottest tickets of the games, (and if they weren't the hottest, we were darn well gonna pretend that they were) Beach Volleyball. Predictably, I had never attended a public sporting event other than Mini-Me's sports day and a baseball game while on holiday in New York. Whilst I anticipated some socio-anthropological enlightenment to be gained from attending the games and I was really looking forward to many years of smug reminiscence of how I took Mini-Me to the London 2012 Olympics, I simply was not prepared for how much PROPER ENJOYMENT would actually be had on the day! The night before the match, I went online to find out about whom we would be seeing and was absolutely delighted to realise that we were going to be watching MEN as well as women and the men's teams included Brazil and the potential hotness of Italy. Result! I had just assumed that the tickets were for Women's Beach Volleyball only.

Mini-Me and I were entranced with the festive atmosphere. The weather was fabulous, the tip of the London Eye was visible on one side and we couldn't help but get sucked into the sporting spirit, shouting and whooping all the way. We particularly enjoyed the swimwear-clad dancers shaking their male and female booties in a joyous conga (sadly not shown on telly) every ten minutes. It was major fun!

This previously alien enthusiasm for watching sports tightened its fist around the baton of our mini household and raced away with us throughout the first two weeks of August. We were overwhelmed with Olympic fever and fervour, glued to the telly watching diving, fencing, volleyball, pole vault, triathlon, synchronised swimming, running, unidentified flying object throwing and much, much more.

Like many parents, I'm wondering how to capitalise on this Olympic enthusiasm and encourage Mini-Me to get out there and “do it”. I'm guessing that the way forward is less stories of my epic failures and creating more opportunities to practice and excel together. I guess I'll be volunteering myself for target practice just as soon as the eleven plus is over...

For more Life on the Edge with Angelina including a trip to Lake Garda, visit Angelina runs Sing and Sign baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth. More info at