Wednesday 1 November 2006

Mummy on the Edge - Families NW Magazine Nov/Dec 2006


Conkers and acorns, berries and birds. All subjects of discussion between Mini-me and I since joining Nature Detectives ( which is part of the Woodland Trust). They sent an autumn winter nature-spotting pack, with a booklet, chart and stickers to help you identify leaves and trees (oak, ash, beech, birch?) and berries and bugs. It’s really a brilliantly fun way of teaching our little ones all the stuff about nature that we never learned ourselves because it was too boring. The idea is to record the signs of nature including when and where you see them to build a national seasonal nature profile, however I wouldn’t trust myself to contribute officially because, to be honest, I don’t know my ash from my elbow!

I took Mini-me to Hampstead Heath on Seed Gathering Sunday (who knew?) for an organised two-hour walk learning about the Heath's trees and gathering acorns to plant, followed by a conker-off which she was looking forward to, since she knows there is not a hope in hell of getting me to perform conkerage of any sort for her amusement, being as I am uncompetitive, utterly un-coordinated and financially unprepared for private eye surgery. Unfortunately, I neglected to print out the exact starting locations of said events which I had found online and after a brisk two hours around the heath (which is huuuuuuge) getting clonked over the head with near-satellite accuracy by kamikaze conkers, I gave up looking. We retired instead to Finchley Road for an early dim sum dinner which was yum.

Have you made a will? No, me neither, but I will definitely be doing so now especially as November is Will-Aid month. Will Aid happens every two years and was thought up by a solicitor inspired by Live Aid in 1988. It basically offers the opportunity of having your Will professionally drawn up by a solicitor, but instead of paying their usual fee you can make a donation to some of the UK's best loved charities to help people here and abroad. This is a way to get your affairs in order and at the same time help many thousands of people in need. You can find out about local participating solicitors at

The silly season is upon us and I don’t know about you but I’m doubting my cope-ability already. I have so many dates to remember and I have not yet synchronised my life-changing-phone-gadget-thingy with Outlook on the computer. So now, including my conker-dented head, and about 6 scrappy old envelopes dotted around the house I have to check in 9 different places before I commit to anything else. There’s two Halloween parties, Mini-me’s ballet show (all three performances!), The Baby Show at Olympia, The Littlepeopleshow at Bushey Country Club, Diwali, not to mention assorted Christmas fairs, discos, concerts, etc. Where will it end? Without sounding like a grumpy old woman – hey what the hell, say it loud I’m grumpy and proud - everything is so commercialised. Christmas shopping fills me with dread and I’m thinking we should shun the high street in favour mums who sell stuff. There’s lots of us out there and I reckon if each of us commits to buying even 2 out of ten pressies from people we know, we would be doing a lot to boost the local economummy.

The festive season is a time for fun but also one for reflection. As with birthdays, we cannot help but look to the past to help us measure our progress in the present, but this can be scary if, as with me, life has changed so dramatically in a relatively short period. You find yourself asking, Jeez, what’s next? So this is when I turn to wise old Forrest Gump to remember that, “Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you might find”. Last Christmas, the most touching moment was when the sky was grey and heavy with the promise of snow and I urged Mini-me to cast a fairy spell which she did, instantaneously causing (she thought) great marshmallowy blobs of snow to float and settle on the ground; proof, as if needed of her magical powers. The wondrous look on her face was the best gift for me. “Mummy, I really made it snow!!” And it’s this that she remembers, not the unwrapping of some uber-slutty Bratz doll. So go out there and enjoy your festivities – and remember it really is the thought that counts…

Wednesday 13 September 2006

Mummy on the Edge Families NW Magazine Sept/ Oct 2006

Families September October
Mummy sur l’edge

The expanse of the summer presented itself, unfurled before me like an endless, bare picnic rug, What tantalising and delicious prospect could I pull out of the basket for me and Mini-Me, aside from the predictable (but often satisfying) cheese sarnie of the local park? This was my challenge, and I rose to it…

We are lucky to live in a land that provides innumerable Teddy-Bear’s Picnics, Fun Days, and larger family festivals (at many of which I can be found doing my Sing and Sign thang). I took Mini-Me to Under One Sky, Harrow’s fantastic all-day multi-cultural festival which took place on the sun-baked Kodak recreation ground. Maybe it’s the hippy in me, but I love the idea of communities getting together and dissolving boundaries with music, dance and food (oh yes food, mmmm). This event in particular was a living, throbbing venn-diagram of multi-culture and even though we got there at 5 in the evening, there was still so much to absorb from 5 stages featuring Bollywood dancers, Jazz bands, Tribal Drummers, kiddy fairground attractions and not to mention the aromatic flavours of world cuisine.

We ventured further, Mini-Me and I; she, like a bloodhound for merry-go-rounds and me for food, sun and music (and food, mmmm). The Taste of London food fair in Regents Park was a personal disappointment. My fault entirely for taking Mini-Me and vegetarian Best Friend the Fashion Buyer (who was dressed as though she’d been invited to a private viewing at the Serpentine Gallery). Can you imagine how problematic it is to navigate your way between 100s of fine restaurant stalls in the quest for food suitable and sharable for our spectrum of diverse palates, within the purchased token range. All the more so in between moans of “This is boring!! I want to go to the playground, mummy!!” and “I think it’s gonna rain. Do you think it’s gonna rain? I can’t stay if it rains; my hair”… BFFB ended up with a Mozzarella salad from Jamie Oliver’s 15teen that I could have made at home (no wild mushroom risotto in sight). I am still tearfully salivating over Aldo Zilli’s Lobster Ravioli which never passed my lips. Next year, for maximum enjoyment, I shall go on my own!

Deciding that we needed a proper break, I took Mini-Me on a Eurostar adventure to Paris where we stayed with “Auntie Annie” for four days in the suburbs with her children Xavier (2 and a half) and Audrey (8 months). This provided an outlet for Mini-Me’s (presently impractical) big-sisterly hankerings and precious catch-up time with one of my oldest schoolfriends. We then spent a couple of days in the centre of Paris on our own and behaved like proper, annoying tourists.
“Mummy, I
want to go to the top of the Irish Tower!” (What would Monsieur Eiffel say about that?)
“It’s taking a long time to find the loo, Mummy!” having told her we were on our way to the Louvre. Mini-Me went on her first rollercoaster and rode a horse for the first time at Le Jardin De Acclimatation (a beautiful park with loads of attractions for all ages). We found our way on the bus and on the Metro without getting lost. I impressed Mini with my impeccable French accent and hoped that a grasp of the same would reach her through cultural osmosis. All in all, I felt a huge sense of achievement because the week passed without major incident (aside from a hot chocolate puking incident at a café, but we were very discrete), Mini-Me was happy and we didn’t even miss the Eurostar home.

Last term, Mini-Me enjoyed Ballet (so cute in her too-big hand-me-down leotard) and Speech and Drama classes. No, I’m not some crazed pushy mother, it’s more about giving her confidence. She recited a poem on her own and in a group on stage in front of a hall full of people, something I never thought she would ever do. As the little ones filed on stage in their uniform of white buttoned up shirt and black trousers (giving the impression of a league of midget waiters queuing up to collect their payslips) I couldn’t help but shed a tear when she gave me a little wave and smile of confidence. I’d better get my act together and finalise September enrolments.

And now, picnic rug well and truly rolled up and shoved in the back of the cupboard, it is the start of the Autumn Term. Time for Mini-Me to enter Reception (gulp!) and for me to begin a new term of teaching. About time too, because I’m all picnicked out!

Tuesday 1 August 2006

Mummy on the Edge - Families NW Magazine July/ August 2006

Families Jul-August
Mummy on the Edge

Angelina Melwani on successful imperfection and simple summer pleasures.

What is it with four year olds and dawdling before school? Mini-Me goes off for a mid-breakfast loo-trip which should take her 2 minutes. 10 minutes later, she is still there on her throne expounding in loud sing-song voice on life, the universe and everything. So then I send her upstairs to undress in preparation for ablutions, a simple job which should take 60 seconds. Five minutes later I find her in meditative state on her bedroom floor drawing triangles in the shag pile with her finger. No sense of urgency whatsoever, unless ice cream or the park is mentioned. Surely, it’s nothing that one of these omnipotent TV child behaviourists couldn’t cure with a sticker chart. I did actually try that and designed a particularly wizzy version on the computer however I’m rubbish at filling it in and can’t remember where I’ve put the stickers.

In any case, I can’t blame Mini-Me when she obviously takes after her mother. I have to have a dozen things on the go at one time and inevitably some things take longer than they should. Indeed, sometimes interest wanes and I start something else, not making time to clear the mess of what I started first. I think I may have mild ADHD but BFFB (best friend, the fashion buyer) tells me I’m like this because I am so creative and my mind is always thinking of the next project. I have to say I like the latter explanation far better. Anyway, recently I have re-discovered a website that offers help to SHEs (Sidetracked Home Executives) who may be suffering from CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome).

It is and FLY stands for “finally loving yourself”, which does sound like an awful, saccharin American notion but it is packed with practical, non-patronising ideas on how to run your household indeed, your life with minimum effort and maximum efficiency. Daily e-mails help you keep up with bite size 15-minute chores. One of the main principles is that you can do anything for 15 minutes. This is a refreshing concept for those with hours of mess to clear up but little time or inclination to do so. Perfectionism and fear of failure is to blame. You see, we wait till we have time to do things perfectly and we never have time, so they never get done. The answer? Strive for imperfection of course, and you’ll always succeed!

I heard a superb line from a Jamie Cullam song, “Life is full of overrated pleasures and underrated treasures”. Watching your kids play in the garden definitely falls into the latter category but if the garden you’re planning on using is your own and you can’t afford a gardener, it necessitates some bloomin’ hard work. Mine had got to the point where all I could see was Mini-Me’s disembodied head bouncing around in the grass so, while she stood watching with her hands over her ears, I did what was necessary, also taking the time to trim the hedge that flanks our entrance (as BFFB was decidedly unimpressed with the complimentary re-style she received at her last visit…). As for the rest, arms still juddering from the Bushey Hedge Trimmer Massacre, I looked to Mini-Me for guidance on what to pull out and what to leave in, but all she could offer was a smiley, sympathetic shrug and some bubbles.

So summer is finally here and the priority (aside from keeping afloat as a newly single mother!) is keeping Mini-Me busy and happy. In the past month there have been numerous trips with varying degrees of success. We took the tube to the Science Museum where I briefly considered kidnapping one of staff (dressed as they were in orange t-shirts emblazoned with “EXPLAINER”); she’s enjoyed the traditional and magical street-side atmosphere of Pinner Fair; a trip to Henley with the grandparents; and last Sunday we spent the whole day at the wonderful Peter Pan-themed Diana Memorial Park in Kensington Gardens, complete with pirate ship, sand pits and sunken crocodile shaped rocks. This is big, exciting stuff compared to what I got up to when I was little – watching Mork and Mindy and waiting forever for household supplies to run out so I could fashion the empty tubes and containers into unidentifiable tat.

One day, I asked Mini-Me what her favourite had been. She tilted her head and looked pensive for a few seconds, then looked at me, smiled and said, “ I liked Casiobury Park in Watford with Megan and Kieran”. Which just goes to show you, it’s the simple things in life that make the greatest impact; a bouncy castle, a chug on an open-top steam train, a £2.50 kids lunch at Café Cha Cha Cha, unlimited swinging and sliding, ice cream and, most importantly, good friends to share it with.
Angelina runs Sing and Sign baby signing courses in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at

Monday 1 May 2006

Mummy on the Edge - Families NW Magazine May/June 2006

Mother on the Edge
By Angelina Mapara

Yesterday, I committed the most heinous of crimes against my 4 year old little girl (aka Mini-Me). This crime has generated a palpable and overflowing aura of guilt above my head which has already permeated the very foundations of my house; In fact I’m sure it will be termed “residual guilt” by the Derek Acorah equivalent who will pace around the house in a century seeking clues about the tortured souls that inhabited the place in times gone by.

What did I do to solicit this? No, of course I didn’t smack her. And no, I didn’t follow through with my threat to throw all her toys away if she didn’t pick them up off the floor ( - I find theatrically collecting them in a Tesco bag works well enough). I actually forgot a nursery friend’s birthday party. Gasp!

I just don’t know how it happened. It’s the middle of school holidays, but I’m still teaching. It’s the end of my term, my back has gone into spasm and I have all but lost my voice. In short, I feel like a character from Death Becomes Her (y’know, when all their body parts start falling off and they’re trying to stick them back on any which way). I attached the invite to the fridge door with a tasteless magnet; and I put the entry in my life-changing-phone-gadget-thingy. But I set the reminder for a day before, and by the time Sunday came, the thought had vanished. No mean feat, since every other day, Mini-Me had been asking “Are we going to Emily’s party today?”
So, Sunday morning was here and I was looking for things that would cheer us up because we’ve been through the mill somewhat this last year, due to the creative exploits of soon-to-be-ex-husband (aka “Mr Small”). I grabbed my trusty copy of Families to check kids’ theatre listings, but there was nothing on that particular day. Checked out the Harrow Museum Website ( for free Sunday Jazz concerts, but weirdly again, nothing mentioned for that particular day. These should all have been big red arrows pointing to “EMILY’S PARTY” illuminated in lights. Sadly… nothing.
It was raining and cold and I racked my brains for some way to pass the time which wouldn’t entail too much physical exertion on my part. We’d already been to my fab and clean local park with its slides, swings and Aerial Runway (King George, Bushey) on Saturday when the deceptive sunshine belied the biting wind that whipped our noses. We’d treated ourselves to a cappuccino and chocy muffin from La Dolce Vita (the excellent family-run café in the park, open 7 days a week 8:00am - 4:00pm).
So where else, on a rainy day? The thought of indoor soft-play centres on a holiday weekend, sent my back into further psychosomatic spasms, so it was looking like destination Ikea. Just then, I got a phone call from my best friend, the fashion buyer who was en route to Brent Cross Shopping Centre. Hurrah! Surely there would be some child-orientated Easter-egg decorating-type holiday merriment there. The downside being the mortification of looking like chopped liver in comparison to all the princesses shopping with their mothers and daughters, not to mention BFFB, who’s actual job it is to look achingly, effortlessly perfect. So I wore jeans and a new green “aged 13” top I bought reduced to £2 (no VAT!) in Primark and risked my ancient silver high heeled boots. Mini-Me was resplendent in Kenzo polo neck (a gift) and jeans. FBBF barely recognized us - I took this as a (veiled) compliment.
Disappointingly, there were no activities, but we did enjoy a pleasant afternoon, spending our advantage card points on bath time treats, browsing dungarees in Hennes for Mini-Me and deftly dodging exorbitant foil-balloon sellers. A cake and hot chocolate topped with lashings of whipped cream always does wonders for Mini-Me’s spirits. When we left, even the elephant noise coming from the car door (can you use olive oil on car doors?) couldn’t dampen our spirits. Until, whilst driving home, I realised what I had forgotten and my face was contorted into Edvard Munch’s The Scream, requiring months of Botox to correct…
Angelina Mapara runs Sing and Sign baby signing courses in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at