Saturday 1 November 2008

Mummy on the Edge Families NW Magazine Nov/Dec 2008

November/ December 08
Mummy on the Edge
Angelina and Mini-Me are seasonally confused and spiritually renewed.

Something is weird in the state of Angelina and it pleases me to blame the Large Hadron Collider.

We’ve obviously all jumped to a parallel universe. I began sleeping in a thick woollen cardigan in August so by now it’s actually springtime in my head. Therefore I have been gripped with a new-found zeal for cleanliness and have been industriously nuking my sponges in the microwave, scanning the fridge for any whiff-emitting pathogens and devising mnemonics to help Mini-Me avoid the fate of turning out just like her mother. The latest? ABCDE. This is to help her keep her room tidy and I’m pleased to report that it has worked. “No way!!” I hear you cry. Way. We tell our children to go tidy their rooms – but they don’t know how. It is a mammoth task and it is overwhelming when you don’t know where to begin – especially if you are small and have lots of Stuff. So, this is how it goes: A- Animals (cuddly toys), B-Books and make Bed, C-Clothes, D-Dust – E-Everything Else! (Okay, I got sidetracked with an article on Sarah Palin by the time I got to E – those maverick hockey mums, dontcha jus’ love ‘em). I explained this method, Mini-Me executed it 3 days in a row and then the House Fairy paid her a visit leaving a note and a shiny blue hoola hoop on her bed! Such a bedimpled grin you never did see! “Thank you for buying me a hoola hoop, Mummy!” “Me??” “House Fairy can’t go shopping, Mummy, she’s a fairy!” Duh!

If you want to do it properly, go to I’m just improvising but I intend on subscribing soon. Just waiting for these couple of months to pass until it’s the Summer Holidays again. Doh! I also got hold of some proper ostrich-feather dusters in me and Mini-Me sizes and they actually work and make dusting fun. Yes, really! We dust and then shake them outside to release the dust. For Mini-Me’s added amusement I favour singing the head-banging bit from Bohemian Rhapsody while doing this; it’s really very effective. (For stockists visit

So I have yet to think of something memorable for myself to keep the place tidy and anyway, the alphabet is not long enough for my list of things to do. See, the aim every year has been to Clean And Tidy My House And My Accounts Before Diwali which is traditionally a time when you invite the Goddess of prosperity into your pristine home for a Hindu high-five in recognition of your salutary efforts. My own efforts appear to have solicited simply a single finger rather than a whole hand and I wasn’t sure I could do any better this year. I needed extra credit; spiritual insurance if you will.

So I packaged Mini-Me in her Sai School of Harrow uniform and dispatched her onto the stage of Trafalgar Square no less, to participate in the Mayor of London’s Diwali Celebration in front of squillions of people. This free Saturday school ( staffed entirely by volunteers, serves 550 children and promotes values such as truth, non-violence, right conduct, love and peace as well as an appreciation and respect of all faiths. Its pupils are a yearly feature at the Diwali Celebrations in Trafalgar Square and its students have won many accolades and even performed in front of her Maj the Queen herself! Initially, Mini-Me was unsure about the prospect of standing on a stage in front of a thronging crowd singing a Diwali song. But I had spent 5 Saturdays watching the endearingly shambolic rehearsals and the morning of the performance I had played the cd of the song her group was going to perform 20 times (I am still singing it as I write this!) I had also fleetingly daydreamed about posting pictures on Facebook of her sharing a joke with Boris Johnson. As we approached the artiste’s entrance to the stage which was located beneath Nelson’s Column, Mini-Me looked skyward, eyebrows knitted, and made her warbling oo-er noises. I assured her that Nelson’s Column was not wobbling as she thought it was, it was just the clouds flying past really fast because they were excited. In the end, all it took was a minor mishap to dispel nerves and induce fitfull giggle-singing, with a prop falling to the floor in the middle of the performance. All was well and I leeched some spiritual credit from Mini-Me.
High-Five and Merry Christmas! I’m off to dust the baubles to the tune of St Elmo’s Fire.

Angelina Melwani runs Sing and Sign baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at

Monday 1 September 2008

Mummy on the Edge. Families NW Magazine Sep/ Oct 2008

September/ October 08
Mummy on the Edge
Angelina and Mini-Me get green-fingered.

The job of preventing six-year-old Mini-Me from picking up my environmental and financial neuroses is getting increasingly trickier. She is, after all, actually a mini version of me and when I was her age I was very seriously worried about the ice-age that was about to envelope our planet. I had become aware of this impending doom after viewing an adult documentary thanks to complete non-vetting of television viewing by my parents. (Don’t ask about the long-term effects of watching the Nostradamus predictions when I was 9 – that man has a whole childhood of anxiety to answer for!) Nowadays, in the media, it is virtually impossible to avoid the vacuous and lazy discussions tenuously linked to the “Credit Crunch”. “What’s that, mummy?” “It’s a brand new cereal filled with a tasty blend of oatflakes hazelnuts and sultanas,” I answer without batting an eyelid. “Are you being sarcastic, mummy?” “Yes, Darling”.
So, in the shadow of global ecological disaster and the energy crisis, and cowering under my overdraft (all fun and games isn’t it?) I have morphed into some sort of Noughties’ single-parent version of Barbara Goode. No, I’m not keeping pigs in the shed (yet). Mini-Me and I went to Jacques Amand Nurseries in Clamp Hill, Stanmore. They support the Shaw Trust (a national charity that provides training and work opportunities for disadvantaged people) so you find that many of the plants on site have been planted and looked after by someone who has really needed the opportunity to learn a new skill and achieve something. They also have really good sales periodically and all the bulbs etc are provided by Jacques Amand who are world-renowned bulb specialists. (call The Shaw Trust at Clamp Hill Nursery on 020 8954 4287 to find out when the next sale is). Overladen, staggering to and from the car to the house like some gold-sandaled tree nymph, Mini-Me helped me carry armfuls of tomato, hostas and bedding plants, then helped me fill our hanging baskets. At time of writing, they are not quite the dizzying cascade of vivid hues that I promised her. But they will do.
We also picked up many cheap packets of seeds from Lidl - where they are cheap-cheap-cheap but it is perhaps a false economy because I haven’t yet curbed my addiction to purchasing random items of pseudo-usefulness (example: over-door hooks that fit not one door in my house). There’s little I can think of that’s more joyful to a six year old (apart from an “Intendo DS”, of course) than the sight of little green shoots pointing up from seemingly barren soil after plonking some seeds in and forgetting about them. Especially when she has been reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden” (highly recommended). As well as tomatoes, we planted cucumber, courgettes, onions, beans and broccoli and I’m sure it’s the wrong time for most of them but hopefully there will be some sort of baby vegetable to slap between two slices of bread before too long. After we had planted everything, Mini-Me getting really excited and mucky, I found this website, which details what you should be doing in the garden at any given time of the year. It appears that it’s never too late to start your own little pot or patch of flowers and edibles and right now is great for sowing spring bulbs, some types of oriental leaves, garlic and onions.

It’s September already but hopefully, we still have some late autumnal days of sunshiney enjoyment left, surveying the fruits of our haphazard labour, as we breakfast on our lovely teak patio dining set, (bought for £20 second-hand via the net – worra satisfying bargain). We pretend we are on holiday beneath the red parasol, ignoring the sound of next door’s rotweiller snarling at us from the other side of the fence (peace be with them). And then we gather our towels (Mini-Me’s book bag) and take a leisurely stroll to the beach (walk to school). This term, in another attempt to help save the world and get fit at the same time, I have vowed to drag Mini-Me up the hill by walk when possible. Mini-Me is inspired by the beautiful gardens of the bungalows along our route and I tell her the elderly have so much time for watering and weeding.

Well, it’s time for this latter-day Barbara Goode (-no Tom in sight, unfortunately -) to pour herself a satisfying bowl of Credit Crunch and plan her own Harvest Festival. Happy sowing.

Angelina Melwani runs Sing and Sign baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Mummy on the Edge Families NW Magazine July August 2008

July August 08
Mummy on the Edge
Angelina Melwani and Mini-Me find themselves inside a figurative box of choccies and set their own boot sale challenge.

Each production at the The Little Angel Puppet Theatre is like a small box of exquisite, handmade chocolates that, once you start munching, you do not want to end. The theatre is so dark, intimate and bijou that it actually feels as though you are inside a box of chocolates! The tiered seats allow you to see how detailed and lovingly crafted the set and props are. Recently, we visited the LAPT to watch their interpretation of The Elves and the Shoemaker which is Mini-Me’s favourite fairy tale (probably because she sympathises with the impoverished Shoemaker as I’m always telling her “No, we can’t afford that!” - whatever it is). The superbly earnest and enthusiastic shoemaker acted and sweated his way through the entire hour and a half single-handedly (- well two-handedly) controlling 4 puppets plus an audience full of participating children whilst, at one point simultaneously playing about 3 musical instruments! And I thought men couldn’t multi-task… Mini-Me is still singing “Cobbler, Cobbler Mend my Shoe” word-perfectly which is great for her tightwad mother because it’s reinforcing the concept of fixing old stuff.
After the puppets, we walked down Essex Road to Giraffe, a chain restaurant whose motto is Love, Eat, Live. (Synergistic with my own: Eat, Eat, Eat.) We ate rubbery, expensive food that, heartbreakingly, I could have prepared at home for a fraction of the price (I’m such an Indian). But I’m not giving the place enough credit; the ambience inside was good and the world music truly uplifting; to the point where we barely noticed we were sitting opposite a dingy block of council flats, nor the drunken vagrants staggering past the window, waving. Mini-Me also will now never forget how to spell “giraffe”.

We ventured further, investigating the chi-chi boutiques and market stalls of Camden passage and surrounding area which looked as though someone had taken the entire contents of my mother’s, sisters’ and my wardrobes, jewellery boxes and toy chests from birth to ooh, about five years ago and transported them to these streets. It was delightfully sick-making! When we entered a shop selling period clothing from the Victorian (I think) age, it made my tummy go a little more funny and I’m not sure if it was because of the thought of real people going about their business wearing these very clothes or the stress of having to remind Mini-Me that it was okay to Look but not to Touch. After all, if something gets damaged we would have to pay for it and, as I’ve said before, “No, we can’t afford that!” Hmm. Note to self: Apply for next series of Dragon’s Den with child-sized straightjackets idea – perfect for chi-chi shopping.


How does that old song go? If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with, right? Well, unfortunately, it’s looking decreasingly likely that we’ll be moving into my 3-floor dream house in Maida Vale so we have entrenched ourselves in the house that we had previously decided to sell and decided to make more of an effort to love it. Yes, it is less tidy now that people aren’t coming to inspect it at random times of the day but Mini-Me and I are continuing with the disposal of Stuff at a steady rate and we will soon have enough of a pile to do another Car Boot Sale. The last one I did was scary and stressful in a netherworldly, parallel universe kind of way. Think pitch black, bleak mid-winter; 5.30 in the morning; strange alien-like beings with torches crowding around; interrogating you and fighting over stuff that you have not yet unloaded from your car as you riverdance in your wellies to keep warm. Anyway, I am cannier now. I recorded about 15 different Antique-Boot-Sale-Challenge-Anneka- type programmes and forced Mini-Me to take notes (good handwriting practise) while watching them with me. So, after the last boot sale debacle, I am prepared and will never again make the mistake of not having a table to display my wares on, not having decided prices and answering probing questions like, “What is?” and “How much?” with a panicked, “I don’t know, I’ve got a headache!!” Also, it’s Summer, man. I can take the child with me and her cute face will surely help me shift our stuff. If not, I can always poke her with a used curtain rod and make her riverdance.

Angelina Melwani runs Sing and Sign baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at

Thursday 1 May 2008

Mummy on the Edge - Families Mag May/June 2008

May June 08
Mummy on the Edge
Angelina Melwani treads the boards and discovers Newton’s 2nd Law.

It’s been a very busy few months for our household of two. Two weeks before my end of term and the performances of the musical I had been rehearsing for the past year or so, I lost my voice. Completely. I resorted to using a whistle to grab Mini-Me’s attention. “WHOOOOOOO!!!!! Breakfast time. WHOOOOOOO!!!! Brush your teeth WHOOOOOO!!! Pick up these books right now please.” In the absence of the ability to raise my voice, I raised my eyebrows and sometimes Mini-Me’s hair, when my eyes popped out of their sockets; I tell you, the non-verbal communication I’m always preaching to my Sing and Sign mummies and daddies reached whole new level. As did the fatigue of daily teaching, evening rehearsals and high-anxiety nights. Muteness gave way to Mariella Frostrup-like huskiness and the full use of my vocal chords eventually prevailed.

Mini-Me was insistent about coming to watch her mother on stage but the performance was very long and very late. So I took her to Willow’s Farm in St Albans in the mistaken belief that it would tire her out enough for her to want a late afternoon nap. We saw lazy piglets, little lambs, baby hamsters and fluffy chicklets. We participated in the external Easter Bunny Hunt in the freezing and biting wind and watched in disbelief as nutty parents allowed their children to dip their hands get wet, panning for gold. When my ears, nose and fingers had completely lost all sensation (Mini-me was warmly mummified), we took cover in the arena to watch a show where a woman with a West Country accent animated some farm animal puppets with her hand and made every one sing (apart from me). I wasn’t really concentrating because I was watching the flapping tent-like roof and cosmically ordering it to stay attached to the building. We ate an adequate lunch in the cafĂ© and I let her run around in “Woolly Jumpers”, Willow Farm’s Piccadilly Circus-like soft play area, while I downed a coffee and watched those brave enough to freefall down the vertical slide. By the time we came back home, it was time for me to leave, utterly knackered, for the theatre. Mini-me did not actually have a nap in the end which meant that the trip to Willow’s Farm had totally defeated its purpose. The feat of staying up till 11 without grumpiness was therefore even more miraculous! Mini-me told me the next day, “Mummy when I saw you singing on stage I had happy tears.” And that gave me happy tears, too. Although treading the boards felt more like walking the plank, I wanted to do it to inspire Mini-me and make her proud of her mum. I think it worked.

On a rare, mild day, we ventured to the Science Museum (3 six-year olds and 2 grown-ups) to experience the recently re-vamped Launch Pad. The website’s suggested 60 minutes wasn’t enough at all. Like a camel, carrying my banana-laden handbag, 2 kiddie backpacks, 2 puffy coats, my coat and a plastic bag full of drinks and sandwiches, I marshalled them from exhibit to exhibit, methodically trying to explain how, why and what we were looking at. All the while our charges spun wheels, pressed buttons, picked up lentils from the floor of the pulley demonstration and stuffed them in their pockets, waved their hands in front of heat-sensitive cameras and vied over giant bubble wands, not listening to me AT ALL. I gave myself a headache trying to get them to imbibe some knowledge to accompany all these experiences and it felt as futile as trying to stuff a tissue into a drinking straw. That was a lesson for me and giving up (which I did, about half an hour in) was the right thing to do. After all, the whole point of the Launch Pad is to get kids involved with science, enjoy it, have fun with it and encourage them to question it; not necessarily there and then, but somewhere and at some point. We watched a twenty minute show about rockets led by a dryly comical “Explainer” (that’s what the staff are called) who exploded a tube of Pringles and dabbled with a naked flame. Exciting stuff. I whispered the answers to the questions to the children and poked them to raise their hands and answer; and volunteered to be pushed on a wheeled chair to demonstrate Newton’s 2nd Law. The things I do for Mini-Me and her friends. What’s Newton’s 2nd Law, I hear you ask. I’m not going to tell you, you’ll have to whiz down to Kensington with your own Mini-yous and find out yourself.

Angelina Melwani runs Sing and Sign baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at

Saturday 1 March 2008

Mummy on the Edge - Families Magazine March / April 2008

March April 08
Mummy on the Edge
Angelina Melwani goes head to head with Mary Poppins

I took Mini-Me to Lauderdale House set in the exquisite gardens of Waterlow Park in super-aspirational Highgate (perhaps I could afford a box-room there if I sold my house) to experience a Family Cabaret with well-known modern poet John Hegley who, in his inimitably grumpy-funny way played guitar and performed his rib-tickling poems about glasses which were so amusing that I actually regretted wearing my contact lenses. It’s quite uplifting to get away to a new area sometimes and I felt quite at ease dressed in my latest donation from Best Friend Fashion Buyer – a brown kimono-sleeved tunic which usually makes me feel like a medieval peasant girl when I wear it in Bushey. Yes, the bohemian air suited us and the atmosphere was wonderful but I have to admit it can still be a bit lonely when there are just two of you. For example, mini-me barely batted an eyelid when I whispered excitedly, “Look, look, that’s Mckenzie Crook in the audience!”

It seems Mini-Me cannot handle much scariness in the cinema. Happy Feet? Frightening. Mr Bean? Buried her face in my shoulder when he left his wallet at a phone box. “Ooh, mummy, I can’t watch this,” she warbled.

One movie she recently enjoyed on the telly is Mary Poppins, “Mummy, I LOVE Mary Poppins”. She said this so earnestly, with such passion and enthusiasm that I almost felt jealous. I took to singing songs in a semi-operatic way while loading the dishwasher, and saying “Come on, spit spot” instead of “WILL you hurry up and get your coat on for gawds sake!?” I asked her if she thought I was a bit like Mary Poppins and she said “No, but Mummy I would love to have Mary Poppins on DVD for my birthday”. So I went online and ordered it from Asda because it was the only thing she had asked me for. Whilst I was at it, I also ordered the Singalong version of the Sound of Music, and as a special treat for myself for being such a good mother (more Edina Monsoon – without mood enhancers - than Joan Crawford, anyway) the Amy Winehouse deluxe double CD.

Wouldn’t you know it, everything came before her birthday except Mary Poppins which arrived exactly two weeks after. Luckily I hadn’t mentioned it so it was a huge source of post-birthday delight when it finally came. In the mean time, the Sound of Music provided an equally gratifying way to spend 2 hours (I am definitely Maria) and I’ll be looking into booking theatre tickets for that show during the August kids week when selected West End shows offer a kids go free promotion (

So old really is gold but there’s plenty of new stuff out this Easter to keep ‘em entertained. I need to plan an itinerary of rewardage for Mini-Me’s patience as I have somehow got myself involved in a musical myself and she has been helping me learn my lines and songs. She’s too good at reading all the other parts and is turning into a nightmare of a stage daughter. It’s quite terrifying hearing a six year old say, “Mummy, you haven’t practiced for a LONG TIME; you need to do your song EVERY DAY otherwise you’ll FORGET EVERYTHING” and most unnervingly hearing her provide cues like “Please, let me get you a drink”. I think I will definitely need one, when the performances are over - and I’m not talking Innocent Smoothie.

So, we’ll do movies (Horton Hears a Who looks like a good bet if I can manage to extract Mini-Me’s face from my cardigan for long enough). Many cinemas lay on special activities at the weekend kids shows. At the moment Mini-me loves Lazy Town so we’ll try to catch the live show at the Hackney Empire 9th & 10th April. Ha! That’ll put me waaaay ahead of Mary Poppins. And we can’t forget the obligatory Easter-themed festivities. Beautiful Kenwood House in Hampstead has an Easter Trail ( and yey! it’s £1 per child! And Lauderdale house, is holding an Eggstravaganza on Easter Sunday at 11am ( Although, to be honest I have a feeling I’ll just about manage to stagger to the Egg Hunt at King George Recreation Ground, Bushey around the corner from where we live.
Angelina Melwani runs Sing and Sign baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at

Tuesday 1 January 2008

Mummy on the Edge Families Magazine Jan/ Feb 2008

Mummy waaaaay back from the edge, positively inland.

Angelina Melwani visits the volcanic island of Lanzarote in search of some fun in the sun for Mini-Me… and finds a skill she thought she had lost forever.

What a difference a week of winter sun makes to someone who had resigned herself to never going on holiday until and unless she won one in a competition (thus negating the need to pay for it; the agonising over where to go; and the burden of being blamed should it turn out to be disastrous.)

We were in dire need of a proper break in the sun away from it all. (“It” being a euphemism for so many things, impossible to list within the confines of this column. Just think about your own worst “its” and substitute them.) The truth is, this need had been waxing for about a year, reaching an apex in the middle of our sopping summer, when it seemed every one Mini-Me and I knew was buggering off to climes hotter and more exotic than Bushey. She would come home from school sometimes sullen after her little pals had spent the entire duration of wet play regaling her with magical tales of sun, fun and kiddi-clubs.

“Mummy, one day I would like to go to Mooltah and Disneyworld and Doob-eyed.”

So, for many nights after tucking her into bed (when I should have been doing Sing and Sign admin or writing this column), I would trawl the web until the early hours, drooling over last minute offers, fingers hovering over but never quite hitting the “book now” button. I became quite doob-eyed! This went on for months until my holiday-booking and decision-making muscles were verily flexed and toned. I investigated where would be hot (The Canaries) and I looked on (where you can read real reviews by real people) for a hotel recommended for children. I decided on H10 Lanzarote Gardens in Costa Teguise which had won an award for family-friendliness (I hoped it included single-parent family friendliness). And then I booked it! Justlikethat. I prepared a treasure hunt of rhyming clues for Mini-Me and trailed them about the house (in the washing machine and under the bathroom mat) ending at our packed suitcase which had been hiding in my bedroom for 2 days. (I had thus far managed to keep her out by telling her I had seen a huge spider in there). And then we left on our big adventure, just she (superb company, I have to say) and I.

Mini-Me spent the first few minutes of the four-hour plane journey to Lanzarote asking if we were there yet until I told her that the more she asked, the longer it would take. She soon settled in with a dogeared copy of Pippi Longstocking which I had picked up for 30p at the School Christmas Fair - bargain. I spent the entire plane journey worrying that the hotel would deny all knowledge of the very reasonable booking which I had made direct with them after meticulously consulting all the price-comparison sites mentioned on We arrived without hitch, my face constricted with the maniacal rictus of someone who has decided that they ARE in control and WILL have a good time, NO MATTER WHAT. I sought validation from my five year old (“See, babe? We can do this! It’s gonna be great!” “Yes, mummy, we didn’t miss the plane, we haven’t got lost…”)

The apartment in the hotel was big and clean and lovely and the people were friendly, welcoming and most importantly looked like they were enjoying themselves. The entertainment team seemed to be made up of Cameron Diaz, Cat Deely, Enrique Iglesias and Shaggy from Scooby Doo. Mini-Me and I excelled at daily poolside yoga classes alongside 3 pensioners who happily discussed life, the universe and everything with my chatty little daughter. And I discovered a skill I never knew I had: relaxation, which I now practice at Olympic level.

Holiday. Mentioned that word to us last month and you would have received a pained look of yearning and desperation (or a thump). Mention it to us today however, and you will see us jumping up and down singing “We gonna ring reng dong for a holiday. (Put your arms in the air lemme hear you say!)” I’m going to start saving for the next one. Unless I win one first.

Angelina Melwani runs Sing and Sign baby signing courses in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at