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