Sunday 1 November 2009

Mummy on the Edge. Families NW Mag - Nov Dec 2009

Mummy on the edge is stumped by the shortcomings of positive suggestion and Mini-Me joins an inclusive theatre.

I am not having a meltdown. I am not having a meltdown. I am not having a meltdown. Mini-Me is taking an age to get ready for school despite me chivvying her along periodically. We now have to leave in five minutes and she has not brushed her hair; neither has she eaten her porridge nor put on her shoes. What hope is there that she will finish writing her Christmas cards before Halloween 2010? I can feel my blood pressure rising but, I tell you, I am NOT having a meltdown. I have merely shut myself in the bathroom to rock backwards and forwards, head in hands, and mutter to myself, “I am not having a meltdown. I am not having a meltdown”. Not so much positive affirmation as comprehensive denial. You see, I don’t want to be a shouting mummy like pregnant, stretch-tattoo-bellied, banshee next door. I want to be a kind, understanding, patient, nice mummy equipped with All The Answers. A friend was talking to me about the power of affirmations so I tried this with Mini-Me. “Repeat after me, darling: I am quick, I am fast, I am like lightning. I can focus on what I need to do. I do not get sidetracked by a map of the world. I do my homework the day I get it. I do not practise flying on a school morning.”


Last Christmas, Mini-Me had the lead in the school play, Baboushka, which is a Russian folk tale based on the Nativity. She had precisely two tonnes of lines to learn, more than I could ever have managed to remember. I turned up ridiculously early and settled myself in the front row with my mother, my video camera and an imaginary basket of red roses to chuck on stage (thorns… health and safety). Being the beneficiary of my genes, and therefore also predisposed towards hysterical meltdowns, Mini-Me corpsed in the first five minutes. But somehow she mustered up all her Mini-moxie, and managed heroically to reign in her laughter, very convincingly portraying the exquisite pain and longing of a mother missing her child. That’s what I would have written had I been asked to review her performance for The Guardian.

This year I have more Olivier Award worthy performances to look forward to. Having reluctantly pulled her out of Speech and Drama classes in Borehamwood which were very enjoyable for her but way too much pressure and driving for me, I’ve found something which I think better suits Mini-Me’s imaginative spirit and creative zeal. Plus, it’s just around the corner from our home. HIT, Hertsmere Inclusive Theatre, is an outpost of the highly regarded Chicken Shed Theatre. With both a Youth and a Children’s Theatre Group under HIT’s umbrella, their members range from 7 to 18 years old and “inclusive” means that children of all abilities are welcomed. Those with special needs learn and perform alongside children from mainstream schools. Each individual’s contribution is solicited, nurtured and valued. HIT is headed by the effervescent Caroline England and her dedicated team who foster a heart-warming sense of mutual respect among members. Let’s face it; it always bodes well for an activity if the two children in your care scowl unforgivingly at you when you arrive 15 minutes early to pick them up. This December, the group is staging “HIT’s got Christmas Talent”. The argumentative Enid and Edna (aka Mini-Me and her little schoolpal – already a double act as far as I’m concerned) are paring juggling and cartwheels from Enid with my Edna providing piano accompaniment - something which hopefully sound a lot like “Jingle Bells” – depending on how many times she affirms: “I am a piano virtuoso and love practising every day”.

But that’s not all, a violin concert has also been promised. Mini-Me’s entire class have been selected to receive free Violin lessons along with their Year 3 teacher. Which is great, but if I could have chosen any instrument it would not have been the violin. It would have been the flute, thanks for asking. Anyway, the day of the first scheduled lesson arrived but disappointingly, neither their violin teacher nor the violins did. “It’s okay, Mummy,” Mini-Me said, “we practiced how to hold a violin with our pencils and rulers instead!” How creative, I thought. Next time there are no clean cereal bowls left, I will tell her to use a shoe. Or the NHS could save time and money by issuing bulldog clips instead of dentures. The possibilities are limitless!

Enjoy your festive concerts – whatever you are forced to watch...

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

Info box:
Chickenshed Theatre:

Hertsmere Inclusive Theatre meets on Wednesday evenings at The Bushey Centre, Bushey Country Club. Website: email phone: 01923 499310

There is a similar outpost of Chickenshed in Harrow called Harrowshed. They meet on Wednesday evenings at Hatch End High School. Website: phone: 07939 142 545

Kett School of Speech and Drama follows a LAMDA exam system and is based in Borehamwood. Tel: 020 8207 4816

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Mummy on the Edge - FamiliesNW Mag - September October 2009

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 (“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

Wednesday 1 July 2009

MUMMY ON THE EDGE Families NW Mag – July/ August ‘09

As dark clouds threaten tropical storms, Angelina threatens Barbequeage. And Mini-Me gets freaked out by Macbeth.

I have never attempted barbequeage on my own. But the thought of taking little breaks from trying to master Mini-me’s Rock’n’Hopper on the grass to turn and thus prevent burning garlicky, marinated stuff is kind of appealing in a paper-plates-and-fingers, screw-the-washing-up way. As long as it’s not for loads of people which would cause an unnecessary case of AHAA! - Angelina’s Hosting Anxiety Attack. Unfortunately the marital barbeque, having been mistreated and neglected for years had to be thrown away (actually, I overtook a precariously-laden gypsy salvage truck down Little Bushey Lane, gesticulating furiously to lead it to my house to collect the item). I was just suggesting to Mini-Me that we pop down to Lidl to see if the five pound jobbie they were flogging in February (the right size for one and a half portions of skewered prawns) was still there, when my friend phoned me and asked me if I wanted her beautiful big gas barbeque, with hinged cover and… gasp… SHELVES, since she was buying another. Yippee! Talk about a cosmic order being fulfilled. On the other hand, looks like I will not be able to avoid suffering from AHAA this summer after all.

I have now promised my gaggle of nieces and nephews- 3 of them doing their GCSE’s and A Levels and one on holiday from university Astrophysics - that I will throw them a barbeque party in return for the serious babysitting, bike riding, swimming, baking and tutoring I am expecting from them for Mini-Me throughout the next two months. January four years ago, I sat the three nieces aged 12-14 round my dining table and they sorted out 18 months worth of business receipts into piles so that I could complete my tax return on time. They were efficient, competent and quick. I’m thinking this summer, a few garlic prawn skewers will go a long way…

So this being predicted the summer of summers (not inconceivable considering the soggy state of the last two), I have been sourcing outdoorsy, cultural things to do with Mini-Me. The Scoop at More London is a great outdoor space, adjacent to the General London Assembly building (perfect for Boris-spotting) and I found out the Pantaloon theatre company (well worth contacting them for a workshop if your school has a surplus of PTA money) were presenting a free performance of Romeo and Juliet. We went one warm sunshiney evening and enjoyed the show which featured music, comedy and audience participation. The narrator asked children to raise their hands to answer “What sort of things do you think that Juliet could have done in her situation?” not expecting seven-year-old Mini-Me to cut to the chase and answer “She could have killed herself!” The problem is, she knew the ending because for Christmas I got her “The Shakespeare Stories” retold for children by Andrew Matthews. They may be a bit much for her. She climbed into my bed one evening, half way through Macbeth saying it had “freaked me out”. As she epitomized so eruditely, “There’s a lot of killing, marrying and kissing in Shakespeare, Mummy”.

If you fancy a bit of theatre in the park, you could catch Peter Pan at Kensington Gardens (until 30th August). I’ve heard it’s a truly magical production with 360 degree projection and no risk of rain spoiling the fun. Or if want to introduce your Mini to Shakespeare, but don’t fancy trekking into town, Illyria is presenting A Midsummer Night’s Dream within the verdant grounds of Harrow Museum on the 8th July. You can bring a picnic and make an evening of it. It’s a lovely setting. Mini-me and I went to Harrow Museum on Sunday and discovered they have live jazz, blues or swing in the Tithe Barn every week from 12.15 – 12.45. Perfect for a rainy day or a sunny one. And a great opportunity to get up close and watch real instruments being played or just to have a bit of a boogie with your babies, big and small.

When we left, it was still sunny, so we drove 10 minutes to Roxbourne Park to get some fresh air on the Miniature Railway. It’s really very charming and run by dear old railway enthusiasts wearing smart caps and clipping tickets with authentic equipment. They have an open day coming up on the 30th August when there will be more trains on show from other organisations plus model boats. More info at Chuff chuff toot toot! Forsooth ‘tis chucking it down outside. I must tarry not and get me hence to fetch the clothes in. Or something…

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

Monday 1 June 2009

A Taste of the WI-Life (Families Mag Nov/ Dec 2009 I think)

By Angelina Melwani

Coccooned in a brown, luxuriantly flock-walled and chandeliered private room upstairs in a gastropub in Kilburn, 8 or 9 stylish women in their late 20s to early 30s are seated around a talkative, fair-haired man dressed top-to-toe in black who looks like a cross between Graham Norton and Paul Burrell. On the table before him is an assortment of day-glo plastic containers, shiny jewel-coloured serving bowls and ergonomic kitchen implements. Every so often he lifts one up and caresses it lovingly, demonstrating some clever little hidden facet, to some “Ooh”s and fascinated “Wow”s.

It’s a Tupperware party. It’s hosted by the North West London Women’s Institute. And to their credit, they have secured Graham Burrell (real name Andrew Humphrey), the only male Tupperware agent in the country.

Now Tupperware may not be your bag, but this young branch of the WI has, in its mere 18 months of existence been quite active and creative with the themes of their monthly meetings. They’ve had Poker Night (using Haribos instead of money); Wine Tasting (after which they took home spare bottles); learned tips from a Make-Up Consultant; enjoyed a talk on the Suffragettes; had their eyes opened by a visit from Anna Span (if you don’t know who she is, you’ll have to Google her as it would be inappropriate to comment further within these hallowed, child-friendly pages); as well as a night brilliantly coined “Pimp my supermarket flowers” – all about how to make supermarket flowers look posh; to more pedestrian entertainment pursuits such as just going out with their husbands and partners to a bar. And they are open to new ideas. And new members.

So why join the WI? Georgina Sneddon, the president of the North West London branch says, “I love the sense of community and giving back to the community through helping local organisations and events.

Everyone’s backgrounds are so diverse. If you go to yoga class, you are likely to meet someone with very similar interests as you, but if you come to the WI you will really meet a whole variety of completely different people from your local area, which appeals to me. It’s a wonderful way to make friends and when I leave a meeting I always think: Ah, what a lovely bunch of people.”

Georgina has an insight into the history of the WI; her mother was the president of her own group and as a girl, she would sometimes accompany her to meetings.

The Women’s Institute was formed in 1915 with two clear aims: to revitalise rural communities and to encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War. Since then, their aims have broadened and they are now the largest women’s organisation in the UK with currently 205,000 members in 6,500 WIs.”

Their aims are indeed broad. Today, the WI wields strong socio-political influence and they campaign with fervour on issues - democratically selected by vote - that matter to women and their communities, including equal pay in 1942, Breast Cancer Screening in 1975 and, in 2006, they held a Packaging Day of Action which saw WI members throughout the country return unnecessary and excessive food packaging to supermarkets. Today, their focuses range from climate change and food waste to ending violence against women and they are members of the Children’s Food Campaign.

The Women’s Institute prides itself on its diversity of backgrounds and ages. Its whole ethos is centred around learning from each other, young from old and old from young, developing and passing on new skills along the way. Quite simply, its aim is to enable women “to make a difference - to the life you lead, to the community you're a part of and to the world you live in.” Highly relevant and never more pertinent, than in these uncertain times.

Georgina says, “We’re the new brand of the WI. It’s not about jam and Jerusalem. We meet in the pub and it’s a real laugh. We’re really inclusive and if you’re interested, you can just come along for a meeting or two and see if you like it.”

Quotes to highlight/ put in boxes:
Kylie, 31, from Kentish Town. “Joining the WI is a great way to meet different people out of my normal social circle. My friends might not want to go to an art gallery or wherever but I can meet people locally that are interested in trying new and interesting things.”

Rachel, 35, from Kilburn. “I’ve made friends in my local area. It’s nice to be able to pick up the phone and call someone to meet for coffee or go shopping with. I also really was attracted to the cooking, sewing and craft side of things. I think a lot of women are going back to that now and it has wide appeal.”

Info box:
Meetings are from 7.15 -9.30pm on the second Tuesday of the month in the North London Tavern, 375 Kilburn High Rd, NW6 7QB. If you decide to join, membership is £29.00, which entitles you to 11 monthly meetings and a subscription to WI Life Magazine. The North West London WI will be doing their thing for the local community at the Kilburn Festival at Grange Park, Kilburn, 12th July ( For more information e-mail Or visit or their Facebook group “North West London WI”. For more information on the Women’s Institute and how to locate or set up your own local group visit

Friday 1 May 2009

Mummy on the Edge FamiliesNW Magazine May/June 2009

Angelina and Mini-Me defeat Pushy Mum - and live to tell the tale.

Being too indecisive of mind to select a show and book it in advance, but being of definite mind to take Mini-Me to a proper grown up West End theatre to watch anything vaguely suitable during the school holidays, and being of pocket insufficiently deep to pay full whack, I awoke one Wednesday morning with the cold intent of a woman on a mission. “Hurry UP! Brush your TEETH! We have to leave NOW!!!” Half an hour later we were entering Brent Cross, eyes scanning for the holy grail of the Half Price Ticket Booth, which at 10.30am had been open for half an hour already. We were halted in our tracks by a huge banner advertising open auditions for “Annie” the musical. Bewitching visions of grinning little Asian Mini-Me in a ginger afro began to dance in my head. “Wanna do this?” I asked her with a half-crazed and hungry twitch in my eye (– it really wasn’t a question.) Before she could emphatically declare “No way, mummy!” my fingers were grasping for my mobile, dialling the number on the poster. It was the last day of auditions. It was FATE. The kind of story X-Factor always focuses on. Adorable child living with hardworking and responsible single parent (baby signing teacher – pillar of the community – or something) happens upon audition by accident, wows judges by singing her little heart out, wins! Fade up “I believe I can fly” music. Everyone weeps happy tears. The end… of childhood as we know it. Thank goodness I awoke from this mad reverie, just as we reached the Ticket Booth (which is actually not a booth but in fact a large desk in the middle of the shopping centre, upstairs – just so you know). Of course it also helped that I also figured out that the audition was organised by The Make Believe Theatre School in Edgeware ( Presumably, if she got through, it would involve more shelling out by said hardworking and responsible single parent. In a huff, pushy mother flicked her make believe feather boa around her neck and retreated stroppily back into her make believe dressing room, leaving Mummy on the Edge free to buy same-day half-price tickets to one of the last performances of The Sound of Music. Of course, Mini-Me was too busy with her nose pressed on the gallery glass watching the brave little auditionees below to know what I was up to, so when I squatted in front of her and told her where we were going, I ended up on the floor as she flung her arms around me in gratitude. I didn’t mind.

In our continued quest to find all that is great, good and unsung for kids in North West London, a visit to Brent Museum was long overdue. It was the perfect day for it, grey, damp and miserable, so with friends, Mini-Me and I hopped on the Jubilee line a few short stops to Willesden Green to partake in Ancient Egyptian Animal Modelling. On display was the impressive-ish Gayer-Anderson Cat, on loan from the British Museum, as well as feedback cards filled in by kids with comments ranging from the earnest “Thank you for bringing this amazing artefact to Brent” to the sweet-but-entirely-missing-the-point, “I love cats. Cats rule”. Not to mention a sleepy and bored-looking security guard. But I don’t think he was part of the exhibition. We learned that animals were worshipped as gods and kept as pets in Ancient Egypt and every animal was significant in its own way. And then we chose an animal to model out of squishy, spongy stuff. The “Divine Cat” theme runs until 10 May if you want to catch it. The summer exhibition will focus on contemporary art from India and the museum runs drop in family events every Wednesday during Summer and Easter school holidays and every half term. The summer workshops will explore the Indian Art theme through creative craft such as puppet making. For more information contact Louise Lamming, Learning Officer on 020 8937 3602 or email Walking back to the station, our works of art precariously balanced in our fingertips, we found we were gasping for a cup of tea (there’s no café at the Museum) and our Minis were hungry, so the seven of us (including two jackals and a blue hippo who had insisted on chaperoning us home) trudged into “Orangeflex” café. I expected weak tea and cardboard cake. However, Mini-Me and her friend enjoyed tall strawberry milkshakes, made there and then by a smiley lady using frozen strawberries and she told me it was delicious. Us grown ups shared a large slab of the moistest, yummiest carrot cake I’ve had in a long time and a soothing cup of tea. The kids happily sat on the bouncy red sofa and gossiped while we sat at an adjacent table and did the same. Bliss.

Brent Museum – Willesden Green Library Centre 95 High Road Willesden Green NW10 2SF
“Orangeflex” café - 68 Walm Lane, around the corner from Willesden Green Tube

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

Sunday 1 March 2009

Mummy on the Edge - FamiliesNW Magazine March/ April 09

Angelina and Mini-me discover E-bay and Evolution.

Mini-Me and I have gently forayed into the realm of ebay. It’s quite wonderful, really, and easy enough, even for us. I sold her ballet shoes for a few quid (hopefully to someone who needed and appreciated the bargain) and am in the process of selling her old coat. I sold a hideous and unworn designer jumper for £10! And that £10 buys me two pretty, carved-wood framed mirrors. I bought a sturdy keyboard stand for £3 and collected it after my classes in Harrow so no delivery fee. I’m still dropping off to the charity shop - they need it - but sometimes I need to leave the gaps longer, as Mini-Me is annoyed to spot some of her things on the shelves! If you haven’t already heard of it, it’s worth looking into your local Freeecycle website (just search on the net as all the areas have are different addresses). Admittedly, sometimes there are just bizarre items on offer such as cat food samples and used shampoos, but you also get baby equipment and furniture quite a lot, posted by people who haven’t the time or inclination to sell. Useful if your family is growing and money is tight. People collect all types of stuff, too, so if you have stuff to get rid of, even if it’s broken (just always be honest!) saving your stuff from landfill is the way forward for our children’s environment. There are certain safety precautions you should take (like not being alone when people come to collect) which are detailed when you join.

Mini stayed up with me watching a programme on Charles Darwin hosted by David Attenborough to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth (– Darwin, not Attenborough). You can watch a clip featuring an animated explanation of the Tree of Life at It proved to be as exciting and absorbing as the slightly less cerebral Come Dine With Me, which is another favourite. Featuring fossils and missing links between species as proof of evolution, some of it went over my head but, happily, lots entered the jumbled soup of knowledge I had previously poured into hers. We had gone last year to the Welcome Institute in Euston which has an exhibit showing the gradual evolution of fish into man - via lizard, ape and everything else - which she actually remembered (so the exhibition wasn’t just a bridge to Pizza Express for her). To continue the theme, I decide to take her round the corner to Bushey Museum (which we had, shamefully, never been to before) to see their latest kids feature: Age of the Dinosaur. Once she had got over the near hysterical shock elicited by seeing a 100 year old photograph of her school (half laughing half crying, “Mummy, my school! I can’t believe it! I recognize the windows!!”) we made our way up the stairs to see fossils up close and play with interactive displays. Mini-Me used a brush to seek out “real” fossils in the sand, just like on Fossil Detectives on the telly. We found out the differences between body shapes of herbivores, carnivores and omnivores and even saw a model of a hatching dinosoaur egg. Mini-me was engaged by the whole thing and I’m half considering going back to the charity shop and buying back her annoying plastic dinosaurs if they haven’t been snapped up already. Mind you, maybe it’s not necessary because she witnesses a fossil turn into a live dinosaur every morning when I get out of bed…


If your kids, like my Mini-Me, are interested in all things science you should look into Mad Science classes and activities which currently run in Rickmansworth, Bushey, Northwood, Radlett and other areas. Mini-Me and her friends really enjoy the day camps that run at her school (when I’m organised enough to book them!). The staff are really friendly, they all have funny scientific monikers (Super Sian, Cosmic Kate etc) and they make science accessible and fun. They even do birthday parties. More info can by found by contacting or visit Want to continue the good work at home? I found an internet site called which boasts answers to those difficult questions our kids ask us, experiments you can do at home as well as a careers section for older ones considering their options in the field of science.

Now I’m donning my rubber gloves and protective eyewear so that I can conduct my own science experiment: clearing my blocked sink - yucks.

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

Thursday 1 January 2009

Mummy on the Edge, Jan/ Feb 09

Mini-me goes historical while her mother is simply hysterical.

Mini-Me’s specialist subject may turn out to be History. Her class has been studying The Great Fire of London and she has, more than once, at various random times - but never when actually asked - recounted the whole story, from where and how it started, to its eventual containment. In her classroom, I read first-person imagined accounts of the Fire. I was not a little freaked out. All the “crackles” and “screams” and “smoke”. Can our little 7 year olds cope with all that? Evidently, yes. Can I? Nope.
Year 2 also went on an exciting expedition to the Florence Nightingale Museum, opposite the Houses of Parliament (- so far away from home!) where an actress playing the lady herself answered questions and brought the whole period to life. Mini-Me was ill at home the following week, so during one of her paracetamolic highs, I made her write a report (being evil Mummy on the edge) on her trip using a sunshine diagram. Looks more like a spider, with the main theme in the blobby middle bit, and any disparate details she could remember scrawled around it like legs. Genius idea, I have to say. Here is the resulting closing paragraph: “We saw pictures of soldiers being dragged to a hospital on a hill that was 3D. I loved it because we had fun!”

One recent TV news item featured the story of a woman who came to this country from Germany as child evacuee during World War 2 and it made me sob hysterically over my lunch as she described how she waved goodbye to her mother and father from the train alongside so many other little children, watching their parents getting smaller and smaller as they waved their handkerchiefs; not knowing then that she would never ever see them again. Even now, as I close my eyes and imagine living through the horror of that situation, it makes my stomach lurch and my heart hurt, and I feel like running upstairs and planting yet another goodnight kiss on Mini-me’s forehead while she sleeps. The subject of the interview never forgot how difficult it was growing up in an alien environment and her unique perspective has brought her to work with non-English speaking children of families who have sought asylum in Brent. That made me cry, even when I was telling Mini-Me about it.

TV’s “Evacuees Reunited”, all about the children evacuated from South East England (not really knowing why or what was going on) and the effect it had on their later lives, was also extremely moving and heart wrenching. I have saved it on my freeview box to watch with Mini-Me in the next few weeks. Hopefully, I won’t sob again having prepared myself. If you missed it, you can catch it online until the second week of January on It’s a source of first-hand accounts and feelings that brings this relatively recent history alive for our kids and somehow I think it will help Mini-Me when she comes to learn about this period at school.

This next couple of months we plan to explore the local museum scene. There is so much quality stuff a stone’s throw (or a 20 minute car ride) away. There are few sights as fascinating as looking at photograph of an area you know well taken decades and decades and even a century ago, but that simply scrapes the surface of what’s available to our info-hungry Minis.

Following our historical/ hysterical theme, the 1940’s house based in the Lincolnsfield Centre, in Bushey (, is our first stop. Not only is it perfectly furnished in painstaking period detail, but they also feature re-enactors to animate what life was really like at that time. We are looking forward to discovering 40s food, toys, and even the fearsome sound of air raid sirens! Check the website for details on The Forties Family Experience Weekend in April – it looks like good fun.
The RAF Museum in Colindale puts a spin on the usual smaltz we are bombarded with at Valentine’s Day by focusing on love letters sent between soldiers and their sweethearts during WW2. I’m expecting a mix of tragic and uplifting stories. There are make and do activities for kids to tie in with the exhibition.
Don’t worry, I’ll bring extra tissues.
Angelina Melwani runs Sing and Sign baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at